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Grumman F-11 Tiger


Grumman F-11 Tiger

F11F/F-11 Tiger
VF-21 F11F-1 Tigers in left echelon formation
Role Fighter aircraft
Manufacturer Grumman
First flight 30 July 1954
Introduction 1956
Retired 1961 (Carrier)
1967 (Training)
1969 (Blue Angels)
Status Phased out of service
Primary user United States Navy
Produced 1954–1959
Number built 200
Variants Grumman F11F Super Tiger

The Grumman F11F/F-11 Tiger was the first supersonic, single-seat carrier-based United States Navy fighter aircraft in operation during the 1950s and 1960s. Originally designated the F11F Tiger in April 1955 under the pre-1962 Navy designation system, it was redesignated as F-11 Tiger under the 1962 United States Tri-Service aircraft designation system.

The F11F/F-11 was used by the Blue Angels flight team from 1957–1969. Grumman Aircraft Corporation made about 200 Tigers, with the last aircraft being delivered to the U.S. Navy on 23 January 1959.


  • Design and development 1
  • Operational history 2
  • Variants 3
  • Operators 4
  • Survivors 5
  • Specifications (F11F-1/F-11A) 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
    • Notes 8.1
    • Bibliography 8.2
  • External links 9

Design and development

XF9F-9 prototype

The F11F (F-11) Tiger origins can be traced back to a privately funded 1952 Grumman concept to modernize the F9F-6/7 Cougar by implementing the area rule and other advances. This Grumman company project was known as the G-98, and when it was concluded it was a complete design departure from the Cougar.

An early production "short nose" F11F and a later "long nose" from VT-23

The design's potential for supersonic performance and reduced transonic drag stirred interest in the U.S. Navy. By 1953, redesigns led to a completely new aircraft bearing no more than a familial resemblance to the Cougar. The new wing had full-span leading edge slats and trailing edge flaps with roll control achieved using spoilers rather than traditional ailerons. For storage on aircraft carriers, the F-11 Tiger's wings manually folded downwards. Anticipating supersonic performance, the tailplane was all-moving. The aircraft was designed for the Wright J65 turbojet, a license-built version of the Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire.[1]

The U.S. Navy Bureau of Aeronautics was sufficiently impressed to order two prototypes, designated XF9F-8 even though the new fighter was clearly a new design. To add to the confusion, the prototypes were then redesignated XF9F-9 with the XF9F-8 designation going to another more straightforward Cougar derivative. Since the afterburning version of the J65 was not ready, the first prototype flew on 30 July 1954 with a non-afterburning engine. In spite of this, the aircraft nearly reached Mach 1 in its maiden flight. The second prototype, equipped with the afterburning engine, became the second supersonic U.S. Navy aircraft, the first being the Douglas F4D Skyray. In April 1955, the aircraft received the new designation F11F-1 (F-11A after adoption of the unified Tri-Service naming system in 1962). Carrier trials started on 4 April 1956 when an F11F-1 Tiger landed on and launched from USS Forrestal.[2]

The F-11 Tiger is noted for being the first jet aircraft to shoot itself down.[3] On 21 September 1956, during a test-firing of its 20 mm (.79 in) cannons, pilot Tom Attridge fired two bursts midway through a shallow dive. As the velocity and trajectory of the cannon rounds decayed, they ultimately crossed paths with the Tiger as it continued its descent, disabling it and forcing Attridge to crash-land the aircraft; he survived.[4][5]

In the late 1950s, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) evaluated the F-11-1F as a replacement for the F-86 Sabre, then its primary jet fighter. World War II Spitfire pilot, and later honorary colonel, R.G. (Bob) Middlemiss, W/C (Ret) DFC, CD, SSM, and RCAF test pilot Jack Woodman, proceeded to California to evaluate the top two contenders, the Lockheed F-104 and the Grumman F-11F-1F at Edwards AFB. As a result of their recommendations, the Canadian government selected the F-104. [6]

In addition to the F-11A (F11F-1) fighter, Grumman also proposed a more advanced version of the airframe known as the F11F-1F Super Tiger. This was the result of a 1955 study to fit the new General Electric J79 engine into the F11F-1 airframe.

Operational history

F11F-1 of VF-21 landing on Ranger in 1957
F-11A Tiger advanced trainer of VT-26 Squadron wearing the distinctive color scheme used by that variant

Seven U.S. Navy squadrons flew the F11F-1: VF-21 and VF-33 in the Atlantic Fleet and VA-156 (redesignated VF-111 in January 1959), VF-24 (redesignated VF-211 in March 1959), VF-51, VF-121, and VF-191 in the Pacific Fleet.[3]

In service, the Tiger operated from the carriers Ranger, Intrepid, Hancock, Bon Homme Richard, Shangri-La, Forrestal, and Saratoga. The F11F's career lasted only four years because its performance was inferior to the Vought F-8 Crusader and the J65 engine proved unreliable. Also, the range and endurance of the Tiger was found to be inadequate. Thus, the Navy cancelled all orders for the F11F-1P reconnaissance version and only 199 F11F-1 (F-11A) fighters were built.

The aircraft was withdrawn from carrier operations by 1961. It continued in service, however, in the Naval Air Training Command in south Texas at NAS Chase Field and NAS Kingsville, until the late 1960s. Students then performed advanced jet training in the TF-9J Cougar, and upon completing that syllabus, were given a brief taste of supersonic capability with the F-11 before transitioning to fleet fighters.[7]

While the F-11's fighter career was short, the Blue Angels performed in the aircraft from 1957–1968, when the Tiger was replaced by the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II.[8]

Prior to the 1962 code unification, the fighter was known as the F11F; after unification, it was redesignated as the F-11.

