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GRUMMAN F8F-2 BEARCAT
HISTORY

By 1947, the engine which the Navy had originally wanted for the Bearcat, the 2,250 hp Pratt & Whitney R-2800-30W, finally became available in quantity. Grumman retained one production F8F-1 and one F8F-1B, which were used to build two XF8F-2 prototypes. The main difference between the F8F-1 and XF8F-2 being the installation of the R-2800-30W engine (which was the same size and dimensions as the -34W engine.) A unique feature of the R-2800-30W engine was the Automatic Engine Control (AEC) which connected the throttle and variable speed supercharger in one control.

Because of the increased torque of the more powerful engine, it was necessary to increase the height of the vertical tail by twelve inches. The National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA) had recommended a sixteen inch increase, however, such an increase would have required a complete redesign of the vertical tail. The tall tail configuration became the principal identification feature of the F8F-2, although the aircraft also featured a revised engine cowling, four M3 cannon armament and a reinforced canopy with an additional frame installed near the rear of the canopy.

CAPT Bob Elder compared the performance of the F8F-1 and F8F-2:

          I flew both the F8F-1 and F8F-2 models of the beloved Bearcat and only wish that the little jewel
          had been in the Navy’s fighter inventory early in WWII. I recall only somewhat minor
          degredations in the F8F-2’s performance, due mostly to some weight increase and an equal
          margin of improvement over the F8F-1 in laterial/ directional control and general flying qualities.

Another unlikely source, COL George I. Ruddell, USAF, Ret. (then a MAJ) commented on the F8F-2 COL. Ruddell served as an exchange pilot with VF-73 during 1948.

          Although I was already in Heaven, flying as a member of the only jet group in the Air Force, I just
         couldn’t resist such an opportunity. Nine of us were sent to
Pensacola to start the exchange
         program. We graduated to the F8F-2 in August. What a wonderful airplane! I loved it.

In September of 1948, only two years after adopting a new squadron designation system, a completely different system was introduced. The 1948 system tied the squadron number to the Carrier AirGroup (CVG) to which the squadron was attached. AirGroup Seven’s two fighter squadrons were designated VF-71 and VF-72, while CVG-19’s were designated VF-191 and VF-192.

The Marine Corps received a few Bearcats, mostly F8F-2s. The Bearcats were used to equip advanced training units at three Marine Corps Air Stations (MCAS): Quantico, Virginia; Cherry Point, North Carolina; and El Toro, California.

Grumman delivered the first production F8F-2 in October of 1947 and production ended on 31 May 1949. with a total of 282 F8F-2s being manufactured. Bearcat equipped squadrons with the fleet peaked during 1948 when twenty-four squadrons were equipped with F8F’s (F8F-1, F8F-1B and F8F-2) But the career of the Bearcat was to be limited, as jet fighters were coming on into service and new fighter squadrons were forming with them. A few Bearcats soldiered on as drone controllers, designated F8F-1Ds and F8F-2Ds. During 1950, Bearcats replaced the F6F-5 Hellcats in the Advanced Training Units (ATUs) as advanced fighter trainers until they too were finally replaced by jets.

By July of 1955, the last Reserve squadrons had replaced their Bearcats with jet fighters. During 1956, the last F8F-2s were stricken from the Navy inventory and transferred to storage facilities. The fantastic little Bearcat was now only a fond memory in the Navy – a victim of the advancing technology of the jet age.

                                     
                      GRUMMAN F8F-2 SIZE AND PERFORMANCE SPECIFICATIONS