The Grumman F8F (G-58, Grumman Aircraft's design designation) Bearcat was a U.S. Navy/Marine Corps single-engine, fighter aircraft. It was introduced late in World War II as a carrier-based fighter.
In replacing the obsolescent F4F Wildcat and F6F Hellcat, climb rate was an important design factor for the F8F, which was faster and lighter than the F6F carrier-based fighter.
In late 1943, Grumman began development of the F8F Bearcat.
Deliveries from Grumman began on 21 May 1945.
In 1946, the F8F set a climb record of 6,383 fpm and held this record until it was broken by a jet fighter in 1956.Early F8Fs first flew in August 1944, followed by production aircraft starting in February 1945, the war ended before the F8F saw combat.
Production ended in 1949. Grumman has produced 1,265 F8F Bearcats in total. The last ones were saw end of service in 1952. This was Grumman’s last piston engine fighter.
After the war, the F8F was a key fighter for the U.S. Navy/Marine Corps. Since it was one of the best-handling piston fighters ever, its performance made it the top selection in 1946 for the U.S. Navy’s elite Blue Angels demonstration squadron. When the F8F became obsolete, it was replaced with jet fighter aircraft, the F9F Panther and the F2H Banshee.
From 1946 to 1954, the F8F saw it first combat during the French Indochina War, being used by French forces. Surviving Bearcats from that war were given to the Republic of Vietnam Air Force. The Royal Thai Air Force also flew a number of Bearcats that were purchased from the Navy.
The Museum’s F8F Bearcat is a unique aircraft. It is comprised of parts from several aircraft. In 1947, Grumman, with Navy approval, built two civilian models of the F8F. The Grumman G-58A was built for Major Alford Williams to be used for his precision flying and dive-bombing demonstrations for the public. Sponsored by the Gulf Oil Company, the aircraft was named “Gulfhawk II” and painted in the company colors of orange and black. The aircraft was severely damaged in a 1949 landing incident. Planes of Fame Air Museum acquired the fuselage from this aircraft, and by combining parts from a number of other F8F Bearcats, was able to create this prime example of an F8F-2.