Grumman E-1 Tracer

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E-1 (WF) Tracer
E-1B Tracer
Role Carried-based airborne early warning
National origin United States
Manufacturer Grumman
First flight 17 December 1956
Introduction 1958
Retired 1977
Primary user United States Navy
Number built 88
Developed from Grumman C-1 Trader

The Grumman E-1 Tracer (WF prior to 1962) was the first purpose-built airborne early warning aircraft used by the United States Navy. It was a derivative of the Grumman C-1 Trader and entered service in 1958. It was replaced by the more modern Grumman E-2 Hawkeye by the 1970s.

Design and development[edit]

The E-1 was designated WF under the 1922 United States Navy aircraft designation system; the designation earned it the nickname "Willy Fudd". The Tracer was derived from the C-1 Trader, itself a derivative of the S-2 Tracker carrier-based antisubmarine aircraft, known as S2F under the old system, nicknamed "Stoof", leading to the WF/E-1, with its distinctive radome, being known as "Stoof with a Roof."[1] The E-1 featured folding wings of a very particular design for compact storage aboard aircraft carriers; unlike the S-2 and C-1 in which the wings folded upwards, the radome atop the fuselage required the E-1's designers to re-adopt an updated version of the Grumman-patented "Sto-Wing" folding wing system, pioneered on their earlier Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat piston-engined fighter[2][3] of the early-WWII period, to fold its wings aftwards along the sides of the fuselage.[4]

Its prototype made its first flight on December 17, 1956. Just over fourteen months later the first WF-2 (E-1B) Tracer made its maiden flight.[5]

With carrier operations being a necessity for the aircraft, various features are geared towards providing stability and control when launching from and landing on an aircraft carrier. The distinct twin-tail found on the E-1 allows for greater rudder control and stability on the yaw axis without the implementation of one large unwieldy space-taking vertical stabilizer. It also provides a degree of redundancy, allowing a pilot to maintain some yaw control if one rudder is damaged. [6] The positioning of the rudders also place them on the edges of the prop wash generated by the spinning propellers of the aircraft, creating additional stability as the fast wind flowing over the stabilizers creates a stronger rectifying force for any sideslip or rudder input than if the vertical stabilizers were placed out of the prop-wash zone. While this placement would lead to a yawing moment on most smaller aircraft, as the helical motion of the prop wash would collide with only one side of the vertical stabilizer, the dual propellers on the E-1 create opposing yawing torques on the aircraft of the same magnitude, leading to approximately net zero yaw as a result of prop wash.[7]

The E-1, despite having a set of landing gear mounted under its nose, is a tail-dragger aircraft. This configuration provides the airframe with a distinct "nose-up" appearance when taxiing, and allows for the wings to generate more lift on launch from a catapult than if the aircraft was level due to the higher angle-of-attack (AoA) of the aircraft.[8]


The Tracer was fitted with the Hazeltine AN/APS-82 in its radome and fuselage. The radar featured an Airborne Moving Target Indicator, which compares the video of one pulse time to the next in reflected radar energy to distinguish a flying aircraft from the clutter produced by wave action at the ocean's surface. The energy reflected from an aircraft changes position rapidly compared to the energy reflected from the surrounding sea. Separating a moving object from stationary background is accomplished by suitable hardware.

Operational history[edit]

Grumman E-1B Tracer of RVAW-110 after service aboard USS Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1976, showing the Grumman-patented Sto-Wing wing folding arrangement

As one of the first carrier based early warning aircraft, the E-1 Tracer served from 1958 to 1977, although considered only an interim type, being replaced by the Grumman E-2 Hawkeye in the mid-1960s. During the early years of the Vietnam War, E-1s saw extensive service, providing combat air patrol (CAP) fighters with target vectors, and controlling Alpha strikes over North Vietnam. With a radius of 250–300 miles, the E-1B served as an early warning to strike aircraft of enemy MiG activity.[9]

By May 1973, most E-1Bs were retired, with only four VAW-121 Tracers based at NAS Norfolk, Virginia, still in service. These aircraft were soon retired during mid-summer 1977 following a final cruise on board USS Franklin D. Roosevelt and were ferried to the Davis-Monthan storage facility. The E-1B Tracer was struck from the inventory by 1977.


The WF-2 prototype.
WF-2 of VAW-11 on the catapult of USS Hancock in 1962
Proposed AEW derivative of the S2F-1; not built.[10]
Company designation for WF-2. One TF-1 (BuNo 136792) converted into aerodynamic prototype for WF-2 without electronics, later rebuilt as a standard C-1A, retaining the twin tail.
Production Airborne Early Warning version of the TF-1 Trader, redesignated E-1B in 1962, 88 built.
WF-2 redesignated in 1962.


