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Grumman F8F Bearcat

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The F8F was the last of Grumman's successful legacy of carrier fighters and entered service just after VE day. With the end of the Second World War orders for the type would be cancelled, but despite this, the Grumman F8F Bearcat would still be in service during the 1950s.

Quick Facts
Grumman F8F Bearcat side profile image
First flight
21st August 1944
Entered service
21st May 1945
Total built

Front view
F8F Bearcat front view photo
Side view
F8F Bearcat side view photo
Rear view
F8F Bearcat rear view photo

The F8F Bearcat would be Grumman's last piston-engined fighter used aboard aircraft carriers, a legacy which started back on the 29th December 1931 when the Grumman FF made its maiden flight. The new aircraft was intended to be an interceptor, so manoeuvrability, low level performance and a high rate of climb were all must haves. Therefore Grumman made use of the R-2800 Double Wasp engine that had been used with success in two other Grumman aircraft, the F6F Hellcat and F7F Tigercat.

On the 27th November 1943 two XF8F-1 prototypes were ordered, flying for the first time nine months later on the 21st August 1944. The aircraft had a rate of climb 30% better than the Hellcat thanks to the fact it was around 20% lighter and impressively still meeting all the requirements specified. The test program for the prototype began on the 6th October 1944 and just afterwards 2,023 F8F-1s were ordered by the United States Navy.

The production F8F-1 Bearcat was powered by the Pratt & Whitney R-2800-34W, featured folding wings and armament consisted of four 0.50-in machine-guns. The new type entered service on the 21st May 1945 with USN Squadron VF-19, and by the time the Second World War (1939 - 1945) ended a number of other squadrons had received the type, but the end of hostilities led to 1,258 F8Fs originally ordered being cancelled. It had also been intended for General Motors to build a number of Bearcats which would have been designated as F3M-1, General Motors had done the same with the Grumman F4F Wildcat with those known as General Motors FM Wildcat, but the order for 1,876 of the type which had been placed on the 5th February 1945 was cancelled. The only other production version was the F8F-2 Bearcat which had its power supplied by a Pratt & Whitney R-2800-30W engine and its standard armament was changed from four 0.50-in machine-guns to four 20-mm cannons.

The Bearcat would also be used as night fighter, for photo reconnaissance and some would be used as a drone control aircraft post-war and the F8F would also be exported with the French Armee de l'Air among the users.

When production of the Bearcat ended during May 1949 1,265 had been built and was serving in 24 Squadrons within the United States Navy and would remain in service for a further four years.

Technical Details

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Top Speed Range Service Ceiling Armament
F8F-1 421 mph 1,105 miles 38,700 ft four 0.50-in machine-guns
and either two 1,000lb bombs or
four 5-in rocket projectiles
F8F-1 side profile image
F8F-2 421 mph 1,105 miles 38,700 ft four 20-mm cannons
and either two 1,000lb bombs or
four 5-in rocket projectiles
G-58A/B Designation for two civil variants.


Click on a photo to view a larger version.

See This Aircraft

(C) = Cockpit only exhibit. (F) = Fuselage only exhibit. (R) = Remains of an aircraft.

F8F-2P Imperial War Museum, Duxford

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