After WWII, peace and prosperity came to an abrupt end when Communist North Korea smashed into South Korea on June 25th 1950. The Air Force threw everything it had from Japan, but there was still a need to get more aircraft into the region, U.S. aircraft carriers; the nearest was the USS Valley Forge (CV-45), in Hong Kong over 1000 miles away.
Within hours all personal were back on board and Valley Forge and steaming to Subic Bay to be readied for combat. Arriving off the coast of Korea on July 1, she joined up with HMS Triumph as part of Task Force 77, with Carrier Air Group (CVG 5) and two squadrons of F9F-3’s with VF-51 and VF-52.
Panthers flew the duration of the war using the -2 through -5, and the photo-recon version -2P and -5P. The -5, the last production version, its first delivery was made on November 5, 1950. Production continued through January 13, 1953 when Panther production ceased, with 616 built during this time. It is noted that the -4 was also brought up to the -5 standard. This was the last step before the swept wings made their appearance.
There were differences between the previous versions and -5, as follows:
1. Uprated Pratt & Whitney J48-P-6 or -8 turbojet, based on the British Tay engine.
2. 7000 lbs. of thrust with water alcohol injection (vs -2. 5700 lbs. wet thrust)
3. Top speed 604 mph at sea level.
4. Rate of climb 5090 ft per min.
5. Empty 10,147 lbs., gross weight 18,721 lbs.
6. Range 1300 miles
7. Service Ceiling 42,800 ft
8. Carrier take-off weight was 20,600 lbs.
9. Armament 4 20mm cannon, 190 rounds per gun
10. Bomb combinations: Two 1000 lb. bombs, six 500 lb. bombs, eight 250 lb.
bombs; six 5 inch rockets
11. Lengthening of the fuselage, just ahead of the wing root, for more fuel capacity
because of the gas guzzling J48.
12. Vertical tail was taller with a more pointed tip in an attempt to solve directional
stability problems through its career and because of the longer fuselage.
13. Reshaped air intakes with an outboard wing fence.
images below to see larger images
In November of “52” Valley Forge(CVA-45), operated F9F-5 Panthers and reported no issue with catapulting the larger heavier jets with the newer H4B catapults. The fully loaded -5 was 19,000 lbs., this allowed the -5 to launch with a normal load of eight 250 lb. bombs with little risk. Increasing the ordnance load by 1200 lbs. lowered the combat radius of the jet. A fighter bomber configuration, the jet had about 200 nautical mile radius allowing only 12 minutes over the target for identification and attack vs. the fighter configuration which was a 300 nautical miles radius. With wing tip tanks the jet could carry 5800 lbs. of fuel.
The shorter (CV) carriers needed to get plenty of wind across the flight decks to get the maximum performances from the -5’s, the catapults on the CV’s in use, struggled to handle the heavier -5’s. -5’s was the first to land because of fuel consumption issue, flying at 10,000ft., for 10 minutes at 82% power, it burned 400 lbs. of fuel.
Later in December of “52”, the USS Philippine Sea, CVA-47, was making its final war cruise with VC-61 Det “M’” with F9F-5P’s; these were built specifically as recon jets and were not converted from -5 stocks. The nose of the -5P, housing the camera bay, was about 12 inches longer than the standard -5 model. These aircraft came unpainted allowing for higher speed. In the end though, salt water corrosion took place and the deep-sea blue color went back on.
The Marines received -5’s on April 28th, 1953. For VMF-115 and VMF-311 in May.
Two significant -5 stories came out of Korea;
USS Oriskany(CVA-34) arrived late October of ‘52’ giving the -5 its first taste of combat. On November 11th, in the blowing snow of Siberia, VF-781 pilot Lt. Royce Williams and wingman
Lt(jg) Dave Rowlands were flying CAP for TF-77 with two other -5s when word came that 7 MiG-15’s were heading to TF-77’s position operating southeast of the North Korean city of
Chongjin. The bogies were 85 miles north of TF77, inbound, orders were simply – Intercept. The four pilots had never flown together before, and Williams stated, in a 2012 interview, he hadn’t flown in 10 days. The Panthers continued up to 16,000 ft.,
Williams spotted 7 contrails at 40,000 ft., MiG-15’s with the Red Star of Russia. Lt. Elwood the flight leader reported a fuel pump warning light. He was ordered back over the Oriskany with his wing-man. Odds just dropped 7 to 2, as the remaining Panthers climbed.
