Grumman, well known for their lineage of carrier-based fighter aircraft, always strove to develop a better fighter. While the F7F Tigercat was a promising heavy fighter, a follow-on to the venerable F6F Hellcat was needed. The result was an airframe smaller than the F6F, and while it had roughly the same takeoff weight as the F6F, this new fighter was powered by an additional 100 horsepower for a total 2100 horses under the cowl. This fighter became the F8F Bearcat.
The prototype first flew in November 1943, while the first production aircraft was delivered in February 1945. By the time VF-10 (the first recipients) had finished thetransition into the F8F, the war was over. Nevertheless, production of the Bearcat continued through May 1949 and it remained in USN service until 1952. The Bearcat was also supplied to the French Air Force and to the Royal Thai Air Force, and served during the Indo-China conflict.
Academy's latest release from the Hobbycraft molds is the venerable F8F. This offering is molded in light grey plastic, features nicely scribed detailing, and is flash-free. Consisting of roughly 84 parts (including a two-piece crystal clear windscreen/canopy), the kit appears to contain all of the parts for the various F8F versions released by Hobbycraft.
In addition to the choice of tall or short tail and two different cowls, the kit also features an abundance ofexternal stores. These include four external fuel tanks, four rockets and two bombs. Of course the Bearcat didn't loft all of that at once. You have a choice of two different centerline tanks, and a choice of either bombs or underwing tanks on the inboard wing pylons.
On the topic of cowls, there was some buzz about the Hobbycraft cowl being improperly shaped. While the cowl looks okay by me (I am not a Bearcat expert), I do know that several companies have offered corrected cowls for the kit. So whatever was wrong with the Hobbycraft release will also apply here as well.
The fit of the major assembly halves (fuselage, wings) is nice. The fuselage-to-wing joint is a little challenging, so a little patience and filler will overcome this area. Likewise the vertical stab-to-fuselage stub joint will require some sanding to blend the two surfaces together.
Decal options include an F8F-1 from VF-3, circa 1946, and a South Vietnamese F8F-1 assigned to the 1st Fighter Squadron.
This kit continues to round out the lineup of offerings previously released by Hobbycraft. I can recommend this kit to any builder. My sincere thanks toMRC for this review sample!