De Havilland (Grumman) CP-121 Tracker

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The concept for the Grumman Tracker started as a design called the G-89. The G-89 proposal called for a twin engine aircraft capable of carrying weapons, sonobouys, and other submarine detection equipment, such as a Magnetic Anomaly Detector (MAD) and search radar all from a carrier flight deck.

Preparing for display

The United States Navy offered Grumman a contract to build the G-89 on June 30, 1950. The new airplane was designated the XS2F-1 Tracker. In 1962 the American renumbering system would change the designation to S-2 Tracker.

The Royal Canadian Navy selected the Tracker, in the 1950’s, as a replacement for the veteran Avenger in the anti-submarine role.  De Havilland of Canada produced the Tracker under license and built 100 of these twin engined sub hunter. The first 43 were built to CS2F-1 standards, while the rest were built to CS2F-2 standard having improved detection equipment on board. All Trackers were later redesigned CP-121 in Canadian service. The Tracker would be associated with HMCS Bonaventure and shore based at CFB Shearwater, while “Bonnie” was in port.

CP 121 Tracker arriving on a carrier

During its time in the service, the Tracker witnessed many changes. First the  “Bonnie” was decommissioned and the Trackers no longer had a carrier to fly from. Then came the unification of the Canadian Armed Forces. Under unification, Trackers were assigned to the Maritime Air Group (MAG). These aircraft supplemented the CP-140 Aurora in the anti-submarine role. The Trackers were also relocated to CFB Summerside.  Later, all Trackers still in service, had their anti-submarine equipment removed and were used for a variety of tasks including: fisheries, anti-pollution, anti-smuggling patrols. Many ex-Canadian Armed Forces Trackers have gone on to fill a fire fighting role in both the Prairies and B.C., as well as, the United States, as water bombers.

ACAM’s Tracker was damaged in a hanger at Shearwater. It had been put up on jacks incorrectly, to do a landing gear retraction test,  when the gear was retracted, the aircraft fell and suffered Cat A damage. The main spar of the aircraft was cracked and deemed uneconomical to repair. This aircraft then spent the rest of it’s life as a training airframe at CFB Shearwater, until the Museum bought the aircraft at a surplus auction. The Tracker was towed from Shearwater to the Museum in the 1990. Until the completion of our new building in 1995, the Tracker was kept in open storage in the parking lot. It’s decals had faded and are currently being replaced as the Museum acquires new ones. Our Tracker is still fitted with an arresting hook and MAD boom and other associated equipment from its service on the Bonnie.

In Jan of 2001, the Museum recieved a large supply of parts from Conair in British Columbia. These parts were removed from Conair’s fleet of spare airframes, after being declared as surplus by the company, they were released to the Museum. This was a generous move on Conair’s behalf one that ACAM wishes to recognize with a big Thank-you. These parts will help further the restoration process of the aircraft. The parts included: sonobuoy tubes, which were probably the most noticable missing parts, and instruments among other parts. Additionally, wing pylons which were acquired from McEwan’s years ago, were installed at this time. These additional parts have helped make ACAM’s Tracker look more complete then ever.

CP-121 Trackers on Display in Atlantic Canada

  • 12176 Atlantic Canada Aviation Museum (Halifax International Airport, Nova Scotia)
  • 1501 Shearwater Aviation Museum (CFB Shearwater, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia) This aircraft was a development airframe and was retired before unification of the forces.
  • 121157 Shearwater Aviation Museum (CFB Shearwater, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia)
  • 121131 Summerside Airport (Former CFB Summerside, Prince Edward Island)

Specifications for the CP-121 Tracker:

  • Powerplant: Two 1,525-hp. Wright R-1820-82WA piston engines.
  • Maximum speed: 250 M.P.H. at 4,000 feet.
  • Endurance: 9 hours.
  • Maximum climb rate: 1,394 F.P.M.
  • Range: 920 mi. normal; 2,215mi. max.
  • Service ceiling: 20,000 ft.
  • Weights: Empty 18,780 lb.; max. takeoff 29,700 lb.
  • Span: 72 ft. 6 in.
  • Length: 43 ft. 6 in.
  • Height: 16 ft. 8 in.
  • Wing Area: 496 sq. ft.
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