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F9F Panther
An F9F-2 of VF-21 aboard USS Midway in 1952
Role Fighter-bomber
Manufacturer Grumman
First flight 24 November 1947
Retired 1958, U.S. Navy
1969, Argentina
Primary users United States Navy
United States Marine Corps
Argentine Navy
Number built 1,382
Developed into Grumman F-9 Cougar

The Grumman F9F Panther was the manufacturer's first jet fighter and one of the United States Navy's first successful carrier-based jet fighters. A single-engined, straight-winged day fighter, it was fitted with an armament of four 20 mm (0.79 in) cannons and could carry a wide assortment of air-to-ground munitions. The Panther was used extensively by the U.S. Navy and the United States Marine Corps in the Korean War. Total F9F production was 1,382. Several variants were exported to Argentina. The Panther was the first jet aircraft used by the Blue Angels flight team, being used by them from 1949 through to late 1954. The design evolved into the swept wing Grumman F-9 Cougar.

Design and development

The XF9F-2 and XF9F-3 prototypes in 1948

Development studies at the Grumman company for jet-powered fighter aircraft began near the end of World War II as the first jet engines emerged. In a competition for a jet-powered night fighter for the United States navy, the Douglas XF3D-1 was selected over Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation's G-75 two-seat, four-Westinghouse J30-powered design, with Douglas being issued a contract on 3 April 1946. The U.S. Navy's Bureau of Aeronautics (BuAer) also issued a contract to Grumman for two Model G-75 experimental aircraft on 11 April 1946, being given the Navy designation XF9F-1, in case the Skyknight ran into problems. Grumman soon realized the G-75 was a losing design but had been working on a completely different, single-engine day fighter known as the Grumman G-79. Due to some interesting bureaucracy, BuAer did not cancel the G-75 (XF9F-1) contract but changed the wording to include three entirely different G-79 prototypes. The G-79 became the Grumman F9F Panther.[1]

The prototype Panther, piloted by test pilot Corky Meyer, first flew on 24 November 1947.[2] Propulsion was an imported Rolls-Royce Nene turbojet, although production aircraft would have a Nene engine built under license by Pratt & Whitney as the J42. Since there was insufficient space within the wings and fuselage for fuel for the thirsty jet, permanently mounted wingtip fuel tanks were added, which incidentally improved the fighter's rate of roll.[3] It was cleared for flight from aircraft carriers in September 1949. During the development phase, Grumman decided to change the Panther's engine, selecting the Pratt & Whitney J48-P-2, a license built version of the Rolls-Royce RB.44 Tay. The other engine that had been tested was the Allison J33-A-16. The armament was a quartet of 20 mm guns, the Navy having already switched to this caliber (as opposed to the USAAF/USAF which continued to use 12.7 mm M2/M3 guns). As well, the Panther soon was armed with underwing air-to-ground rockets and up to 2,000 lb (910 kg) of bombs.

From 1946, a swept-wing version was considered and after concerns about the Panther's inferiority to its MiG opponents in Korea, a conversion of the Panther (Design 93) resulted in a swept-wing derivative of the Panther, the F9F Cougar, which retained the Panther's designation number.[4]

