In 1938 The US Navy Bureau of Aeronautics (BuAer) issued specification SD-112-14 for a twin-engined fighter that was to have sufficient power to provide combat performance similar to the land based fighters of the day. Bids were submitted by Lockheed, Vought, Seversky, Brewster and Grumman. The later submitted their design G-34 soon to be known as the XF5F-1 Skyrocket. The Skyrocket was a twin-engine monoplane design that had a very short nose that improved visibility for carrier landings. To reduce torque the two Wright R1820 engines were of opposite rotation.

       The XF5F-1 first flew on April 1, 1940. Performance was not as expected. Changing Navy requirements kept increasing the weight of the fighter, the engine nacelle design caused unexpected drag and single-engine performance, especially during takeoff, was very concerning. The time and money necessary to solve these major design problems caused both the Navy and Grumman to lose interest in the possibilities for this design. Especially when considering the more successful Wildcat, Hellcat and Avenger designs which Grumman was gearing up to mass produce.

       In March of 1939 four contractors submitted proposals for twin engined, high altitude, turbo-charged, tricycle landing gear fighter to meet USAAC Materiel Division Circular Proposal 39-775. One of these designs was Grumman Design G-45, a modification of the Skyrocket with a longer nose and tricycle landing gear. The competition was narrowed down to two designs, the Lockheed Model 222 was to become the XP-49(basically a re-engined P-38 Lightning) and Grumman’s entry was the XP-50. The eventual winner was the XP-49, but the Grumman XP-50, which first flew on February 18, 1941, recorded the highest speed in level flight of any fighter, up to that time, of 427 MPH at 31,000 feet altitude. Production Tigercats were actually 71 mph faster at sea level than the F6F Hellcat. The XP-50 crashed on May 14, 1941 and once again it was decided not to pursue any further Army contracts for the type because Grumman already was quite busy with producing other aircraft for the Navy.

       The next step in the design evolution of the F7F was Grumman design 49 which took all of the lessons from the Skyrocket and XP-50 and information from the war in Europe to come up with a twin engine ship with 2 Wright 2600 engines, two fifty caliber and two 20mm cannon.

       On December 21, 1940 the Navy, looking to the future, issued fighter specification SD-112-18 for a large twin-engined fighter to serve aboard the soon to be ordered Midway class of aircraft carriers. Grumman updated design 49 to design 51 and submitted it to the Navy as the XF7F-1. A similar proposal, the XP-65, was submitted to Army Air Corps. The Air Corps submission incorporated turbo-charged engines, a pressurized cockpit and two 37mm canon. The XF7F-1 was not pressurized, not turbo-charged and four 20mm cannon and four 50 caliber machine guns. On May 14, 1941 the Navy ordered 2 prototype XF7F-1s./p>

       On November 2, 1941 Grumman test pilot Bob Hall lifted the XF7F-1 off the ground for a few feet and landed it. The next day Bob flew it for more than 20 minutes on its first official flight.

       The new aircraft was unofficially named “Tomcat” until the BuAer Fighter Desk in Washington felt the name denoted “feline promiscuity”. The Fighter Desk did approve the second name choice of “Tigercat”.

       The F6F Hellcat and the F7F Tigercat were ordered by the navy on the same day, May 14, 1941. Early tests showed that the large heavy Tigercat would not be able to be carrier qualified on the smaller Essex class carriers then in service. Even with the advent of larger carriers the Tigercat had its problems with carrier qualification and it was not until the final production F7F-4N nightfighter model that the type was carrier qualified. This led the Navy to place more emphasis on producing the single engined carrier qualifiable Hellcat. Tigercats were not ready to see service in World War II, However they did make their mark in Korea as ground attack and Night Fighters. Production of 364 Tigercats ended on November 7, 1946.

       Wikipedia lists 7 Tigercats still flying and another 5 either in museums our under restoration. In my travels I have managed to photograph 5 of these aircraft, shown below.

F7F-3 80373Grumman F7F-3 80373 F7F-3N 80375Grumman F7F-3N 80375 F7F-3 80412Grumman F7F-3 80412
F7F-3N 80382Grumman F7F-3N 80382 F7F-3P 80390Grumman F7F-3P 80390

       One of the flying examples is BuAer # 80425, which I do not have pictures of. There are many pictures available on the internet. 80425 is one of the marking examples included with Italeri’s kit # 2756 F7F-3 Tigercat. Joe Baugher's Lists state that 80425 (C/N C.167) was delivered to US Navy Jun 10, 1945 as a F7F-3. Served until February of 1956 when it was struck off charge. It was then converted to a fire bomber and registered N7253C in 1959. In 1983 the firefighting equipment was removed and the aircraft moved to The Fighter Collection in England where it was registered as G-RUMT. In 2006 it returned to the United States where it is now owned by Avstar Inc. of Seattle, Washington and is registered as N909TC and is listed as a F7F-3.

       250 Tigercats were constructed as F7F-3s. There are 3 sub models, the F7F-3 single seat fighter, the two seat F7F-3N and the single seat F7F-3P photo recon version. The -3 and -3P versions had provision for a second cockpit but this area was used for a secondary 80 Gallon fuel tank and the area was faired over. 80425 is currently flying as a two seat version.

      It is a rather large model for a 1/48th scale fighter. Assembly begins with the cockpit which has decals for the instrument panels, shoulder harness and set belts.

      A persistent problem with this kit is how tail heavy the model is. I put as much weight, in the form of fishing sinkers, in the nose of the fuselage as I could fit before gluing the finished cockpit into the fuselage halves. I ended up putting weight into the hollowed out engines, the front of the engine nacelles and the fuel drop tank. Even after all this the kit barely stays on its nose gear.

       The parts fit together well, but some puttying and sanding was required to make the fuselage seams disappear. There were also a couple of instances where the instructions called for a part number and the parts on the tree did not match what was called for.

       I chose the paint scheme for BuAer # 80425 the decals for this choice say it is F7F-3P assigned to Marine Air Group 33 at Phoang, Korea in 1953.


       Naval Fighters Number Seventy-Five – Grumman F7F Tigercat, Author: By Corwin “Corky” Meyer and Steve Ginter

                   Publisher: Ginter Books, 2007., ISBN-10: 0942612752, ISBN-13: 978-0942612752

       Wikipedia Article on the Grumman F7F Tigercat

       Historic Flight at Kilo-7

       Military Aircraft Factory –Grumman F7F Tigercat Carrier-Borne Nightfighter / Heavy Fighter Aircraft

       Warbird Alley – Grumman F7F Tigercat

       National Naval Aviation Museum – Grumman F7F Tigercat

       Joe Baugher's Article on the XP-49

Photo GalleryModel Magazine DatabaseModel ProjectsEnthusiast's LinksHomeContact Us