Grumman G-58 F8F Bearcat
Grumman F8F-l Bearcat
Conceived as a replacement for the earlier Grumman F6F Hellcat, the Grumman F8F Bearcat was also in-tended to surpass the Japanese Mitsu-bishi A6M ‘Zeke’ and later fighters. The provision of significantly more power than the R-2800 engine of the F6F Hellcat was impractical, so the design team concentrated upon producing a smaller lightweight aircraft which would ensure the performance required of a carrier-based interceptor. But although deliveries began before VJ-Day the Bearcat played no part in World War 2, most of the 8,000 or so examples on order being cancelled following the return of peace Despite being overtaken by events, the Bearcat did see service with the US Navy in substantial numbers, a total of 1,263 eventually being completed for this service, and many of these were later passed on to the air arms of France, Thailand and South Vietnam.
Standard production machines were capable of speeds well in excess of 644 km/h (400 mph), whilst the specially modified aircraft flown by stunt pilot Al Williams actually achieved a speed of 805 km/h (500 mph) at 5790 m (19,000 ft). Even more startling, however, was the rate of climb, one F8F-1 reaching 3050 m (10,000 ft) in just 94 seconds from brakes-off during November 1946 and setting a national record in the process.
Two prototypes, designated XF8F-1 and named Bearcat, were ordered on 27 November 1943, and the first flew on 31 August 1944. It marked a complete break with previous Grumman fighters, the only points of similarity being the portly fuselage and bluff engine, and the broad wing of generous area. Apart from those characteristics the XF8F was new, quite apart from being remarkably compact. The wing span was only 35ft l0in and the overall length 28ft 3in, and it was an ex-tremely simple and uncluttered design. The single main spar ran straight from tip to tip and the engine firewall was in line with it. The centre of gravity of the loaded aircraft was eight inches in front of this point, emphasising how close-coupled the whole aircraft was. The wing was made in one piece, only the tips being arranged to fold straight up and over, and the top of the wing formed the floor of the cockpit. The seat was mounted straight on the wing, and pilots added their own personal cushion(s) so that they had a good view from the high teardrop canopy. The main landing gear retracted straight inwards, the small wheels with high-pressure tyres being housed in the wing root leading edge. A novel idea, later aban-doned, was to arrange that, if the wing suffered vertical acceleration exceeding 8.5g, the outer 3ft of each wing would break off (preventing a catastrophic breakage at the root).
Figures taken during trials with the prototype Bearcat included a speed of 424 mph at 17,300ft and an initial rate of climb of 4,800 ft/ min. In October 1944 an initial series of 3,899 F8F-ls was ordered, with the 2,100-hp R-2800-34W engine, four 0.5-in guns and 169 lb of armour.
Deliveries of F8F-ls to the first operational squadron began in May 1945.
Thousands were cancelled at VJ-Day, 770 built, and the first navy squadrons were still working up at this time (so the Bearcat’s baptism of fire came with the French in Indo-China and with Thailand. Grumman actually built 674 Dash-1s, followed by 224 F8F-lBs with four 20-mm cannon and finally 365 F8F-2s, similar to the -lB but with a taller fin (by 30.5cm), extra armour, a modified cowling and other changes. This total includes some (believed to be 12) -2N night-fighters with APS-19 radar were and a larger number (believed to be 60) -2Ps with only two cannon but a reconnaissance camera.
With an 1,863kW R-2800-E engine, an F8F-2 made a controlled climb from take-off to 3,050m in 92 seconds.
In addition to these new-build aircraft, close to 50 Bearcats were later retrofitted with APS-19 radar for night-fighter tasks as the F8F-1N and F8F-2N, whilst 60 more acquired cameras and became F8F-2P photographic reconnaissance aircraft, these having only two cannon installed.
Still in service with U.S.N reserve units in 1955, the F8F-2 Bearcat was in use as a “director " for drones.
Ex-US Navy Bearcats were used by the French Armee de l'Air and the Royal Thai Air Force, playing a significant role in the conflict in Indo-China.
Some 30 years later a Bearcat took the world piston-engined speed record at 482 mph.
Wing span: 35ft l0in.
Length: 28ft 3in.
Engine: one 2,100-hp (1566-kW) Pratt & Whitney R-2800-34W radial
Maximum speed 678 km/h (366 kts / 421 mph) at 6005 m (19,700 ft)
Cruising speed: 141 kts / 262 km/h
Service ceiling 11795 m (38,700 ft)
Range 960 nm / 1778 km / 1,105 miles
Empty weight 3207 kg (7,070 lb)
Maximum take-off 5873 kg (12,946 lb)
Wing span 10.92 m (35 ft 10 in)
Length 8.61 m (28 ft 3 in)
Height 4.22 m (13 ft 10 in)
Wing area 22.67 sq.m (244 sq ft)
Wing loading: 53.10 lbs/sq.ft / 259.00 kg/sq.m
Armament: four 12.7-mm (0.5-in) machine-guns.
Engine: 1 x Pratt & Whitney R-2800-34W Double Wasp, 1566kW
Max take-off weight: 5873 kg / 12948 lb
Empty weight: 3207 kg / 7070 lb
Wingspan: 10.92 m / 35 ft 10 in
Length: 8.61 m / 28 ft 3 in
Height: 4.22 m / 13 ft 10 in
Wing area: 22.67 sq.m / 244.02 sq ft
Max. speed: 678 km/h / 421 mph
Cruise speed: 262 km/h / 163 mph
Ceiling: 11795 m / 38700 ft
Range: 1778 km / 1105 miles
Armament: 4 x 20mm cannons, 2 x 454kg bombs or 4 x 127mm missiles
Engine: Pratt & Whitney R2800-W, 2100 hp.
Engine: 2,500 hp Pratt & Whitney R2800-34W
Span: 35 ft. 7 in.
Weight: 9,537 lb.
Max speed: 425 mph
Armament: 4 x 20 mm. cannon
Range: 1,650 miles.