The Navy Gets a Panther

It wasn’t the flashiest jet fighter, but the Grumman F9F was a rugged little aircraft that did everything asked of it

A U.S. Navy F9F Panther assigned to Carrier Air Group 2 cruises past Mount Fuji on a port call in Japan during the Korean War. (National Archives and Records Administration)

The Grumman F9F Panther was strictly subsonic, with a top speed of 575 mph. And it didn’t have a swept wing, which would have enabled it to fly faster. But the Panther came along just when the U.S. Navy needed it, helping the service transition from the propeller-powered fighters that shone in World War II to jets.

Particularly helpful was the F9F’s folding wings, which eased moving and parking the fighters in an aircraft carrier’s tight spaces. More importantly, the Panther could take a hit and keep flying. Two Korean War pilots who went on to become astronauts—John Glenn and Neil Armstrong—were kept safe by the Panther’s sturdiness. See the gallery above for more photos of the F9F.

Flying Over Tokyo

(National Archives and Records Administration)

On July 22, 1952, a Panther flying over Tokyo releases fuel from its two wingtip tanks.


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