Grumman F7F Tigercat Carrier-Borne Nightfighter / Heavy Fighter Aircraft
Despite missing combat action in World War 2, the Grumman F7F Tigercat served with the USMC in the upcoming Korean War.
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The F7F Tigercat was another carrier-borne aircraft development in Grumman's long line of "cat" named fighters. The system was originally designed as a twin-engine fighter for use off of the decks of US Navy Midway-class aircraft carriers. Unfortunately, the aircraft proved too fast and too large for these vessels (in both operation and storage) and therefore went on to be utilized as a land-based attack fighter by the United States Marine Corps instead. The Tigercat arrived too late to see operational use in World War 2 but saw combat service in the upcoming Korean War. The F7F's design earned some historical distinction in becoming the world's first purpose-designed twin-engine, carrier-based fighter produced in quantity with a tricycle landing gear arrangement. The Tigercat also became the US Navy's first accepted twin-engine fighter.
Grumman had already proven itself a capable aviation firm with carrier-based fighter products spanning as far back as the early 1930's. The F4F Wildcat proved a pivotal Allied stalwart in the early and middle stages of the Pacific Theater, in both defensive and offensive roles. The much improved F6F Hellcat - featuring the powerful Pratt & Whitney "Double Wasp" radial piston engine - ratcheted the bar up a few notches and helped to win back air superiority for the Allies for the remainder of the war. It becomes no surprise then that the same bureau that produced these two excellent aircraft would leave no stone unturned when creating a successor in the "cat" family line. With development beginning as early as 1941, Grumman engineers would set out to create the ultimate form of carrier-based fighter aircraft anywhere in the world. To make this ultimate vision a reality, Grumman engineers would stay with the proven Hellcat powerplant - the Pratt & Whitney brand R-2800 series Double Wasp engine - the same engine that would power what could be considered the pinnacle of American piston-powered flight in the upcoming Grumman F8F Bearcat navy fighter.
This resulting Grumman design emerged as a large, twin-engine, single-seat fighter. First flight of the first of two XF7F-1 prototype occurred in December 1943. Though an excellent and capable aircraft, it was already proving to be too large for the Midway-class of aircraft carriers and the power supplied by the twin Double Wasp engines made it simply too fast for general carrier operations where the Midway-class was concerned. Additionally, the Tigercat performed poorly when running on a single engine and issues arose with the arrestor hook during trials.