Grumman E-1 Tracer

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E-1 Tracer
E-1B VAW-121 CVW-6 CVA-42.jpg
E-1B Tracer
Role Carrier AEW
Manufacturer Grumman
First flight 17 December 1956
Introduction 1958
Retired 1977
Status Retired
Primary user United States Navy
Number built 88
Developed from Grumman C-1 Trader

The E-1 Tracer 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 first entered service in 1958. It was replaced by the more modern E-2 Hawkeye in the early 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". Since the S-2 Tracker carrier-based antisubmarine aircraft from which the Tracer was derived known as S2F under the old system, that aircraft was nicknamed "Stoof"; the WF/E-1 with its distinctive radome gained the nickname "Stoof with a Roof."[1] The E-1 featured folding wings for compact storage aboard aircraft carriers. Unlike the S-2 and C-1 in which the wings folded upwards, the radome atop the fuselage necessitated the E-1 to fold its wings along the sides of the fuselage.[2]


The Tracer was fitted with the Hazeltine AN/APS-82 in its radome and fuselage. The radar featured an Airborne Moving Target Indicator (AMTI), 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 the F.D. Roosevelt in 1976, showing 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's activity.[3]

By May 1973, most E-1Bs were retired, with only four RVAW-110 Tracers based at NAS North Island, California, still in service. These aircraft were soon retired during mid-summer 1977 following a final cruise on board the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CV-42) and were ferried to the Davis-Monthan storage facility. The E-1B Tracer was struck from the inventory by 1977.


The XTF-1W prototype.
WF-2 of VAW-11 on the catapult of the USS Hancock in 1962.
aerodynamic prototype (BuNo 136792) without electronics, later rebuilt as a standard C-1A, retaining the twin tail.
The XTF-1W re-designated in the W-Warning category.
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.[6] 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.[9][10]


E-1B of VAW-121 Det. 42 on the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1970
VAW-111 Tracer on the USS Bon Homme Richard

Data from Standard Aircraft Characteristics[11]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 4, two pilots, two 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)
  • Empty weight: 20,638 lb (9,381 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 24,800 lb (11,273 kg)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 26,600 lb (12,091 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Wright R-1820-82A Cyclone 9-cylinder radial piston engine, 1,525 hp (1,137 kW) (take-off power) each


See also[edit]

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era




  • 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]