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In 1943, as Grumman was beginning to mass-produce its new F6F Hellcat fighter, the Navy approached the Bethpage, Long Island firm and asked it to design and build a small, high-performance companion fighter that could operate from the short flight decks of escort carriers. The result was the FSF Bearcat, the last propeller driven fighter to enter service with the U.S. Navy.
Grumman installed the rugged, reliable and powerful Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engine in the smallest airframe that could accommodate it. The aircraft's performance was spectacular but it was delivered too late to see combat in World War II. The FSF-2 differed from the -1 version chiefly by having a taller vertical stabilizer and an armament upgrade from machine guns to cannon.
Two factors guaranteed the Bearcat's service life would be brief: it was handicapped by short range(operational FSFs frequently carried large drop tanks on the fuselage centerline) and turbo-jet powered fighters were about to come into service.
The Blue Angels flew the Bearcat from 1946 to 1945 but by 1950 the aircraft had disappeared from fleet squadrons. Bearcats were supplied to the French under the Military Assistance Program (MAP) and it was with that nation and, later, with the Vietnamese and Thai air forces that the FSF would see its only combat.
The Bearcat would enjoy great success as a racer after it left military service. A highly modified FSF dubbed "Rare Bear" set a record for piston-engine aircraft with a top speed in excess of 500 mph.
|Status: Flyable||Length: 28 ft. 3 in.|
|Manufacturer: Grumman||Height: 13 ft. 10 in.|
|Year: 1943||Maximum Speed: 421 mph|
|Model: F8F-2 Bearcat||Cruise Speed: 163 mph|
|Serial Number: 122637||Power Plant: 1, 2,100hp Pratt & Whitney R-2800-34W Double Wasp
18-cylinder radial engine
|Crew: 1||Range: 1,105 miles|
|Max T/O Weight: 13,460 lb.||Service Ceiling: 38,700 ft.|
|Span: 35 ft. 10 in.||Armament: 4, 20mm cannon and provisions for missles and bombs|