F9F Grumman Panther
The Grumman Panther was a single-engine single-seater, but the design had begun with an April 22, 1946, contract for a two-seat XF9F-1 night fighter with four 1,500-pound thrust Westinghouse J30s. Searching for a more efficient way of getting the power required, Grumman decided to import from Britain the 5,000-pound thrust Rolls-Royce Nene (the engine also sold to Russia for the MiG-15 prototype), and in August 1946 the new Grumman G-79 design was submitted to the Navy
The original XF9F-1 contract was changed to three single-engine prototypes on October 9, 1946. A Nene engine from Rolls-Royce arrived in time for the first XF9F-2 to fly November 21, 1947, piloted by Corwin “Corky” Meyers at Bethpage. The third prototype was flown August 16, 1948, as the XF9F-3 with an Allison J33-A-8 of 4,600-pound normal thrust. That engine was similar in size to the Nene, and was planned as a second-source engine in case the program to produce Nenes, as the J42 by Pratt & Whitney, was unsuccessful.
Grumman’s first jet production contract called for 47 F9F-2s with the Pratt & Whitney J42-P-6, and 54 F9F-3s with Allison J33-A-8s. The first example flown was an F9F-3 on January 17, 1949, while the F9F-2 was not available for tests until August 17. Since the engines were interchangeable, all the F9F-3s were later converted to F9F-2s after their completion in October 1949. One F9F-3 was flown with an experimental four gun turret, as shown in the accompanying photograph.
By August 1951, 520 more F9F-2s were made. Like the prototype, they were armed with four 20-mm M-3 nose guns with 760 rounds. Permanent 120-gallon wing tip tanks carried auxiliary fuel, which could be jettisoned in emergencies from outlets in the rear. Fuselage brakes under the nose reduced speed in descent, 140 pounds of armor and an ejection seat were provided, while wings folded upwards for stowage.
When F9F-3s replaced VF-51’s FJ-ls in May 1949, that unit became the first Panther squadron, making its first operations from the Boxer in September. The Navy’s first jet combat victories, over two Yak-9s, were scored July 3, 1950, in Korea, when 30 F9F-2s from VF-51/52 on the Valley Forge provided top cover for that carrier’s AD-4 and F4U-4B piston-engine attack missions. On November 9, 1950, an F9F-3 of VF-111 from the Philippine Sea became the first Navy jet to down an enemy jet, a swept-wing MiG-15 that used the same Rolls-Royce engine design.*
When racks were added for two 1000-pound bombs and six 5-inch rockets or 250-pound bombs, the Panther became the F9F-2B. On December 10, 1950, Marine squadron VMF-311 began ground support strikes with 24 F9F-2Bs. The Navy’s first bombing attack by a jet was by two VF-191 F9F-2Bs on April 2, 1951.
A Pratt & Whitney J48-P-2 (based on the Rolls-Royce Tay) in the F9F-5 replaced the Allison A33-A-16 used on the F9F-4. Two prototypes, both converted from F9F-2s with longer fuselages and new higher pointed tails, became an XF9F-5 flown December 21, 1949, which preceded the XF9F-4 flown July 5, 1950. They were produced in parallel after March 1951 on contracts inflated by the Korean War, with 109 F9F-4s accepted by April 1952 and 619 F9F-5s and 36 F9F-5P photo Panthers by December 1952.
The Navy accepted 1,388 Panthers, which were 715 of the 826 Navy and Marine Corps jets deployed to Korea, and flew about 78,000 combat sorties.
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