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Tom Attridge F-11 Grumman

How Did A Fighter Plane Accidentally Shoot Itself?

The Grumman F-11 Tiger was a supersonic, single-seat carrier-based fighter aircraft used by the United States Navy in the 1950s and 1960s. It was originally tagged as the F11F Tiger in April 1955 but was renamed the F-11 Tiger under the 1962 United States Tri-Service aircraft designation system. While the F-11 Tiger is a remarkable aircraft, it accidentally shot itself in the process. How did this happen?

The F-11 Tiger was so fast, that it got hit by the bullets it fired after a shallow dive. The windshield caved in, and the engine was badly damaged. The pilot crash-landed the plane and survived.

How was the F-11 Designed and Developed?

The F-11 Tiger can be traced back to a privately funded 1952 Grumman concept to modernize the F9F-6/7 Cougar. This was achieved by implementing the area rule and other advances. The Grumman company project was known as G-98, and when the project was done, it was a complete design departure from the Cougar.

The design’s potential for supersonic performance and reduced transonic drag piqued the interest of those in the US Navy. By 1953, redesigns had resulted in a completely new aircraft that bore only a passing resemblance to the Cougar. 

The new wing featured full-span leading-edge slats and trailing edge flaps, with roll control accomplished through the use of spoilers rather than traditional ailerons. The F-11 Tiger’s wings were manually folded downwards for storage on aircraft carriers. The tailplane was all-moving in anticipation of the supersonic performance. 

The Wright J65 turbojet, a license-built version of the Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire, was used to design the aircraft. (Source: Naval History and Heritage Command)

When was the F-11 Used?

During the late 1950s and early 1960s, Grumman marketed the F-11 to a large number of potential foreign customers. This campaign was a failure for a variety of reasons, including the fact that the Super Tiger had not been accepted by the US government for any of the US services.

The Super Tiger competed with the Saab Draken, Lockheed F-104 Starfighter, Dassault Mirage III, and Fiat G.91 in a tender to equip the Swiss Air Force. The Mirage was chosen, in part, because it was cheaper and more secure in terms of replacements and spare parts; however, Swiss assessors reportedly believed that, in terms of overall technical performance, the F-11 outperformed the other aircraft considered. 

The German Air Force, the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force, and the Royal Canadian Air Force were also interested. Grumman offered to build a variant with the proven and more powerful 10,500 lbs Rolls-Royce Avon instead of the J79, with an eye toward a possible order from West Germany in particular. 

However, following selection processes that were allegedly marred by Lockheed bribery scandals, all of these potential customers chose the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter. (Source: Joe Baugher)

How Did an F-11 Accidentally Shoot Itself?

In 1956, the Grumman Aircraft Corporation tested the F-11 Tiger which was relatively new at that point. The test flight was done just off the coast of New York. 

The pilot, Tom Attridge, fired a long burst from its guns and in a matter of moments the windshield of the F-11 caved in, and the engine was severely damaged. Apparently, the plane was too fast that it accidentally got hit by the bullets it fired. 

Attridge was able to crash-land the plane and survive the whole ordeal. (Source: Popular Mechanics)

Why was the F-11 Named Tiger?

Like all Grumman aircraft, the F-11 Tiger was named after a cat. This is because it is fast and agile, the F-11 was only the Navy’s second supersonic fighter, capable of 843 miles per hour. (Source: Popular Mechanics)

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