Entering the jet-age, Grumman obtained a design contract in April 1946 for the XF9F-1. The jet aircraft was a single seat carrier-based fighter. The mission of the fighters were the destruction of opposing aircraft and ground support. As design of the figther progressed, a single Nene jet englne was utilized in the fuselage, which brought the XF9F-2 prototype. The XF9F-4 replaced the Nene engine with the Allison J33 engine. As tests continued, F9F-5 was produced with the Pratty & Whitney J38 version of the Rolls-Royce Tay engine. The first fighter flew in December 1949.
The Panther aircraft became a mainstay of the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps air fleets during the Korean War. Becoming the first aircraft carrier jets to fly in combat, the aircraft shot down two YAK-9 aircraft on their first mission in July 1950. That November, a Panther, flown by Lieutenant Commander W.T. Amen, Commanding Officer of Fighter Squadron 111 (VF-111), became the first to shoot down a MiG-15. Other aviators who flew the F9F during the war were future astronauts Neil Armstrong and John Glenn.
The fighters were taken out of service in 1956 and remained in supporting rolls until 1958, with some still serving into the early 1960s. The remaining fighter aircraft were redesignated as F9F-5D and were adapted as a target drone or a drone controller. In 1962, the remaining aircraft were designated DF-9E. Of note, Panther aircraft were the first jet to be used by the Blue Angels demonstration team in 1951. The Grumman F9F Cougar was an updated version of the Panther and held the designation of F9F-6.
Image: NH 97047: Grumman F9F-2 Panthers, May 1951. The Panthers dump fuel as they fly past USS Princeton (CV-47) during the Korean War. NHHC Photograph Collection.