And it might have been the first jet to shoot down another jet.
After World War II, the U.S. Navy scrambled to field its own jet fighters—but designing a warplane that could fly dramatically faster while still landing on a short carrier deck proved a challenge. The Navy’s first operational jet, the underpowered FH Phantom, was retired after only two years of service.
Naval aircraft manufacture Grumman received funding in 1946 to develop a four-turbojet G-75 prototype based on the twin piston engine F7F Tigercat. However, the concept proved so unpromising the firm used creative accounting to use the funds for a single-engine project called the G-79. This XF9F prototype first flew in November 1947 from the production facility in Bethpage, New York.
Like the P-80 Shooting Star, the U.S. Air Force’s first jet fighter in operational service, Grumman’s new design retained a traditional straight-wing configuration that limited its performance when approaching the speed of sound. The Grumman designers appreciated the need for naval aircraft to be rugged to withstand harsh flattop landings and condition at sea. The Panther had folding wings to ease stowage on crowded decks, and introduced new pilot-pleasing features such as ejection seats and a pressurized cockpit.
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