Grumman F7F Tigercat
An Aircraft with beauty and a punch to boot. The Tigercat is sleek a sexy looking aircraft, one that seems ready to pounce when just sitting on the ramp. She has a knife-edge profile and a very narrow frontal stiletto lines that reminds one of a dagger ready to split the air, and gives the aircraft a menacing appearance even before leaving the tarmac.
In 1944 the Grumman F7F Tigercat was the first twin engine fighter to enter service with the United States Navy. Especially designed strictly for the new Midway class aircraft carriers. The aircraft were too large to operate from earlier smaller decks. The Tigercat were delivered to United States Marine Corps (USMC) combat units before the end of World War II, but did not see combat service in that war.
The majority of the 364 F7F Tigercats produced by Grumman ended up in land-based service, as attack aircraft or night fighters; only the later F7F-4N was certified for carrier service. The Tigercat did see combat service in the Korean War but were soon withdrawn from service right after in 1954.
Based on an earlier experimental model the Grumman XP-50 that unfortunately was eventually canceled, the company developed the XP-65 (Model 51) for a future “convoy fighter” concept. In 1943, work on the XP-65 was terminated in favor of the design that would eventually become the F7F.
Grumman’s aim was to produce a fighter that outperformed and outgunned all existing fighter aircraft, and that had an auxiliary ground attack capability. Armament was heavy: four 20 mm cannons and four 0.50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns, as well as underwing and under-fuselage hardpoints for bombs and torpedoes.
Performance met expectations too; the F7F Tigercat was one of the highest performance piston-engine fighters, with a top speed well in excess of the US Navy’s single engine aircraft and faster than a Grumman F6F Hellcat at sea level. Capt. Fred M. Trapnell, the Navy’s premier test pilot, said that: “It’s the best damn fighter I’ve ever flown.” The Grumman F7F was originally named the “Tomcat” but this name was rejected as it was considered too suggestive, at the time. The name would much later be used for the Grumman F-14.
All this was bought at the cost of heavy weight and a high landing speed, but what caused the aircraft to fail carrier suitability trials was poor directional stability with only one engine operational, as well as problems with the tail-hook design. Therefore, the initial production series was only used from land bases by the USMC, as night fighters with APS-6 radar. At first, they were single seat F7F aircraft, but later the a second seat for a radar operator was added; then designated the F7F-2N.
Then the modification to correct the issues that caused the aircraft to fail carrier acceptance and this version was again tried for carrier trials on the USS Shangri-La. A wing failure on a heavy landing caused the failure of this carrier qualification as well. F7F-3 aircraft were produced in day fighter, night fighter and photo-reconnaissance versions.
A final version, the F7F-4N, was extensively rebuilt for additional strength and stability, and finally did pass carrier qualification, but only 12 F7F Tigercats were built to actually built to operate for Carrier air operations were built.
Marine Corps night fighter squadron VMF(N)-513 flying F7F-3N Tigercats saw action in the early stages of the Korean War, flying night interdiction and fighter missions and shooting down two Polikarpov Po-2 biplanes. This was the only combat use of the aircraft.
Most F7F-2Ns were modified to control drones for combat training, and these gained bubble canopies over the rear cockpit for the drone controller. An F7F-2D used for pilot transitioning also had a rear sliding, bubble canopy.
The Tigercat was designed to have a very small frontal area.
Crew: 2 (pilot, radar operator)
Length: 45 ft 4 in (13.8 m) Wingspan: 51 ft 6 in (15.7 m) Height: 16 ft 7 in (5.1 m)
Wing area: 455 ft² (42.3 m²) Empty weight: 16,270 lb (7,380 kg) Max. takeoff weight: 25,720 lb (11,670 kg) Powerplant: 2 × Pratt & Whitney R-2800-34W “Double Wasp” radial engines, 2,100 hp (1,566 kW) each
Maximum speed: 460 mph (400 knots, 740 km/h) Range: 1,200 mi (1,000 nmi, 1,900 km)
Service ceiling: 40,400 ft (12,300 m) Rate of climb: 4,530 ft/min (23 m/s)
Guns: 4 × 20 mm (0.79 in) M2 cannon
4 × 0.50 in (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine gun
Bombs: 2 × 1,000 lb (454 kg) bombs under wings or 1 × torpedo under fuselage