Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
|Grumman F7F-4N Tigercat|
|Role||Heavy naval fighter|
|Crew||1 or 2|
|First flight||December 1943|
|Entered service||April 1944|
|Length||45 ft 4 in||13.8 m|
|Wingspan||51 ft 6 in||15.7 m|
|Height||16 ft 7 in||5.1 m|
|Wing area||455 ft²||42.3 m²|
|Empty||16,270 lb||7,380 kg|
|Maximum takeoff||25,720 lb||11,670 kg|
|Engines||2 × Pratt & Whitney R-2800-34W Double Wasp|
|Power||2 × 2,100 hp||1,600 kW|
|Maximum speed||460 mph||740 km/h|
|Ferry range||1,200 miles||1,900 km|
|Service ceiling||40,400 ft||12,300 m|
|Rate of climb||ft/min||m/min|
|Guns||4 × 20 mm cannon|
4 × 0.50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns
|Bombs||2 × 1,000 lb (454 kg) bombs under wings|
|Other||Torpedo under fuselage|
The Grumman F7F Tigercat was the first twin-engined fighter aircraft design to enter service with the United States Navy. Designed for the new Midway class aircraft carriers, the aircraft were too large to operate from earlier decks. Although delivered to United States Marine Corps combat units before the end of World War II, the aircraft did not see combat service in that war. Most F7Fs ended up in land-based service, as attack aircraft or night fighters; only the later F7F-4N was ever certified for carrier service. They saw service in the Korean war, and were withdrawn from service in 1954.
Grumman's aim was to produce a plane that out-performed and out-gunned all existing fighter aircraft, and that had an auxiliary ground attack capability. Armament was heavy; four 20 mm cannons and four 0.50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns, as well as underwing and under-fuselage hardpoints for bombs and torpedoes. Performance met expectations too: the F7F Tigercat was one of the highest-performance piston-engined fighters, with a top speed well in excess of the US Navy's single-engined aircraft - 80 mph (130 km/h) faster than a F4U Corsair at sea level. The opinion of the Navy flight testers read, in part, "in addition to its potentialities as a night fighter, this airplane is the best medium-altitude day fighter, Army, Navy or foreign, yet evaluated."
All this was bought at the cost of heavy weight and a high landing speed, but what caused the aircraft to fail carrier suitability trials was poor directional stability with only one engine operational, as well as problems with the tail-hook design. Therefore, initial production was only used from land bases by the USMC, as night fighters with APS-6 radar. At first they were single-seater F7F-1N aircraft, but after the 34th production aircraft a second seat for a radar operator was added; these planes were designated F7F-2N.
The next version produced, the F7F-3, and modified to correct the issues that caused the aircraft to fail carrier acceptance, and this version was again trialled on the USS Shangri-La. A wing failure on a heavy landing caused the failure of this carrier qualification too. F7F-3 aircraft were produced in day fighter, night fighter and photo-reconnaissance versions.
A final version, the F7F-4N, was extensively rebuilt for additional strength and stability, and this did pass carrier qualification, but only twelve were built.
Marine Corps units flying Tigercats saw action in the early stages of the Korean War, flying night interdiction and fighter missions. This was the only combat use of the aircraft.
Most F7F-2Ns were modified to control drones for combat training, and these gained bubble canopies over the rear cockpit for the drone controller.
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