The F11F-1F was the designation assigned to a more advanced version of the Tiger that was powered by the General Electric J79 turbojet.
Even before the first flight of the XF9F-9 prototype took place, the Grumman company was already looking into ways in which the performance of the basic design could be improved. One proposal was the G-98A, which involved the use of an afterburning General Electric J73 turbojet. In January of 1954, Grumman considered increasing the wing sweep from 35 degrees to 45 degrees, and redesignated the study as G-98D. Neither aircraft was deemed sufficiently promising to warrant further development.
The G-98J study of January 1955 involved the use of the then-new General Electric J79 turbojet, and this project proved to be more promising, so much so that in September of 1955 the Navy authorized the completion of the last two aircraft in the initial F11F-1 contract (BuNos 138646 and 138647) as F11F-2, in which the J65-WE-18 would be replaced by a General Electric YJ79-GE-3 turbojet rated at 9600 lb.s.t. dry and 15,000 lb.s.t. with afterburning. In order to accommodate the increased engine thrust that was now available, the air intakes were extended forward somewhat and were increased in area. This increased engine power promised a significant improvement in performance, so much so that the aircraft came to be known as Super Tiger.
The first flight of the F11F-2 took place on May 25, 1956. Ten days later, 138646 achieved a speed of Mach 1.44, even though it was still fitted with a lower-rated J79 engine. Several changes were introduced during flight test, including a 13 1/2 inch extension in the rear fuselage, the addition of 60-degree wing root fillets, and the introduction of a fully-rated J79 engine.
On May 2, 1957, Grumman test pilot John Norris took 138647 to a maximum speed of Mach 2.04 and a maximum altitude of 80,250 feet. On April 16, 1958, LtCdr George Watkins set an official world altitude record of 76,831 feet with 138647.
Impressive though the performance was, the Navy concluded that the Super Tiger was too heavy for service aboard aircraft carriers and decided not to order the Super Tiger into production. The designation of the F11F-2 was then changed to F11F-1F, the "F" suffix indicating that the aircraft were F11F-1s with special powerplant modifications.
The production F11F-1F/F11F-2 Super Tiger version was designated F12F, of which two prototypes (BuNos 143401/143402) were ordered but not built.
Even though the Super Tiger was not ordered by the Navy, Grumman made a considerable effort to interest foreign air forces in the aircraft.
Between May of 1956 and October of 1959, pilots from seven different nations flew the two F11F-1Fs for evaluation. Unfortunately, 138646 was damaged beyond repair in a takeoff accident on June 23, 1958. The remaining aircraft, however, continued to fly.
The F11F-1F became a serious competitor for the Luftwaffe contract for a new fighter, but in October of 1958 the Lockheed F-104G Starfighter was declared the winner of the contest and went on to become the "fighter of the century", being built under license in Germany, Belgium, Holland, and Italy for NATO.
Grumman then tried to interest the Japanese Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) in the F11F-1F to replace its F-86D and F Sabre fighters. For a while, Japan seemed to be genuinely interested in the Super Tiger, indicating that they preferred it to the Lockheed F-104A and F-104C, the North American F-100J, and the Northrop N-156F. At one time, Japan actually seemed on the verge of signing on the dotted line, with the proposed agreement calling for Grumman to build the first few aircraft powered by the J79-GE-7 and equipped with retractable ventral fins to improve stability, and the remainder to be built by a Japanese consortium. However, in November of 1960, Japan announced that they were opting instead for the F-104J Starfighter.
The F11F-1F was also a serious candidate to replace the Sabre Mk.6 with the Royal Canadian Air Force. Initially, the RCAF preferred the McDonnell F4H Phantom II for this role, but this was ruled out fairly early on on the basis of its high cost. As an alternative, the RCAF preferred the F11F-1F, but the Canadian government opted for the Starfighter instead, probably on the basis of a more favorable deal (in terms of economics) being struck between the manufacturer and the Canadian government.
All hopes of landing a foreign order being dashed, Grumman abandoned further work on the F11F-1F.
138646 was expended during fire-fighting practice back in the 1980s. However, 138647 still survives and is on display at the US Naval Museum of Armament and Technology at NAWC China Lake, California.
Engine: One General Electric YJ79-GE-3 turbojet rated at 9600 lb.s.t. dry and 15,000 lb.s.t. with afterburning. Performance: Maximum speed 836 mph at sea level, 1325 mph at 35,000 feet, 1400 mph at 40,000 feet.. Cruising speed 580 mph. Initial climb rate 8950 feet per minute. Service ceiling 50,300 feet. Normal range 1136 miles. Weights: 16,457 pounds empty, 23,630 pounds loaded, 26,086 pounds maximum. Dimensions: wingspan 31 feet 7 1/2 inches, length 40 feet 10 inches 48 feet 9 inches, height 14 feet 4 3/4 inches, wing area 250 square feet. Fuel capacity: Maximum internal fuel capacity of 914 US gallons. Two 150-US gallon drop tanks could be carried, bringing total fuel capacity to 1214 US gallons. Armament: four 20-mm cannon in the lower edges of the air intakes. Four underwing pylons for external stores. Four AIM-9 Sidewinder infrared-homing air-to-air missiles or two Sidewinders and two 150-US gallon drop tanks could be carried on underwing racks.