Grumman 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 They saw service in the Korean War and were withdrawn from service in 1954.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
Based on the earlier Grumman XP-50 that eventually was canceled, the company further 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. The contract for the prototype XF7F-1 was signed on 30 June 1941. Grumman's aim was to produce a fighter 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. Capt. Fred M. Trapnell, one of the Navy's premier test pilots, opined 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-seater F7F-1N aircraft, but after the 34th production aircraft, a second seat for a radar operator was added; these aircraft 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 . 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.
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. A F7F-2D used for pilot transitoning also had a rear sliding, bubble canopy.
In 1945, two Tigercats, serialled TT346 and TT349, were evaluated, but rejected, by the British Royal Navy, preferring a navalized version of the de Havilland Hornet.
XF7F-1: Prototype aircraft, two 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-2D: Small numbers of F7F-2Ns converted into drone control aircraft. The aircraft were fitted with an F8F Bearcat-windshield behind the cockpit.
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 arrestor hook and other naval equipment, 13 built.
- XP-65: Proposed U.S. Army Air Force fighter.
Beginning in 1949, F7Fs were flown to the US Navy storage facility at Naval Air Station Litchfield Park, Arizona. Although the vast majority of the airframes were eventually scrapped, a number of examples were purchased as surplus. The surviving Tigercats were primarily used as water bombers to fight forest fires in the 1960s and 1970s and Sis-Q Flying Services of Santa Rosa, California operated an F7F-3N tanker in this role until retirement in the late 1980s.
- F7F-3 Tigercat, BuNo. 80390 is flightworthy and owned by Lewis Racing LCC in San Antonio, Texas.
- F7F-3 Tigercat, BuNo. 80411 is flightworthy and owned by the Palm Springs Air Museum in Palm Springs, California.
- F7F-3P Tigercat, BuNo. 80425 is flightworthy and owned by Avstar Inc. in Seattle, Washington.
- F7F-3P Tigercat, BuNo. 80483 is flightworthy and owned by Historic Flight Foundation in Mukilteo, Washington.
- F7F-3N Tigercat, BuNo. 80503 is flightworthy and owned by Lewis Racing LCC in San Antonio, Texas.
- F7F-3N Tigercat, BuNo. 80532 is flightworthy and owned by Merle Maine Enterprises in Ontario, Oregon.
- On display
- Under restoration
- 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.
- Dorr, Robert F. and David Donald. Fighters of the United States Air Force. London: Temple, 1990. ISBN 0-600-55094-X.
- 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.
- Legg, David. "Tigercat on camera." Aircraft Illustrated, Volume 24, no. 1, January 1991.
- 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
- Dorr and Donald 1990, p. 119.
- 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.
- Grossnick and Armstrong 1997
- Gault 1973, p. 25.
- Zuk 2004, p. 129.
- Legg 1991, p. 26.
- http://registry.faa.gov/aircraftinquiry/NNum_Results.aspx?NNumbertxt=700F "Grumman F7F Tigercat/Bu. 80390."
- http://registry.faa.gov/aircraftinquiry/NNum_Results.aspx?NNumbertxt=207F "Grumman F7F Tigercat/Bu. 80411."
- http://registry.faa.gov/aircraftinquiry/NNum_Results.aspx?NNumbertxt=909TC "Grumman F7F Tigercat/Bu. 80425."
- http://registry.faa.gov/aircraftinquiry/NNum_Results.aspx?NNumbertxt=6178C "Grumman F7F Tigercat/Bu. 80483."
- http://registry.faa.gov/aircraftinquiry/NNum_Results.aspx?NNumbertxt=805MB "Grumman F7F Tigercat/Bu. 80503."
- http://registry.faa.gov/aircraftinquiry/NNum_Results.aspx?NNumbertxt=7195C "Grumman F7F Tigercat/Bu. 80532."
- http://www.warbirdregistry.org/f7fregistry/f7f-80373.html "Grumman F7F Tigercat/Bu. 80373."
- http://www.warbirdregistry.org/f7fregistry/f7f-80382.html "Grumman F7F Tigercat/Bu. 80382."
- http://www.warbirdregistry.org/f7fregistry/f7f-80410.html "Grumman F7F Tigercat/Bu. 80410."
- http://registry.faa.gov/aircraftinquiry/NNum_Results.aspx?NNumbertxt=7629C "Grumman F7F Tigercat/Bu. 80374."
- http://www.warbirdregistry.org/f7fregistry/f7f-80375.html "Grumman F7F Tigercat/Bu. 80375."
- http://registry.faa.gov/aircraftinquiry/NNum_Results.aspx?NNumbertxt=7626C "Grumman F7F Tigercat/Bu. 80404."