Friday, July 15, 2016

Fighter Friday - The Grumman F8F Bearcat

Fighter Friday brings us back to the US Navy and the Grumman F8F Bearcat.
The Bearcat came after a meeting between Wildcat pilots who flew at the Battle of Midway and Grumman Vice President Jake Swirbul in June of 1942.  The pilots were giving feedback to Grumman in order to help develop the followup fighter to the Hellcat.  One pilot, Lt. Commander Jimmie Thach said that the next fighter should have a pretty good climb rate.
After studying the carrier battles and the notes from the pilots, Grumman started to develop the Bearcat in 1943.  They also had access to a captured German FW-190.  And if you look closely enough, there are some similarities between the two.
The first flight occurred in August of 1944 and the Navy placed the first order in October of 1944.  Planes started coming off the production lines in February of 1945.  The Bearcat never saw combat in US service because the war ended.  It was however mentioned as one of the best piston aircraft ever produced.  So much so, that the Blue Angels used it in 1946.  It did see combat with the French in Vietnam.
Quite a few found their way to the air racing circuit and were quite successful in that role for years.

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