S-2 Tracker History

During the years following WWII, the Navy began defining a need for a dedicated anti-submarine warfare aircraft.  The Navy turned to Grumman aircraft which designed a fairly large twin-engined high-wing monoplane which it designated the G-89. The high-wing design provided for a maximum of cabin space to receive the new types of equipment being developed for the hunter-killer role.  Additional storage space was provided in the rear of the engine nacelles.  It was June 30th, 1950 that Grumman was awarded a contract to build a prototype for evaluation which first flew in December of 1952.

Originally designated the S2F Tracker, several versions were eventually built that included the original anti-submarine, an electronics measures version and a cargo version.  The first production version was designated the S-2A Tracker and became operational in 1954.

The S-2 family of aircraft served the United States Navy for several decades and has also served many other nations in continuously improved and updated versions.  Pacific Coast Air Museum’s aircraft served the USN until 1972 when the California Department of Forestry acquired 19 S-2As from the Department of Defense. See the CDF website at:  http://www.fire.ca.gov

The CDF S-2As were converted for fire fighting and placed in service for the 1973 fire season.  The S-2A was an efficient and reliable part of CDFs air fire fighting force.  In recent years, CDF has been upgrading its airtanker fleet with newer, faster and more maneuverable turbine S-2T aircraft.

In October of 2006, a crew of PCAM members traveled to McClellan Airport in Sacramento for the purpose of preparing Tanker T-84, a CDF S-2 Fire Bomber, for a ferry flight to Santa Rosa.  Under the supervision of CDF maintenance personnel, the aircraft was prepared for flight and on Thursday, November 9th, the aircraft was ferried back to Santa Rosa and the Pacific Coast Air Museum.

Tanker 84 was based at the CDF Fire Bomber base at Santa Rosa for many years and now it has a permanent home at the Pacific Coast Air Museum.

S-2 Tracker Specifications

Dimensions & Weights

70 ft


43 ft 6 in


16 ft 7 in

Wing area

496 square ft

Empty weight

18,750 lbs

Maximum take off weight

27,000 lbs


In aerial tanker or firefighting configuration: One pilot.

In its original sub-hunting version, the S-2 carried a crew of four: two pilots and two detection systems operators


These specifications are from CalFire, for the S-2A Tracker’s performance in airtanker configuration.

Cruise Speed

195 mph

Range: Loaded

800 miles

Range: Empty

1,000 miles


4.5 hours


Two Wright R-1820-82, Nine Cylinder Radials, 1500 HP each


Fixed: none

Disposable: In the plane’s fire-fighting configuration as you see it at the Pacific Coast Air Museum, the S-2A airtanker carried 800 gallons of fire retardant in an internal tank. As a submarine-hunting platform, it carried up to 4,800 lb (2,200 kg) of payload in the internal bomb bay and on 6 under-wing hardpoints. Weaponry included various types of torpedoes, depth charges, and naval mines.

Crew Chief

Bob George

Country of origin




b/n or serial number



Anti-Submarine Patrol – Converted for use as a fire fighting airtanker


Pacific Coast Air Museum


There’s always something great going on at the Pacific Coast Air Museum. We have Open Cockpit weekends once a month,  special events throughout the year, and regular hot dog lunches. We host school field trips, special group tours, birthday parties, and family get-togethers, all among our collection of historic aircraft and educational exhibits.