Encyclopedia - Grumman F8F Bearcat
Developed in the heat of World War Two, the Grumman Bearcat was Grumman's last piston-engined fighter, but was sadly too late to see operational action before the war ended.
The United States Navy, after identifying the need to replace the ageing Grumman Hellcat fleet, issued a requirement for a carrierborne fighter aircraft utilising the latest and most powerful engine at the time, the Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp radial piston engine. Robert L. Hall, famous aircraft racer and aircraft designer for Grumman, test flew a captured Focke-Wulf FW-190, and it was from this design that Grumman sought inspiration for the Bearcat.
Two prototypes, designated XF8F-1, were ordered in November 1943, and the first of these made its maiden flight on 21 August 1944. Grumman wasted no time in the testing phase, and the first production aircraft was being built within 6 months. On 21 May 1945 the first operational aircraft was delivered to VF-19 squadron, but wasn't in time to see action in the Second World War.
The Grumman F8F Bearcat is a single-engined, low-wing, carrier-borne interceptor aircraft with retractable tailwheel undercarriage. Folding wings mean that that Grumman Bearcat takes up less space when parked in crowded aircraft carrier hangars. The single pilot sits in a bubble canopy, providing excellent visibility when in combat situations. Armament ranged from four M3 20mm cannons, and a range of bombs and rockets under the wings.
Besides being used by 24 squadrons of the US Navy, the Grumman Bearcat also served with the US Marine Corps, the French Air Force, the Royal Thai Air Force and the Vietnamese Air Force. In total 1,265 Grumman Bearcat aircraft had been built.