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Grumman F11F / F-11 Tiger Carrier-Borne High Performance Fighter (1956)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 3/26/2015

Engine unreliability eventually limited the operational service life of the US Navy high-performance carrier-based F11F Tiger.

The United States Navy maintained its reliance on aircraft designed, developed and produced by the Grumman concern from pre-World War 2 into the modern age. Grumman provided the F4F Wildcat single-seat, piston-engined fighter during the early going of World War 2 and then added the excellent F6F Hellcat to the USN stable before the end. The twin-engined F7F Tigercat and high-speed F8F Bearcat then followed in the post-war years to which the upcoming jet age brought about Grumman's first of the type in the F9F Panther, this evolved into the equally useful F9F Cougar. It was only fitting that further development begat the F11F Tiger which was initially born of the Panther/Cougar line and became a dimensionally smaller and lighter carrier-based day fighter (the Grumman fighter line of course culminated with the Cold War-era swing-wing, two-seat, twin-engined fighter in the F-14 Tomcat).

Consistent across all of the Grumman carrier-borne offerings were folding wings, tail arrestor hooks and reinforced undercarriages - as well as the "cat" name. The F11F Tiger began as a private venture endeavor on the part of Grumman in 1952, building upon the F9F Cougar which was, itself, a swept-wing form of the original F9F Panther fighter. The Panther managed combat service in the Korean War (1950-1953) as a ground attack jet platform so it provided the proven pedigree. The primary goal was to produce the smallest possible airframe around a rather powerful turbojet installation with the intend being a high-speed aerial combat mount principally to counter emerging Soviet fighter threats of the period.

Grumman undertook its new supersonic initiative as the "Model G-98". This mated a tubular, aerodynamically refined fuselage with mid-mounted swept main wing assemblies and swept tail planes (all-moving). A portion of the main wings were also hinged to fold downwards for storage on the space-strapped American carriers. Folding was accomplished manually so no expensive and complicated powered hinged systems were required. There proved a single vertical rudder and two side-mounted intakes aspirating the single turbojet engine within. The powerplant of choice was the Wright J65 turbojet engine (the license-produced British Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire) buried in the center-aft portion of the fuselage. The undercarriage was a tricycle arrangement with two single-wheeled main legs under the fuselage and a twin-wheeled nose leg at front. The cockpit was fitted well-forward in the design with a two-piece canopy and light framing. Despite its origination in the Cougar, the G-98 became an all-new aircraft design after the substantial changes were implemented.

Grumman then presented its new design to the United States Navy which elected to order a pair of prototypes under the "XF9F-8" designation (note the F9F Panther/Cougar connection in the designation). When the upcoming F9F "Cougar" was formally fleshed out, that particular design was handed the XF9F-8 designation and the new Grumman concept became the "XF9F-9". Construction of G-98-based prototypes then proceeded with the first prototype recording its initial flight on July 30th, 1954. As the J65 afterburning engine was not yet ready for prime time, the XF9F-9 went airborne with a more modest, non-afterburning powerplant yet still managed a solid presentation, proving the airframe sound. The new aircraft was then bestowed the formal USN designation of F11F "Tiger" in April of 1955 with initial production models to arrive as "F11F-1". The first USN carrier to receive an F11F was the USS Forrestal though this during the requisite carrier trials. Development of the F11F was, for the most part, fraught with delays and tribulations - a lower-powered turbojet was eventually adopted for production quality aircraft simply to bring the Tiger into operational service rather than extend its expensive development cycle.

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Specifications for the
Grumman F11F / F-11 Tiger
Carrier-Borne High Performance Fighter

Focus Model: Grumman F11F-1 / F-11F Tiger
Country of Origin: United States
Manufacturer: Grumman - USA
Initial Year of Service: 1956
Production Total: 201

Crew: 1

Length: 46.95 ft (14.31 m)
Width: 31.63 ft (9.64 m)
Height: 13.22ft (4.03 m)
Weight (Empty): 13,428 lb (6,091 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 22,161 lb (10,052 kg)

Powerplant: 1 x Wright J65-W-18 turbojet engine developing 10,500lbs of thrust with afterburner.

Maximum Speed: 750 mph (1,207 kmh; 652 kts)
Maximum Range: 1,270 miles (2,044 km)
Service Ceiling: 41,896 ft (12,770 m; 7.9 miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 5,130 feet-per-minute (1,564 m/min)

Hardpoints: 4
Armament Suite:
4 x 20mm Colt Mk 12 internal cannons

4 x AIM-9 Sidewinder short-range, air-to-air missiles underwing OR jettisonable fuel tanks OR high-explosive rockets.

G-98 - Grumman company model designation

XF9F-8 - Original prototype designation

XF9F-9 - Revised prototype designation

YF9F-9 - Developmental Designation

F11F - Base Series Designation

F11F-1 - Initial production models for US Navy; Wright J65 turbojet engine.

F11F-1P - Proposed reconnaissance variant with camera equipment; sans armament; cancelled.

F-11A - Redesignated F11F-1 models after 1962 realignment.

F11F-1F "Super Tiger" - Proposed improved Tiger fighter form; two prototype examples completed.

United States