F7F ✪ Tigercat
In the late 1930s. in the United States began laying down aircraft carriers capable of operating aircraft with a takeoff weight of 5-6 tons, and in the future, ships for even heavier aircraft were outlined. Under these conditions, the firm "Grumman" proposed in 1938 a revolutionary project on the concept of a high-speed twin-engine carrier-based fighter XF5F Skyrocket. The aircraft took off on April 1, 1940, flew until December 1944 and, although it was not brought to mass production, brought invaluable experience to its creators. On the basis of the concept worked out on it, "Grumman" at the beginning of 1941 offered the fleet a more powerful machine "Project 51". It was assumed that an aircraft with a takeoff weight of 6800 kg would be able to reach speeds of about 700 km / h, would have a range of about 1600 km and a practical ceiling of 10,600 m. The fighter was planned to be equipped with six 12.7-mm machine guns or four of the same machine guns and two 20-mm cannons. The power plant was going to use two Wright Cyclone GR-2600 engines with a capacity of 1800 hp each.
The command of the fleet, under a contract dated June 30, 1941, ordered two experimental fighters, designated XF7F-1. Their construction took several years. At first, as is often the case, the deadlines were postponed due to constant changes in the military requirements for the aircraft. In particular, at their insistence, the engines were replaced with Pratt & Whitney R-2800-22 of slightly higher power, and adjustments were made to the composition of weapons and equipment. Then, after the United States entered World War II, the main financial flows were redirected to higher priority programs, and as a result, the first XF7F-1 took off only on November 3, 1943.The vehicle had a takeoff weight of 8740 kg and was armed with four wing 20-mm cannons, as well as four 12.7-mm machine guns installed in the fuselage. During its tests, it was possible to obtain: a maximum speed of 690 km / h, a range of 1870 km, a ceiling of 12900 m. On March 2, 1944, a second prototype was connected to the tests, but work on two prototypes did not last long, because On May 1, the first was lost in a flight accident.
Aircraft modifications. When launched into production, the aircraft was named Tigercat. The first serial F7F-1 took off on April 29, 1944. Problems with the brake hook, revealed during the tests, did not allow the fighter to immediately begin carrier-based operation. But the US Marine Corps, operating mainly from ground airfields, impressed by the firepower of the machine, placed an order for 500 of these aircraft to be used as strike aircraft. However, these plans were also canceled out by another change in the views of the aircraft on the part of the military leadership. Now the first 200 machines were planned to be equipped with radars and used as F7F-1N night fighters. However, a one-seater vehicle was poorly suited for such an application, so only 34 units were built, only some of which were equipped with radars.
The next modification was the F7F-2 fighter, which had two options. In the night one, behind the cockpit, the radar operator's cabin was located, instead of which an additional fuel tank was mounted in the daytime version. Both versions were equipped with wing launchers for the NAR. From October 1944 to March 1945, 66 "twos" were built. Subsequently, some of them were converted into F7F-2D - carriers of remotely piloted targets.
From March 1945 to July 1946, 250 copies of the F7F-3 were produced, which were distinguished by a reinforced wing structure, an increased area and height of the keel, as well as the forced P&W R-2800-34W engines. The takeoff weight of the vehicle increased to 8960 kg. The aircraft had a number of variants: a single-seat day fighter (about 80 built); night bomber F7F-3E equipped with radar (3 copies); unarmed two-seat reconnaissance aircraft F7F-3P with cameras in the rear fuselage (61 copies); carrier of radio-controlled targets F7F-3K (at least one aircraft has been converted). The F7F-3N night fighter (106 aircraft) became the most massive of the triplets and the most numerous of the entire Tigercat family. A radar station was located in its bow, the crew consisted of two people, and the armament was only wing cannons.
The last serial "Tigercat" was the F7F-4N night fighter (until November 1946, 12 aircraft were produced). The aircraft was equipped with a new radar and had smoother fuselage nose contours. This variant became the heaviest of the entire family, its take-off weight reached 9035 kg. A total of 364 Tigerkats of various modifications were built.
Combat use. In mid-1944, the VMF-911 modification of the F7F-1 with R-2800-22W engines (with water injection) with a capacity of 2100 hp entered service with the Marine Corps VMF-911. After the release of thirty-five F7F-1s, they moved on to assembling the next version - the F7F-2N night fighter with R-2800-34W engines (the same power of 2100 hp). It added a second crew member - an operator (had to sacrifice one of the fuel tanks behind the cockpit), who served the ANN / APS-6 radar located in the bow. This version of the Taygerkat was intended mainly for night operations to intercept enemy aircraft, but it had very powerful air-to-ground weapons. Eight HVAR missiles (caliber 12.7 mm) or three large "Tini Tim" (caliber 29.85 mm) could be installed on the outer nodes. A large selection of bombs was also offered: a pair of 453 kg was hung under the wing, and one, weighing 907 kg, was hung under the fuselage. The set of suspended weapons included the Mk13-3 torpedo, as well as sea mines.
