This story is about the Navy’s top propeller driven fighter used at the very end of WWII. An airplane with a wing span three feet less than that of the famous F4F “Wildcat,” the Navy’s best fighter at the beginning of WWII, the Bearcat is just about as long as its earlier predecessor but with a massive 2,100 HP radial engine rather than the earlier fighter’s 1200 HP power plant – almost twice the power of the Wildcat! Almost twice the power.
In hits heyday, nothing could touch a Bearcat and they were on the carriers sailing to Japan when the Nipponese enemy surrendered in 1945. The Bearcat had a top speed of 447 MPH and a service ceiling over 41,000 ft. This mass produced fighter’s climb rate was better than 6,000 FPM (feet per minute) – – – the best of any piston-engine fighter in the U.S. arsenal.
The Bearcat could out turn any allied fighter – – – and could even turn as tight as the A6M5 Type 52 Zero, the top Japanese fighter. With its fast speed, great acceleration and high climb rate, the Bearcat was the definitive answer to the Kamikaze (suicide) threat posed by the Japanese in the final desperate years of the war in the Pacific theater.
The Bearcat remained as the Navy’s front line fighter into 1952. Why? Because it out-flew and-out fought the early Navy F-1 Phantom and Banshee jets. Only the Saber Jet, in its J4 Fury (Navy) version, could finally catch the Bearcat. Even so, a lightened version of the F-8-F held the time-to-climb record from the ground to 10,000 feet until the mid-sixties. The Bearcat went from a standing start on the runway to 10,000 ft. in 90 seconds. This rush to altitude was faster than the F-104, the F-100, the F-102 and all the other early supersonic fighters could manage. It took a stripped down version of the F-4 Phantom to finally match the Bearcat climb rate – and then by just a few seconds.
1946 Blue Angels – F8F-2 Bearcat – – – Some more interesting trivia:
The F8F Bearcat–the last of the big radial engine fighter aircraft in the Navy’s inventory!
From brake release, the Bearcat could climb to 10,000 feet faster than the F-4 Phantom! Al Taddeo, one of the original Blue Angels, recently died at the age of 94. Al was a Blue Angel from 1946 to 1947 flying Hell Cats and then the final prop driven Bear Cat fighters.