The Grumman F8F was developed as improved carrier-based interceptor designed to defend the fleet from air attack. Equipped with a slightly more powerful engine over the F6F, the F8F was 20 percent lighter than the Hellcat, giving it impressive climb rate and maneuverability.
Entering service with VF-10 in May 1945, the squadron was still working up their new aircraft when the war ended. Nevertheless, the F8F would serve after the war and production maintained through 1949, equipping 24 fighter squadrons before the jets would enter service. The Bearcat was withdrawn from US service in 1952 without having fired a shot in anger.
The Bearcat would see combat in the service of the Royal Thai Air Force, South Vietnamese and the French Air Forces in Southeast Asia. While the French were unsuccessful in that theater, the RTAF successfully operated the Bearcat for many years.
Academy has reissued their 1/48 F8F Bearcat kit after being off the market for a while. They’ve adopted the Hasegawa business model of periodically reissuing their kits in a limited edition format with new decals and this is no exception. Molded in light gray styrene, this kit is presented on six parts trees plus one tree of clear parts. As before, the cockpit is spartan and though Academy at least provided the instrument panel as a decal in previous releases (still shown in the instructions), they forgot to add the instrument panel to the new decal sheet. The good news is that there are a number of aftermarket solutions available. Among the features and options in this kit:
Choice of -1 or -2 cowlings
Choice of -1 or -2 vertical stabilizer/rudder
Positionable ventral cowl flap
Among the external stores options:
2 x bombs or 2 x external tanks on inboard pylons
4 x rockets on outboard stations
Choice of external tanks on centerline station
Don’t let the title of the kit throw you, only two of the six subjects provided in this kit are from the Tarawa:
F8F-1, unknown, VF-15A, A/105, USS Tarawa, 1948
F8F-1, unknown, VF-15A, A/106, USS Tarawa, 1948
F8F-2, 121746, CVG-11 CAG, V/01, USS Valley Forge, 1949
F8F-2, 121722, VF-111, V/113, USS Valley Forge, 1949
F8F-2, unknown, VF-61, C/119, USS Franklin D Roosevelt, 1949
F8F-1, unknown, VF-3, 3F4, 1946
This kit is still one of the better Bearcat kits on the market. While HobbyBoss did release a more detailed kit, you’ll find some that still prefer the Academy/Hobbycraft or even Testors Bearcats better in shape even though they are simpler kits as far as details/options are concerned.