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Grumman F9F Panther

United States (1949)
Picture of Grumman F9F Panther Carrier-Borne Fighter / Ground Attack Aircraft
Picture of Grumman F9F Panther Carrier-Borne Fighter / Ground Attack Aircraft Picture of Grumman F9F Panther Carrier-Borne Fighter / Ground Attack Aircraft
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The Grumman F9F Panther was used extensively by the USN and USMC during the Korean War before some were passed on to the Argentine Navy.


Detailing the development and operational history of the Grumman F9F Panther Carrier-Borne Fighter / Ground Attack Aircraft.  Entry last updated on 10/24/2017. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com

Grumman managed a long-standing tradition of successfully fulfilling US Navy carrier-based fighter requirements. It developed the propeller-driven F4F Wildcat which was used extensively in the early stages of World War 2 and followed this with the war-winning F6F Hellcat which proved more than a match for Japanese "Zeroes". The powerful prop-powered F7F Tigercat then followed and the fighter line culminated in the excellent "swing-wing" jet-powered F-14 Tomcat of the Cold War years. During the Vietnam War, Grumman delivered its A-6 Intruder strike class which made a legacy for itself when launching from American carriers against North Vietnam targets. The company also developed various over-water, carrier-based transport aircraft, specialized systems platforms and a line of civilian airframes to further pad its resume. However, it was the F9F "Panther" carrier-based fighter that not only became the first jet-powered fighter of note for the United States Navy but the first jet fighter designed, developed and produced by the Grumman concern. To further solidify its position in American military aviation, the Panther was also taken on by the storied Blue Angels aerobatic demonstration team (until 1954).

Development

Like most early jet-powered aircraft, the Panther was born in the latter stages of World War 2 during a time when the turbojet engine was just beginning to take shape through notable work occurring in America, Britain, Germany and the Soviet Union. The United States Navy had already begun looking to the future when it commissioned for a jet-powered fighter to serve on its carrier decks, armed with radar for self-tracking of potential targets while being capable of combat service in both day and night environments and all-weather scenarios.

To fulfill this lofty order, Grumman began work on a design (the G-75) fitted with four turbojet engines mounted in nacelles at the wings as the "XF9F-1" prototype. The airframe also included two crew. Four engines were necessary due to the rather low output exhibited by early turbojet engines. However, the use of four engines was a rather restrictive design feature on an aircraft intended for the space-strapped American carriers so it was, with good fortune, that advancing engine technology soon allowed the required output from a simplified twin-engine configuration - and the second crewmember was also dropped from the design. The revised prototype (USN XF9F-2, Grumman Model G-79) went airborne for the first time on November 24th, 1947. However, the two intended engines had not yet been installed, the airframe instead making use of a single British Rolls-Royce Nene for basic flight testing.


Picture of the Grumman F9F Panther Carrier-Borne Fighter / Ground Attack Aircraft
Picture of the Grumman F9F Panther Carrier-Borne Fighter / Ground Attack Aircraft


Pratt & Whitney was charged with serial production of the Nene under the "J42" designation. As early turbojets proved thirsty systems, it was decided that the XF9F should incorporate wingtip fuel tanks for additional fuel storage and, thusly, increased operational ranges. Considering carrier-based aircraft often operated over large spans of endless ocean, this was something of a requirement. Wingtip fuel tanks were officially tested on a prototype in February of 1948. The added weight unexpectedly increased the roll rate of the airframe which proved an added advantage, particularly in a close-ranged gun fight. Testing of the tanks proved successful and it was adopted as a standard fitting for the upcoming production forms.

Carrier trials involving prototypes were completed in March of 1949 to which the series was cleared for service as the F9F-2 "Panther" in September of that year. Examples were established in USN service by May of 1949.

Panther Walk-Around

The Panther was designed around a deep, tubular fuselage housing the cockpit, turbojet engine, fuel stores and available avionics. The engine aspirated through triangular side intakes and exhausted through a single ring at the base of the tail. The cockpit was set ahead of amidships with a single-piece forward windscreen and a large-area, rearward-sliding canopy section overhead allowing for excellent views out of the cockpit. The empennage featured a single vertical tail fin detailed with high-mounted tailplanes. The main wing appendages were low-set along the fuselage sides and formed as extensions of the intake ducts making up the wing roots. These wings were straight in their general design and each were capped by the aforementioned fuel tank pods. As a carrier-based aircraft, the wings were also designed to fold upwards along a hinged section outboard of the intake ductwork. Another carrier aircraft quality was the installation of a tailhook for the required short-distance landing. The undercarriage was wholly retractable and featured a pair of single-wheeled main legs and a single-wheeled nose leg.

