Even after World War 2 (1939-1945) the flying boat remained a key component of world military forces. Grumman, a long-time fighter producer for the United States Navy, sold various services on its new HU-16 "Albatross" flying boat where it went on to see a considerable career in the Search And Rescue (SAR) role. The USAF, USMC, USN and USCG all made use of the type which saw production span from 1949 until 1961 and 466 total units delivered. First flight was had on October 24th, 1947 with service introduction coming in 1949 (as the "SA-16").
Shortly after World War 2, the Grumman G-73 "Mallard" was introduced as an amphibious type sporting two engines and a high-wing appearance. Some 59 of the kind were built and produced into 1951. With this groundwork in place, the design was evolved into an improved form which, in essence, became the Albatross product. A boat-like hull was used as was a high-wing design approach. A single vertical fin and low-mounted horizontal planes made up the tail unit. Unlike the Mallard, the Albatross was specifically designed from the outset to operate in deeper, rougher waters.
The prototype model, of which two were built, was designated XJR2F-1 and led to the initial production version of the USAF, the HU-16A (originally as SA-16A). Indonesia also took on a stock of this model. A longer wing greeted the HU-16B variant (appearing as the SA-16B) and the SHU-16B, an Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) variant for export was also formed from this mark. The U.S. Navy began their commitment to the line through the HU-16C (UF-1) and this led to the LU-16C (UF-1L) and TU-16C (UF-1T) models eventually. The long-wing version was HU-16D and this was also delivered to West German forces. The USCG made use of the HU-16E (UF-1G) which also made use of the long wing as did the USAF. The G-111 (SA-16A) was a standard formed from the earlier USAF and export models. The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) operated the aircraft under the CSR-110 designation.
Beyond these operators, the Albatross also existed with the forces of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Greece, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and others (see variants listing for full showcase). it saw extended service lives in private hands and civilian operations.
The Albatross was already in the USAF inventory by the time of the Korean War (1950-1953) and pressed into service for the SAR role. It was during this period that the series proved its initial worth in the rescue of countless downed airmen and this operational support continued into the Vietnam War (1955-1975) days. Some special forces elements were also inserted/extracted by way of Albatross aircraft, their amphibious capabilities and long range proving key qualities in their success.
The last Albatross was retired with the Greek Navy in 1995, bringing an end to decades of faithful and reliable service. Many examples have ended their days as preserved museum showpieces, primarily in the United States.
As completed, the HU-16 (HU-16B) featured a typical operating crew of four to six personnel with the capacity to carry as many as 10 passengers if equipped for the role. Power was served through 2 x Wright R-1820-76 series "Cyclone" 9-cylinder air-cooled radial engines of 1,425 horsepower each. Maximum listed speed was 235 miles per hour with a cruising speed nearing 125 miles per hour. Range was out to 2,850 miles and its service ceiling reached 21,500 feet. Rate-of-climb was reported at 1,450 feet per minute.