John J. McKenna brought this photograph to my attention.
At first glance, it is a picture of an air group readied for launch (the Panthers are manned, most of the propeller-driven airplanes are running) as Roosevelt turns into the wind. Most of the Panthers are in the experimental natural metal scheme (see http://thanlont.blogspot.com/2009/12/it-seemed-like-good-idea-at-time-vii.html).
But on closer inspection, the "air group" gets far more interesting.
1. This F9F-2 is painted blue on top but what appears to be light gray on the bottom instead of being overall blue. In-fight experiments were conducted with different paint schemes because when viewed from below at high altitude, blue airplanes were very conspicuous. This is one of the schemes:
2. All the -2s appear to numbered sequentially in the 2XX squadron series but don't have any tailcodes (in a comment below, "bigredlancer" notes that the badge is between the national insignia and the front of the windscreen is the Jolly Roger of VF-61, which was assigned to FDR for its early 1951 Med deployment). The highest number is 217, which is unusually an high number for a single squadron. Moreover, the natural metal experiment involved 100 F9F-5s, not 2s (although I have seen one picture of an unpainted F9F-2, which has also has the Jolly Roger badge in the same location as the FDR picture and moreover is a 2XX airplane); the airplanes were parceled out a few to a squadron rather than equipping an entire squadron; and most significantly, the experiment began in April 1952. Note that all the Panthers are spread (normally the wings would be unfolded as they taxi forward to the catapult).
3. There are four F8F Bearcats arrayed behind the Panthers. I had thought that this was rather late in the day for them but it turns out that in addition to being flown in the reserves and for advanced training at the time, VC-62 was still providing detachments of F8F-2Ps to the carriers then deploying to the Med like FDR. The external stores under the wing also seemed unusual (when required, F8F external fuel was almost always provided by a single centerline tank) but it turns out that two 100-gallon tanks were not uncommon on the -2Ps. (Thanks to John J. McKenna for straightening me out on that.)
4. There are five Douglas AD Guppies behind the Bearcats. That's more than a standard air-group complement.
5. There are three JDs behind the ADs. It looked at first like they might be B-25/PBJs but what looks like an H-tail on the one on the right is the vertical blade of the left and right propellers on the one behind it. Obviously these are not carrier-based aircraft (they were used to tow or launch gunnery targets) and have been craned aboard. However, they could easily be deck launched, which may be why they are at the back of the pack.
So what's going on here? My guess was that in mid-1951, FDR was being used between its deployments to the Med to transport this collection of airplanes from somewhere (Norfolk Overhaul and Repair?) to somewhere on the east coast. They have been craned aboard and are being deck launched to get to their ultimate destinations. The Panthers are probably part of the early inflight paint-scheme evaluation accomplished before the decision was made to do an extended durability test. However, see the comments on this post for more informed opinions...