Panther Variants

Two initial prototypes were completed under the XF9F-2 designation. This was then followed by the third prototype - XF9F-3. Original production models became the F9F-2 and all were powered by a Pratt & Whitney J42 series turbojet engine. F9F-2B was used to signify F9F-2 models that were given underwing rocket/bomb racks for the ground attack role. Once earlier F9F-2 marks were updated to the F9F-2B standard, the B-designation was officially retired.

The F9F-2B was powered by the Pratt & Whitney J42-P-8 turbojet engine outputting 5,700lbs thrust (the license-built British Nene turbojet). Performance figures included a maximum speed of 545 miles per hour, a service ceiling of 44,600 feet and range of 1,353 miles. Rate-of-climb measured 5,140 feet per minute. Dimensions included a length of 37 feet, 3 inches, a wingspan of 38 feet and a height of 11 feet, 4 inches. Armament was 4 x 20mm cannons and support for up to 2,000lbs of underwing ordnance. The aircraft featured an empty weight of 10,000lbs and a maximum take-off weight of 19,500lbs.

The F9F-2P was a dedicated photographic reconnaissance mount lacking armament. These versions were born out of necessity during the Korean War (1950-1953).

The F9F-3 was a new variant powered by an Allison J33 turbojet engine. This mark was actually developed in the event that the Pratt & Whitney J42 series engines failed to prove themselves as planned. Some fifty-four F9F-3 mounts were completed in all though this collection was later re-engined with the standardized J42 once the Pratt & Whitney powerplant successfully cleared evaluations.

The XF9F-4 was a one-off prototype that led directly to the F9F-4 production model. The F9F-4 was an improved Panther granted a lengthened fuselage which allowed for increased fuel storage and, therefore, improved operational ranges to a certain extent. These retained the J42 series engines though now included a blown-air arrangement which worked with slot flaps providing better controlled approach speeds.

The F9F-5 then followed and these were essentially F9F-4 airframes outfitted with the Pratt & Whitney J48 engine (licensed version of the British Rolls-Royce RB.44 "Tay"). A total of 616 were produced to this standard, becoming the quantitative mark of the whole Panther series. Additionally, the variant included a water injection system to increase thrust output to 7,000lbs. The F9F-5 began deliveries in 1950 and these officially completed in 1953. As in the earlier F9F-2P, the F9F-5P variant was an unarmed photographic reconnaissance model fitting cameras in a lengthened nose assembly. Thirty-six of this version were produced.

The F9F-5K were decommissioned F9F-5 Panthers used as unmanned target drones. The F9F-5KD was a drone director and these were later redesignated to DF-9E during the 1962 US aircraft nomenclature restructuring.

The Korean War (1950-1953)

The F9F became the US Navy's quantitative jet-powered fighter of the Korean War where it managed to record a healthy 78,000 combat sorties by the end of the fighting. The Panther drew the first USN air-to-air kill of the war when an F9F downed a communist North Korean Yakovlev Yak-9 fighter on July 3rd, 1950, this Panther (F9F-2B) launching from the USS Valley Forge as part of VF-51 ("Sundowners"). Primarily utilized in the ground attack role throughout the conflict, the Panther nonetheless was successful in bringing down the highly-vaunted MiG-15 jet fighter on several occasions (seven in all, the first on November 9th, 1950). Lieutenant Royce Williams achieved the outstanding feat of bringing down four such MiG fighters which, in retrospect proved quite a feat as these were later revealed to be piloted by Russian Navy aviators as opposed to the poorer-quality North Korean pilots. The United States Marine Corps became the other active participant in the theater and utilized their F9Fs in similar fashion. Overall, Panthers proved a strong addition to UN actions over the peninsula. Models that served in the war were of the F9F-2, -3 and -5 marks.

