The first production F9F-2 flew in August 1949. The production F9F-2 was externally similar to the XF9F-2 prototype but with wingtip tanks. However, it was equipped with an armament of four 20-mm cannon with 190 rounds per gun and the cockpit was provided with a Martin-Baker ejector seat. With the wingtip tanks, the total fuel capacity was now 923 US gallons. Because of the additional equipment and fuel, it was substantially heavier than the XF9F-2.
The first F9F-2s began their trials powered by J42-P-4 turbojets, but initial production F9F-2s were powered by J42-P-6s. Most F9F-2s were powered by J42-P-8s with a modified ignition system. All of these engines offered a maximum wet takeoff-thrust of 5750 pounds and a dry take-off thrust of 5000 pounds.
The production by Pratt & Whitney of the J42 adaptation of the Rolls-Royce Nene proceeded on schedule and with relatively few snags. The J42 engine was, in fact, so successful in service that the F9F-3 alternative J33-powered version was deemed not to be necessary and the few F9F-3s that were built were retrofitted with J42 engines and thus became indistinguishable from F9F-2s. A total of 564 Panthers were delivered as F9F-2.
A substantial number of early production F9F-2s were modified as F9F-2B fighter bombers by the addition of four bomb racks underneath each wing. The inboard rack could carry either a 150-gallon drop tank or a 1000-pound bomb, whereas the three outboard racks could carry 250-pound bombs or 5-inch HVAR rockets. Maximum load was 2000 pounds. Beginning with the 365th F9F-2 (BuNo 125083), these racks were installed at the factory. After most F9F-2s had been brought up to F9F-2B standards, the B suffix was usually dropped.
When the Korean War began in June 1950, the Navy had no jet-powered reconnaissance aircraft, since the McDonnell F2H-2P Banshee still had not undergone its first flight trials. As a stopgap measure, a small number of F9F-2s were modified as unarmed photographic reconnaissance aircraft under the designation F9F-2P. The four 20-mm cannon were removed and replaced by oblique and vertical cameras.
Following the withdrawal of the F9F-2 from service, a few F9F-2s were modified as unarmed radio-controlled drones under the designation F9F-2D. A few F9F-2s were modified as drone controllers under the designation F9F-2KD. F9F-2 BuNo 123050 is on display at the USN Pensacola Air Museum.
122475 Grumman XF9F-2 Panther 122477 Grumman XF9F-2 Panther 122563 Grumman F9F-2 Panther 122567 Grumman F9F-2 Panther 122569 Grumman F9F-2 Panther 122570 Grumman F9F-2 Panther 122572 Grumman F9F-2 Panther 122586/122589 Grumman F9F-2 Panther 123016/123019 Grumman F9F-2 Panther 123044/123067 Grumman F9F-2 Panther 123077/123083 Grumman F9F-2 Panther 123397/123713 Grumman F9F-2 Panther 125083/125155 Grumman F9F-2 Panther 127086/127215 Grumman F9F-2 Panther
Engine: One Pratt & Whitney J42-P-6/P-8 turbojet, rated at 5000 lb.s.t. for takeoff dry and 5950 lb.s.t. for takeoff with water injection. Performance: Maximum speed 575 mph at sea level, 545 mph at 22,000 feet, 529 mph at 35,00 feet. Cruising speed 487 mph Landing speed 105 mph . Initial climb rate 5140 feet per minute. Service ceiling 44,600 feet. Normal range 1353 miles. Dimensions: wingspan 38 feet 0 inches, length 37 feet 5 3/8 inches, height 11 feet 4 inches, wing area 250 square feet. Weights: 9303 pounds empty, 14,235 pounds combat, 16,450 pounds gross, 19,494 pounds maximum takeoff. Internal fuel capacity 923 US gallons Armament: four 20-mm cannon. Underwing loads of up to 2000 pounds of bombs and rockets could be carried on eight underwing racks.