WF-2 / E-1 Tracer
"Willie Fudd" or "Stoof with a Roof"
The continuous improvements in early airborne radars by 1956 led to the concept of an airborne early warning and command and control aircraft. The first aircraft to perform this mission was the Grumman E-1 Tracer (a variant of the S-2 Tracker anti-submarine aircraft), which saw service from 1954 to 1964. The WF-2 Tracer, a carrier early warning plane adapted from the TF-1 design, made its first flight at the Grumman plant, Peconic River, Long Island on 17 December 1956.
In September 1959 Grumman rolled out the WF-2 Tracer. The "Willie Fudd" or "Stoof with a Roof" mounted above the fuselage a huge airfoil-shaped dome that protected the 17 x 5 ft parabolic dish antennae. This APS-82 proved to be a substantial improvement over the APS-20: ground stabilization, target height determination, turn stabilization and improved communications were all incorporated. The WF (later E-1B) served as an AEW platform from attack carriers (CVA) and as an anti-submarine platform from the ASW carriers (CVS).
Continuing a long tradition of AEW Aircraft development by Grumman, ranging from the Avenger and Guardian to the Hawkeye. The continuous improvements in early airborne radars by 1956 led to the concept of an airborne early warning and command and control aircraft. The first aircraft to perform this mission was the Grumman E-1 Tracer (a variant of the S-2 Tracker anti-submarine aircraft), which saw service from 1954 to 1964. The WF-2 Tracer was designed to replace the aging Guardians and Skyraiders providing AEW coverage for U.S. Navy aircraft carriers. The Tracer was developed from the S-2 Tracker anti-submarine warfare aircraft and first flew on March 1, 1957. The fitting of a large radome to the Tracer entailed significant modification from the standard ASW Tracker including the removal of the large single tail fin and replacing it with two end-plate fins on the tailplane.
The radar fitted to the Tracer was the new AN/APS-82 manufactured by Hazeltine, original builders of the AN/APS-20 which was the first AEW radar ever used. The AN/APS-82 introduced many technological advances including stabilized antenna and Airborne Moving Target Indicator (AMTI) which allowed the radar to detect low flying targets against the clutter of radar reflections from the surface of the ocean. 88 WF-2 and E-1B Tracers were built by Grumman for the U.S. Navy with operations extending from 1958 to 1977 when the E-2 Hawkeye completely replaced the aircraft in service.
The E-1's successor, the E-2 Hawkeye, was the first carrier-based aircraft designed from the outset for the all-weather airborne early warning and command and control function. Since replacing the E-1 in 1964, the Hawkeye has been the "eyes of the fleet." "Willie Fudds", however, didn't complete their operational deployments until 1976.
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