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F8F Bearcat
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F8F Bearcat

Grumman F8F Bearcat

Grumman F8F Bearcat
Role Naval carrier fighter
Crew 1
First Flight 21 August 1944
Entered Service 21 May 1945
Manufacturer Grumman
Length 28 ft 3 in 8.6 m
Wingspan 35 ft 10 in 10.9 m
Height 13 ft 10 in 4.2 m
Wing area ft²
Empty 7,070 lbs 3,210 kg
Loaded lbs kg
Maximum takeoff 12,947 lbs 5,870 kg
Engine Pratt & Whitney R-2800-34W Double Wasp radial
Power 2,100 hp 1,600 kW
Maximum speed 421 mph 680 km/h
Combat range miles km
Ferry range 1,105 miles 1,780 km
Service ceiling 38,700 ft 11,800 m
Rate of climb 4570 ft/min 1,390 m/min
Wing loading lb/ft² kg/m²
Power/Mass hp/lb kW/kg
Guns 4 × 20 mm cannon
Bombs 2 × 1,000 lb bombs 2 × 450 kg bombs
Rockets 4 × 0.5 in (127 mm) rockets

The Grumman F8F Bearcat was the company's final piston engined fighter aircraft. Designed for the interceptor fighter role, the design team's aim was to create the smallest, lightest fighter that could fit around the Pratt & Whitney; Double Wasp; engine (carried over from the F6F Hellcat) and the armament of four 20mm cannon. Compared to its predecessor, the Bearcat was 20% lighter, had a 30% better rate of climb, and was 50 mph (80 km/h) faster. In comparison with the Vought F4U Corsair, the Bearcat was marginally slower but was much more heavily armed, more manuverable and climbed faster. Many features of its design were inspired by a captured Focke-Wulf Fw 190 fighter that had been handed over to the Grumman facilities.

The F8F prototypes were ordered in November 1943 and first flew on 21 August, 1944, a mere nine months later. The first production aircraft was delivered in February 1945 and the first squadron was operational by 21 May, but World War II was over before the aircraft saw combat service.

Postwar, the F8F became the major Navy fighter, equipping 24 fighter squadrons. Their performance was such that they outmatched even many early jets, but that advantage soon evaporated; the Grumman F9F Panther largely replaced it in USN service.

Other nations that flew the Bearcat included the French and Thai air forces. The French aircraft saw combat service in French Indochina in a fighter-bomber role in the early 1950s.

A fairly large number of Bearcats survive; approximately eleven are airworthy, eight are restored for display and approximately a dozen are wrecks or restoration projects. Bearcats have been fairly popular in air racing, and one, the Rare Bear owned by Lyle Shelton is the holder of the record as the fastest propeller-driven aircraft in the world at 528.33 mph (850.26 km/h), set in 1989.

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