The End of the Line

The Panther enjoyed operational service with USN squadrons up until 1956 before being retired in full by 1958. The Panther was pressed into service as jet trainers for new generations of naval and marine aviators and were then passed on to reserve units. Twenty-four aircraft were then purchased by the Argentine Navy in 1958 though utilized as land-based attack aircraft during their career overseas (Argentina became the sole export operator of the series). Some Panthers were pressed into combat service during the "Argentine Navy Revolt" of 1963 and in the border actions of 1965 against neighboring Chile. By the late 1960s, the Argentine Navy had moved to upgrade their stocks and took on the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk instead, leaving the Panther to retirement in 1969.

In all, 1,382 Panther aircraft were delivered by Grumman. The line was notably evolved in the similar F9F "Cougar" series which exhibited a near-identical form save for its swept-wing surfaces. The use of swept-wings was pressed by the success of the MiG-15 in the Korean War which more or less rendered straight-wing jet fighter aircraft somewhat obsolete. The Cougar first flew in 1951 and production totaled a 1,392 units - its primary users (again) becoming the USN, the USMC and, eventually, the Argentine Navy.






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: 750mph
Lo: 375mph
    This entry's maximum listed speed (545mph).

    Graph average of 562.5 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 F9F-2B Panther'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
1382
1382


  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

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


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Origin: United States
Year: 1949
Type: Carrier-Borne Fighter / Ground Attack Aircraft
Manufacturer(s): Grumman Aircraft - USA
Production: 1,382
Status: Retired, Out-of-Service
Global Operators:
Argentina; United States
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
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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 F9F-2B Panther model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.

Operational
CREW


Personnel
1


Dimension
LENGTH


Feet
37.24 ft


Meters
11.35 m


Dimension
WIDTH


Feet
37.99 ft


Meters
11.58 m


Dimension
HEIGHT


Feet
11.32 ft


Meters
3.45 m


Weight
EMPTY


Pounds
9,994 lb


Kilograms
4,533 kg


Weight
LOADED


Pounds
19,493 lb


Kilograms
8,842 kg

Engine icon
Installed Power - Standard Day Performance:
1 x Pratt & Whitney J42-P-8 turbojet engine developing 5,700 lb of thrust.

Performance
SPEED


Miles-per-Hour
545 mph


Kilometers-per-Hour
877 kph


Knots
474 kts


Performance
RANGE


Miles
1,353 mi


Kilometers
2,177 km


Nautical Miles
1,175 nm


Performance
CEILING


Feet
44,619 ft


Meters
13,600 m


Miles
8.45 mi


Performance
CLIMB RATE


Feet-per-Minute
5,140 ft/min


Meters-per-Minute
1,567 m/min

Supported Weapon Systems:

Graphical image of an aircrat automatic cannon
Graphical image of an aircraft air-to-surface missile
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Armament - Hardpoints (4):

STANDARD:
4 x 20mm M2 cannons in nose

OPTIONAL:
6 x 5" air-to-surface HE rockets underwing

Up to 2,000lbs of external stores held underwing.
Variants: Series Model Variants
• XF9F-1 - Proposed Model fitted with 4 x wing-mounted turbojet engines; two crew.
• XF9F-2 - Revised prototype fitting 2 x turbojet engines; single crew; wingtip fuel tanks; two examples produced.
• F9F-2 - Initial production model; wingtip-mounted fuel tanks as standard; fitted with PW J42 engine.
• F9F-2B - Provision for underwing bombs/rockets added; new standard for F9F-2 variants.
• F9F-2P - Photographic Reconnaissance Variant; sans 4 x 20mm cannon armament; outfitted with camera equipment.
• F9F-3 - Outfitted with Allison J33 series turbojet engine for possible replacement of J42-engined types; 54 examples produced; all models then re-engined for J42 turbojets.
• XF9F-4 - Prototype with lengthened fuselage and increased fuel stores; powered by J33 turbojet engine.
• F9F-4 - XF9F-4 production models; re-engined to J42 turbojets; blown-air slot flaps for improved approach speeds.
• F9F-5 - Based on the F9F-4; fitted with PW J48 series engine; water injection for 7,000lbs thrust output; 616 examples produced.
• F9F-5P - Photographic Reconnaissance Variant of F9F-5; sans armament.
• F9F-5K - Unmanned Target Drone
• F9F-5KD (DF-92 after 1962) - Drone Director