The Grumman JF was the company’s first amphibian aircraft, and served in a wide range of roles from shore bases and aircraft carriers during the Second World War.
During 1932 the prototype of what would become the company’s first production aircraft, the Grumman FF-1, was undergoing a series of improvements that led to a production order being placed on 19 December 1932. Before beginning work on the FF-1 Grumman’s previous work had been on floats to convert existing land based aircraft into amphibians. These floats had used an innovative form of retractable undercarriage, which saw the main wheels retract up in the side of the float. The same system was used on the FF-1, and it was only logical for Grumman to also try and use the same system on their own amphibian aircraft.
The resulting aircraft closely resembled a standard biplane sitting directly on top of a large float. The wheels retracted up into the side of the floats, as on the original floats and the FF-1. It was an equal span single bay biplane, with a light alloy frame and fabric covered wings and a light alloy fuselage framework with a stressed skin covering. A strut linked the ailerons on the upper and lower wings. The central float was of monocoque construction. There were small stabilizer floats mounted on struts below the wing tips. It could carry a crew of three in two cockpits – the pilot in the front and the observer and an optional radio operator in the rear.
Grumman submitted this design to the US Navy late in 1932 and were rewarded with a contract to produce a single prototype, the XJF-1. This aircraft made its maiden flight on either 24 April or 4 May 1933, and was an immediate success. It was around 40% faster than the existing Loening OL-9, with bigger improvements in climb and service ceiling. An order was placed for 27 JF-1s, which were to serve as observation and utility aircraft, and as a ship to shore link for aircraft carriers. A series of generally similar variants followed. A total of 47 JFs of all types were built.
The JF 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.
They were joined by a larger number of Grumman J2F Ducks, which were generally similar. The most obvious visual difference was the removal of the strut between the ailerons and a longer float.
The prototype XJF-1 was powered by a 700hp Pratt & Whitney R-1535-62 engine. It carried a crew of two in tandem cockpits, with a sliding cover over the cockpits.
Deliveries of the JF-1 began late in 1934. The first aircraft were used to replace observation and general purpose aircraft and they didn’t start to reach the regular squadrons until 1936. The prototype and first batch of JF-1s were powered by a 700hp Pratt & Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp.
A batch of fourteen JF-2s was ordered for the US Coast Guard. These used a 750hp Wright R-1820 Cyclone engine and carried different equipment. Four of these aircraft later went to the US Navy.
This designation was given to five aircraft similar to the JF-2 produced for the US Navy.