Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Cougar Portraits

Usually, when a manufacturer spends the time and money to do air-to-air photography, it's for a good reason...meaning that there's something significant about the subject aircraft. So far in my research, though, I've not been able to identify why either aircraft shown in today's two photos is significant. The first one, F9F-8 Cougar BuNo 141140, lies in the middle of the production run of 200 aircraft (BuNos 141030 to 141229), out of a total of 601 -8s built from 1954 to 1957. From what I can determine, somewhere in the middle of the production run, the design was modified so that the Cougar could carry four AIM-9 Sidewinders under the wing, which this aircraft clearly has. Might this be the flight test aircraft for that configuration? That would be photo-worthy, but it's also purely speculation on my part at this point. The lack of squadron markings, plus the fact that the AIM-9s are red in a color image that was taken a few seconds before this one (and available here on the web), indeed suggest a test role.

This looks like possibly the same aircraft (the BuNo isn't visible due to the angle)
on a day when it was been flown clean-winged.
The F9F Cougar was an update to the earlier F9F Panther, which had been out-classed by the MiG-15 in Korea, in which the Panther's straight wing and tail were replaced with swept wing and horizontal, giving the aircraft a higher critical Mach number, and thus a higher top speed (although it was still a sub-sonic aircraft). Initial production of the Cougar started with the F9F-6 in 1952. The -8 was the final mass-produced version, and incorporated an 8-inch fuselage stretch and wings with a larger chord and a cambered leading edge for better low-speed capabilities.

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