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USN NASWF Grumman F-9/F-8T Cougar


Model ID#:












P. Trittle & L. Peterson

Model Scale:




historical significance

First Albuquerque Visit:    1958

SKU: Model-0130 Categories: ,

Additional Information:

The Grumman F9F/F-9 Cougar was a carrier-based jet-powered fighter aircraft. It was developed during the early 1950s for the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps, Grumman’s design team decided to adapt its earlier F9F Panther, replacing the straight wing of the Panther with a new swept wing. Thrust was also increased with the installation of a newer and more powerful engine. The Navy considered the Cougar to be an updated version of the Panther, despite having a different official name, and thus Cougars started off from F9F-6.

Albuquerque’s Kirtland Field was designated Kirtland Air Force Base in 1947, and the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project (AFSWP) operated on Sandia Base. When the United States Air Force established the Air Force Special Weapons Command at Kirtland Air Force Base in 1949, the United States Navy formed a detachment to investigate nuclear capabilities for naval aircraft and assist the AFSWP with naval equipment for demonstrations and training. The Naval Weapons Evaluation Facility (NWEF) operated through the Cold War investigating aircraft-weapon interfaces to provide United States Navy aircraft with nuclear weapons delivery capability.

In 1952 this detachment was designated the Naval Air Special Weapons Facility (NASWF) to conduct special weapons tests on the White Sands Missile Range and Tonopah Test Range in coordination with the United States Atomic Energy Commission. In March of 1961, the NASWF was re-designated the Naval Weapons Evaluation Facility (NWEF) and its mission was expanded to include safety studies on nuclear weapons. The aircraft used for NWEF testing were decorated with the NWEF thunderbird symbol and the NWEF detachment became known as the Rio Grande Navy by its sailors and civilians.
In 1992, with the consolidation of many naval activities and the drawdown of the U.S. defense budget, NWEF became part of the large, multisite Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division in China Lake. In 1993 the NWEF was decommissioned and became the first nuclear-weapons-related facility in the Free World to be shut down. As NWEF closed, it transferred some of its remaining people and functions to the China Lake site.

Two trainer versions of the Grumman F-9 Cougar, Bu No. 147358 and 142442, were attached to the Naval Air Special Weapons Facility (NASWF) at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque in 1958. They were also used for liaison and as a White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) camera chase plane for weapons separation tests.