In June 1941 the U.S. Navy put in a requirement for a twin-engine fighter for the Midway-class aircraft carriers. The specifications called for the engines to give the craft over 4,000 horsepower. It had to have twice the weight of fire of the F4F. The F4F-4 had six .50 caliber (12.7 mm) machine guns. The F7F made its first flight on November 2, 1943. Grumman built 500 F7F Tigercats.[i]
[i] Vintage Aircraft recognition guide by Tony Holmes © HarperCollins Publishers 2005.
F7F and Other Single Seat Twin-Engine Fighters
|F7F Tigercat||P-38 Lightning||De Havilland Hornet|
16,270 lb (7,380 kg)
12,780 lb (5,797 kg)
11,292 lb (5,122 kg)
Weight Max T/O
25,720 lb(11,666 kg)
21,600 lb (9,798 kg)
20,900 lb (9,480 kg)
435 mph (700 km/h)
414 mph (666 km/h)
472 mph (760 km/h)
1,200 miles (1,931 km)
2,260 miles (3,037 km)
3,000 miles (4,828 km)
4,200 hp (3,132 kW)
2,850 hp (2,126 kW)
4,160 hp (3,102 kW)
4x20 mm cannons 4x12.7mm MG
1x20 mm cannon 4x12.7mm MG
4x20 mm cannons
2,000 lb (907 kg)
4,000 lb (1,814 kg)
2,000 lb (907 kg)
455 ft sq (42.3 m sq)
327.5 ft sq (30.43 m sq)
361 ft sq (33.54 m sq)
46 lb/ft sq (225 kg/m sq)*
53.4 lb/ft sq (260.9 kg/m sq)
54.2 lb/ft sq (264.9 kg/m sq
Nov. 3, '43
Jan. 27, '39
Apr. 19, '44
Grumman initially named the plane the “Tomcat”. The name was deemed risqué so Grumman changed the name to the “Tigercat”. It was the first U.S. Navy plane initially designed with a tricycle landing gear. It was the first U.S. Navy fighter designed and built with two engines.[i] The second prototype, Bu 03550, made its first flight in March 1944.[ii] A crash destroyed the first prototype, Bu 03549. The pilot wasn’t injured. Bu 03550’s test flights convinced the U.S. Navy to order 500 aircraft.[iii] The British Royal Navy evaluated two Tigercats, TT346 and TT349, they rejected the Tigercat in favor of the de Havilland Hornet.[iv]
It had a length of 45.48 feet (13.83 meters) and a wingspan of 51.5 feet (5.05 meters). Its dimensions combined with an empty weight of 16.270 pounds (7,380 kg) made it too large for any carrier until the launch of the USS Midway.[v] The aircraft was about 60 mph (100 Km/h) faster than the F6F Hellcat.[vi] It had a corresponding high landing speed, a big disadvantage for a carrier aircraft. Its single engine handling and tailhook problems made them initially unsuitable for carrier operations.
The plan was to give them first to the Marine Corps. The Tigercat’s four wing cannons and four .50 caliber (12.7 mm) machine guns in the nose, combined with an ability to carry a 2,000-pound (907 kg) bomb load gave it great potential as a ground attack aircraft. World War II ended as the first Tigercats were entering squadron service.
[i] Century of Flight, “10 Uncommon Facts About the Grumman F7F Tigercat”, 10 Uncommon Facts About The Grumman F7F Tigercat (century-of-flight.net), last accessed 7/25/22.
[ii] Aviation Insider, “F7F Tigercat History: A Complete Guide” by Brieanna Savard, F7F Tigercat History : A Complete Guide - Aviator Insider, last accessed 8/1/22.
[iii] Aviationinsider.com, “F7F Tigercat History: A Complete Guide” by Brieanna Savard, F7F Tigercat History : A Complete Guide - Aviator Insider, last accessed 8/1/22.
[iv] Janusz Zurakowski: Legends in the Sky by Bill Zuk, St. Catherine’s OntarioL Vanwell © 2004.
[v] Century of Flight, “10 Uncommon Facts About the Grumman F7F Tigercat”, 10 Uncommon Facts About The Grumman F7F Tigercat (century-of-flight.net), last accessed 7/25/22.
[vi] Vintage Aircraft recognition guide by Tony Holmes © HarperCollins Publishers 2005.
On August 26, 1950 the USS Cape Esperance, with 24 Tigercats onboard, headed for Japan. The Tigercats belonged to VMF(N)-542, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Max J. Volcansek Jr.[i] They landed in Korea on the afternoon of September 19. They flew their first combat mission the next morning. The USMC credited them with destroying two locomotives near Seoul.[ii] On September 24 ground fire shot down an F7F and killed both its crew members. Groundfire damaged Lt. Col. Volcansek’s Tigercat.[iii]
F7Fs flew day and night ground attack missions. The F7F-3N was a night fighter version of the Tigercat. North Korea carried out night bombing attacks with light aircraft, such as the Po-2 biplane, usually flying solo or in pairs. The U.S. troops nicknamed these attacks “Bedcheck Charlies”. One night in 1951 Marine Corps Tigercat pilots, Major Eugene A. van Gundy and Captain Edwin B. Long, each shot down a Po-2. These were the only air-air victories credited to the F7F.[iv] The Marine Corps retired the Tigercat in 1954.
Some F7F-3s had long civilian career as fire bombers. They flew for the Sis-Q Flying Service. One with registration number N7195C carried out its firefighting mission until the late 1980s.[v]
Some also competed on the air racing circuit. An F7F-3P named "Here Kitty, Kitty", registration number N700F, was the first Tigercat to compete at the National Championship Air Races at Reno.[vi] Mike Brown flew the F7F "Big Bossman" to a 6th place finish at the Reno National Championship Air Races in 2006.[vii]
[i] Magzter.com, “F7F Tigercats Over North Korea” by Warren E. Thompson, October 2019, F7F Tigercats Over North Korea (magzter.com), last accessed 8/1/22.
[ii] Corsairs to Panthers: U.S. Marine Aviation in Korea, by Major General John P. Condon, Corsairs to Panthers-U.S. Marine Aviation in Korea PCN 19000319800_1 (marines.mil), last accessed 8/1/22.
[iii] Magzter.com, “F7F Tigercats Over North Korea” by Warren E. Thompson, October 2019, F7F Tigercats Over North Korea (magzter.com), last accessed 8/1/22.
[iv] Mig Alley: American aerial victory credits in Korea, American aerial victory credits in Korea (igleize.fr), last accessed 8/2/22.
[v] Fire Aviation, Air Tanker 32 and 40, an F7F-3 by Bill Gabbert, June 26, 2019, Air Tanker 32 and 40, an F7F-3 - Fire Aviation, last accessed 8/2/22.
[vi] F7F-3P Tigercat "Here Kitty, Kitty!" — Lewis Air Legends, last accessed 8/8/22.
[vii] Grumman F7F Tigercate "Big Bossman" in Air Racing Action | RWP Photography (rwphotos.com), last accessed 8/8/22.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Robert Sacchi