F7F Tigercat

Even as the US Navy was struggling to enter the monoplane age, it was also looking forwards to a new generation of aircraft far more powerful than the Grumman F4F then entering service. Grumman’s G-34, given the USN designation XF5F and first flown on 1 April 1940, was an unorthodox design with two Wright R-1820 engines and a twin tail. The Skyrocket lived up to its name, reaching speeds of 380mph, but was too radical a leap for the time, and no series production was undertaken. The XF5F did however give Grumman experience with twin-engine fighters, and within a year the company would be at work on the G-51, a much larger and more powerful aircraft able to operate from the planned Midway-class aircraft carriers.

The XF7F-2N was a -1 reworked as a night fighter prototype, with a nose-mounted set and space for a radar operator aft of the pilot. Thirty new-build aircraft were turned out by Grumman before production shifted to the R-2800-34 powered F7F-3, which also had an enlarged tail. Grumman built 189 standard -3s, and 13 -3N night fighters. The last new-build Tigercat was the carrier-capable F7F-4N, of which only 13 were built.

As there was some urgency in getting the F7F to the Pacific, it was decided that the type would first enter land-based service with the Marines. The F7F-2N did conduct carrier trials from the USS Antietam in the spring of 1945, but the Tigercat would primarily spend its career operating from land.

A single F7F, BuNo 80293, was supplied to the Royal Navy, and given the serial TT349, was used during trials at Farnborough.

Like some Avengers and Guardians from the same Grumman stable, a few F7Fs were to fly on as civilian fire bombers after being released from military service, with Sis-Q Flying Services / Macavia operating the type well into the 1970s.

The F7F served as the basis for Grumman’s TSF-1 design, an unbuilt torpedo bomber intended as a replacement for the TBF/TBM Avenger. The G-66 design’s Tigercat heritage was evident, although the fuselage was deepened, and span of the wings and tail planes was increased. A Mk.13 torpedo would be carried internally, and there were also to be a pair of under wing hardpoints. A TSF-1 cockpit mockup was produced, but the project got no further, being cancelled in January 1945. Emphasis shifted to the XTB3F project, which would mature as the AF Guardian postwar.

The Tigercat also influenced the design of the Grumman G-75, a jet night fighter in competition with the Douglas F3D Skyknight. Powered by a quartet of Westinghouse 24C turbojets, this aircraft would have carried its two-man crew in a side-by-side arrangement. The G-75 formed the basis for the revised XF9F-1N, which was actually ordered but cancelled before completion. The F9F-2 Panther that later flew was a completely different design.

 

F7F Bibliography:

“Grumman’s Tigercat Fighter is New Jap Headache” Aviation July 1945 p.170
“New Two-Engine Fighter Packs Terrific Wallop” All Hands July 1945 p.50 includes an in-flight view from below, and a frontal shot shot with the wings folded
Artwork depicting an F7F just after takeoff from a carrier Aviation August 1945 front cover
“The Tiger that turned Blue” Air International September 1983 p.139 history of F7F-3 BuNo 80532
Eric Brown “Tigercat…Grumman’s Feline Twin” Air International April 1984 includes shots of the first and second XF7F-1s, and a large F7F-3 cutaway diagram
Jean Bodson “Grumman F7F-3 Tigercat” Replic January 1996 Building the AMT/ERTL 1/48 kit; includes walk around photos.
Review of the Italeri 1/48 F7F-3N kit Skymodel 15/08
Photos (2): F7F-3 BuNo 80412/N7628C prior to fire bomber conversion Warbirds International May/June 2010 p.57
Warren E. Thompson “Mole Killers” FlyPast April 2016 Tigercat operations in Korea.
Review of the 1/48 F7F-3 kit from Italeri Model Airplane International August 2016
Chad Summers “Black Cat Nightfighter” Model Aircraft September 2016 Kitbashing the 1/72 Monogram F7F-3 into an F7F-3N
Steve Muth “walkaround: Grumman F7F Tigercat” Scale Aircraft Modelling September 2017 p.29-31

Phil Butler Air Arsenal North America: Aircraft for the Allies 1938-1945 – Purchases and Lend-Lease p.216: frontal, side, and rear quarter views of an F7F under evaluation by the Fleet Air Arm

Bill Norton U.S. Experimental & Prototype Aircraft Projects: Fighters 1939-1945 p.211: Photos of the APS-6 radar, F7F-1 and -2 cockpit.