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Grumman S-2 Tracker: The First ‘Purpose-Built’ ASW Aircraft of US Navy

The aircraft for today is the one that was the first purpose-built ASW (Anti Submarine Warfare) aircraft of the US Navy. The aircraft’s name is Grumman S-2 Tracker which was designed and then manufactured by the aircraft manufacturing company named Grumman. The initial design of the Grumman S-2 Tracker was a conventional one which had propeller-driven two radial piston engines along with a high wing that could be folded for providing optimum storage space on the aircraft carriers. As for the undercarriage of the aircraft, it was of tricycle arrangement.

The Grumman S-2 Tracker was heavily exported to several of the world naval forces after it was introduced to the world back in 1952. The Grumman S-2 Tracker and its variant aircraft named E-1 tracer went on to see its military service well until mid 1970s whereas the C-1 Trader variant served well until mid 1980s.

As for the current status of the Grumman S-2 Tracker, many of its units are still in service across the US as well as other countries in limited roles mostly including that of firefighting pones. The only countries that use the Grumman S-2 Tracker for military purposes are the Brazil and Argentina.

Origin and First Flight:-

The origin of the Grumman S-2 Tracker occurred as the replacement aircraft for the Grumman AF Guardian which was also the first purpose-built ASW aircraft of the US Navy which used 1 airframe for 2 versions of the Guardian. As for the Grumman S-2 Tracker, it utilized the functions of both those Guardian versions into a single aircraft featuring a prototype with a large wing monoplane which had twin radial piston engines with a yoke arrestor hook.

The US Navy ordered Grumman for production of the aircraft’s two prototypes under designation XS2F-1 and the series production of the 15 aircraft under designation S2F-1 at the same time back on June 30th, 1950. As for the first successful flight of the Grumman S-2 Tracker’s first prototype, it occurred back on December 4th, 1952 with the aircraft entering service of the US Navy in February of 1954.

Nicknames for Grumman S-2 Tracker:-

Other followed on versions of the Grumman S-2 Tracker were the Grumman C-1 Trader and the Grumman E-1 racer aircraft designed back in 1962. The S-2 designation in the name of Grumman S-2 Tracker allowed for the aircraft to have the nickname “Stoof” which is S-two-F whereas the variant of the Grumman S-2 Tracker E-1 Tracer had the nickname “Stoof With A Roof”.


Power was delivered to the Grumman S-2 Tracker via its 2 Wright R-1820-82WA air-cooled radial position engines, each of which would deliver a power of about 1525 HP to power its three-bladed propeller assemblies. This power allowed for the Grumman S-2 Tracker to fly at a top speed of about 280 mph while the cruising speed was 150 mph. the aircraft’s ferry range was about 1350 miles at a service ceiling of about 22000 feet.

All in all, the Grumman S-2 Tracker was able to operate for about 9 hours of flying time which allowed it to be a great hunter aircraft against the enemy’s submarines. The aircraft was used for its ASW roles well by US Navy against the Soviet Union’s submarines during the Cold War era.


The Grumman S-2 Tracker was built to have an internal bay for carrying torpedoes which allowed for it to carry 2 lightweight torpedoes or a single nuclear depth charge. The aircraft also featured the 6 hardpoints under its wings which allowed for the aircraft to utilize its load-bearing capacity of 4800 lbs to carry depth charges and rocket pods or 4 additional torpedoes.

Sensors and Other features:-

The Grumman S-2 Tracker was also fitted with a retractable radome for housing the AN/APS-38 radar as well as a MAD (Magnetic Anomaly Detector) AN/ASQ-8 rear boom. Early models of the aircraft also featured the ESM (Electronic Surveillance Measures) pods and the smoke particle detector nicknamed as Sniffer.

In later models of the aircraft, these Sniffers were removed along with the ESM antennas being moved to the 4 extensions on the wingtips. The aircraft also was fitted with a searchlight on its starboard wing which would have the 70 million candlelight power.

The engine nacelles also had the smoke dispensers on the port ventral side of them in groups of 3.

Military service with US Navy:-

The Grumman S-2 Tracker entered the service of the US Military back in February of 1954 after undoing several tests and modifications back from 1950 to 1953. One variant of the Grumman S-2 Tracker designated as TS-2A was used by US Navy as the training unit which was used by following squadrons.

  • Training Squadron 27 (VT-27)
  • Training Squadron 28 (VT-28)
  • Training Squadron 31 (VT-31)

The aircraft served the US Navy well until 1976 when its role for being the ASW aircraft was taken over by the Lockheed S-3 Viking.

Used as Firefighter aircraft:-

Despite the Grumman S-2 Tracker getting retired by the US Navy in its military roles, the aircraft still went on to have the post-military career as a firefighting aircraft. Many of its operators have since then its military role have handed it over to government for being used as the firefighting aircraft.

Civilian service:-

Back in the late 1980s and the early 1990s, one company named Convair Aviation located in the Abbotsford British Columbia, Canada bought the retired Grumman S-2 Trackers from the US and Canada. They converted them into aircraft named Firecat which would then feature a retardant tank in place of its torpedo bay. These Firecats were built into 2 variants with the first one being a piston engine aircraft named “Firecat” and the second one being the turboprop-powered aircraft named “Turbo Firecat”.

Retirement and replacement:-

US Navy retired their fleet of Grumman S-2 Tracker back in 1974 after the better and all modern jet-powered Lockheed S-2 Viking was introduced and even that has been superseded in its roles since the introduction of aircraft like P-C3 Orion and F/A-18 Super Hornet as well as helicopters like SH-60 Seahawk; the naval helicopter.

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