The Grumman F9F Panther was the manufacturer’s first jet fighter and one of the United States Navy’s first successful carrier-based jet fighters. A single-engined, straight-winged day fighter, it was armed with four 20 mm (0.79 in) cannon and could carry a wide assortment of air-to-ground munitions.
The Panther was used extensively by the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps in the Korean War. It was also the first jet aircraft used by the Blue Angels flight team, used by them from 1949 through late 1954. The aircraft was exported to Argentina and was the first jet used by the Argentine Naval Aviation.
Total F9F production was 1,382. The design evolved into the swept wing Grumman F-9 Cougar.
Development studies at Grumman for jet-powered fighter aircraft began near the end of World War II as the first jet engines emerged. In a competition for a jet-powered night fighter for the United States Navy, the Douglas F3D Skyknight was selected over Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation’s G-75 two-seat, four-Westinghouse J30-powered design, with Douglas being issued a contract on 3rd April 1946. The Navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics (BuAer) also issued a contract to Grumman for two Model G-75 experimental aircraft on 11 April 1946, being given the Navy designation XF9F-1, in case the Skyknight ran into problems.
Grumman soon realized the G-75 was a losing design but had been working on a completely different, single-engine day fighter designated the Grumman G-79. In a bureaucratic maneuver, BuAer did not cancel the G-75 (XF9F-1) contract but changed the wording to include three entirely different G-79 prototypes. The G-79 became the Grumman F9F Panther.
The prototype Panther, piloted by test pilot Corky Meyer, first flew on 21st November 1947. American engines available at the time included the Allison J33 and Westinghouse J34, but these were not considered sufficiently reliable, so the Navy specified the imported Rolls-Royce Nene turbojet, which was also more powerful at 5,000 lb. of thrust. Production aircraft would have a Nene engine built under license by Pratt & Whitney as the J42. Since there was insufficient space within the wings and fuselage for fuel for the thirsty jet, permanently mounted wingtip fuel tanks were added, which incidentally improved the fighter’s rate of roll.
It was cleared for flight from aircraft carriers in September 1949. During the development phase, Grumman decided to change the Panther’s engine, selecting the Pratt & Whitney J48-P-2, a license built version of the Rolls-Royce RB.44 Tay. The other engine that had been tested was the Allison J33-A-16. The armament was a quartet of 20-mm guns, the Navy having already switched to this caliber (as opposed to the USAAF/USAF which continued to use 12.7-mm M2/M3 guns). As well, the Panther soon was armed with underwing air-to-ground rockets and up to 2,000 lb (910 kg) of bombs.
From 1946, a swept-wing version was considered and after concerns about the Panther’s inferiority to its MiG opponents in Korea, a conversion of the Panther (Design 93) resulted in a swept-wing derivative of the Panther, the F9F Cougar, which retained the Panther’s designation number.
The Grumman Panther was the primary US Navy and USMC jet fighter and ground-attack aircraft in the Korean War. The Panther was the most widely used U.S. Navy jet fighter of the Korean War, flying 78,000 sorties and scoring the first air-to-air kill by the U.S. Navy in the war, the downing of a North Korean Yakovlev Yak-9 fighter. F9F-2s, F9F-3s and F9F-5s, as rugged attack aircraft, were able to sustain operations, even in the face of intense anti-aircraft fire. The pilots also appreciated the air conditioned cockpit, which was a welcome change from the humid environment of piston-powered aircraft.
Despite their relative slow speed, Panthers also managed to shoot down two Yak-9s and seven Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15s for the loss of two F9Fs. On 3rd July 1950, Lieutenant, junior grade Leonard H. Plog of U.S. Navy’s VF-51 flying an F9F-3 scored the first U.S. Navy air victory of the war by shooting down a Yak-9.
The first MiG-15 was downed on 9th November 1950 by Lieutenant Commander William (Bill) Amen of VF-111 “Sundowners” flying an F9F-2B. Two more MiG-15s were downed on 18th November 1950.
