Military History Books
by Harold A. Skaarup   
Canadian Warplanes 5: de Havilland Canada (Grumman) CP-121 Tracker

de Havilland Canada (Grumman)

CS2F-1/CP-121 Tracker

Data current to 3 March 2021.

(RCN Photo via Mike Kaehler)

de Havilland Canada (Grumman) CS-2F Tracker, RCN (Serial No. 1595), preparing to launch from the deck of HMCS Bonaventure, 1969.  Note how the nose wheel is off the deck and how the catapult cable hooks onto the fuselage. This aircraft survived its life at sea and went on to become C-FKUF.  It served with Conair in 1991 and was Turbo Firecat 577 in 1992.

de Havilland Canada (Grumman) CS2F-1/CP-121 Tracker was a purpose-built, single airframe anti-submarine warfare (ASW) aircraft equiped with propeller-driven twin radial engines.  It had a high wing that could be folded for storage on aircraft carriers, and was equipped with a tricycle undercarriage.  The type was exported by the USA to a number of navies around the world. 

Introduced in 1952 in the USN, in 1954, 100 Trackers were licence-built in Canada as the C2SF by de Havilland Canada.  The C2SF replaced the Grumman TBM-3 Avengers in service with the RCN.  The first Canadian-built aircraft flew on 31 May 1956.  From 1957 onwards, these aircraft operated from the then newly deployed aircraft carrier HMCS Bonaventure, and various shore bases.  All the Canadian Trackers were built to the earlier "A" model airframe design with a length of 42 feet (13 m) (c.f. 43 ft 6 in (13.26 m) for later model Trackers) in order to fit in HMCS  Bonaventure's hangar.  In 1960–1961, 17 CS2F-1 aircraft, which had been relegated to training and utility duties by the CS2F-2, were transferred to the Royal Netherlands Navy.  From 1964, 45 CS2F-2s were upgraded by fitting revised electronic equipment and sensors, becoming CS2F-3s.  Also in 1964, a pair of CS2F-1 aircraft were stripped of armament and ASW electronics, converted to transports, and subsequently used for carrier onboard delivery.  The CS2F-1, -2, and -3 were redesignated as the CP-121 Mk.1, Mk. 2, and Mk. 3 respectively following the unification of the Canadian Forces in 1968.

After HMCS Bonaventure was decommissioned in 1970, all remaining Canadian Trackers were transferred to shore bases.  This limited their usefulness for ASW patrols, and between 1974 and 1981 gradually all but 20 were placed in storage and the remainder were stripped of their ASW gear.  The remaining active-duty Trackers served until 1990 on fisheries protection and maritime patrol duties.  A handful of Trackers were kept in flying condition until the late 1990s but were no longer used for active service.

A single Grumman-built S2F-1 was sold to de Havilland Canada as a pattern and test aircraft; it was assigned RCN (Serial No. 1500) and coded X-500.  This aircraft may have been dismantled by DHC and reassembled as (Serial No. 1501) with the same wing markings, although other sources claim that 1500 was returned to the US Navy as (BuNo. 136519), and that 1501 was a new aircraft assembled by DHC from Grumman-provided parts, possibly with duplicate X-500 wing markings.  1501 was later upgraded to CS2F-1 standards and used as a stationary instructional airframe.  It was placed in storage in 1972 and is currently on display in the Sherwater Aviation Museum in Nova Scotia.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Conair Aviation of Abbotsford, British Columbia, took possession of retired American and Canadian Trackers and converted them into Firecats, with a fire retardant tank replacing the torpedo bay.  The Firecats were made in two variants, a piston engine Firecat and a turboprop-powered Turbo Firecat.

de Havilland Canada (Grumman) CS2F-1/CP-121 Tracker (43), (Serial Nos. 1501 (also X500), 1502-43), CS2F-2 (57), (Serial Nos. 1544-1600),  S2F-1 (1), (Serial No. 136519), CP-121.

 (RCN Photo via Chris Charland)

de Havilland Canada (Grumman) CS2F-3/CP-121 Tracker (Serial No. 12168).  The original serial number was 1568.  It was changed to (Serial No. 12168) on 11 Jun 1970.  This aircraft served with VS 880, VU 32, VT 406 and MR 880.  12168 was struck off strength with the Canadian Forces on 8 Jan 1991.  It was sold to Conair and given the Canadian civil aircraft registration C-FKVD.

de Havilland Canada (Grumman) CS2F-1, CP-121 Tracker, ca 1960.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4821470)

de Havilland Canada (Grumman) CS2F-1, CP-121 Tracker, ca 1960.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4821470)

de Havilland (Grumman) CS2F-1 Tracker, RCN, (Serial No. 500), X, ca 1960.   with magnetic anomally gear retracted and extended.  (Library and Archives Canada Photos, MIKAN Nos. 4821192, 4821193 and 4821194)


 (DND Photos)

de Havilland (Grumman) CS2F-1 Tracker, RCN No. 881 Squadron, ca 1957-58, HMCS Bonaventure.

(RCN Photo via Mike Kaehler)

de Havilland (Grumman) Tracker, RCN (Serial No. 1570) with ordnance. ca 1965.

 (RCN Photo)

de Havilland Canada (Grumman) CS-2F Tracker in flight over HMCS Bonaventure

 (Author Photo) 

de Havilland (Grumman) Tracker, RCN (Serial No. 12195), CFB Trenton, Ontario, 1978.

 (Alain Rioux Photo)

de Havilland (Grumman) CP-121 (CS2F-2) Tracker (Serial No. 121551), Air Force Heritage Park, CFB Winnipeg, Manitoba. 

 (Balcer Photo)

de Havilland (Grumman) CP-121 (CS2F-2) Tracker (Serial No. 121507), CFB Borden, Ontario. 

 (Author Photo)

de Havilland (Grumman) CP-121 Tracker, (Serial No. 121131), Summerside, PEI.