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Grumman F7F Tigercat

The Grumman F7F Tigercat is a heavy fighter aircraft that served with the United States Navy (USN) and United States Marine Corps (USMC) from late in World War II until 1954. It was the first twin-engine fighter to be deployed by the USN. While the Tigercat was delivered too late to see combat in World War II, it saw action as a night fighter and attack aircraft during the Korean War.

F7F Tigercat
F7F-3P Tigercat.jpg
An F7F-3P preserved in United States Marine Corps markings in flight
Role heavy fighter
National origin United States
Manufacturer Grumman
First flight 2 November 1943
Introduction 1944
Retired 1954
Primary users United States Navy
United States Marine Corps
Produced 1943–1946
Number built 364
Developed into Grumman XTSF

Designed initially for service on Midway-class aircraft carriers, early production F7Fs were land-based variants. The type was too large to operate from older and smaller carriers, and only a late variant (F7F-4N) was certified for carrier service.

Design and developmentEdit

Based on the earlier Grumman XP-50 that was eventually canceled, the company developed the XP-65 (Model 51) further for a future "convoy fighter" concept. In 1943, work on the XP-65 was terminated in favor of the design that would eventually become the F7F.[1] The contract for the prototype XF7F-1 was signed on 30 June 1941. Grumman's aim was to produce a fighter that outperformed and outgunned all existing fighter aircraft, and that had an auxiliary ground attack capability.[2] Armament was heavy: four 20 mm cannon and four 50 caliber (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-engine fighters, with a top speed well in excess of the U.S. Navy's single-engine aircraft — 71 mph faster than a Grumman F6F Hellcat at sea level.[3] Captain Fred M. Trapnell, one of the Navy's premier test pilots, opined that: "It's the best damn fighter I've ever flown."[4] The Grumman F7F was originally named the "Tomcat", but this name was rejected, as it was considered too suggestive at the time.[5] The name would later be used for the Grumman F-14.

An F7F-3N of VMF(N)-513 at Wonsan, Korea, in 1952.

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 tailhook design.[6] The initial production series was, therefore, used only from land bases by the USMC, as night fighters with APS-6 radar.[7] At first, they were single-seat F7F-1N aircraft, but after the 34th production aircraft, a second seat for a radar operator was added; these aircraft were designated F7F-2N.

The next version produced, the F7F-3, was 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.[8]

A final version, the F7F-4N, was extensively rebuilt for additional strength and stability, and did pass carrier qualification, but only 12 were built.[8]

Operational historyEdit

Marine Corps night fighter squadron VMF(N)-513 flying F7F-3N Tigercats saw action in the early stages of the Korean War, flying night interdiction and fighter missions and shooting down two Polikarpov Po-2 biplanes.[9] 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. An F7F-2D used for pilot transitioning also had a rear sliding, bubble canopy.[10]

In 1945, two Tigercats, serial numbers TT346 and TT349, were evaluated, but rejected by the British Royal Navy, who preferred a naval version of the de Havilland Hornet.[11]


The second XF7F-1 in 1946.
An F7F-2D drone controller with an additional F8F windshield.
An F7F-3N night fighter of VMF(N)-513 in April 1950.
Proposed United States Army Air Forces pursuit fighter.
Prototype aircraft, two built.
F7F-1 Tigercat
Twin-engine fighter-bomber aircraft, powered by two Pratt & Whitney R-2800-22W radial piston engines. First production version, 34 built.
F7F-1N Tigercat
Single-seat night fighter aircraft, fitted with an APS-6 radar.
Night-fighter prototype, one built.
F7F-2N Tigercat
Two-seat night fighter, 65 built.
Small numbers of F7F-2Ns converted into drone control aircraft. The aircraft were fitted with a Grumman F8F Bearcat windshield behind the cockpit.
F7F-3 Tigercat
Single-seat fighter-bomber aircraft, powered by two Pratt & Whitney R-2800-34W radial piston engines and featuring an enlarged tailfin for improved stability at high altitudes, 189 built.
F7F-3N Tigercat
Two-seat night fighter aircraft, 60 built.
F7F-3E Tigercat
Small numbers of F7F-3s were converted into electronic warfare aircraft.
F7F-3P Tigercat
Small numbers of F7F-3s were converted into photo-reconnaissance aircraft.
F7F-4N Tigercat
Two-seat night-fighter aircraft, fitted with a tailhook and other naval equipment, 13 built.


Surviving aircraftEdit

The Tigercat was designed to have a very small frontal area.
F7F-3N Tigercat in use with belly tank in the fire-fighting role in 1988
F7F Tigercat N747MX La Patrona at 2014 Reno Air Races
La Patrona in the pits at the 2014 Reno Air Races

Beginning in 1949, F7Fs were flown to the then-U.S. Navy storage facility at Naval Air Station Litchfield Park, Arizona.[12] Although the vast majority of the airframes were eventually scrapped, a number of examples were purchased as surplus. The surviving Tigercats were primarily used as water bombers to fight wildfires in the 1960s and 1970s and Sis-Q Flying Services of Santa Rosa, California, operated an F7F-3N tanker in this role until retirement in the late 1980s.

On display
Under restoration

Specifications (F7F-4N Tigercat)Edit

Drawing of an F7F-3N.

