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Grumman XF5F Skyrocket

United States (1940)
Picture of Grumman XF5F Skyrocket Shipborne Navy Fighter Prototype

The Grumman XF5F-1 Skyrocket was trialled by the USN as a possible carrier-based twin-engine fighter - it only saw one prototype completed before 1944.


Detailing the development and operational history of the Grumman XF5F Skyrocket Shipborne Navy Fighter Prototype.  Entry last updated on 2/13/2018. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com

Before the unique, twin-engined Grumman XP-50 popped up on U.S. Army radars prior to World War 2 (1939-1945) it existed as a similar form for potential sale to the United States Navy (USN) as the XF5F "Skyrocket" lightweight fighter prototype. It was originally envisioned as a fast shipborne interceptor with the handling and performance capabilities to match enemy fighters of the period head-to-head. After Grumman presented the USN with its radical design, it was ordered for prototyping on June 30th, 1939 - nearly a two-years-and-a-half before America's entry into World War 2 (December 1941). Its model designation became "G-34".

The XF5F was unique by any measure of the period. It sat the sole crewmember in a truncated fuselage that was capped at its front by the straight-edged wing mainplanes. These mainplanes mounted the two engine nacelles at their leading edges, giving the fighter a wholly unique appearance. The tail unit was set in its usual place but carried a twin-rudder configuration set about a pair of upward-cranked horizontal planes. A "tail-dragger" undercarriage rounded out the aircraft's physical qualities.

Dimensions included a running length of 28.8 feet, a wingspan of 42 feet, and a height of 11.3 feet. Empty weight was 8,110 lb against a Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) of 10,900 lb.

Power was served through 2 x Wright XR-1820-40/42 "Cyclone" 9-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engines outputting 1,200 horsepower each. The engines drove the three-bladed propellers in opposite directions, effectively cancelling the natural torque effect generated by each engine's spinning blades and making for a more steady flying and gunnery platform. Performance was promising to say the least.

As a Navy fighter, it was originally proposed that the new aircraft carry 2 x 23mm Madsen cannons. Beyond this fixed armament the aircraft would also be cleared to carry 2 x 165lb drop bombs as a ground attacker.
The entry of the XF5F during this period of American naval aviation history was of particular note as it was a twin-engined performer during a time when the first monoplanes in USN service were just beginning to take hold in inventory. Twin engines offered better range and power at the expense of complexity, maintenance requirements, and overall size on space-strapped carriers. Regardless, any advantage that could be gained against an enemy fighter was certainly entertained and Grumman had already established itself as the premiere aircraft supplier to the USN so the partnership between the two was not unwarranted.

First flight of the XF5F prototype occurred on April 1st, 1940 and this early period of testing revealed issues that forced revisions including a lengthening of both nose and engine nacelles and a reworking of the engine cooling system. Aerodynamics were further addressed by spinners added to each propeller unit and the cockpit canopy being lowered. The armament fit was changed from 2 x cannons to 2 x 0.50 caliber heavy machine guns with 2 x 0.30 caliber medium machine guns. This combination armament approach was common to many interwar American fighter planes - particularly before it was realized that a full battery of 0.50 machine guns offered the best firepower against more modern enemy fighters. On the whole, the fighter proved to have exceptional straight line speed for its time, good maneuverability, and a stellar rate-of-climb.

When tested against its contemporaries, the Grumman aircraft outshined the competition - including such war-winning classics like the British Supermarine "Spitfire" and the in-development Vought XF4U (to become the F4U "Corsair"). Due to logistical matters, however, the complex twin-engine aircraft was not pursued by the USN -instead it favored more conventional, easier-to-produce and maintain monoplanes like Grumman's other product - the F4F "Wildcat" and its successor, the F6F "Hellcat".

As such, the XF5F fell to aviation history. It was resurrected for a short time as the land-based "XP-50" (detailed elsewhere on this site) but this entry accomplished little more than its Navy sister - managing just one flying prototype herself. Both initiatives were ultimately cancelled but Grumman used these experiences to develop a fine "twin" in the late-war F7F "Tigercat" which saw production reach 364 units. These managed a combat career with the USN and USMC air services as a heavy fighter / night fighter over Korea during the Korean War (1950-1953).






Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

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Relative Maximum Speed Rating
Hi: 400mph
Lo: 200mph
    This entry's maximum listed speed (382mph).

    Graph average of 300 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
NYC
 
  LON
LON
 
  PAR
PAR
 
  BER
BER
 
  MOS
MOS
 
  TOK
TOK
 
  SYD
SYD
 
  LAX
LAX
 
  NYC
Graph showcases the Grumman XF5F-1's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
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Unit Production Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units
1
1


  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.


Altitude Visualization
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National Flag Graphic
Origin: United States
Year: 1940
Type: Shipborne Navy Fighter Prototype
Manufacturer(s): Grumman Aircraft - USA
Production: 1
Status: Cancelled
Global Operators:
United States (cancelled)
Historical Commitments / Honors:

Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.
Measurements and Weights icon
Structural - Crew, Dimensions, and Weights:
Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Grumman XF5F-1 model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.

Operational
CREW


Personnel
1


Dimension
LENGTH


Feet
28.71 ft


Meters
8.75 m


Dimension
WIDTH


Feet
41.99 ft


Meters
12.8 m


Dimension
HEIGHT


Feet
11.32 ft


Meters
3.45 m


Weight
EMPTY


Pounds
7,937 lb


Kilograms
3,600 kg


Weight
LOADED


Pounds
12,015 lb


Kilograms
5,450 kg

Engine icon
Installed Power - Standard Day Performance:
2 x Wright XR-1820-40/42 "Cyclone" 9-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engine developing 1,200 horsepower each.

Performance
SPEED


Miles-per-Hour
382 mph


Kilometers-per-Hour
615 kph


Knots
332 kts


Performance
RANGE


Miles
1,118 mi


Kilometers
1,800 km


Nautical Miles
972 nm


Performance
CEILING


Feet
36,089 ft


Meters
11,000 m


Miles
6.84 mi


Performance
CLIMB RATE


Feet-per-Minute
4,000 ft/min


Meters-per-Minute
1,219 m/min

Supported Weapon Systems:

Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun
Graphical image of an aircraft heavy machine gun
Graphical image of an aircraft conventional drop bomb munition
Armament - Hardpoints (0):

PROPOSED, FIXED:
2 x 0.50 caliber heavy machine guns
2 x 0.30 caliber medium machine guns

PROPOSED, OPTIONAL:
2 x 165lb bombs
Variants: Series Model Variants
• XF5F-1 - Prototype Series Designation; single example completed and test flown.