The Panthers at 26,000 ft, saw the Russians split and were attacked by a strung-out compliment of four MiG-15’s, as the -5’s turned hard left into them to spoil their aim. Williams came out behind MiG #4 after a hard turn, giving a short burst the jet went down smoking, with Rowlands following him. Remaining 3 MiG’s reversed course and Williams again turned into them. They flashed by as he fired, he was at a disadvantage with the superior MiG-15. The remaining MiG’s joined up and it was 6 to 1. He was firing at every MiG that passed within range, trying to keep his 6 O’clock clear, staying at full throttle. The Leader and wingman finally broke off and he pursued the Section Leader of the plane he’d shot down. The leader and wingman came out of the sun, he turned into him and the lead slashed away, his wingman rolled into Williams passing belly to belly, raking the MiG with cannon fire, sending him down in flames. The Section Leader came around and Williams also turned into him, firing, he also went down. Next the leader came around and Williams fired knocking parts off as the MiG dove way. He spotted another wounded
MiG, but got hit in the wing with 37mm cannon, and into the engine messing up the hydraulic system, losing rudder and flaps with partial aileron control, but the elevators still worked. At 13,000 feet and the MiG 500ft behind, Rowland got back into the fight coming in on him, the MiG pulled away into the clouds.
Coming out at 400 ft, he was too low to bailout, below 170 knots the Panther became uncontrollable. Flying low overhead TF77, several destroyers fired on him. Coming straight in at 170 knots, the captain headed the ship slightly away from the wind. Didn’t want to ditch in the freezing water, Williams came in and caught the #3 wire. The jet was riddled with 23mm Cannon and some 37 mm rounds, in total 263 holes were counted. Williams had fired off 760 rounds, all that he had. After everything salvageable was removed, BuNo 125459 was pushed over the side.
For his great performance, he was only credited with 1 kill and a probable damaged. The simple reason, TF77 was operating 90 miles south of
Vladivostok, with Radar tracking it was no doubt these were Russian’s. With the fear of WW3 breaking out, Williams was told by Vice Admiral Briscoe, that he was to tell no one of this incident. The NSA had a team aboard the USS Helena, that recorded the Russian radio traffic, it confirmed at least 3 MiG’s were shot down. After the cold war ended, the Russians revealed indeed four MiG’s were lost of
VVS-PVO, three were directly shot down, the MiG flight leader limped back only to crash land in Russia territory and die. Royce Williams became the top scoring Naval Aviator of the “Forgotten War”.
“Blue Tail Fly” is the subject of this model.
Appropriately named, BuNo 126652 of VF-153, USS Princeton (CVA-37) in May of 1953, was a combination silver (experimental finish) -5 and a blue -5 flown by
Lt(jg) Richard Clinite, “Stretch”. Clinite of VF-153, was hit by enemy AAA in early May, the tail section was badly damaged. Ensign William Wilds Jr., limped back in a glossy blue Panther, BuNo 126652 with severe wing and nose damage. -5 Panther parts were hard to come by and these two jets salvable parts were married together, in an all-night repair session, becoming the “Blue Tailed Fly” for twelve missions, with Clinite in the cockpit it was ordered back to the US for rebuild. Tragedy struck the next day as Clinite flew another mission in a different -5. Near
Wonsan, his jet was badly damaged, he had to bail out over the sea. A Rescue chopper was on the seen quickly. Strong winds prevented Clinite from collapsing his chute, attempting to hoist him the wind kept billowing the chute and it couldn’t be done. Clinite was eventually rescued by the destroyer USS Samuel N Moore (DD-747), but he had drowned.
In all, combat and operational, the Navy lost 111 Panther types and the Marines 50.
Model and Markings:
F9F-5 – Monogram 1/48th.
This is one of the best Monogram/Revell kits available and no other -5 1/48th kit exists that I am aware of. There is no option for folded wings, there is an option for open canopy displaying a fairly good interior with pilot, open or closed dive brakes. Raised panel lines is fine with me.
Paint is rattle can Testers gloss Sea Blue, Steel and Tamiya silver TS-30, Testers acrylic chromate green. The kit comes with one Korea jet decal option which was badly yellowed. But I was building the Blue Tailed fly. There are decal options out there for -5 Panthers.
Eagle Strike: 48-114 F9F-5 Panther.
One of the decals for VF153, an ‘H’ and 312 splintered badly and I had to makeshift sets from leftover decals in my stash. Also used Star and Bars from my stash.
Furball: 48-042 F9F-8 Cougar White Canopy Framing.
F9F Panther Units of the Korean War – Osprey Publishing, by Warren Thompson
F9F Panther in detail & scale – Aero Publishing, by Bert Kinzy
Monogram Instruction Sheets.
Thanks to Steve for maintaining this fine site to provide articles.
Mark L. Rossmann