Aviation Archive Issue 25 - 2016 UK

(Jacob Rumans) #1


Grumman F7F-4N Tigercat

Type: Twin-engined long-range
Crew: Two, pilot radar operator
Length: 45ft 4in (13.8m)
Wingspan: 51ft 6in (15.7m)
Height: 16ft 7in (5.1m)
Empty: 16,270lb (7,380kg)
Max T/O: 25,720lb (11,670kg)
Max Speed: 460mph (740km/h)
Range: 1,200 miles (1,900km)
Powerplant: 2 × Pratt & Whitney
R-2800-34W Double
Wasp radial engines of
2,100hp each
Armament: 4 × 20mm AN/M2
cannon, 4× 0.50in
(12.7mm) M2 Browning
machine guns. 2 x
1,000lb (454kg) bombs
under wing or 1 x
torpedo under fuselage


ean, mean and hungry, the Grumman
F7F Tigercat was without doubt, one
of the most powerful and fastest
piston-engined aircraft to be designed and
constructed during World War 2. However,
its war was over before it started as Japan
surrendered before it saw action.
Ordered by the US Navy in June 1941, the
XF7F-1 was Grumman’s second attempt at
a twin-engine fighter, the first having been
the unsuccessful XF5F-1 Skyrocket. With the
new fighter intended for use aboard the large
Midway-class ships, Grumman engineers
wanted to create the ‘ultimate’ carrier-based
aircraft. Although designated as a fighter, the
Tigercat was heavily armed to perform as a
ground support aircraft, equipped with four
20mm cannon and four 0.50in machine guns. It
was also capable of carrying two 1,000lb bombs
on underwing stations or one underslung
torpedo. The fuselage was of the smallest
possible cross-section and featured a pointed
nose assembly, single-seat cockpit (initially)
and conventional empennage. The pilot was
afforded good forward and above visibility
though his views left, right and to the rear were
limited to an extent. The big radial engines
were slung underneath each mid-mounted
monoplane wing. The wings themselves were
hinged outboard of the engines for ease of

Grumman F7F Tigercat

storage. It was also to be the first carrier aircraft
to employ tricycle landing gear. First flown in
December 1943, the XF7F-1 was hurried into
production to meet US Marine Corps demands
for 500 of the aircraft to support Pacific
operations. Deliveries began in April 1944, but
changes in operational requirements led to
production delays. With 34 single-seat models
delivered, production switched to a two-seat
night fighter, designated the F7F-2N, a total of
65 of which were built. Grumman then built
189 F7F-3s, which were similar to the F7F-1,
but modified with higher rated Pratt & Whitney
R-2800-34W engines. Further production
under the original contract was cancelled as
war’s end drew near, but a separate contract
produced 60 more F7F-3Ns and 13 F7F-4Ns,
production ending in late 1946. The first USMC
unit to convert to the Tigercat was VMF(N)-533
which arrived in Okinawa with its F7F-2Ns on
14 August 1945, the day before the Japanese
surrender. Too late for service in World War 2,
the Tigercat later performed close air support,
night fighter, reconnaissance and utility
missions during the Korean War. Well designed,
the F7F was one of the fastest fighters of the
World War 2 era. Unfortunately, its operational
life coincided with the advent of more powerful,
faster jet aircraft, rendering it obsolete after
only a few short years.

Above: The prototype of the Grumman Tigercat
photographed in 1943. The F7F was the last
piston-engined aircraft in Grumman’s long line
of ‘cat’ named fighters.
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