The Navy's first carrier aircraft expressly designed for anti-submarine warfare (ASW) operations (replacing the TBF/TBM Avenger), the AF-2S was the Navy's largest single-engine piston-powered carrier aircraft. AF-2S aircraft operated in tandem with AF-2W versions of the Guardian as hunter-killer teams, and where a mainstay of ASW into the mid-1950s.
Some of Naval Aviation's earliest missions involved searching for and sinking enemy submarines. Shore and tender based patrol aircraft had limits to being on time and on station to support either convoys or task force formations at sea, with aircraft operating from escort carriers playing a vital role in anti-submarine warfare during World War II. As world war gave way to the Cold War, the Navy remained committed to carrier-based anti-submarine warfare and sought a replacement for the TBF/TBM Avenger that had served so ably in that role. When replacement was needed, Grumman first proposed a purpose-built twin engine design that proved too heavy to operate from Essex-class carriers. A modified twin-engine F7F fighter, intended for use on board Midway-class carriers, had greater shortcomings in weight and landing speed. Grumman eventually received an order for three prototypes of an updated design designated XTB3F-1, one of which included a Westinghouse turbojet in the tail for quick escape, a feature that was not incorporated in operational aircraft. The prototype made its first flight on 19 December 1945, with deliveries to the fleet beginning in 1950.
With provisions for carrying various configurations of torpedoes, bombs, or depth charges in an internal bomb bay and under wing rockets, the eventual production version of the aircraft, called the AF-2S, was used as one element of a two-aircraft team to carry out anti-submarine warfare. The other was the AF-2W version of the Guardian fitted with a large ventral radome housing an AN/APS-20A search radar. In fleet service, the pair of aircraft operated together, forming hunter-killer teams that were a mainstay into the mid-1950s. An AF-3S that added a Magnetic Anomaly Detector boom also reached limited production.
The Museum's aircraft, an AF-2S version, entered squadron service with Air Development Squadron (VX) 1 at Naval Air Station (NAS) Key West, Florida, where it served as a flight test aircraft until February 1952. Between 1952 and 1956, it flew with various Naval Air Reserve Units. Stricken from the Navy inventory in December 1956, the aircraft saw civilian employments until 1978. Fully restored, it was acquired by the Museum in 1980, and carries VS-25 markings. The "30" painted on the cowling has no military relevance; it stems from the aircraft's days as a fire fighter, with the call sign "Red 30."
|Manufacturer:||Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation|
|Crew:||Pilot and crewman|
|Powerplant:||One 2,400 horsepower Pratt and Whitney R-2800-48W engine|
Length: 43 ft., 4 in.
Empty: 14,580 lb.
Max Speed: 317 mph
One 2,000 lb. torpedo, two 2,000 lb. bombs or two 1,600 lb. depth charges carried internally