During the early years of the Cold War, the primary threat to the superiority of the U.S. Navy was not an enemy surface fleet but the numerous Soviet submarines that regularly patrolled the world's oceans. In response to this very real threat, Grumman designed the S2F-1 in the early 1950s as the U.S. Navy's premier sub hunter. Outfitted with the latest submarine detection equipment, the S2F-1 Tracker revolutionized anti-submarine warfare (ASW). Variations of the basic S2F-1 design were developed to serve many functions including: fire bombing, target towing, photo-reconnaissance, Carrier Onboard Delivery (COD) and multi-engine proficiency training.
Also called the "Stoof" (S-Two-F), the Tracker's twin engines and crew of four allowed the plane to search hundreds of miles of ocean on each patrol, ensuring that American carrier groups could proceed without harassment from Soviet subs. The S2F carried a search radar mounted on the bottom of the fuselage in a retractable radome, a retractable magnetic anomaly detector (MAD) mounted at the base of the tail fin and air-launched sonobuoys carried in the ends of both engine nacelles. The Tracker's armament included ASW torpedoes, bombs, depth charges and rockets. It is interesting to note the unique wing folding mechanism of the Tracker, the right wing folds slightly forward while the left wing folds slightly aft. This allows the wings to remain nearly flat on top of the cabin, reducing the plane's width by nearly 40 feet.
The S2F-1 was a very successful design. It was sold to several countries including Australia and Argentina. Additionally, the Tracker was produced under contract in Canada by de Havilland. The "Turbo Tracker," a version of the plane refitted with turboprop engines, is still in service in Brazil and Taiwan. The ultimate conversion of the "Stoof" was the E-1B "Tracer," an Airborne Early Warning (AEW) aircraft. The Tracer featured a massive radome mounted on the top of the fuselage earning the E-1B the nickname "Stoof with a Roof." The Tracer's radar system had a search radius of some 250 miles, and the E-1B saw extensive service in Vietnam as the U.S. Navy's "eye in the sky."