In 1973, two ex-Blue Angels F-11As were taken from storage at Davis-Monthan AFB and modified by Grumman as testbeds to evaluate inflight thrust control systems. BuNo 141853 was fitted with a Rohr Industries thrust reverser and BuNo 141824 was kept in standard configuration as a chase plane. Tests of the inflight thrust reversal were carried out by Grumman at Calverton beginning in March of 1974 and continued at NATC Patuxent River, Maryland until 1975. Following the completion of these tests, both planes were returned to storage at Davis Monthan AFB. These were the last Tigers to fly.[9][10]


VF-33 Tigers from USS Intrepid in 1959
Original designation.
Single-seat fighter version for the U.S. Navy, redesignated F-11A in 1962. 199 built and later production aircraft had a longer nose. One was used for static tests with a further production of 231 aircraft cancelled.
designation of a Navy photo reconnaissance version, 85 were cancelled.[7]
F11F-1F Super Tiger (G-98J)
F11F-1 fitted with the J79-GE-3A engine, two built.[11]
Proposed tandem-seat trainer variant; unbuilt.


The Blue Angels flew the F11F from 1957 to 1969.
 United States
  • United States Navy
    • VF-21 (redesignated VA-43, later VF-43), Atlantic Fleet
    • VF-24 (redesignated VF-211 in March 1959), Pacific Fleet
    • VF-33, Atlantic Fleet
    • VF-51, Pacific Fleet
    • VF-121, Pacific Fleet
    • VA-156 (redesignated VF-111 in January 1959), Pacific Fleet
    • VF-191, Pacific Fleet
    • ATU-203 (redesignated VT-23)
    • ATU-223 (redesignated VT-26)
    • Blue Angels



Specifications (F11F-1/F-11A)

Data from Bowers 1990, p. 257.

General characteristics


  • Guns: 4 × 20 mm (.79 in) Colt Mk 12 cannon, 125 rounds per gun
  • Hardpoints: 4 with a capacity of – and provisions to carry combinations of:
    • Rockets: Aero 6A or Aero 7A "Rocket Package"
    • Missiles: AIM-9 Sidewinder
    • Other: 150 gal drop tank

See also

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
Related lists



  1. ^ "Naval Aircraft: Tiger." Naval Aviation News (U.S. Navy), September 1973, pp. 20–21.
  2. ^ Bowers 1990, p. 256.
  3. ^ a b Spick Air International June 1991, p. 318.
  4. ^ "A Tiger Bites Its Tail." Aerofiles. Retrieved: 1 April 2007.
  5. ^ "Unlucky First – The Shootdown of Tiger #620." Retrieved: 1 April 2007.
  6. ^ "History." 427 SQN Gathering of the Lions, 2011. Retrieved: 15 August 2013.
  7. ^ a b Baugher, Joe. "Grumman F11F-1/F-11A Tiger." Joe Baugher's Encyclopedia of American Military Aircraft, 30 January 2000. Retrieved: 26 July 2010.
  8. ^ "Historical Aircraft of the Blue Angels". Blue Angels. Retrieved: 30 August 2012.
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ Buttler pp. 114–115.
  12. ^ "F11F Tiger/141783." MAPS Air Museum. Retrieved: 26 October 2012.
  13. ^ [1] "Swiss Bear Downtown Development Corporation." Retrieved: 26 February 2014.
  14. ^ "F11F Tiger/141811." Combat Air Museum. Retrieved: 4 March 2013.
  15. ^ "F11F Tiger/141824." Pima Air & Space Museum. Retrieved: 26 October 2012.
  16. ^ "F11F Tiger/141832." Cradle of Aviation Museum. Retrieved: 26 October 2012.
  17. ^ "F11F Tiger/141851." Warbird Registry. Retrieved: 26 October 2012.
  18. ^ "F11F Tiger/141864." Warbird Registry. Retrieved: 26 October 2012.
  19. ^ "F11F Tiger/141872." Warbird Registry. Retrieved: 26 October 2012.
  20. ^ "F11F Tiger/141882." Warbird Registry. Retrieved: 26 October 2012.


  • Andrade, John. U.S. Military Aircraft Designations and Serials since 1909. Hinckley, Leicestershire, UK: Midland Counties Publications, 1979. ISBN 0-904597-22-9.
  • Bowers, Peter M. United States Navy Aircraft since 1911. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1990, pp. 183–185. ISBN 0-87021-792-5.
  • Buttler, Tony. American Secret Projects: Fighters & Interceptors 1945–1978. Hinckley, Leicestershire, UK: Midland Publishing, 2008, First edition 2007. ISBN 978-1-85780-264-1.
  • Crosby, Francis. Fighter Aircraft. London: Lorenz Books, 2002. ISBN 0-7548-0990-0.
  • Gunston, Bill. Fighters of the Fifties. North Branch, Minnesota: Specialty Press, 1981. ISBN 0-933424-32-9.
  • NAVAIR 00-110AF11-1: Standard Aircraft Characteristics, Navy Model F-11A Aircraft. Pax River, Maryland: Naval Air Systems, United States Navy Command.
  • Spick, Mike. "The Iron Tigers". Air International, Vol. 40 No. 6, June 1991, pp. 313–320. ISSN 0306-5634.
  • Thruelsen, Richard. The Grumman Story. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger Publishers, Inc., 1976. ISBN 0-275-54260-2.

External links

  • USNavy BuNo. 141811 on display at Combat Air Museum
  • Artifacts from Blue Angels F-11 crash found fifty years later
  • US Navy Standard Aircraft Characteristics pamphlet for F-11A (F11F-1) Tiger
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