The ground breaking Grumman F8F Bearcat hit the fleet at a bad time. It arrived too late to see action in WWII and by the time the war in Korea began in 1950 the jet age had begun. It totally outclassed any other Naval piston fighter in terms of maximum speed, maneuverability and especially climb rate.
The impetus for the Bearcat began with the attack on Midway. A fast interceptor with a very high rate of climb was envisioned to stop enemy dive bombers and torpedo aircraft long before they reached the fleet. Designed as a high speed interceptor to replace the F6F Hellcat, the F8F Bearcat married the famous and supremely powerful Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engine to a small and light airframe. It was essentially like putting a Corvette engine in a car the size and weight of a VW Beetle. The Bearcat's fuselage was about 5 feet shorter than the Hellcat, and was cut down vertically behind the cockpit are, allowing the use of a bubble canopy. The vertical stabilizer was the same height as the Hellcat's, but had an increased aspect ratiok. The wingspan was 7 feet less than the Hellcat's. The fuselage used flush riveting, butt joining (as opposed to the Hellcat's lapped joining) as well as spot welding. Increased armor protection was provided for the pilot, engine and oil cooler.
Initial design work on the Bearcat began in 1943. The first prototype flew in August 1944 and had a top speed of 425 mph and a climb rate of nearly 5000 fpm, far outclassing the Hellcat or anything the Japanese had to offer. It was a few mph slower than the Corsair but could easily outmaneuver and outclimb it. Deliveries of the Bearcat began in May 1945, only 3 months before VJ Day. It never saw combat in the Pacific.
The kit was introduced in 2007. In terms of "parts count" this kit is a bit smaller than most Trumpeter kits. From a first look standpoint, the cockpit looks somewhat simplified, though as we have come to expect from Trumpeter, the engine is a kit in and of itself. Detail is very crisp and riveting and panel detail is more restrained than many other Trumpeter kits. Because the Bearcat bubble canopy has a "blown" profile as viewed down the longitudinal axis, the shortcomings of the injection molding process has left a seam down the center of the canopy which will have to be sanded down and polished. I may sand it smooth and vacuform a new canopy. The M2 .50 caliber machine guns are very simple so I may wind up scratch building a pair of them for the port gun bay. From what I have seen in reviews on the web, the forks of the main landing gear are short by about 0.2", causing the tires to rub against the bottom of the oleo legs. The tailwheel strut looks very fragile. There are white metal replacement gear available that address both issues, but I may just insert a styrene shim in the MLG and embed a piece of 0.030" steel rod up the entire MLG from the wheel strut to the top to strengthen it. The kit comes with vinyl tires but may just put the wheel hubs in them and cast them so they are more durable. I want to model this kit as an early F8F-1 without the red stripe in the national insignia so I will probably just mask and paint them.