This was one powerful plane! The F8F Bearcat was Grumman’s answer to the climb to rate ratio that at the time was deficient. After the Battle of Midway, Grumman pilots in the field were demanding aircraft with better performance. At the time, Grumman was introducing the F6F Hellcat, which was a large step up from the F4F Wildcat but still didn’t meet the demands the pilots were looking for. This was 1942, with the release of the Hellcat in 1943. Grumman used the Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engine for the Hellcat, which was the most powerful American made engine at that time with 2,000 horsepower. Thus it also was used for the Bearcat.
Modifications to the fuselage length, wingspan, vertical stabilizer, amount of fuselage behind the pilot’s head, canopy, landing gear, prop, and many other factors helped bring the weight down to 7,650lbs when empty. The result of all these modifications was a max speed of over 400mph and a rate of climb of 4,465 ft/min. However; due to the length of time to design, test, and produce the Bearcat, it never saw combat in WWII. The Bearcat had operational status with Fighter Squadron (VF) 19 on this day seventy-five years ago but the Cat never was able to make its mark. That being said, the Bearcat was believed to be one of Grumman’s best planes as it has been used for years as a racing plane, breaking speed records for piston-powered aircraft and even was the plane of choice for the Blue Angels at one point.