The original Grumman Tomcat had two propellers, not two jets...
In the 1940’s though, this name was considered overtly sexual (they must have been very prudish) so the F7F was renamed the Tigercat, keeping up the tradition of feline names for Grumman fighters. Can you imagine the F-14 being called something else had they not dropped Tomcat from the F7F? Nope, neither can we!
Screenshot from EFP Network video.
Check out this awesome video from 1996 of the two “Tomcats” flying together in formation, a difficult maneuver to perform with two very different aircraft.
The F7F Tigercat was powered by two beefy radial engines producing 2,100 horsepower each. It was fast. With a top speed of 460 mph and a very rapid climb rate, it easily outran the other Grumman ‘cats’ of the time who were all much chunkier than this sleek, cheetah-like fighter plane.
Designed to be a carrier-based fighter it was found to be ‘too big and too hot’ for carrier operations. Despite modifications to improve its suitability for this purpose, it had poor single engine directional stability so was relegated to being land based.
The aircrafts large airframe and long, strong wingspan allowed for some serious armament. It could carry two 1000 lb drop bombs or a single centreline torpedo, in addition to four M2 series cannons and four M2 Browning heavy machine guns. This gave the Tigercat enough firepower to contend with just about anything the enemy could throw at it.
Navy test pilot Captain Fred Tapnell first flew the Tigercat in November 1943. He stated that it was the “best damned fighter” he had ever flown. Unfortunately by the time it finally arrived for service, and hamstrung by it’s failure as a carrier capable aircraft, it was unable to see action and prove it’s fighter capabilities in WWII.
Grumman F7F-3 Tigercat - Ray Wagner Collection Image
A few years later starting in 1950, the Tigercat got to show off it’s prowess as a feisty feline in the Korean War. Flown by the Flying Nightmares Squadron in Korea, the night fighter version F7F-3N was used as an escort aircraft for B-29 bombing raids, ground attack bombing and strafing runs.
The only air to air kills that the Tigercat made during the war were a pair of pesky Polikarpov PO-2 biplanes. The 1920’s Russian made planes were used by the North Koreans to do night raids. They didn’t cause major damage but the threat of one of their pilots dropping an explosive onto tents kept troops tired and stressed. Flying at a top speed of 95 miles per hour at low level, and hard to spot on radar due to their fabric construction, the Tigercat pilots did well to find and shoot them down from their much faster modern planes.
Tigercat production ended in 1946 with 364 aircraft having been completed. Some remaining F7F’s were put to work as drone control aircraft with the majority flying as fire-bombers during the 1960s and 1970s. Although they couldn’t carry as much water as the bigger fire-bombers, they were much faster and could get into tighter areas. The last Tigercat fire-bomber was retired in the late 1980’s. These sleek planes are now a major drawcard at airshows with only seven left in flying condition.