Operational history

U.S. Navy

A VF-111 F9F-2 dropping bombs in Korea, 1951/52

The Grumman Panther was the primary U.S. Navy and USMC jet fighter and ground-attack aircraft in the Korean War. The Panther was the most widely used U.S. Navy jet fighter of the Korean War, flying 78,000 sorties and scoring the first air-to-air kill by the U.S. Navy in the war, the downing of a North Korean Yakovlev Yak-9 fighter.[citation needed] F9F-2s, F9F-3s and F9F-5s, as rugged attack aircraft, were able to sustain operations, even in the face of intense anti-aircraft fire. Despite their relative slow speed, Panthers also managed to shoot down two Yak-9s and seven Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15s for the loss of two F9Fs. On 3 July 1950, Lieutenant, junior grade Leonard H. Plog of U.S. Navy's VF-51 flying an F9F-3 scored the first U.S. Navy air victory of the war by shooting down a Yak-9.[5] The first MiG-15 was downed on 9 November 1950 by Lieutenant Commander William (Bill) Amen of VF-111 "Sundowners" Squadron flying an F9F-2B. Two more MiG-15s were downed on 18 November 1950. The final four MiG-15s were downed on 18 November 1952 by Lt. Royce Williams of VF-781, flying off the carrier Oriskany during a series of air strikes against the North Korean port of Hoeryong, right across the mouth of the Yalu River from the major Soviet base at Vladivostok. Williams' victories were notable because all four were flown by Soviet Naval Aviation pilots. In 1992, Russian authorities admitted that Captains Belyakov and Vandalov, and Lieutenants Pakhomkin and Tarshinov were lost on 18 November 1952. Information regarding this fight had been suppressed by the U.S. Navy at the time due to the fact that personnel of the then-new National Security Agency had been involved in the intercept, and U.S. authorities were concerned that the Russians might learn of this if the affair was publicized. No other fighter pilot ever scored four MiG-15s in a single combat.[6] Future astronaut Neil Armstrong flew the F9F extensively during the war, even ejecting from one of the aircraft when it was brought down by a wire strung across a valley. Future astronaut John Glenn and Boston Red Sox all star baseball player, Ted Williams also flew the F9F as Marine Corps pilots.

Panthers were withdrawn from front-line service in 1956, but remained in training roles and with U.S. Naval Air Reserve and U.S. Marine Air Reserve units until 1958. Some Panthers continued to serve in small numbers into the 1960s.[7]

Argentine Navy

The only foreign buyer of the Panther was the Argentine Naval Aviation, which bought 24 ex-USN aircraft in 1958. The catapults on the then only Argentine carrier, ARA Independencia (V-1), were considered not powerful enough to launch the F9F, so the aircraft were land-based. Argentine Navy F9F-2 Panthers saw combat in the 1963 Argentine Navy Revolt, bombing and strafing a column of the Army 8th Tank Regiment which was advancing on the rebelling Argentine Base Aeronaval Punta Indio. The attack destroyed several M4 Sherman tanks, at the cost of one F9F Panther shot down.[8]

The Argentine Panthers were involved in the general mobilization during the 1965 border clash between Argentina and Chile but no combat occurred. They were taken out of service in 1969 due to the lack of spare parts and replaced with Douglas A-4Q Skyhawks.[9]

The Argentine Navy operated the Grumman F-9 Cougar as well.


Two F9F-2Bs of VF-721 over Korea.

F9F-5s of VF-111 on the USS Lake Champlain in 1953.

F9F-5P reconnaissance aircraft

F9F and AJ Savage of the NATC during in-flight refueling tests in 1953

The first two prototypes
The third prototype
First production version, powered by Pratt & Whitney J42 engine.
Version fitted with underwing racks for bombs and rockets. All F9F-2s were eventually so modified, and the B designation was dropped.
Unarmed photographic reconnaissance version used in Korea.
Allison J33 powered version produced as insurance against the failure of the J42, 54 built. All converted to J42 power later.
Prototype used in the development of the F9F-4.
Version with longer fuselage with greater fuel load and powered by J33 engine. Most re-engined with J42s. F9F-4s were the first aircraft to successfully employ blown air, extracted from between the engine's compressor and combustion chambers, to energize the slot flaps, thus achieving a decrease in stalling speed of 9 kn for takeoff and 7 kn on power approach for landing.
Variant of F9F-4, but powered by Pratt & Whitney J48 engine, 616 built.
Unarmed photo-reconnaissance version, 36 built, longer nose.
After the F9F Panther was withdrawn operational service, a number of F9F-5s were converted into unmanned target drone aircraft.
As drone directors for the F9F-5K drones. Redesignated DF-9E in 1962.


United States

Aircraft on display

  • 123072 - Air Zoo in Kalamazoo, Michigan.[11]
  • 126226 - Combat Air Museum in Topeka, Kansas.[18]
  • unknown - The Air Museum, Planes of Fame, in Chino, California.[20]

Specifications (F9F-2 Panther)

3-side view of an F9F Panther.

