SkyMax Models SM1001X USN Grumman F8F-1 Bearcat Fighter - Lt. A.M. "Mike" Granat, "Felix the Cat", VF-3, 1946 [Signature Edition] (1:72 Scale)
"When the war ended in the Pacific, Fighting Squadron Three (VF-3) returned to the States, settling in at the Oceana Naval Air Station outside of Virginia Beach. Still flying our war-weary F6F Hellcats, we conducted our daily routines maintaining fighter proficiency. In early 1946 we got the word we would replace the F6F’s with the new F8F Bearcats. Excitement became rampant. The Grumman factory invited the squadron to come to Bethpage and check out the new “machine”. There, we were treated to a spectacular show conducted by Grumman's Chief Test Pilot. We were smitten! Shortly thereafter, we started taking delivery on the new fighter."
- Lieutenant Commander A. M. "Mike" Granat, USN (ret)
The Grumman F8F Bearcat (affectionately called "Bear") was an American single-engine naval fighter aircraft of the 1940s. It went on to serve into the mid-20th Century in the United States Navy and other air forces, and would be the company's final piston engined fighter aircraft.
Designed for the interceptor fighter role, the design team's aim was to create the smallest, lightest fighter that could fit around the Pratt & Whitney R2800 engine (carried over from the F6F Hellcat). Compared to its predecessor, the Bearcat was 20% lighter, had a 30% better rate of climb and was 50 mph (80 km/h) faster. It was also considerably smaller in size, as it was designed to be operated from small escort aircraft carriers, something the big Hellcat rarely did. Thus the F8F Bearcat was intended mainly as a replacement for the obsolete FM2 Wildcat, still the mainstay fighter of the many wartime escort carriers.
In comparison with the Vought F4U Corsair, the initial Bearcat (F8F-1) was marginally slower but was more maneuverable and climbed faster. Its huge 12' 4" Aero Products four-bladed propeller required a long landing gear (made even longer by the mid-fuselage position of the wing), giving the Bearcat an easily-recognized, "nose-up" profile. For the first time in a production Navy fighter, an all-bubble canopy offered 360-degree visibility.
The Bearcat concept was inspired by an evaluation in early 1943 of a captured Focke-Wulf Fw 190 fighter in England by Grumman test pilots and engineering staff. After flying the Fw 190, Grumman test pilot Bob Hall wrote a report he directed to President Leroy Grumman who personally laid out the specifications for Design 58, the successor to the Hellcat, closely emulating the design philosophy that had spawned the German fighter, although no part of the German fighter was copied. The F8F Bearcat would emanate from Design 58 with the primary missions of outperforming highly maneuverable late-model Japanese fighter aircraft such as the A6M-5 Zero, and defending the fleet against incoming airborne suicide (kamikaze) attacks.
Unfortunately the target weight (derived from the land-based German aircraft) was essentially impossible to achieve as the aircraft had to be made stronger for aircraft carrier landings. As a weight-saving concept the designers came up with detachable wings; if the g-force exceeded 7.5g then the tips would snap off, leaving a perfectly flyable aircraft still capable of carrier landing. Unfortunately while this worked very well under carefully controlled conditions in flight and on the ground, in the field, where aircraft were repetitively stressed by landing on carriers and since the wings were slightly less carefully made in the factories, wings tended to break off while the vehicle bombed targets, and the aircraft would then crash. This was replaced with an explosives system to blow the wings off together, which also worked well, however this ended when a ground technician died due to accidental triggering. In the end the wings were reinforced and the aircraft limited to 7.5g. Only 24 pieces produced.
Pictured here is a limited edition 1:72 scale replica of a Grumman F8F-1 Bearcat that was piloted by Lt. A.M. "Mike" Granat.
Wingspan: 5 inches
Length: 5 inches
Release Date: January 2009
Historical Account: "Biggest Engine, Least Airframe" - When the war ended in the Pacific, Fighting Squadron Three (VF-3) returned to the States, settling in at the Oceana Naval Air Station outside of Virginia Beach. Still flying our war-weary F6F Hellcats, we conducted our daily routines maintaining fighter proficiency. In early 1946 we got the word we would replace the F6F's with the new F8F Bearcats. Excitement became rampant. The Grumman factory invited the squadron to come to Bethpage, New York, and check out the new 'machine'. There, we were treated to a spectacular show conducted by Grumman's Chief Test Pilot. We were smitten! Shortly thereafter, we started taking delivery on the new fighter.
If there was ever an aircraft that could be called the 'super' fighter, it was the Bearcat, which was produced as a replacement for it's legendary predecessor, the F6F Hellcat. "Biggest engine, least airframe" was the motto used by Grumman as they drew up the lines for this mighty machine. One of the largest engines available, the Pratt and Whitney R-2800, a 2100 hp powerhouse was selected. Instead of finding an engine for the airframe, the engineers built an airframe for the engine. When the prototype was completed and flown in August 1944, the results were phenomenal. It was the Navy's ultimate piston-engine fighter; a small super-powered chunk of dynamite that was extremely agile and the hottest thing in the sky. It could fly circles around any other aircraft including the P-51 Mustang, P-47 Thunderbolt, F4U Corsair and even the early jets. Considered the greatest 'dog fighter' of its time, it performed superbly from the straight flight decks of the Essex-class carriers scrambling into the air with incredible short takeoffs then leaping skyward in near vertical ascents. Carrier pilots loved it and would gladly show its' performance at any opportunity.
With the establishment of a delivery team, we traveled to the factory to take delivery on the new squadron acquisitions. With no military markings except for some “whitewash" numbers on the nose, any military aircraft on the return was fair game for a pass or two.
Comparing the combat handling qualities of the Bearcat with the older Hellcat was an interesting process. The Bearcat was a very responsive aircraft, so responsive that the same control pressures used in the F6F during combat type maneuvers found us over controlling in the F8F. After hitting progressive stalls at 300-400 knots, we realized that the short control stick design was a clue to lay it on gently. It was not the stable aircraft the F6 was. The F6 could be trimmed for hands off flight but not the F8. It had to be flown all the time. Carrier approaches required delicate control movement and tail first landings were a must. With a twelve-and-a-half foot prop and 2100 horses 'under the hood', a carrier wave off for being too slow required judicious application of power. The 'Panic' throttle could result in a torque roll flipping the aircraft on it's back with survivability rather slim.
Acceleration was a celebrated feature. The record of 99 seconds from a standing start to 10,000 stood for many years. Later, a modified version was to set a piston-engine speed record of 528 mph which still stands today.
The Bearcat was probably my most favored aircraft of the thirty I have flown during a 20+ year career. Only the F7F Tigercat came close.
- Lieutenant Commander A. M. "Mike" Granat, USN (ret)