- Delivered – Jan 31, 1956
- Feb 14, 1956 – VC-61 (later VFP-61) NAS Miramar, CA
- Aug 21, 1958 – Litchfield Park, AZ
- May 1960 – Stricken from inventory
The Cougar was a well liked aircraft, rugged and reliable, with excellent handling. Aircraft design was moving rapidly in the 1950’s and changes were prevalent. This carrier-based subsonic aircraft was considered an improved version of the F9F Panther, thus all versions F9F-6 forward are 35 degree swept-wing and tail “Cougar” variants.
A number of F9F-8s were modified as “F9F-8B” tactical nuclear bombers, fitted with a “Low Altitude Bombing System (LABS)”. Even the Blue Angels loved the Cougar, trading up from F9F-5 Panther (1949-54) for the new, improved F9F-8 Cougars from 1954-56.
In the Photo Cougar many changes were made to the fuselage structure and equipment, including the longer “duck’s bill” camera nose added to accommodate the K-17 and trimetrogon cameras (three cameras shooting simultaneously for use in topographic mapping). All the armament systems were removed, many were fitted with a nose refueling probe and the compressor ducting was re-routed to provide heat to defrost the camera windows.