F7F Tigercat explained
The Grumman F7F Tigercat was the first twin-engined fighter aircraft to enter service with the United States Navy. Designed for the new Midway-class aircraft carriers, the aircraft were too large to operate from earlier decks. Although delivered to United States Marine Corps (USMC) combat units before the end of World War II, the Tigercat did not see combat service in that war. Most F7Fs ended up in land-based service, as attack aircraft or night fighters; only the later F7F-4N was certified for carrier service. They saw service in the Korean War and were withdrawn from service in 1954.
Design and development
The contract for the prototype XF7F-1 was signed on 30 June 1941. Grumman's aim was to produce a plane that out-performed and out-gunned 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-engined fighters, with a top speed well in excess of the US Navy's single-engined aircraft—71 mph faster than a F6F Hellcat at sea level. The opinion of Capt. Fred M. Trapnell, one of the Navy's premier test pilots, was 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 at the time too suggestive. 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-seater F7F-1N aircraft, but after the 34th production aircraft, a second seat for a radar operator was added; these planes were designated F7F-2N.
The next version produced, the F7F-3 was modified to correct the issues that caused the aircraft to fail carrier acceptance and this version was again trialled on the USS Shangri-La (CV-38). A wing failure on a heavy landing caused the failure of this carrier qualification too. 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 did pass carrier qualification, but only 12 were built.
F7F-1 Tigercat: Twin-engine fighter-bomber aircraft, powered by two Pratt @ Whitney R-2800-22W radial piston engines. First production version, 34 built.
F7F-1N Tigercat: Single-seat night fighter aircraft, fitted with an APS-6 radar.
XF7F-2N: Night-fighter prototype, One built.
F7F-2N Tigercat: Two-seat night fighter, 65 built.
F7F-3 Tigercat: Single-seat fighter-bomber aircraft, powered by two Pratt & Whitney R-2800-34W radial piston engines, 189 built.
F7F-3N Tigercat: Two-seat night fighter aircraft, 60 built.
F7F-3E Tigercat: Small numbers of F7F-3s were converted into electronic warfare aircraft.
F7F-3P Tigercat: Small numbers of F7F-3s were converted into photo-reconnaissance aircraft.
F7F-4N Tigercat: Two-seat night-fighter aircraft, fitted with an arrester hook and other naval equipment, 13 built.
- XF7F-1: Prototype aircraft, two built.
A number of Tigercats were used as water bombers to fight forest fires in the 1960s and 1970s, and for this reason 12 examples exist today. Three F7F remain airworthy.
As warbird racers, in 1976, Robert Forbes qualified an F7F-3N but did not race at Reno. Another modified F7F-3N Tigercat, (Bu No. 80503) "Big Bossman" owned by Mike Brown presently competes in the national air racing circuit.
At least three F7F Tigercats are preserved in aviation museums:
- Bridgman, Leonard (ed.). “The Grumman Tigercat.” Jane’s Fighting Aircraft of World War II. London: Studio, 1946. ISBN 1-85170-493-0.
- Carlson, Ted. "Semper Fi Tigercat". Flight Journal, volume 13, issue 2, April 2008.
- Carr, Orrin I. "Fire 'Cat!" Air Classics, Vol. 12, No. 9, Sept. 1976. Canoga Park, CA: Challenge Publications, pp. 38–47.
- Gault, Owen. "Grumman's Tiger Twins: The Skyrocket & Tigercat". Air Classics, Vol. 9, No. 8, Aug. 1973. Canoga Park, CA: Challenge Publications, pp. 22–27.
- Green, William. "Grumman F7F-1 - F7F-3 Tigercat". War Planes of the Second World War, Volume Four: Fighters London: Macdonald & Co.(Publishers) Ltd., 1961, pp. 106–108. ISBN 0-356-01448-7.
- Green, William and Gordon Swanborough. "Grumman F7F Tigercat". WW2 Fact Files: US Navy and Marine Corps Fighters. London: Macdonald and Jane's Publishers Ltd., 1976, pp. 57–61. ISBN 0-356-08222-9.
- Grossnick, Roy A. and William J. Armstrong. United States Naval Aviation: 1910–1995. Annapolis, MA: Naval Historical Center, 1997. ISBN 0-16049-124-X.
- Meyer, Corwin ("Corky") H. "F7F Tigercat: The Untold Story". Flight Journal, August 2002. Ridgefield, CT: AirAge Publications. pp. 48–56, 58.
- Morgan, Eric B. "Grumman F7F Tigercat F.7/30". Twentyfirst Profile, Volume 1, No. 11. New Milton, Hants, UK: 21st Profile Ltd. ISBN 0-961-82100-4.
- Morgan, Eric B. "The Grumman Twins". Twentyfirst Profile, Volume 2, No. 15. New Milton, Hants, UK: 21st Profile Ltd. ISBN 0-961-82101-1.
- O'Leary, Michael. "Tigercat Restoration". Air Classics, Vol. 38, No. 11, Nov. 2002. Canoga Park, CA: Challenge Publications.
- O'Leary, Michael. United States Naval Fighters of World War II in Action. Poole, Dorset, UK: Blandford Press, 1980. ISBN 0-7137-0956-1.
- Taylor, John W.R. "Grumman F7F Tigercat". Combat Aircraft of the World from 1909 to the Present. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1969. ISBN 0-425-03633-2.
- Thruelsen, Richard. The Grumman Story. New York: Praeger Publishers, Inc., 1976. ISBN 0-275-54260-2.
- Zuk, Bill. Janusz Zurakowski: Legends in the Sky. St. Catharine's, Ontario: Vanwell, 2004. ISBN 1-55125-083-7.
Notes and References
- Thruelsen 1976, p. 204.
- Meyer 2002, p. 51.
- Meyer 2002, p. 54.
- Meyer 2002, p. 50.
- Meyer 2002, p. 55.
- Thruelsen 1976, p. 205.
- Taylor 1969, p. 504.
- Carlson 2008, pp. 22–28.
- http://www.septemberpops.com/Racers/BossmanPage.htm September Pops Unlimited Air Racing Team