Grumman XF10F-1 Jaguar taking off in 1952 (US Air Force photo)

Grumman XF10F-1 Jaguar taking off in 1952 (US Air Force photo)

Long before the F-14 (even before the F-111 Aardvark) there was the humble, horrible XF10F Jaguar, which its only pilot called “entertaining … because there was so much wrong with it” in a 1977 magazine interview.

But it was a stubborn prototype like the XF10F (and the Bell X-5, first flown one year earlier) that led to the era of variable geometry military aircraft.

The Grumman XF10F Jaguar was intended to be used as a carrier-borne fighter, but only one was ever built and flown by test pilot Corwin “Corky” Meyer a total of 32 times. Grumman was a stalwart US Navy aircraft contractor, from the F-4F Wildcat to the venerable F-9F Cougar first US carrier jet, to the Tomcat. The Navy originally ordered a production run of 112 XF10Fs, but after test flights in 1952, the Jaguar was canceled in 1953, making it Grumman’s only failed “cat” series Navy fighter.

The XF10F was America’s second attempt at the variable-sweep wing design. The Bell X-5, first flown in 1951, was the first aircraft capable of changing the geometry of its wings in flight. The concept was based, like many early jet-era designs, off German World War II plans seized at the end of the war. In July 1944, as the war had turned well-against the Third Reich, Germany issued the Emergency Fighter Program, calling for a second-generation jet fighter. Messerschmitt, under Woldemar Voigt, issued a design for the P.1101, a jet fighter with wings that could be selected in swept or unswept modes pre-flight. While the P.1101 lost out to the Focke-Wulf Ta 183 Huckebein for the Emergency Fighter, neither airplane ever saw a working prototype finished or flown.

But the seeds of the variable-sweep wing were planted when American forces found the nearly complete P.1101. The concepts were put to work on the X-5, later the XF10F, and eventually a litany of jets, including the F-111, F-14, Tornado, B-1, and six Soviet military jets.

The variable-sweep wing (“swing wing”) is an airplane wing that can be swept back fight and then returned to it its original, traditional-looking position mid-flight. The swept back wing is better for high speeds, while the unswept wing is better for lower speeds. It was highly successful during the Cold War era, but modern advances in flight control technology and the materials used to build airplanes have largely made the variable-sweep wing obsolete. The B-1 bomber is the last swing wing in American military service.

The Jaguar is an example of jet-age, rapidly evolving technology. It was sluggish and difficult to control, it tended to spin, and it was devastatingly under-powered. The Westinghouse J40 turbojet engine only put out 6,800 lbs. of thrust instead of the projected 11,000 lbs. The engine was also prone to failure mid-flight.

Unfortunately, there are not many photos of the XF10F, which was destroyed as a gunnery target after its retirement. It is believed that the Me P.1101 was scrapped in the 1950s. Two X5s were built, but one crashed in 1953, killing its pilot. If you are a fan of the sweep wing and want to see an early example, the only one left is the last X-5 prototype, on permanent display at National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

Specifications

General

Crew: One
Length: 55 ft 9.6 in
Wingspan: 50 ft 8 in or 36 ft 8 in swept
Height: 16 ft 3 in
Empty weight: 20,425 lb
Max. takeoff weight: 35,450 lb
Engine: One Westinghouse XJ40-W-8 turbojet, 6,800 lbf

Performance

Maximum speed: 710 mph
Range: 1,670 mi
Thrust/weight: 0.19

Armament

Never armed.

Essential Reading

I wish there was more to tell you, but I do have two books for you to read. Don’t miss Meyer’s autobiography, “Corky Meyer’s Flight Journal.” From the publisher: “In an occupation and time which killed many, if not most, this man had the brains, skill, and good luck to meet every challenge that faced him and survive to tell his amazing story.”

There is also a handy reference book on the Jaguar, “Grumman XF10F-1 Jaguar Swing-Wing,” which, fittingly enough is also written by Meyer, the man who knew the aircraft better than anyone else.

Online Resources:

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