Was the Bearcat as good as the Late War Japanese fighters?

Was the Bearcat as good as the Late War Japanese fighters?

  • Yes

    Votes: 36 83.7%
  • No

    Votes: 7 16.3%

  • Total voters

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Soundbreaker Welch?

Tech Sergeant
Feb 8, 2006
Colorado, USA
Hmm.........but this poll is for the experts like you guys. Not in my territory.

I had heard it set the record for fastest piston powered aircraft at 528 mph. On Wikipedia it says the Corsair was "marginally faster."

Could a Corsair have beat the Bearcat's record?

One thing about the Bearcat. It looks like a bootleg copy of a FW. Which it is. In some ways it takes away from it's speciality.
In terms of combat, it certainly was as good if not better. But it was a fleet defence fighter and lacked the range of most other Pacific planes. It basically was a big engine with wings, and still holds the time to climb record for a piston plane, to 10,000 feet.
The Bearcat also had an advantage in reliability and structural strength. Grumman was famous for making very sturdy machines and the Bearcat was no different. But beyond that, the American warmaking capicity was far and away greater than Japans by 1944-45. Not only in design, but in materials of manufacture and quality of workmanship.

All points noted above will affect an aircraft in more than a marginal way. But focusing on the materials and workmanship, the quality of both of them defines the changeout time for an engine by up to a factor of 4. When an R-2800 might not have to be changed for a 100 hours, whereas the Mitsubishi Ha-112 might have to be changed out in 25-50 hours due to materials substitution affecting the wear of critical parts. Also, fit and finish was definitely affected in the Japanese war industry as the war came to a close. One only see the difference between the Arisaka rifles in the begining of the war and the "Last Ditch" models produced in 1945 to get a good idea of this point.

About design, the Japanese fighters towards the end of the war were just working into the realm of 1500+ Hp engines (Ex. KI-100) whereas the US had been producing aircraft with reliable 2000 Hp engines since '42. And not a just a few, tens of thousands of them (P47, F6F, ect). The Japanese, while they made some beautiful aircraft that did their jobs well, could never really compete on the long run with a country that had an industrial componet 5 to 10 times greater. They could produce a few very good aircraft, but not the thousands, or even tens of thousands needed to take on the B29 and Fast Carrier fleets.
Here's a link on a pilot's reaction to flying the Bearcat. Has a paragraph in there saying the tips were made to release under high Gs during aerobatic manuvers. Not sure why, probably seemed like a good idea at the time. Kind of odd, when you think about it. Anyway, the tips used to come off asymetrically, leaving one on and one off. Big problem. They dumped the idea. Sounds like it didn't make it past the test pilot stage. Good article.

Hunter368 said:
Why was it designed to do that? plz explain

The tips were designed to shear off under 9G load to prevent the center section of the wing from exceeding it's load factor! Thus if the pilot pulled back on the stick to much at high speed the tips would fail and leave the rest of the plain to return home. This was done to save a lot of weight.
That article was written by John Deakin, who was the wing safety officer at our wing of the CAF for awhile. Hell of a nice guy, and a good writer as well. If you search on that site, he has many articles on different aircraft. He has a book out now too, filled with his stories called "Full Throttle". You can check out some info on John and his book here:
Pretty wild that a 21 year old was flying P51s and F8Fs in the same way a kid would be flying C-150s or Piper Tomahawks today. Without military training, he must've been one helluva pilot to handle those things. That is a ton of torque, no hydraulic help on the controls and a very busy cockpit to worry about. Especially the Bearcat. Even though it was a Carrier bird (and probably had decent low speed handling) it still packed a lot of weight on short wings with a honkin' big engine up front. Don't know what the wing loading was but it had to be pretty high.

All those last generation piston engined fighters looked like they took a lot of attention to detail to fly. Bearcat, Griffon Engined Spit, Tempest and Fury must've had a high pucker factor just getting into the cockpit.
My Grandfather flew the Bearcat twice, after the Japanese surrender, and I remember him on a few occasions saying that had the Corsair flown like the Bearcat, he would have scored more than the 8 kills he was credited with, but that the design of the Corsair saved his life several times, so...........

