F8F Bearcat

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Grumman F8F Bearcat
F8F Bearcat
Grumman F8F Bearcats prepare for takeoff
RoleNaval carrier fighter
First flight21 August 1944
Entered service21 May 1945
Length28 ft 3 in8.6 m
Wingspan35 ft 10 in10.9 m
Height13 ft 10 in4.2 m
Wing areaft²
Empty7,070 lb3,210 kg
Maximum takeoff12,947 lb5,870 kg
EnginePratt & Whitney R-2800-34W Double Wasp radial
Power2,100 hp1,600 kW
Maximum speed421 mph680 km/h
Combat rangemileskm
Ferry range1,105 miles1,780 km
Service ceiling38,700 ft11,800 m
Rate of climb4570 ft/min1,390 m/min
Wing loadinglb/ft²kg/m²
Guns4 × 20 mm cannon
Bombs2 × 1,000 lb bombs2 × 450 kg bombs
Rockets4 × 0.5 in (12.7 mm) rockets

The Grumman F8F Bearcat was the company's final piston engined fighter aircraft. Designed for the interceptor fighter role, the design team's aim was to create the smallest, lightest fighter that could fit around the Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp engine (carried over from the F6F Hellcat) and the armament of four 20mm cannon. Compared to its predecessor, the Bearcat was 20% lighter, had a 30% better rate of climb, and was 50 mph (80 km/h) faster. In comparison with the Vought F4U Corsair, the Bearcat was marginally slower but was much more heavily armed, more manuverable and climbed faster. Many features of its design were inspired by a captured Focke-Wulf Fw 190 fighter that had been handed over to the Grumman facilities.

The F8F prototypes were ordered in November 1943 and first flew on 21 August, 1944, a mere nine months later. The first production aircraft was delivered in February 1945 and the first squadron was operational by 21 May, but World War II was over before the aircraft saw combat service.

Postwar, the F8F became the major Navy fighter, equipping 24 fighter squadrons. Their performance was such that they outmatched even many early jets, but that advantage soon evaporated; the Grumman F9F Panther largely replaced it in USN service.

Other nations that flew the Bearcat included the French and Thai air forces. The French aircraft saw combat service in French Indochina in a fighter-bomber role in the early 1950s.

A fairly large number of Bearcats survive; approximately eleven are airworthy, eight are restored for display and approximately a dozen are wrecks or restoration projects. Bearcats have been fairly popular in air racing, and one, the Rare Bear owned by Lyle Shelton is the holder of the record as the "fastest propeller-driven aircraft in the world" (averaged over a 3km course) at 528.33 mph (850.26 km/h), set in 1989.

Related content
Related development
Similar aircraft
Designation series

F5F - F6F - F7F - F8F - F9F - F10F - F11F

Related lists

List of military aircraft of the United States - List of fighter aircraft

Lists of Aircraft | Aircraft manufacturers | Aircraft engines | Aircraft engine manufacturers

Airports | Airlines | Air forces | Aircraft weapons | Missiles | Timeline of aviation

de:Grumman F8F

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