Grumman had a long line of piston-engined naval fighters, starting with
the FF in 1931 and ending with the F8F Bearcat. Designed to replace the
F6F Hellcat, the Bearcat went a different route than other fighters of
the time. While other planes were becoming heavier, Grumman designed the
F8F to be as light as possible. The light weight, coupled with the reliable
and powerful R-2800 radial engine resulted in a very hot fighter with
outstanding acceleration and climbing ability. Another new feature for
a naval fighter was the bubble canopy, providing the pilot with excellent
The Bearcat entered service in May of 1945 and two squadrons, VP-18
and VP-19, were en route to Japan when the war ended. Bearcats continued
to serve with the Navy, filling 24 squadrons throughout its career. The
F8F-2 added a more powerful R-2800 engine, resulting in a taller tail,
the most visible difference between the F8F-1 and F8F-2. Two foreign countries
flew the Bearcat as well, with France receiving a few F8F-1Ds for service
in Indochina. Thailand also received some Bearcats, also F8F-1Ds.
The Bearcat's era was limited, though, as the jet engine made its appearance
in naval aviation. By 1956 all US Navy Bearcats were taken out of service
and either stored or scrapped, having been replaced by another Grumman
design, the F9F Panther.
a long time the only 1/72 Bearcat kit out there was the Monogram kit (although
there was a Frog kit from way back). The Monogram kit is a very good kit
considering its age and builds up nicely, but an up-to-date Bearcat has
been long overdue. Sword has stepped into the ring with their kit of the
F8F, and after seeing this kit you'll never want to build the Monogram
The first thing I noticed upon opening the box is the two fuselages.
Sword, instead of giving bits and pieces to make the different marks,
have made things simple by providing separate fuselages for the -1 and
the -2. This makes building either choice very easy. Once you decide on
which fuselage to use, construction is pretty straightforward. There is
plenty of resin in this kit, and it's nicely cast resin to boot. The cockpit
is made up of two pieces, a tub and an instrument panel. There will be
some tricky painting in detailing up the one-piece tub/seat/headrest/stick,
but with a careful hand it should turn out looking sharp. The engine is
also in resin and gives a good representation of the twin-row R-2800 engine.
But the best resin part has to be the wheel wells. On the Bearcat the
wheel wells are large and very open, and the resin detail fills that completely.
The wing is provided as a one-piece lower part and separate right and
left upper halves. To do an F8F-1 you are directed to remove the cannon
bulges from the upper wing, a small bit of surgery that shouldn't be too
difficult. The rest of the assembly should go quickly, with the stabilizers
being single pieces. A drop tank is provided, and for underwing stores
there are four resin rockets included. The propeller in my example was
bent on the corner due to its being located on the edge of the sprue,
but some careful heating will straighten that right out. The canopy is
a two-piece injection molded one, and is fairly thin. It's a bit cloudy,
but I'm sure a dip in Future will take care of that.
decals provide a choice of either a USN F8F-1 or an F8F-2, or a French
F8F-1D. The decals are printed by MPD and are very thin and in perfect
register. There's not much choice in terms of color, as all Bearcats were
pretty much glossy sea blue overall. The white decals look opaque but
only time will tell as to whether they will show up as white on the dark
I've waited a long time for a decent Bearcat, and with this Sword release
I now have one. This is one kit that you will definitely want to pick
up for your Grumman fighter lineage. And if you have a Monogram kit lying
around, you can always build the Sword kit up as an F8F-2 and bash the
-1 fuselage to the Monogram kit. Don't pass this one up.