Grumman F9F Panther
|An F9F-2 of VF-21 on the USS Midway in 1952|
|First flight||24 November 1947|
|Retired||1958, U.S. Navy
|Primary users||United States Navy
United States Marine Corps
|Developed into||Grumman F-9 Cougar|
The Grumman F9F Panther was the manufacturer's first jet fighter and one of the U.S. Navy's first successful carrier-based jet fighters. 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 US Navy in the war, the downing of a North Korean Yakovlev Yak-9 fighter. Total F9F production was 1,382, with several variants being exported to Argentina. The Panther was the first jet aircraft used by the Blue Angels flight team, being used by them from 1949 through to late 1954.
Design and development
Development studies at the Grumman company began near the end of the World War II as the first jet engines emerged. The original XF9F-1 design (company designation G-75) was for a quad-engined, two-seat fighter; the improving performance of jet engines allowed for the aircraft to be redesigned as a single-engine, single-seat type as the G-79, given the Navy designation XF9F-2.
The prototype Panther, piloted by test pilot Corky Meyer, first flew on 24 November 1947. Propulsion was an imported Rolls-Royce Nene turbojet, although 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 lbs 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.
F9F-2s, F9F-3s and F9F-5s served with distinction in the Korean War, mainly as attack aircraft, showing noticeable resistance to anti-aircraft fire; despite their relative slow speed, they also managed in downing two Yak-9s and seven Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15s for the loss of two F9Fs. On 3 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 downed was on 9 November 1950 by U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander William (Bill) Amen of VF-111 "Sundowners" Squadron flying an F9F-2B. Two more were downed on 18 November 1950. The final four were downed on 18 November 1952 by Lt. Royce Williams of VF-781, flying off the carrier USS Oriskany (CV-34) during a series of air strikes against the North Korean port of Hoeryong, right across the mouth of the Yalu River from the major Soviet base at Vladivostok. Williams' victories were notable because all four were flown by Russian pilots of the Red Navy Air Force. In 1992, Russian authorities admitted that Captains Belyakov and Vandalov, and Lieutenants Pakhomkin and Tarshinov were lost on 18 November 1952. Information regarding this fight had been suppressed by the U.S. Navy at the time due to the fact that personnel of the then-new National Security Agency had been involved in the intercept, and U.S. authorities were concerned that the Russians might learn of this if the affair was publicized. No other fighter pilot ever scored four MiG-15s in a single combat.  The type was the primary Navy and USMC jet fighter and ground-attack aircraft in the Korean War. 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. 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 Naval Air Reserve and Marine Air Reserve units until 1958, some continuing to serve in small numbers into the 1960s.
The only foreign buyer of the Panther was the Argentine Naval Aviation, who bought 24 ex-USN aircraft in 1958. The catapults on the then only Argentine carrier, ARA Independencia (V-1), were considered not powerful enough to launch the F9F, so the aircraft were land-based.
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 Argentine Navy base of 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 A-4Q Skyhawks.
The Argentine Navy operated the Grumman F-9 Cougar as well.
- The first two prototypes
- The third prototype
- First production version, powered by Pratt & Whitney J42 engine.
- Version fitted with underwing racks for bombs and rockets. All F9F-2s were eventually so modified, and the B designation was dropped.
- Unarmed photographic reconnaissance version used in Korea.
- Allison J33 powered version produced as insurance against the failure of the J42, 54 built. All converted to J42 power later.
- Prototype used in the development of the F9F-4.
- Version with longer fuselage with greater fuel load and powered by J33 engine. Most re-engined with J42s. F9F-4s were the first aircraft to successfully employ blown air, extracted from between the engine's compressor and combustion chambers, to energize the slot flaps, thus achieving a decrease in stalling speed of 9 kn for takeoff and 7 kn on power approach for landing.
- Variant of F9F-4, but powered by Pratt & Whitney J48 engine, 616 built.
- Unarmed photo-reconnaissance version, 36 built, longer nose.
- After the F9F Panther was withdrawn operational service, a number of F9F-5s were converted into unmanned target drone aircraft.
- As drone directors for the F9F-5K drones. Redesignated DF-9E in 1962.
Aircraft on display
Specifications (F9F-2 Panther)
Data from
- Crew: 1
- Length: 37 ft 5 in (11.3 m)
- Wingspan: 38 ft 0 in (11.6 m)
- Height: 11 ft 4 in (3.8 m)
- Wing area: 250 ft² (23 m²)
- Empty weight: 9,303 lb (4,220 kg)
- Loaded weight: 14,235 lb (6,456 kg)
- Max. takeoff weight: 16,450 lb (7,462 kg)
- Powerplant: 1 × Pratt & Whitney J42-P-6/P-8 turbojet, 5,950 lbf (26.5 kN) with water injection
- Maximum speed: 500 kn (575 mph, 925 km/h)
- Range: 1,300 mi (1,100 nmi, 2,100 km)
- Service ceiling: 44,600 ft (13,600 m)
- Rate of climb: 5,140 ft/min (26.1 m/s)
- Wing loading: 71 lb/ft² (350 kg/m²)
- Thrust/weight: 0.42
- Guns: 4 × 20 mm (0.79 in) M2 cannon, 190 rpg
- Hardpoints: Underwing hardpoints and provisions to carry combinations of:
- Rockets: 6 × 5 in (127 mm) rockets on underwing hardpoints
- Bombs: 2,000 lb (907 kg) of bombs
The Panther played a prominent role in the 1954 movie Men of the Fighting Lady (also known as Panther Squadron). The F9F was featured in the flying sequences in the 1954 movie The Bridges at Toko-Ri, although in the 1953 James A. Michener novel upon which the movie was based, the main character flew a McDonnell F2H Banshee.
- Related development
- Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
- Related lists
- List of fighter aircraft
- List of military aircraft of the United States
- List of military aircraft of the United States (naval)
- Meyer 2002
- Winchester 2004, p. 96.
- Taylor 1969, p. 506.
- Cleaver, Thomas M. 2013. "Four Down! The Korean Combat the U.S. Tried to Forget." Flight Journal, June 2013, pp 42-29
- Winchester 2004, p. 97.
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- ."Panther" (Spanish). Pictorial and history in Argentine service. Retrieved: 19 July 2011.
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- "F9F Panther/123526." National Museum of the Marine Corps Retrieved: 2 February 2013.
- "F9F Panther/125595". Valiant Air Command Museum Retrieved: 29 October 2012.
- "F9F Panther/126226". Combat Air Museum Retrieved: 4 March 2013.
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- "F9F Panther/unknown." Planes of Fame Air Museum. Retrieved: 10 November 2012.
- Grossnick, Roy and William J. Armstrong. United States Naval Aviation, 1910-1995. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Historical Center, 1997. ISBN 0-16-049124-X.
- Meyer, Corwin H. "Grumman Panther". Flight Journal, October 2002.
- Schnitzer, George. Panthers Over Korea. Baltimore, Maryland: Publish America, 2007. ISBN 1-4241-7942-4.
- Sullivan, Jim. F9F Panther/Cougar in action. Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications, 1982. ISBN 0-89747-127-X.
- Taylor, John W.R. "Grumman F9F Cougar". Combat Aircraft of the World from 1909 to the Present. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1969. ISBN 0-425-03633-2.
- Winchester, Jim, ed. "Grumman F9F Panther". Military Aircraft of the Cold War (The Aviation Factfile). London: Grange Books plc, 2006. ISBN 1-84013-929-3.
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