The F9F-8T was a two-seat trainer version of the F9F-8. Work on a two-seat trainer version of the Cougar began in November of 1953 under the company designation of Design 105. This was a company-initiated project intended to meet anticipated future Navy requirements for a combat-capable two-seat trainer to serve in fleet squadrons alongside single-seat Cougars. It was anticipated by Grumman that the two-seat Cougar could also serve as a carrier-landing trainer and as a trainer to familiarize crews with inflight refuelling. It was to retain the same armament as the single-seat version.
Initially, the Navy envisaged no requirement for the Grumman Design 105, believing that the Lockheed T2V-1 SeaStar would fill all its requirements for a carrier-capable two-seat trainer. Nevertheless, Grumman was authorized to complete an F9F-8 airframe (BuNo 141667) as a two seater under the designation YF9F-8T. To provide space for the second cockpit, the forward fuselage was extended by 34 inches. The two crew members (student in front, instructor in rear) sat in tandem under a large rearward-sliding canopy. An auxiliary windshield was provided internally ahead of the instructor's seat, which enabled the aircraft to be flown with a partially-open canopy. To save weight, two of the four cannon were removed and the ammunition capacity was reduced. The first flight of the YF9F-8T took place on April 4, 1956. In the meantime, the T2V-1 Sea Star had run into lots of problems with its boundary-layer control system, a feature which was in the mid-1950s still a relatively new innovation. In addition, the T2V-1 was unarmed and could not be used as a weapons delivery trainer. This led the Navy to take a fresh look at the two-seat Cougar, and they eventually acquired 399 production F9F-8Ts between July 1956 and February 1960. The production F9F-8Ts featured some structural strengthening, and most were fitted with a inflight refuelling probe in the nose, which increased overall length from 44 feet 4 1/4 inches to 48 feet 8 3/4 inches. Late production F9F-8Ts were equipped at the factory with the capability of carrying two Sidewinder missiles under each wing, but this capability was seldom retained in service.
The F9F-8T entered service with the Naval Air Training Command in 1957. They equipped five squadrons. The F9F-8T played an important role in training most of the pilots who were later to fly combat missions in Vietnam.
The F9F-8T was used for the first demonstration of the Martin-Baker ground level ejector seat when Flight Lt Sydney Hughes of the RAF ejected on August 28, 1957 from the aft cockpit of an F9F-8T while flying at ground level at 120 mph. Later, F9F-8Ts were operated by the Naval Parachute Facility at NAS El Centro, California for ejector seat tests. For these tests, they were operated with the rear section of their canopies removed.
A radar-equipped night fighter version of the F9F-8T was proposed by Grumman in 1955. It was to have carried an AN/APQ-50 radar and was to have been equipped with an all-missile armament. However, the performance was considered insufficient to warrant production. In 1961, Grumman proposed a modernized version of the F9F-8T with updated systems and a Pratt & Whitney J52 turbojet in place of the J48. However, the Navy selected the Douglas TA-4F instead, and the updated two-seat Cougar project was abandoned.
In 1962, the F9F-8T was redesignated TF-9J in accordance with the new Defense Department Tri-Service designation scheme. In 1966-67, four TF-9Js of H&MS-13 were used in the airborne command role to direct airstrikes against enemy positions in South Vietnam. This marked the only use of the Cougar in combat. The two-seat TF-9J continued to serve with the Navy long after its single-seat relatives had been retired to the boneyards. The last squadron to use the TF-9J was VT-4, which finally relinquished its last TF-9J in February 1974. F9F-8T BuNo 147276 is on display at the USN Pensacola Air Museum.
141667 Grumman F9F-8T Cougar 142437/142532 Grumman F9F-8T Cougar 142954/142999 Grumman F9F-8T Cougar 143000/143012 Grumman F9F-8T Cougar 146342/146425 Grumman F9F-8T Cougar 147270/147429 Grumman F9F-8T Cougar
Engine: One Pratt & Whitney J48-P-8A turbojet rated at 7250 lb.s.t. dry and 8500 lb.s.t. with water injection. Performance: Maximum speed 642 mph at sea level, 647 mph at 2000 feet, 593 mph at 35,000 feet. Cruising speed 516 mph. Landing speed 132 mph. Initial climb rate 5750 feet per minute. An altitude of 20,000 feet could be attained in 4 minutes. Service ceiling 42,000 feet. Combat ceiling 42,500 feet. 1050 miles normal range. 1209 miles combat range. 1312 miles maximum range. Internal fuel was 1063 US gallons. With two 150-gallon drop tanks, total fuel load was 1363 US gallons. Dimensions: wingspan 34 feet 6 inches, length 44 feet 4 1/4 inches (48 feet 8 3/4 inches with refuelling probe), height 12 feet 3 inches, wing area 337 square feet. Weights: 11,866 pounds empty, 20,098 pounds loaded, 24,763 pounds maximum takeoff. Armament: The armament consisted of two 20-mm cannon in the nose plus two underwing racks for 1000-pound bombs or 150-US gallon drop tanks. Two AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles could be carried underneath the wings.