 United States

Aircraft on display[edit]

There are five E-1 Tracers preserved at museums throughout the United States:

Another 11 E-1 Tracers are in storage at United Aeronautical, an aircraft surplus yard located just outside Davis–Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona.[13] At least one of those aircraft (E-1B, BuNo 148922) was sold to a private collector in 2011 with the intent to restore to fly, although no updates on the project have been posted since 2012.[16][17]


3-view line drawing of the Grumman WF-2 Tracker
3-view line drawing of the Grumman WF-2 Tracker

Data from Standard Aircraft Characteristics[18]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 4 (2 flight crew with 2 radar/intercept controllers)
  • Length: 45 ft 4 in (13.82 m)
  • Wingspan: 72 ft 4 in (22.05 m)
  • Height: 16 ft 10 in (5.13 m)
  • Wing area: 506 sq ft (47.0 m2)
  • Airfoil: root: NACA 63A420; tip: NACA 63A415[19]
  • Empty weight: 20,638 lb (9,361 kg)
  • Gross weight: 24,800 lb (11,249 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 26,600 lb (12,066 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Wright R-1820-82A Cyclone 9-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engines, 1,525 hp (1,137 kW) each for take-off
  • Propellers: 3-bladed constant-speed reversible propellers


  • Maximum speed: 238 mph (383 km/h, 207 kn) at 4,000 ft (1,219 m)
  • Cruise speed: 163 mph (262 km/h, 142 kn)
  • Range: 1,035 mi (1,666 km, 899 nmi)
  • Endurance: 6 hours 50 minutes
  • Service ceiling: 15,800 ft (4,800 m)
  • Rate of climb: 1,120 ft/min (5.7 m/s)

See also[edit]

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era



  1. ^ O'Rourke, G.G., CAPT USN. "Of Hosenoses, Stoofs, and Lefthanded Spads". United States Naval Institute Proceedings, July 1968.
  2. ^ Dwyer, Larry (19 February 2014). "The Aviation History Online Museum - Grumman F4F Wildcat". The Aviation History Online Museum. Retrieved April 2, 2016. The F4F-4 was the first version of the Wildcat to feature a Grumman innovation, the Sto-Wing. The Sto-Wing used a novel approach using a compound angle folding-wing that was unique to Grumman...It was a successful design that was later used on the F6F Hellcat and TBF Avenger.
  3. ^ "WING-FOLDING MECHANISM OF THE GRUMMAN WILDCAT - An American Society of Mechanical Engineers Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark". American Society of Mechanical Engineers. May 15, 2006. Archived from the original on October 21, 2015. Retrieved April 29, 2017. The innovative wing folding mechanism (STO-Wing), developed by Leroy Grumman in early 1941 and first applied to the XF4F-4 Wildcat, manufactured by the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation, is designated an ASME Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark.
  4. ^ Jackson, David D. "Surviving Grumman S2F Tracker Information Repository." Retrieved: 29 October 2011.
  5. ^ a b "E-1B Tracer". Naval History and Heritage Command - National Naval Aviation Museum. Retrieved 2024-04-08.
  6. ^ "Grumman WF-2 / E-1 Tracer". Retrieved 2024-01-30.
  7. ^ "Effect of Propeller on Airplane Dynamics" (PDF). 14 February 2024. Retrieved 14 February 2024.
  8. ^ "Grumman WF-2 / E-1 Tracer". Retrieved 2024-01-30.
  9. ^ Sullivan 1990, p. 7.
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Warbird Registry - Grumman Tracker/Trader/Tracer - A Warbirds Resource Group Site".
  12. ^ "New England Air Museum".
  13. ^ a b "USA E-1B Tracers". Archived from the original on 2015-07-16. Retrieved 2015-05-21.
  14. ^ "Grumman E-1B".
  15. ^ "E-1 Tracer | National Naval Aviation Museum". Archived from the original on 2014-05-02.
  16. ^ "United Aeronautical Corporation Tracer Photos". Archived from the original on 2015-05-30. Retrieved 2015-05-21.
  17. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-07-11. Retrieved 2015-05-21.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  18. ^ "Standard Aircraft Characteristics:Navy Model E-1B Aircraft: NAVAIR 00-110AW1-1." Naval Air Systems Command, 1 July 1967.
  19. ^ Lednicer, David. "The Incomplete Guide to Airfoil Usage". Retrieved 16 April 2019.


  • Sullivan, Jim. S2F Tracker in Action (Aircraft in Action No. 100). Carrollton: Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications, 1990. ISBN 978-0-89747-242-5.
  • Winchester, Jim, ed. "Grumman S-2E/F/G/UP Tracker." Modern Military Aircraft (Aviation Factfile). Rochester, Kent, UK: Grange Books plc, 2004. ISBN 1-84013-640-5.

External links[edit]