The Grumman WF/ E-1 Tracer was an airborne early warning aircraft based on the S-2 Tracker and operated on US aircraft carriers from 1960 until it was replaced by the E-2 Hawkeye in 1976.
The S-2 Tracker was a four seat twin engine anti-submarine warfare aircraft that had replaced the previous system which used separate hunter and killer aircraft operating in pairs. Its high wing design meant that there was plenty of uninterrupted space in the fuselage, and this made it suitable for conversion into a carrier borne airborne early warning aircraft.
Work on the new aircraft began in 1954. This first design was based on the S-2A, and designated as the XWF-1. However this design was soon replaced by the WF-2, which was based on the Grumman TF/ C-1 Trader, a light transport version of the S-2A, with a larger fuselage and space for nine passengers.
The prototype made its maiden flight on 17 December 1956, as the XTF-1W (Grumman G-117). This aircraft was a C-1A modified to carry a 20ft by 30ft dish type radome mounted above the fuselage. It was also give a new tail with twin fins and rudders, replacing the tall single fin and rudder on the Tracker and Trader. The fuselage was 18in longer than on the TF-1. The overhead wing folding system of the S2F/ S-2 and TF/ C-1 could no longer be used because of the radome, so a new system was produced which saw the outer panels rotate then fold backwards towards the tail. A tail wheel had to be added to help move the Tracer around the flight deck when the wings were folded as they made it tail heavy.
The prototype was followed by 88 production aircraft. These used the larger fuselage of the C-1A Trader, the twin tail and the 20ft by 30ft radome and carried Hazeltine APS-82 radar.
The first production aircraft was delivered in February 1958. However it didn’t enter fleet service until 1960, when it entered service with the Atlantic Fleet, replacing the Douglas AD-5W/ A-1G Skyraider. The aircraft served with Navy Squadrons VAW-11 and VAW-12, which provided detachments for ships of the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets. Normally four aircraft would be allocated to each carrier.
In 1962 the WF-2 became the E-1B.
This aircraft served with the US Fleet until it began to be replaced by the E-2 Hawkeye in 1964. It saw service during the early part of the Vietnam War and was used both to control combat air patrols over the US fleet and to control attacks on North Vietnam, warning the attacking aircraft of any approaching MiGs.
By May 1973 only four were still in service, and the last aircraft were retired in 1976.
Engine: Two Wright R-1820-82WAs
Power: 1,525hp each
Crew: 4 – pilot, co-pilot/ tactical director, 2 radar operators
Span: 72ft 7in
Length: 45ft 4in
Height: 16ft 10in
Empty weight: 20,638lb
Gross weight: 26,600lb
Max speed: 227mph at 4,000ft
Cruising speed: 163mph at 10,500ft
Climb Rate: 1,120ft/ min
Service ceiling: 15,800ft
Range: 1,000 miles
Bomb load: up to 4,810lb: One depth charge or two torpedoes in weapons bay, six pylons under wing for depth bombs, torpedoes or rockets. Up to 32 sono-buoys in nacelles