From October 1944 to August 1945, sixty-six F7F-2Ns were produced, and all of them entered service with the VMF (N) -533 Marine Night Fighter Squadron in Texas. This version was tested on the aircraft carrier "Antietam", where a team of six pilots performed 32 night landings in April 1945. The "Palubniks" again questioned the exploitation of the "Taygerkat", and the aircraft was not accepted into service with the aircraft carriers.
However, this did not affect the further release of F7F, as well as the fact that the war has already ended. The main customer continued to be the Marine Corps, and soon its pilots received 250 new F7F-3.B June 1946 laid a small series of twenty F7F-4N. The F7F-3 was almost identical to the F7F-1, differing only in a higher keel. Sixty of the 250 machines were produced in the version of the F7F-3N two-seat night fighter, which had a characteristic nose with a protrusion due to the new SCR-720 radar. The F7F-4N differed from it in a reinforced wing and landing gear design, and a more modern radar of the same modification. Later, small batches of the following variants were produced: F7F-3E with improved electronic equipment and F7F-3P reconnaissance aircraft with cameras. The F7F-3K and F7F-3D unmanned flying bombs were under development.
The British got acquainted with the new representative of the Grumman cat family when two F7F-1s landed in April 1946 in Farnborough. British pilots liked the takeoff and landing characteristics and the comfortable front landing gear layout. But for the armament of the Royal Navy aircraft "Tigercat" was not planned - England had its own good twin-engine "Sea Mosquito" and "Sea Hornet".
"Taygerkats" never had a chance to try their powerful weapons in World War II. The first Marine Squadron VMF (N) -533, armed with these aircraft, arrived in Okinawa only on August 14, 1945, the day before Japan's surrender. Having flown to China in October, the unit's pilots patrolled the railroad along which echelons with captured Japanese troops were traveling. In early 1946 the squadron replaced the F7F-2N with the more advanced F7F-3N and remained in China until early 1947, and then relocated to Hawaii.
Not having time to fight the Japanese, the Tigerkats got a chance to excel in the Korean War. In August 1950, a squadron of VMF (M) -542 Marine night fighters arrived in Japan aboard the aircraft carrier Cape Esperance. Soon, her F7F-3Ns were ferried to Incheon for combat missions. In October, VMF (N) -513 was added to it, in which, in addition to the Tigerkats, there were also F4U Corsair fighters. VMF (N) -542 did not stay long on the peninsula and returned to the United States in early 1951. And the "Corsairs" and "Tigerkats" VMF (N) -513 stayed in Korea until the end of 1952.
In addition to sorties to support its troops as an attack aircraft, one of the tasks of the F7F-3N was the fight against Po-2 light bombers. Night raids by North Korean Po-2 not only caused material damage, but also kept American troops in constant tension, which clearly did not contribute to raising morale. The Americans called our airplane "Bed Chenk Charlie" ("The little kinglet that lifts from the bed" - that is, does not let you sleep), and they released "Tiger Cat" to catch these dangerous "birds". The first "kinglet" was caught on July 1, 1951, when the F7F-3N crew, consisting of pilot Captain Long and operator Buckinthem, was lucky. It was the first aerial victory on the Tigerkat and the first victory for the Marine Corps in Korea. Another Po-2 was shot down on the night of September 23 by the crew of Major Van Gundy and Sergeant Wallom ...
The Tigerkats in Korea had other tasks as well. Thus, several F7F-3Ps from the 1st Air Wing of the Marine Corps carried out photographic reconnaissance over Busan. And from July 1952, the F7F-3N and VMF (N) -513 began to support the B-29 "super fortresses" in night flights. "Tigerkats" appeared in the target area a little earlier than the bombers, trying to provide their protection.
But piston fighters in the skies of Korea already looked outdated. At a meeting with the MiG-15, "Tigerkat" had practically no chance of surviving. Therefore, in November 1952, the VMF (N) -513 squadron re-equipped with the F3D-2 "Skynight" jet ("Skyknight" - sky knight). Soon they replaced their F7Fs and units of the Marine Corps remaining in the United States. The Tigerkats were replaced by the following representatives of the Grumman feline family - the jet Panthers and Cougars (Soidag).
"Tigerkets" were removed from service in February 1956. However, several converted F7F-3s were used to extinguish forest fires in the fire department of the US West Coast until the mid-1980s.