The F11F (F-11) Tiger origins can be traced back to a privately funded 1952 Grumman concept to modernize the F9F-6/7 Cougar by implementing the area rule and other advances. This Grumman company project was known as the G-98, and when it was concluded it was a complete design departure from the Cougar.
The design's potential for supersonic performance and reduced transonic drag stirred interest in the U.S. Navy. By 1953, redesigns led to a completely new aircraft bearing no more than a familial resemblance to the Cougar. The new wing had full-span leading edge slats and trailing edge flaps with roll control achieved using spoilers rather than traditional ailerons. For storage on aircraft carriers, the F-11 Tiger's wings manually folded downwards. Anticipating supersonic performance, the tailplane was all-moving. The aircraft was designed for the Wright J65 turbojet, a license-built version of the Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire.
The U.S. Navy Bureau of Aeronautics was sufficiently impressed to order two prototypes, designated XF9F-8 even though the new fighter was clearly a new design. To add to the confusion, the prototypes were then redesignated XF9F-9 with the XF9F-8 designation going to another more straightforward Cougar derivative. Since the afterburning version of the J65 was not ready, the first prototype flew on 30 July 1954 with a non-afterburning engine. In spite of this, the aircraft nearly reached Mach 1 in its maiden flight. The second prototype, equipped with the afterburning engine, became the second supersonic U.S. Navy aircraft, the first being the Douglas F4D Skyray. In April 1955, the aircraft received the new designation F11F-1 (F-11A after adoption of the unified Tri-Service naming system in 1962). Carrier trials started on 4 April 1956 when an F11F-1 Tiger landed on and launched from USS Forrestal.
The F-11 Tiger is noted for being the first jet aircraft to shoot itself down. On 21 September 1956, during a test-firing of its 20 mm (.79 in) cannons, pilot Tom Attridge fired two bursts midway through a shallow dive. As the velocity and trajectory of the cannon rounds decayed, they ultimately crossed paths with the Tiger as it continued its descent, disabling it and forcing Attridge to crash-land the aircraft; he survived.
In the late 1950s, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) evaluated the F-11-1F as a replacement for the F-86 Sabre, then its primary jet fighter. World War II Spitfire pilot, and later honorary colonel, R.G. (Bob) Middlemiss, W/C (Ret) DFC, CD, SSM, and RCAF test pilot Jack Woodman, proceeded to California to evaluate the top two contenders, the Lockheed F-104 and the Grumman F-11F-1F at Edwards AFB. As a result of their recommendations, the Canadian government selected the F-104.
In addition to the F-11A (F11F-1) fighter, Grumman also proposed a more advanced version of the airframe known as the F11F-1F Super Tiger. This was the result of a 1955 study to fit the new General Electric J79 engine into the F11F-1 airframe.