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Stoof! — Grumman’s S-2 Tracker

26 September 2012

Stoof! — Grumman’s S-2 Tracker

Formerly known as the S2F — the nickname came from S2F for “Stoof “— Grumman’s Tracker was the Navy’s first platform which served as a submarine detection and weapons platform similtaneously. In other words, the Navy’s first complete antisubmarine warfare (ASW) aircraft.   Carrying a crew of four with two Wright R-1820 nine cylinder radial engines the Tracker had a range of about 900 miles/1440km. The ASW load was impressive:

  • sonabuoys mounted in the aft engine nacelles
  • search radar in a retractable ventral dome
  • magnetic anomaly detection (MAD) in an extendable tail boom
  • 70 million candle power (candela) searchlight mounted on the starboard wing, dropped on later models
  • smoke markers and explosive charges mounted in vertical tubes in the rear fuselage
  • six wing stations for carrying rocket or depth charges
  • 2 torpedoes or 1 nuclear depth charge in the internal weapons bay
  • early Trackers also had an Electronic Surveillance Pod (ESP) mounted in a pod above and behind the cockpit

A pilot, copilot, radar operator and sonar operator comprised the crew with entry through a starboard side hatch just forward of the wing. An additional hatch was located above each pilot.

Trackers served their careers as Cold War weapons keeping Soviet submarines at a distance though some patrolled waters for surface vessels off the coast of Vietnam during the Vietnam War.

Although retired from the U.S. Navy these stout aircraft serve today in Brazilian and Argentinian national forces (the radial piston engines have been replaced by turboprop engines) as well as in fire fighting duty.

Early Grumman S-2 Tracker (note the dorsal ESP  behind the cockpit) on display at the Kanoya Air Base History Museum (当鹿屋航空基地史料館) in Japan — photo by Joseph May

Tracker  in the Valiant  Air Command (VAC) War Bird Museum in Titusville FL — photo by Joseph May

Starboard view of the S_2 Tracker in the VAC (note the weapons bay doors are in the open position)  — photo by Joseph May

A closer view of the Tracker at VAC (note the  braces supporting each of the folded wings) — photo by Joseph May

Cavanaugh Flight  Museum’s Grumman  S-2 Tracker  (note how each wing folded in a staggered fashion with the starboard  wing section ahead of the port wing section) — photo by Joseph May

Cavanaugh’s Tracker has the  aft engine nacelles faired over  but would have been  unfaired for deployment of sonabuoys — photo by Joseph May

Cavanaugh’s Tracker folding wing joint detail  — photo by Joseph May

8 Comments leave one →
  1. 26 September 2012 08:13

    The “Stoof” Grumman S2F Tracker is the most stable platform you can imagine and fun to fly. But for carrier ops can be quite challenging as well. Since it is a high wing aircraft it is stable and easy, but catches wind like a kite of course so you fight the winds and thermals at slower approach speeds. The traps are really fun and the “Cat” launches fun, still enough to feel the sudden stop and slamming you into the seat back. But nothing like the recovery of a “Jet” (That’s enough to cause one to loose it…believe me!😉 I love flying the “Stoof”. Can you imagine how it is to fly a “Stoof” with a Big Flat Radar Dome on top of it? That is called a “Willie Fudd” that thing is ten time the “Kite” effect and can be a BEAR to drive I imagine. I have never flown one but I imagine it would be much worse in the winds.
    If you ever get a chance to go inside of a stoof, DO IT, and you will not believe how much electronic gear in the there, it was a tight fit for the crew.
    A great delightful flying airplane with powerful Wright R-1820 nine cylinder radial engines!

    Good Job Mr. May Keep up the good work, sir!
    JR Hafer, aviation writer

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      1 October 2012 17:24

      Thanks JR. The S2F is an interesting aircraft — I’d like to take an image of a roofed Stoof for my collection😉

  2. Bruce Roberts permalink
    26 September 2012 15:10

    The S-2 tracker is indeed a great airplane. I was privileged to fly as a rear seat crew member for three years with anti-submarine squadron VS-28 on board the USS Wasp and NAS Quonset Point RI. We enjoyed the latest S2-E with advanced plotting electronics.
    It was always fun to fly out of NAS Quonset Point or off the Wasp. The Wasp had hydraulic cats which gave you quite an instant ride.
    The cold war challenged the United States in many ways however when it came to tracking submarines the carrier based S-2’s and land based P-2’s & P-3’s patrolled day and night to keep our waters safe.

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      1 October 2012 17:21

      Thanks for serving in the USN Bruce and thanks for the comment — first person insight is always most welcome. Joe

  3. Mike Combs permalink
    11 March 2013 04:37

    I was an Ordnanceman on the S2Es at NAS North Island with VS-25. I’m writing a book that includes my experiences with this plane from 1965 to late 1967. Do you have any photos of the photo-pod which was mounted on the Starboad wing by an Aero 15 Bomb rack? Do you have a manual covering the Aero 15 Bomb Rack? Anything would be appreciated covering the S2E!

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      17 March 2013 10:31

      I will see what I can do — and I must keep tabs on your book, I’d like to read it and post a review. Joe

      • Mike Combs permalink
        13 October 2013 09:34

        I haven’t seen this site since late march. The book will be titled THE GOLDEN EAGLES ON THE FIGHTING LADY! It took several months to write because I wanted to make sure my information is fairly accurate. There’re so few pictures of S2’s with the VS-25 markings, that I made the artwork myself of VS-25’s S2Es. The book is on hold for now as I wrote a Fiction book without pictures or artwork inside the book as a 45 page short story with 3 other short stories. Turns out that the 45 pages expanded to 90 pages then 180 pages then 360 pages to where the book has been finished at over 460 pages. The title is MIRACLE OF THE CVS-10 USS YORKTOWN NOVEMBER 20 1967! I call it a Non-fiction, fiction, Dark Comedy, Documentary! On the next to last day of our ten day carrier Qual in truth I was almost killed by an S2E’s landing gone wild by a one in a million landing. I wrote about this incident in my non-fiction book that I put on hold for now. But on this second book being over 460 pages I get killed by the S-2 within 7 seconds after it touches down. I have tried to find out the actual time in November of 1967 the Yorktown went on its Carrier Qual after being in dry dock all those months. I had to settle for NOVEMBER 20th, but if someone knows different let me know. I might have this book offered on Amazon soon. If you have questions my email is Make your subject on MIRACLE OF YORKTOWN. Wish me luck!

  4. Brody Conklin permalink
    23 October 2013 19:48

    I was in VS-23 (the World Famous Black Cats) on the Yorktown. Be sure and check out Mike Ray’s book “Stoof Driver” the pictures and the narrative are fabulous!
    Brody Conklin

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