Data from[citation needed]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1
  • Length: 37 ft 5 in (11.3 m)
  • Wingspan: 38 ft 0 in (11.6 m)
  • Height: 11 ft 4 in (3.8 m)
  • Wing area: 250 ft² (23 m²)
  • Empty weight: 9,303 lb (4,220 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 14,235 lb (6,456 kg)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 16,450 lb (7,462 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Pratt & Whitney J42-P-6/P-8 turbojet, 5,950 lbf (26.5 kN) with water injection


  • Maximum speed: 500 kn (575 mph, 925 km/h)
  • Range: 1,300 mi (1,100 nmi, 2,100 km)
  • Service ceiling: 44,600 ft (13,600 m)
  • Rate of climb: 5,140 ft/min (26.1 m/s)
  • Wing loading: 71 lb/ft² (350 kg/m²)
  • Thrust/weight: 0.42


  • Guns: 4 × 20 mm (0.79 in) M2 cannon, 190 rpg
  • Hardpoints: Underwing hardpoints  and provisions to carry combinations of:
    • Rockets: 6 × 5 in (127 mm) rockets on underwing hardpoints
    • Bombs: 2,000 lb (907 kg) of bombs

Notable appearances in media

The Panther played a prominent role in the 1954 movie Men of the Fighting Lady (also known as Panther Squadron).[21] The F9F was also featured in the flying sequences in the 1954 movie The Bridges at Toko-Ri, although in the 1953 James A. Michener novel upon which the movie was based, the main character flew a McDonnell F2H Banshee.[22]

See also



  1. Hardy 1987, p.79.
  2. Meyer 2002
  3. Winchester 2004, p. 96.
  4. Taylor 1969, p. 506.
  5. Kott 2007, p. 293.
  6. Cleaver, Thomas M. "Four Down! The Korean Combat the U.S. Tried to Forget." Flight Journal, June 2013, pp. 42–49.
  7. Winchester 2004, p. 97.
  8. Cooper, Tom. "Argentina, 1955-1965." Retrieved: 24 January 2013.
  9. Mey, Carlos. ."Panther" (Spanish). Pictorial and history in Argentine service. Retrieved: 19 July 2011.
  10. "F9F Panther/123050". National Naval Aviation Museum. Retrieved: 29 October 2012.
  11. "F9F Panther/123072". Warbird Registry. Retrieved: 29 October 2012.
  12. "F9F Panther/123517". Warbird Registry. Retrieved: 29 October 2012.
  13. "F9F Panther/123612". Warbird Registry. Retrieved: 29 October 2012.
  14. "F9F Panther/123653". Warbird Registry. Retrieved: 29 October 2012.
  15. "F9F Panther/125183". Pima Air & Space Museum. Retrieved: 29 October 2012.
  16. "F9F Panther/123526." National Museum of the Marine Corps. Retrieved: 2 February 2013.
  17. "F9F Panther/125595". Valiant Air Command Museum. Retrieved: 29 October 2012.
  18. "F9F Panther/126226". Combat Air Museum. Retrieved: 4 March 2013.
  19. "F9F Panther/126275". Battleship Memorial Park. Retrieved: 29 October 2012.
  20. "F9F Panther/unknown." Planes of Fame Air Museum. Retrieved: 10 November 2012.
  21. Nixon, Rob. "Articles: Men of the Fighting Lady." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: 4 August 2013.
  22. Tatara, Paul. "Articles: The Bridges at Toko-Ri." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: 4 August 2013.


  • Grossnick, Roy and William J. Armstrong. United States Naval Aviation, 1910-1995. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Historical Center, 1997. ISBN 0-16-049124-X.
  • Hardy, Michael John. Sea, Sky and Stars: An Illustrated History of Grumman Aircraft. London: Arms & Armour Press, 1987. ISBN 978-0853688327.
  • Kott, Richard C. "Attack from the Sky". in Marolda, Edward (ed.). The United States Navy in the Korean War. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 2007. ISBN 978-1591144878.
  • Meyer, Corwin H. "Grumman Panther". Flight Journal, October 2002.
  • Schnitzer, George. Panthers Over Korea. Baltimore, Maryland: Publish America, 2007. ISBN 1-4241-7942-4.
  • Sullivan, Jim. F9F Panther/Cougar in action. Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications, 1982. ISBN 978-0-89747-127-5.
  • Taylor, John W.R. "Grumman F9F Cougar". Combat Aircraft of the World from 1909 to the Present. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1969. ISBN 0-425-03633-2.
  • Winchester, Jim, ed. "Grumman F9F Panther". Military Aircraft of the Cold War (The Aviation Factfile). London: Grange Books plc, 2006. ISBN 1-84013-929-3.

External links

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