FLIGHTLINE: 145 - GRUMMAN F9F COUGAR
Skyfire77 last edited by
-An F9F-8B Cougar from Attack Squadron VA-76 Spirits about to be launched from USS Forrestal (CVA-59) in 1957. | Photo: US Navy
FLIGHTLINE: 145 - GRUMMAN F9F COUGAR
The F9F-6 Cougar (redesignated F-9F under the 1962 scheme) was a swept wing variant of Grumman's earlier F9F Panther fighter.
The arrival of the swept-wing MiG-15 over Korea was a rude surprise to UN forces, despite the US having access to Nazi aerodynamics research (and the German engineers themselves) via Operation PAPERCLIP. The US Navy especially had lagged behind development of high-speed fighter, having instead focused on straight-wing interceptors and escorts. Grumman proposed a modified version of its F9F Panther day fighter and attack plane, adding a more powerful engine replacing the Panther's straight wing with a new swept wing, as well as replacing the horizontal stabilizers. Despite the upgrades, the Navy still considered the aircraft a version of the F9F, designating it the F9F-6 Cougar.
-Orthograph of the F9F-5 Panther. | Illustration: Kaboldy
-Orthograph of the F9F-6 Cougar. | Illustration: USN
-An F9F-6 Cougar leads an F9F-5 Panther in flight, circa 1952. | Photo: USN
The first XF9F-6 flew on 20 September 1951, seven months after Grumman signed the contract. The new plane was still subsonic, but it was still markedly faster than the Panther, as well as being more maneuverable. The first Cougars deployed were attached to VF-24, assigned to USS Yorktown in August 1953, too late to see combat over Korea. The Cougar was armed with four 20mm cannon as well as having provisions for carrying bombs and rockets. The F9F-6 was equipped with an Aero 5D-1 weapons sight and an APG-30A ranging radar, as well as a UHF homing antenna. Refueling probes were later added as well. On 1 April 1954 three such equipped Cougars from VF-21 set a transcontinental time record, crossing the US in 3 hours, 45 minutes, 30 seconds. Six-hundred forty-six F9F-6 were completed, with sixty being F9F-6P photo-reconnaissance models. After the -6 was retired from front-line service, some were refitted as drones, designated F9F-6D, or as drone controllers as F9F-6K. After the 1962 Tri-service designation was instituted, the -6 aircraft were redesignated F-6F, QF-6F, and DF-6F respectively.
-An F9F-6 from VF-24 Corsairs after having landed on USS Essex (CVA-9) in 1955. | Photo: USN
-An F9F-6P from Marine Photographic Squadron 2 (VMJ-2). | Photo: USMC
-F9F-6D drones received a high-viz paint scheme of day-glo orange andF- white. | Photo: USN
The -7 model Cougars were externally identical to the -6, but were initially fitted with Allison J33 engines instead of the P&W J48. The Allison engines were found to be both less powerful and less reliable than the P&W jets, however, and the -7s were all refitted with the J48s. Two -7 aircraft were modified to test a special flexible deck, inspired by similar British experiments. The idea was to delete the landing gear from carrier aircraft, removing nearly 1/3rd of the aircraft's weight, which would then allow the plane to carry more fuel and/or weapons. The aircraft would be launched on dollies and land on a flexible rubber deck. The two Cougars were fitted with a special false bottom, which helped to distribute the weight and impact forces while the plane was landing. Some twenty tests were carried out in the mid-1950s, but the project was abandoned as moving the planes around without landing gear was an issue, and landing on the rubber decks required more skilled pilots than was reasonable. There was also an issue with these modified aircraft being unable to land on conventional runways. The 168 F9F-7s were redesignated F-9H in 1962.
-A USN F9F-7 refuels from an A3D-2 Skywarrior during trials in 1955. | Photo: USN
In April 1953 Grumman began work on refining the Cougar's design to reduce the aircraft's stall speed, improve control during high AOA maneuvers, and to improve the range. The result was the F9F-8, which was 8" longer and had a modified wing which was broader. The -8 had a higher top speed of 704mph, and the minimum catapult speed had been reduced to 146mph. The aircraft also had improved low speed and high AOA maneuvering characteristics, and was now capable of exceeding Mach 1, though only in a dive. The F9F-8 maintained the Cougar's gun armament, thought the ammunition storage was reorganized to be more easily refilled. Later in their service lives, the -8 were refitted to carry AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles (the first USN aircraft to carry the missile), and a number were also equipped to carry nuclear bombs. Delivery of the F9F-8 began in 1954, and by the end of production in 1957 six-hundred and one had been completed. A number were later refitted for attack missions and were known as F9F-8Bs. 399 aircraft were converted into F9F-8T two-seat models, used for advanced, weapons and carrier training. Armament of the trainers was reduced to two cannon, though they could carry the same 3,000lbs of rockets, bombs or missiles. A further 110 were converted to F9F-8R photo-recon aircraft. These changes included:
lengthening the nose by 12"
removal of the cannon and related equipment, the AN/APG-30 radar, and the related control panels in the cockpit
rearrangement of the electronics and fuselage structure to allow ducting of compressor bleed air needed to defrost the camera windows and equipment
installation of an armored bulkhead
installation of control panels for the recon equipment
Delivery of the -8R variant was completed in 1958, though they had short service lives, and were withdrawn to reserve squadrons beginning in 1960, replaced by RF-8 Crusaders. After 1962, the F9F-8 was redesignated F-9J, while the -8T became the TF-9J, the F9F-8B became AF-9J and the -8R were now RF-9J.
-F9F-8 Cougar (BuNo 141140) fitted with a refueling probe and armed with (inert) AIM-9B Sindewinder air-to-air missiles in 1958. | Photo: USN
-An F9F-8R assigned to VFP-6) Det.J "(Eyes of the Fleet"), attached to USS Kearsarge (CVA-33), in flight, circa 1957. | Photo: USN
The F9F-8T/TF-9J had the longest US service life of any Cougar variant, serving until 1974. It was also the only version to see combat, with four TF-9s from Headquarters & Maintenance Squadron 11 (H&MS 11) and 13 from the USMC acting as fast-FAC and airborne control roles between 1966 and '68. The TF-9J was replaced by the TA-4F Skyhawk in 1974.
-One of the TF-9Js, armed with marking rockets, from H&MS-13 taking off from Chu Lai airstrip in 1967. | Photo: USN
As with their older brethren, a number of F-9J met their end as QF-9 target drones.
-A QF-9J of the "Redbird" Squadron at NAWS China Lake. BuNo. 1388886 completed 20 flights as part of the NOLO (NO Live Operator) program, crashing on her 21st flight. | Photo: USN
COMANDO DE LA AVIACIÓN NAVAL ARGENTINA
The Argentinian Navy acquired a number of F9F-5 Panthers and -6/8 Cougars, with the Cougars acting as trainers for the Panthers. The Cougar was the first supersonic jet in Argentina, and served into the 70s.
-F4U Corsairs and F9F-6 Cougars, circa 1960. | Photo: Armada Argentina
The US Navy Blue Angels flight demonstration team flew F9F-8s from 1954 until 1957, though an F9F-8T trainer was retained for VIP and press flights afterwards.
-Grumman F9F-8 Cougars of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels aerobatics team in 1956. | Photo: USN
jayvincent last edited by
@skyfire77 poor F9F, couldn't get any respect in 1961, can't get any love in 2021. Somehow it's the least favorite of the Grumman fleet, along with the underpowered Panther it replaced. Still, a bad Grumman plane day is still a Grumman plane day! Thanks