With the Panther, Grumman maintained its position into the jet age as a major supplier of Navy carrier fighter aircraft. The Panther never enjoyed the recognition of Grumman’s last piston engine fighter, the F8F Bearcat, as a spectacular performer. However, it did extend Grumman’s reputation for building rugged, effective fighter aircraft.
The F9F series began when development was initiated on the large two-place four-jet XF9F-1 night fighter. Before design work was completed, the XF9F-1 was dropped and the project shifted to the single-place, single-jet XF9F-2 day fighter. The imported Rolls-Royce
Nene jet engines of the two XF9F-2 prototypes were replaced in production F9F-2s by Pratt & Whitney-built J42 Nenes. In the XF9F-3 and production F9F-3s, an Allison J33 replaced the Nene. Only engine installation details differed between the -2 and -3 Panthers.
Permanently attached tip-mounted external fuel tanks were the most obvious change added to all Panthers early in the program.
While the first aircraft to see squadron service were the -3s, which VF-51 received in May 1949, the Nene-powered -2 became the sole production version following early deliveries.
An increased thrust version of the Allison J33 led to the -4 with a longer fuselage and increased area vertical tail. The same airframe with the P&W-produced J48 version of the Rolls-Royce Tay engine became the F9F-5. The -5s joined the -2s as the major production
versions. Photo versions, the Navy-modified -2P and Grumman-built -5P, also served in carrier air groups of the early Fifties. A total of 1,385 Panthers were delivered to the Navy. The Panthers became a mainstay of Navy and Marine forces in Korea. They were the
first carrier jets to fly in combat, shooting down two YAK-9s on their first mission in July 1950. Later, in November, LCdr. W. T. Amen, C.O. of VF-111, was the first carrier jet pilot
to shoot down a MiG-15. As the -4 and -5 Panthers replaced the -2s in carrier squadrons, the -2s took over
advanced training, drone/drone control, reserve squadron and other duties, followed in turn by the -4s and -5s as they were replaced by their swept-wing F9F-6 successors. The last
Marine combat squadrons to use Panthers kept their -5s until late 1957, and a few drone F9F5KDs remained to be redesignated DF-9Fs under the 1962 DOD redesignations.
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