He was honored to have flown the F4U...
F8F Bureau Numbers were:
F8F-1 90437-90459 [23]
XF8F-1 90460-90461 [2]
F8F-1 94752-95048 [297]
XF8F-2 95049 [1]
F8F-1 95050-95329 [280]
XF8F-1 95330 [1]
F8F-1 95331-96751 (95499-96751 canceled) [168]
F8F-1 100001-102000 (all canceled) [0]
F3M-1 109273-111148 (all canceled) [0]
F8F-1 112529-114528 (all canceled) [0]
F8F-1 121463-121522 [60]
F8F-2 121523-121792 [270]
F8F-1B 122087-122152 [66]
F8F-2 122614-122708 [95]

Total 1263 procured.

As I understand it, had the war continued, the F6F's on the CVs and CVLs were to be replaced by F8Fs. The FM-2s on the CVEs were to be replaced by the displaced F6Fs which were, ultimately, to be again replaced by additional F8Fs. Note that there were a total of 5253 F8F-1s plus the 1876 F3M-1s (total 7129) in the canceled contracts; more than enough to fill both combat and training requirements for that plan.

Record short take offs were on November 22, 1946 at the Cleveland Air Races where F8F-1 pilots from TacTest set back-to-back US climb-to-time records. "Operation Pogo Stick" was conducted as a demonstration at the Cleveland Air Race, November 22, 1946. An F8F-1 piloted by Comdr. Bill Leonard set a time to climb record, from a dead stop to 10K feet in 100 seconds, including a 150 foot take off run. Unfortunately, he didn't get to keep the record very long. Lieut. Comdr. Butch Davenport came along about 30 minutes later and set the next new record of 97.8 seconds, also in an F8F-1 with a 115-foot take off run. Leonard's take off was into an estimated 30 knot head wind, by the time Davenport took off the head wind was over 40 knots.

The F8F's used were the standard Navy aircraft, armed but without ammunition and carrying 50% fuel. The planes were modified to allow full emergency military power with the landing gear down, something the safety locks did not normally allow. A further modification was the installation of a piece of equipment, oddly enough, called a "theater" behind the pilot. This was a small instrument board, about one foot square, that had as it's most important feature a movie camera that recorded time, altitude, and various goings on in the cockpit. National Aeronautic Association personnel calibrated this camera for the attempts at the Cleveland Air Show. The camera was actuated thusly: The pilot taxied the airplane to his starting point and flipped a switch to activate the camera. At that point, when the pilot releases his brakes, another switch is automatically thrown and the camera starts recording events. These pilots and airplanes were from TacTest where testing airplane performance was what they did. Cdr Leonard was TACTEST projects officer. Lt Cdr Davenport was the F8F project officer. The list of airplanes operating at TACTEST in the 1945-1950 period is lengthy and included German, Japanese, and British types, as well as American. It was not unusual to have this "theater" equipment installed in a TACTEST aircraft as a matter of course and it was test pilots' job to push their mounts to the limit.

The rapid climb to altitude was the F8F's bread and butter. The plane was to have been the solution to the kamikaze problem ... rapid climb capability, firepower, speed, and more (better) maneuverability than the F6F or F4U.

I've heard folks claim that Leonard and Davenport pretty well trashed the engines on their planes, but that is not so. This was not a spur of the moment stunt ". . . Hey, let's go up to Cleveland . . . I hear they're having an Air Race today . . . Maybe we can set a record of some kind". Actually they'd been practicing back at Patuxent with the same planes used in Cleveland, doing four or five practice runs each in these same planes. After the demonstration they flew those same planes back to TACTEST.

A little competition being good for the soul, the question once arose: Which was the best performing airplane, the jet-driven FJ-1 or the time-tested Bearcat. Cdr. Peter "Sweet Pete" Aurand, of VF-51 (formerly VF-5A), was not about to concede the capabilities of his squadron's Furies to anyone. As a result, Bearcats from VFs 113 and 53 squared off with Aurand's FJs and conducted five tests, the results of which follow.

