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  • Grumman F8F Bearcat Carrierborne Fighter / Interceptor Aircraft

    The Grumman F8F Bearcat was one of the fastest piston-engine aircraft of its time, its performance on par with early jet-powered fighters.

     Updated: 4/5/2017; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.MilitaryFactory.com

    In many ways, the Grumman F8F Bearcat was the pinnacle of United States piston-engine fighter design. The aircraft arrived within the waning months of World War 2, missing combat action in all theaters altogether, but still managed to leave a legacy of power and performance even with the advent of the jet age. Its powerful Double Wasp radial piston engine and thoughtful design made for an excellent aircraft and one is left to his/his imagination as to the impact such a fighter would have had would it have shown up in time for combat in history's greatest airborne confrontations.

    Grumman had a fighter aircraft history spanning back to the early 1930's. Grumman found success early in the war with its over-achieving F4F Wildcat fighter - the fighter that withstood the brunt of Japanese aggression surprisingly well until the formidable and classic Grumman F6F Hellcat was made ready in quantity. With this type of pedigree, Grumman's attempt to improve on their "cat" series was an inevitability and the F8F Bearcat would not disappoint except that when it was made ready, there was no more war to fight.

    The Bearcat was born out of a specification requiring an interceptor aircraft designed around the powerful Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp series radial piston engine (incidentally the same engine series powering the F6F Hellcat and the twin-engine F7F Tigercat). The aircraft would have to fit this engine into the smallest possible frame with every attention paid to the aircraft's overall weight. The resulting design succeeded in all fronts, culminating in an end-product proportionately better than the previous Grumman offerings.

    The initial Grumman Company designation for the aircraft was G-58 (originating from Design 58, a report compiled by Grumman test pilot Bob Hall to Grumman President Leroy Grumman after his experiences in a captured German Focke-Wulf Fw 190) and was designed to succeed the F6F Hellcat series. Early forms of the Bearcat existed in this form and became two G-58A civilian-targeted systems, one for Major Alford Williams and owned by the Gulf Oil Company and the second owned by Grumman for demonstration purposes. The initial prototype became the XF8F-1, of which two were produced, and flew on August 21, 1944. Total design time for the Bearcat, from vision to air-worthy product, spanned just nine months.

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    Grumman F8F-1B Bearcat Technical Specifications

    Service Year: 1945
    Type: Carrierborne Fighter / Interceptor Aircraft
    National Origin: United States
    Manufacturer(s): Grumman - USA
    Production Total: 1,266

    Structural (Crew Space, Dimensions and Weights)

    Operating Crew: 1
    Length: 28.25 feet (8.61 meters)
    Width: 35.83 feet (10.92 meters)
    Height: 13.78 feet (4.20 meters)

    Weight (Empty): 7,068 lb (3,206 kg)
    Weight (MTOW): 12,948 lb (5,873 kg)

    Installed Power and Standard Day Performance

    Engine(s): 1 x Pratt & Whitney R-2800-34W Double-Wasp 18-cylinder radial piston engine developing 2,100 horsepower.

    Maximum Speed: 421 mph (677 kph; 366 knots)
    Maximum Range: 1,105 miles (1,778 km)
    Service Ceiling: 38,698 feet (11,795 meters; 7.33 miles)
    Rate-of-Climb: 4,570 feet-per-minute (1,393 m/min)

    Armament / Mission Payload

    4 x 12.7mm machine guns

    4 x 20mm cannons

    4 x 12.7cm rockets OR 1 x 1000lb bomb

    Global Operators / Customers

    France; North Vietnam; South Vietnam; Thailand; United States

    Model Variants (Including Prototypes)

    G-58 - Grumman Company Designation

    G-58A - Civilian Model of which two were produced; second model was for demonstration purposes.

    XF8F-1 - Two Prototype Models

    F8F-1 - Initial Production Model; fitted with Pratt & Whitney R-2800-34W Double Wasp radial piston engine of 2,100 horsepower; folding wings; self-sealing fuel tanks; 4 x 12.7mm machine guns; retractable tailwheel.

    F8M-1 - F8F-1 models produced by General Motors.

    F8F-1B - Armament changed to 4 x 20mm cannons; 100 exmaples produced.

    F8F-1(D) - Export Production Model for France (100 examples) and Thailand (~100 examples).

    XF8-1N - Two Night-Fighter Prototype Models

    F8F-1N - Night-fighter Production Model Designation; fitted with APS-19 series radar; 36 examples produced.

    XF8F-2 - Two Prototypes of F8F-2 Production Models.

    F8F-2 - Second Production Model; billed as "improved" Bearcat; fitted with Pratt & Whitney R-2800-30W radial piston engine; revised engine cowling; enlarged dorsal rudder and vertical tail fin; 4 x 20mm cannon armament; 239 produced.

    F8F-2N - Night-Fighter Production Variant based on F8F-2 models; fitted with APS-19 radar; 12 examples produced.

    F8F-2P - Photo-Reconnaissance Platform; outfitted with cameras and associated equipment; 2 x 20mm cannons retained for self-defense; 30 examples produced.

    F8F-1D - F8F-1 Production Models converted to Drone Control Aircraft.

    F8F-2D - F8F-2 Production Models converted tp Drone Control Aircraft.