Data from Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War II[28]

General characteristics



  • Guns:
    • 4 × 20 mm (0.79 in) AN/M3 cannon (200 rpg, wing roots)
    • 4 × 0.50 in (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine gun (400 rpg, in nose) (normal fighter versions only; replaced by radar unit in the -3N nightfighter)
  • Bombs:
    • 2 × 1,000 lb (454 kg) bombs, or
    • 8 x 127mm unguided rockets under wings and
    • 1 x 150 gallon fuel or napalm tank under fuselage, or
    • 1 × torpedo under fuselage (day fighter only)


  • AN/APS-19 radar

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Dorr and Donald 1990, p. 119.
  2. ^ Thruelsen 1976, p. 204.
  3. ^ Meyer 2002, p. 51.
  4. ^ Meyer 2002, p. 54.
  5. ^ Meyer 2002, p. 50.
  6. ^ Meyer 2002, p. 55.
  7. ^ Thruelsen 1976, p. 205.
  8. ^ a b Taylor 1969, p. 504.
  9. ^ Grossnick and Armstrong 1997
  10. ^ Gault 1973, p. 25.
  11. ^ Zuk 2004, p. 129.
  12. ^ Legg 1991, p. 26.
  13. ^ "FAA Registry: N7629C". Retrieved: 16 May 2011.
  14. ^ "FAA Registry: N379AK". Retrieved: 14 July 2014.
  15. ^ "FAA Registry: N700F". Retrieved: 16 May 2011.
  16. ^ "Grumman F7F Tigercat/Bu. 80390". Lewis Air Legends. Retrieved: 23 February 2014.
  17. ^ "FAA Registry: N207F." Retrieved: 28 May 2018.
  18. ^ "Grumman F7F Tigercat/Bu. 80411". Palm Springs Air Museum. Retrieved: 23 February 2014.
  19. ^ "FAA Registry: N909TC". Retrieved: 16 May 2011.
  20. ^ "FAA Registry: N6178C". Retrieved: 16 May 2011.
  21. ^ "FAA Registry: N747MX". Retrieved: 05 September 2013.
  22. ^ "Grumman F7F Tigercat/Bu. 80503". Lewis Air Legends. Retrieved: 23 February 2014.
  23. ^ "FAA Registry: N7195C". Retrieved: 16 May 2011.
  24. ^ "Grumman F7F Tigercat/Bu. 80373". National Naval Aviation Museum. Retrieved: 11 April 2012.
  25. ^ "Grumman F7F Tigercat/Bu. 80382". Planes of Fame Museum. Retrieved: 13 December 2010. This aircraft was previously described as airworthy. As of this date (18 April 2017) it clearly is not. Stored at Planes of Fame, Chico, CA.
  26. ^ "Grumman F7F Tigercat/Bu. 80410". Pima Air & Space Museum. Retrieved: 11 April 2012.
  27. ^ "FAA Registry: N7626C". Retrieved: 16 May 2011.
  28. ^ Bridgman 1946, p. 233.
  • Bridgman, Leonard (ed.). "The Grumman Tigercat." Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War II. London: Studio, 1946. ISBN 1-85170-493-0.
  • Carlson, Ted. "Semper Fi Tigercat". Flight Journal, Volume 13, Issue 2, April 2008.
  • Carr, Orrin I. "Fire 'Cat!" Air Classics, Vol. 12, No. 9, Sept. 1976. Canoga Park, CA: Challenge Publications, pp. 38–47.
  • Dorr, Robert F. and David Donald. Fighters of the United States Air Force. London: Temple, 1990. ISBN 0-600-55094-X.
  • Gault, Owen. "Grumman's Tiger Twins: The Skyrocket & Tigercat". Air Classics, Vol. 9, No. 8, Aug. 1973. Canoga Park, CA: Challenge Publications, pp. 22–27.
  • Green, William. "Grumman F7F-1 – F7F-3 Tigercat". War Planes of the Second World War, Volume Four: Fighters London: Macdonald & Co.(Publishers) Ltd., 1961, pp. 106–108. ISBN 0-356-01448-7.
  • Green, William and Gordon Swanborough. "Grumman F7F Tigercat". WW2 Fact Files: US Navy and Marine Corps Fighters. London: Macdonald and Jane's Publishers Ltd., 1976, pp. 57–61. ISBN 0-356-08222-9.
  • Grossnick, Roy A. and William J. Armstrong. United States Naval Aviation: 1910–1995. Annapolis, MA: Naval Historical Center, 1997. ISBN 0-16-049124-X.
  • Legg, David. "Tigercat on camera". Aircraft Illustrated, Volume 24, no. 1, January 1991.
  • Meyer, Corwin ("Corky") H. "F7F Tigercat: The Untold Story". Flight Journal, August 2002. Ridgefield, CT: AirAge Publications. pp. 48–56, 58.
  • Morgan, Eric B. "Grumman F7F Tigercat F.7/30". Twentyfirst Profile, Volume 1, No. 11. New Milton, Hants, UK: 21st Profile Ltd. ISSN 0961-8120.
  • Morgan, Eric B. "The Grumman Twins". Twentyfirst Profile, Volume 2, No. 15. New Milton, Hants, UK: 21st Profile Ltd. ISSN 0961-8120.
  • O'Leary, Michael. "Tigercat Restoration". Air Classics, Vol. 38, No. 11, Nov. 2002. Canoga Park, CA: Challenge Publications.
  • O'Leary, Michael. United States Naval Fighters of World War II in Action. Poole, Dorset, UK: Blandford Press, 1980. ISBN 0-7137-0956-1.
  • Taylor, John W.R. "Grumman F7F Tigercat". Combat Aircraft of the World from 1909 to the Present. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1969. ISBN 0-425-03633-2.
  • Thruelsen, Richard. The Grumman Story. New York: Praeger Publishers, Inc., 1976. ISBN 0-275-54260-2.
  • Zuk, Bill. Janusz Zurakowski: Legends in the Sky. St. Catharine's, Ontario: Vanwell, 2004. ISBN 1-55125-083-7.

External linksEdit