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Grumman’s Tiger

20 May 2021
Grumman F-11F Tiger exhibited at the Valiant Air Command Museum in Titusville FL—©2021 Joseph May/Slipstream Photography

Grumman set to work improving the performance of their Panther in the 50s. While improving the Panther, to get the U.S. Navy its first supersonic fighter the design, improvements became a redesign—so much so an entirely new aircraft resulted and one with area rule—the F11F Tiger (redesignated F-11F Tiger, in 1962).

The sleek look of Grumman’s F-11F Tiger—©2021 Joseph May/Slipstream Photography

The Tiger was successful but not hugely so. It served on the front line for a handful of years but was relegated to training with the introduction of Vought’s F-8 (pre-1962 F8U) Crusader as well as McDonell Douglas’s F-4 Phantom II. Famously, the Blue Angles flew Tigers for many years after they were replaced by the Crusaders and Phantoms on aircraft carrier assignments. I recall clearly seeing one on a supersonic pass at a Corpus Christie NAS airshow in the late 60s! What child at that time didn’t draw a jet fighter along the lines of Grumman’s Tiger? Overall, the Tiger was an advance though not a leap foreword. Unusually, it didn’t have folding wings with only the wing tips folding downward.

This Grumman F-11F Tiger has a sharp looking shark mouth motif but it is Herb Hunter’s name on the canopy which is significant as he was a former Blue Angel pilot who died in 1967 while bringing his battle damaged aircraft aboard the USS Oriskany—©2021 Joseph May/Slipstream Photography

Yes, the Tiger is a gorgeous design with its sleek look which is pleasing to the eye. Armed with 4 x 20mm cannon it is infamous for a pilot shooting himself down while practicing a gunnery pass. He initiated a 20 degree dive at 20,000 feet and fired…11 seconds later he pulled up but under the trajectory of the cannon shells and suffered three hits—a dramatic one to the windscreen and a significant one to the right engine air inlet which damaged some of the forward compressor blades. At 85% power he could not quite make the field and crashed a mile short but, happily, he survived.

The starboard side gun bay showing a pair of the Tiger’s 20mm cannon—©2021 Joseph May/Slipstream Photography

This Grumman Tiger was restored by the Valiant Air Command (a warbird museum in Titusville FL) and in a remarkable livery.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. George permalink
    20 May 2021 13:19

    Thanks, great story and photos. I always thought that the Tiger was a bit under-powered with the J65 engine. Grumman built a couple of “Super Tigers” with J79 engines that had spectacular performance, but they lost out to the F-104 in several foreign fighter competitions. Later, it was discovered that Lockheed had been involved in some unscrupulous business dealings (including bribery) to win the contracts for the F-104. Oh what might have been…

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      20 May 2021 14:11

      Great recall you have George. I remember reading about that at some point long ago now that you mention it…but with a lot less detail. Thanks 🙂

  2. Terry Welshans permalink
    20 May 2021 14:06

    The first airplane “Faster that a speeding bullet.”

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      20 May 2021 14:13

      A Cobra gunner shot his helo down while using the 40mm…same scenario pretty much…steep dive but max elevation of the launcher…direct hit to the engine if I recall correctly. No injuries as well.

      • Terry Welshans permalink
        20 May 2021 15:29

        I have pumped out a few 40mm rounds from the hand held M-79 grenade launcher. The rounds are slow enough you can watch them fly out of the barrel. We called it “the blooper” because that is what it sounded like when you fire it. Same shells as the “auto blooper.”

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