Profile Publications No. 107 The Gruumman F8F Bearcat

hi October 1944, BttNo. 9046011 as star attraction at the Joint Fighter Conference and under­went brief flight and armament trials at N.A .T.C., Patuxent River. (Photo: via WEd ischnowski) siderable discussion over the fee to be allowed Grumman), agreement was reached togo ahead with the programme. On 27th November a letter of intent was signed, along with the priority certificate necessary to get the prototypes of anew airplane built under wartime controls. Contract terms called for Grumman to build two prototypes, the first with a P & W R-2800-22 “ C ”series, two speed supercharger engine and the second with the new“ E ”series engine with variable speed supercharger. A complete airplane mockup was not required, only power plant installation and cockpit section mockups being called out. The first airplane was to be flown in eight months, the second two months later. Following the F7F-1, the new fighter prototypes were designated XF8F-I. Design proceeded rapidly, with the cockpit mockup inspected in January, 1944 the power plant installation fol­lowing in March, using the -22 engine. No major changes were ordered: design and construction went ahead on schedule. During April it was dccided to install -22 engines in both prototypes due to non­availability of the“E ”engine. By late June the first airplane was well along and the contract had been modified to add twenty-three additional XF8F-I aircraft plus tooling for a production rate of 100 airplanes a month. With the first XF8F-1 scheduled for inflight August, and the second in October, the first of the additional X F8 F -l’s was scheduled for completion in December. BuN o’s assigned at this time were 90437-90461, with the last two going to the two originally-ordered prototypes. One of the twenty-three additional aircraft was to have the“E ”engine (by this time designated the R-2800-30W) installed when it became available, planned for March 1945. The -22 engines to be used in the other twenty- four aircraft also received theW suffix, since water injection provisions were incorporated. In August the new Grumman fighter was rolled out of the experimental shop and on 31st August, Bob Hall, no stranger to first flights in Grumman fighters, took BuNo 90460 up for the X F8 F-I’s first flight. Initial reactions were enthusiastic: the airplane’s performance was impressive, and it seemed to have few major problems, although it was not without its share of the usual variety of lesser develop­ment problems. Engineering and test elTort was pushed to solve these problems, including landing gear difficulties and insufficient longitudinal stability. The latter resulted in the addition of one foot to the span of the horizontal tail. With flight results showing that the F8F would give the outstanding performance which had been its designer’s goal, some changes were initiated to improve its overall effectiveness. The capacity of the internal fuel tank, which was actually 162 gallons rather than the 150 gallons specified, was to be raised to 175 gallons since space in the tank area under the cockpit was available. As finally delivered the capacity was 183 gallons which agave useful extension in combat radius over the original 150 gallon figure. Store carrying provisions were also increased to a total of two 1,000 pound bombs plus four 250 pound bombs on wing stations between the landing gear welland the wing fold. These changes were made with minimum weight additions, and minimum reduction of interceptor performance. The XF8F-1 made its debut in October— at the Joint Fighter Conference held at the Naval Air Test Centre, Patuxent River, Maryland. While it was there, initial Navy evaluation flights were also made, including brief gun firing trials. While the single XF8F-1 was not available for unlimited flying by the many military test and service pilots or the contractor test pilots participating, it was flown by a limited number of military pilots. It was quite an outing for the only test airplane inflight status, less than two months after its first flight! The results of both the Conference pilot’s evaluations and the Navy evalua­tion were universally a pat on the back for the Grumman designers and also for the Navy officers who had pushed for adoption of Grumman’s pro­posed lighter interceptor design in contrast to the other larger, heavier, long range fighters being developed concurrently for BuAer. Even though only a minimum number of Conference pilots flew the F8F, it received the highest percentage of votes as the best all around fighter below 25,000 feet, and, by a wide margin, as potentially the best carrier fighter (with modifications for carrier operations allowed for the land based types). Only its compact cockpit, lack of lateral trim and of longitudinal trim incapability landing and its directional stability and F8F-I cockpit, showing gunsiglit and instrumentation. (Photo: G rum man) 4
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