First test: Two FJs and two F8Fs participated in a climb test from a standing start. The F8Fs were to use water injection but, due to malfunctioning, could only do so for a few minutes after takeoff. The best of the two Bearcats beat the two best FJs to 15,000 feet by more than a minute.

Second test: A zoom climb test was conducted with the two plane types. Both stabilized speed at full power at 1,000 feet. On signal, they commenced a climb. The FJ beat the Bearcat to 10,000 feet by 13 seconds. The F8F stalled trying to catch up with the jet going on to 15,000 feet.

Third test: Two weeks later, VF-51 pitted a Fury against a Bearcat at NAS San Diego to race to 25,000 feet above El Toro, 63 miles away. The FJ-1 arrived a minute and 40 seconds before the propeller plane.

Fourth test: This one simulated catapult launching climb performance. At 500 feet in flight with gear and flaps down, a climb was started on signal. The timing was stopped accidentally when the stop clock in the F8F became inoperative. The test was inconclusive but VF-51 said it felt the jet would have won this one, too.

Fifth test: A simultaneous takeoff was made. The Bearcat gained about 5,000 feet while the Fury was still on the ground and therefore could make a gunnery run on the jet immediately, if desired. In the test, the F8F got airborne and immediately pulled up to make the first pass. On the second pass, it fell behind the FJ and in the final race to 10,000 feet the FJ won by seven seconds and further increased its lead 15 seconds in climbing to 15,000 feet.

XF8F-1: Experimental version of F8F-1.
XF8F-1N: Experimental version of the F8F-1 converted as a night fighter.
XF8F-2: Experimental version of the F8F-2.
Specifications for the F8F-1 were:
Length - 27 ft 8 in
Height - 12 ft 2 in
Span - open 35 ft 6 in; folded 23 ft 9 in
Wing area - 244 sq ft
Weights - empty 7,323 lbs; combat 9,672 lbs
Range - 217 nautical miles (combat)
Engine - Pratt Whitney 2100 hp R-2800-34W
Ordnance – bombs - 2,000 lbs; guns - four .50 cal. fixed in wings
F8F-1B: F8F-1 with four 20 mm cannon vice .50 cal.
F8F-1N: F8F-1 converted for night fighting.
F8F-2: F8F-1 powered by Pratt Whitney R2800-30W; 20 mm cannon vice .50 cal.
F8F-2N: F8F-2 converted for night fighting.
F8F-2P: F8F-2 equipped for photographic reconnaissance.
F8F-1D: F8F-1converted for use as a drone control plane.
F8F-2D: F8F-2 converted for use as a drone control plane.

Photos relating to TACTEST and Operation Pogostick:

First photo shows some of the staff from TACTEST. There are some interesting folks in this photo. Left to right, Cdr Bill Martin was the guru of night operations doing pioneering work in night strike operations in the Pacific during WWII flying some 400 night attack sorties. Lt Cdr Jim Davidson was the first naval aviator to land and take off the first pure carrier designed jet fighter, the FD-1, from a carrier on July 26, 1946. Lt Cdr Peter Bolt was a fighter pilot with combat experience in bth the European and Pacific Theaters. Bill Leonard was an ace who flew in VF-42, VF-3 and VF-11; after duty at TACTEST he commanded VF-171 when it became the first jet squadron to be carrier qualified. Butch Davenport was also an ace flying in VF-17. The aircraft in the background are (L) a Ryan FR-1 Fireball and (R) a Grumman F8F-1. When they first started looking into achieving a climb to time record they looked into using the Ryan, but decided that the Grumman would be better for the attempt. Davidson and Bolt were the back-up pilots for the project.

Next photo is Cdr. Bill Leonard standing in front of F8F-1 B/N 94880. This was the plane he used in his climb to time try.

Last is a side view of F8F-1 B/N 94880.




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