The Grumman J2F Duck was an amphibian aircraft that performed a wide range of rolls for the US Navy during the Second World War.
Grumman’s first orders from the US Navy had been for floats to convert existing land based aircraft into amphibians. This was followed by the Grumman FF, a biplane carrier fighter that used the same retractable undercarriage as the floats, and that made its maiden flight in December 1931. The obvious next step was to produce an amphibian that combined features from the FF with the Grumman floats. This became the two seat Grumman JF of 1933, which combined the wings and fuselage of a standard biplane with a large float that was faired directly into the base of the fuselage. The prototype made its maiden flight in the spring of 1933 and the first production aircraft were delivered late in 1934. A total of 47 were produced (including the prototype).
The J2F Duck was generally very similar to the JF. It had the same fuselage and cockpit canopy and similar wings. The main external differences were the removal of struts that had linked the upper and lower ailerons on the JF and the use of a longer float. On the JF the fairing connecting the float to the fuselage ended just behind the cockpit. On the J2F it stretched back almost to the tail.
The first twenty J2F-1s were ordered in 1937. Grumman produced five variants of the aircraft, from the J2F-1 to J2F-5. The J2F-5 was the first major change to the design, with a new engine and long-chord cowling, and with 155 ordered was the most numerous of the Grumman built versions.
After Pearl Harbor the Navy wanted more J2Fs, but also needed Grumman to concentrate on the F4F Wildcat and development of the F6F Hellcat. As a result production of the Duck switched to the Columbia Aircraft Corporation at Valley Stream, which produced the J2F-6 (for once the change of company didn’t see a change of designation). This had a slightly more powerful engine, and was ordered in larger numbers than all other types combined, with 330 built.
The J2F was used by the US Navy through the Second World War, serving from land bases and aircraft carriers, and in a wide range of roles including patrol, rescue, photographic reconnaissance and target towing.
The first production version of the J2F appeared in 1937. Twenty nine were produced.
They were followed by thirty J2F-2s (in two batches of 15), of which 21 stayed with the Navy and 9 went to the Marines as the J2F-2A. At least eight of the first batch were lost, five while operating off Hawaii.
Nine of the thirty J2F-2s were converted into the only armed version of the Duck, the J2F-2A. This version was given machine guns and bomb racks under the wings. They were used by Marine Squadron VMS-3, initially for Neutrality Patrols from St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. At least two of these aircraft were lost – one off the Virgin Islands on 19 September 1942 and one on the ground by an exploding depth charge at NAS Hampton Roads on 17 September 1943.
Twenty J2F-3s were built, originally for use by Admirals and US Naval attaches. They were delivered between February and June 1939. One was used by the superintendent of the US Naval Academy at Annapolis. Loss records show how widely they were spread – one crashed at Pearl Harbor in 1941, one was lost in the east central Pacific in 1942. One was lost at Espiritu Santo in 1944. One was lost at Guadalcanal in 1945. One was struck off at Adak in Alaska in the same year.
Thirty two J2F-4s were ordered. Losses show them serving as rescue aircraft in Greenland, on Iceland and Trinidad, in Alaska and across the Pacific.
The J2F-5 was the last version to be built by Grumman, and also the first to officially be called the Duck. A total of 144 were ordered late in 1940 as the US Navy began to expand rapidly, and they were delivered between July 1941 and March 1942. They were the first version to see a significant change, with a more powerful 950hp R-1820-50 engine under a long chord cowling. This improved the performance of the aircraft.
The J2F-6 was produced by the Columbia Aircraft Corporation of Long Island, and was the most numerous version of the aircraft, with a total of 330 built. They were probably ordered in three batches, the first 150 with serial numbers 32637-32786, the second 80 with serials 33535-33614 (reusing numbers originally allocated to a cancelled batch of Interstate TDR-1 unmanned assault drones) and the final 100 with serials 36935-37034.
The J2F-6 was similar to the J2F-5, but with a 1,050hp R-1820-54 engine, which gave it a slightly higher top speed.
The J2F was also used by the USAAF, as the Grumman OA-12 Duck.
Engine: Wright R-1820-50
Crew: 3 – Pilot, observer, optional radio operator
Height: 15ft 1in
Empty weight: 4,300lb
Gross weight: 6,711lb
Max speed: 188mph
Cruising speed: 150mph
Climb Rate: 1,500ft/ min
Service ceiling: 27,000ft
Range: 780 miles