Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tigers over the Forrestal

A flight of four Grumman F11F Tigers bank over the USS Forrestal (CVN-59), sometime in the spring of 1958. Carrier trials of the first flight-test F11F had started on the Forrestal on April 4, 1956. Because the F-8 Crusader was an over-all better performer than the F11F, especially in terms of range, endurance and engine reliability, the Tiger had a relatively short career, being withdrawn from carrier service in 1961.

These four planes are from VF-21, known as "the Mach Busters". This squadron received their first F11F in October, 1957, and was one of the first to operate F11Fs from a carrier. They were aboard the USS Ranger for its shake-down cruise (for instance, here is a shot of a sister aircraft on the Ranger) starting that October.

Then, from March to May 1958, as a part of Carrier Air Wing 8, they operated from the Forrestal in the western Atlantic, and this is most likely when and where our photo was taken. (One note of oddity: all the records that I could find show that at this time, these aircraft should have been wearing either tail code AF or AJ, not AM.)

Less than a year later, in February 1959, VF-21 began transitioning out of the F11F and into the Douglas A4D-1 Skyhawk.


  1. Do you suppose that somewhere in this photo, either in one of the planes or on the ship, is Senator John McCain?

  2. Grumman carrier fighters - such a great series. I always marvel at how the F11F started life as a modified F9F, and how the ill-fated F11F-1F Super Tiger could have fared if the F8U had come around just a little later. The J79 of the Super gave it zip that the J65 never could offer.

  3. John McCain graduated from the Naval Academy in 1958, graduated from flight training in 1960.