Too Late For The War
The Navy launched several new fighter projects from 1941 to 1944, but none actually was in time to fight the war against Japan. On the same day, June 30, 1941, that the Navy ordered the Hellcat prototypes, it also ordered two prototypes each of the Curtiss XF14C-1 and the Grumman XF7F-l.
Grummanís twin-engine XF7F-l Tigercat began with Wright XR-2600-14 Cyclones like the Hellcat, but shifted to Pratt & Whitney engines.
The first Navy fighter with tricycle landing gear first flew November 2, 1943, with short shoulder-high square-tip wings that folded upwards outboard of two R-2800-27 Wasps rated as 1,600 hp at 13,500 feet. Large spinners were fitted to the three-blade Hamilton props.
The second XF7F-1 was flown March 2, 1944, with
R-2800-22 Wasps giving 1,600 hp at 16,000 feet. Produc≠tion aircraft would get the R-2800-22W whose water injection would yield 1,850 hp and raise the expected top speed from 412 to 427 mph. While the prototypes had no guns, production F7F-1 Tigercats had the heaviest armament yet seen on a Navy fighter.
The pilot sat ahead of the wings with four .50-caliber guns mounted low in the pointed nose with 1,200 rounds. Four 20-mm guns with 800 rounds were in the wing roots. Armor protection included 283 pounds for the pilot and 94 pounds for the oil system. Fittings under the wings could carry two 1,000-pound bombs or 150-gallon drop tanks. An alternative rack under the fuselage was available for a 300-gallon tank, 2,000-pound bomb, or even a standard Mk 13-3 torpedo. This weapon had been tested for the first time on an F6F-3 fighter in June 1943, but no service fighter ever launched a torpedo in combat.
Because of concerns about how the twin-engine fighterís weight and nose wheel would actually work on carriers, the 500 Tigercats on order were intended for land-based Marine Corps squadrons. The first of 34 F7F-1 single-seaters was delivered on April 29, 1944. Since all were provided with APS-6 radar in the nose, they were redesignated F7F-1N by the time deliveries were completed in October. Actual top speed was increased from 412 to 422 mph with War Emergency power. Performances given here from Navy documents are much more conservative than those supplied by the company.
The third Tigercat was accepted as an XF7F-2N two-seater in July 1944 with a radar operator seated behind the pilot, reducing fuel capacity. Then delivery of 65 F7F-2Ns two-seaters began October 31, 1944, with armor protection increased to 487 pounds for the crew and 101 pounds for the oil system, and eight 5-inch rockets could be added below the wings.
New R-2800-34W Wasps and a higher fin appeared on the single-place F7F-3 first flown on March 10, 1945, with APS-6 radar, 488 pounds of armor, eight guns, and eight rockets or up to 4,000 pounds of bombs or 300 gallons in drop tanks. Cancellations limited deliveries to 144 F7F-3s by January 1946, including 61 modified in 1945 to the F7F-3P camera configuration, and one that became the XF7F-4.
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