Grumman F9F (F-9) Cougar

The Grumman F9F/ F-9 Cougar was a swept wing version of Grumman’s first jet fighter, the straight winged F9F Panther, and entered service too late to see combat in Korea.

Work on the straight wing single jet powered F9F began in 1946 and the first production aircraft were delivered in 1948. Like most early jets it had straight wings, which limited its maximum speed. In order to improve its performance, Grumman began work on a swept wing version. Their first design became the swing wing Grumman F10F, which was a problematic design, eventually doomed by the failure of its engine and poor handling.

The second design was a swept wing version of the basic F9F Panther. On 2 March 1951 they were awarded a contract to build a prototype of this version, as the Grumman XF9F-6. Later on, when it became clear that the new aircraft was significantly different to the Panther, it was given a different name, the Cougar, but confusingly retained the F9F designation (it became the F-9 in the 1962 tri-service system).

The main change on the XF9F-6 was the use of a wing swept back at 35 degrees. This also required changes to the structure of the fuselage and to the wing fittings. The new wing had spoilers instead of ailerons, it had larger trailing edge flaps, leading edge slats and wing fences. It was also given a more powerful turbojet engine, from the same Rolls-Royce Tay family used in the F9F-5. The changes to the design had a big impact on performance, with the top speed rising from just below 600mph to just above 700mph.

The prototype XF9F-6 made its maiden flight on 20 September 1951. The Navy evaluated it early in 1952 and ordered it into production.

The F9F-6 entered service with US Navy Squadron VF-32 in November 1952 and was used by many Navy and Marine squadrons. It arrived too late to see combat in Korea, and had largely been retired by Vietnam. From 1955 to 1958 they were the first swept wing aircraft used by the US Navy’s Blue Angels aerobatic teams. In 1962 the F9F became the F-9

The two seat F9F-8T/ TF-9J trainer saw some operational use in Vietnam. Marine Squadron H&MS-11 used four as Forward Air Controllers.

Some of the F9F-8/ F-9Js remained in used with Reserve units or as target drones into the early 1970s. The last to be retired were the TF-9J trainers of VT-4, which went in February 1974.

Major Variants

F9F-6 Cougar/ F-9F

This was the initial production version. A total of 646 were built. It was powered by the J48-P-8 engine, providing 7,250lb thrust.

F9F-7/ F-9H

The F9F-7 was generally similar to -6 but with Allison J33-A-16A engines. A total of 168 were built. The first -7 made its maiden flight in March 1953.

F9F-8/ F-8J

The last single seat version was the F9F-8. This had a longer fuselage, broad-chord wings and more fuel storage. The larger wings could also carry six underwing racks. A total of 711 were built, including 110 of the -8P reconnaissance version. Power came from a 7,250lb Pratt & Whitney J48-P-8A engine, which gave it a top speed of 714mph.

The -8P photo reconnaissance version had a longer nose which allowed it to carry fourteen cameras, which could be used to take photos forward, down, left or right. The gunsight was replaced with a  view finder.

Minor Variants

F9F-6D/ DF-9F

This was a drone conversion of the F9F-6 and the first swept-wing high speed aircraft to be used as a target drone.

F9F-6K/ QF-9F

This was a target drone director conversion of the F9F-6


This was a photographic reconnaissance version of the F9F-6. Sixty were produced. The cameras replaced the guns in the nose. They were used from 1953 to the late 1950s.


This was used for PR aircraft converted into drone directors.


This was a prototype of a conversion of the F9F-8 into a close support aircraft.

F9F-8B/ AF-9J

This designation was used for F9F-8s converted to the YF9F-8B standard. This gave it the Low Altitude Bombing System and air to surface missiles. 

F9F-8T/ TF-9J

The -8T was a two seat trainer, with the two crew sitting in a lengthy stepped tandem cockpit. It had the longest fuselage of the family. This version made its maiden flight on 4 April 1956 and the single prototype was followed by 399 production aircraft.


This designation was used for two TF-9Js used on special test duties.

Engine: Pratt & Whitney J48-P-8A turbojet
Power: 7,250lb s.t.
Crew: 1
Span: 34ft 6in
Length: 41ft 9in
Height: 12ft 3in
Empty weight: 11,866lb
Gross weight: 19,738lb
Max speed: 647mph at sea level
Climb Rate: 5,750ft/ min
Service ceiling: 42,000ft
Range: 1,200 miles
Armament: Four fixed forward firing 20mm guns
Bomb load: Four AIM-9B Sidewinder AAMs or four 500lb bombs under wings

Engine: Pratt & Whitney J48-P-8A turbojet
Power: 7,200lb s.t.
Crew: 2 – pupil and instructor in tandem
Span: 34ft 6in
Length: 44ft 5in
Height: 12ft 3in
Empty weight:
Gross weight: 20,600lb
Max speed: 705mph at sea level
Climb Rate: 8.5min to 40,000ft
Service ceiling: 50,000ft
Range: 600 miles
Armament: Two fixed forward firing 20mm guns
Bomb load:

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (23 February 2023), Grumman F9F (F-9) Cougar ,

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