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Grumman F8F Bearcat

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The F8F would be the last of Grumman's successful piston-engined carrier fighters and entered service in May 1945. The end of the Second World War, a few months later, led to a number of orders being cancelled. Despite this, the Grumman F8F Bearcat would remain in service with the United States Navy until 1952.

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 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 to be used mainly as an interceptor, so manoeuvrability, low-level performance and a high rate of climb were required. On the 27th November 1943 two XF8F-1 prototypes were ordered and these would be powered by the Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp engine.

The first prototype XF8F-1 made its maiden flight 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 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 F8F-1 was powered by the 2,100-hp Pratt & Whitney R-2800-34W Double Wasp engine. This gave the aircraft a top speed of 421 mph, range of 1,105 miles with a service ceiling of 38,700 ft. Armament was four 0.50-in machine-guns and either 1,000lb bombs or rocket projectiles. The 21st May 1945 saw the F8F-1 enter service when United States Navy Squadron VF-19 took delivery of the aircraft. 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 ordered being cancelled.

The only other production version was the F8F-2 which was powered by the 2,250-hp Pratt & Whitney R-2800-30W engine. This had a top speed of 455 mph, range of 1,105 miles and a service ceiling of 38,700 ft. Armament consisted of four 20mm cannons and either 1,000lb bombs or rocket projectiles.

The Bearcat would also be used as night fighter, for photo reconnaissance and some would be used as a drone control aircraft post-war. The F8F would serve with 26 United States Navy squadrons and remained in service until 1952. The F8F would also be exported with the French Armee de l'Air among the users.

May 1939 saw production of the F8F end, with 1,265 having been built. It had also been intended for General Motors to build a number of Bearcats which would have been designated as F3M-1, but the order for 1,876 of the type which had been placed on the 5th February 1945 was cancelled.

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 1,000lb bombs or
rocket projectiles
F8F-1 side profile image
F8F-2 455 mph 1,105 miles 38,700 ft four 20mm cannons
and 1,000lb bombs or
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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