On 18th November 1952, Lt. Royce Williams of VF-781, flying off the USS Oriskany destroyed four MiGs in a single, 35-minute combat. This unique feat has remained little-known, due to the involvement of National Security Agency (NSA) – the existence of which was then top secret – in planning the mission. Following intelligence provided by the NSA, the MiGs had been intercepted during a series of air strikes against the North Korean port of Hoeryong, across the mouth of the Tumen River from the major Soviet naval base at Vladivostok.
After losing contact with his wingman, Williams found himself alone in a dogfight with six MiG-15s; when he was able to land on Oriskany, his Panther was found to have sustained 263 hits from by cannon shells or fragments, and to be beyond repair. Williams’ victories were even more notable in that all four MiGs were flown by Soviet Naval Aviation pilots: Russian sources confirmed Williams’ claims, 40 years later, stating that the pilots lost were Captains Belyakov and Vandalov, and Lieutenants Pakhomkin and Tarshinov.
Future astronaut Neil Armstrong flew the F9F extensively during the war, even ejecting from one of the aircraft when it was brought down by a wire strung across a valley, in 1951. Future astronaut John Glenn and Boston Red Sox all-star baseball player Ted Williams also flew the F9F as Marine Corps pilots.
Panthers were withdrawn from front-line service in 1956, but remained in training roles and with U.S. Naval Air Reserve and U.S. Marine Air Reserve units until 1958. The Navy’s Blue Angels flight demonstration team used the Panther for four years, beginning in 1951. The Panther was the Blue Angels’ first jet. Some Panthers continued to serve in small numbers into the 1960s. From September 1962 surviving operational Panthers were redesignated F-9 within the new combined US tri-service designation system.
The only foreign buyer of the Panther was the Argentine Naval Aviation, which bought 28 ex-USN F9F-2B aircraft in 1957; the first 10 arrived in 1958. Only 24 aircraft were put in service, the rest was used as spares. The first flight of an Argentine Panther was in December 1958, and the last aircraft was put in service in January 1961.
The catapults on the then only Argentine carrier, ARA Independencia, were considered not powerful enough to launch the F9F, so the aircraft were land-based. However, in July 1963 a Panther (serial 0453/3-A-119) landed on the Independencia as part of trials; becoming the first jet to land on an Argentine aircraft carrier.
Argentine Navy F9F-2 Panthers saw combat in the 1963 Argentine Navy Revolt, bombing and strafing a column of the Army 8th Tank Regiment which was advancing on the rebelling Base Aeronaval Punta Indio . The attack destroyed several M4 Sherman tanks, at the cost of one F9F Panther shot down.
The Argentine Panthers were involved in the general mobilization during the 1965 border clash between Argentina and Chile but no combat occurred. They were taken out of service in 1969 due to the lack of spare parts and replaced with Douglas A-4Q Skyhawks. The Argentine Navy also operated the F-9 Cougar.
Hobbymaster Grumman F9F-5 “Blue Tail Fly” 126652, VF-153, USS Princeton, 1953.
Hobbymaster have recently announced the latest 1/48th scale Grumman F9F Panther to their range of 1/48th scale aircraft which is available to pre-order now. Please click on the image/ link below to go straight to the model page to take a closer look.
Hobbymaster Latest Models available to Pre-Order !
Hobbymaster have also announced a great selection of new models which are available to pre-order now. Please click on the image of the model of your choice to check it out, or CLICK HERE to see them all. Some of these models have low limited editions so if you want one please pre-order well in advance.
New Century Wings SR-71 Blackbird Announcement.
Century Wings have announced the latest model to their range. Limited to only 800 pieces worldwide, and not many coming into the U.K., please pre-order one soon to be sure to get yours.
Latest InFlight 200 models available to pre-order.
I have added all the latest InFlight200 models to the website. Please click on the individual images below to go to the model of your choice or CLICK HERE to see them all.
That’s all for this week’s Newsletter. Thank you for taking time out to read it.