The C-1 Trader was a carrier-based transport (Carrier-Onboard-Delivery - COD) aircraft utilized by the United States Navy from the 1950s into the 1980s. While less than 100 examples were ultimately produced, her airframe was part of further useful and dedicated roles for the USN during her tenure. The C-1, itself, was developed into two distinct roles all her own (the TF-1/C-1A transport and the TF-1Q/EC-1A ECM platform) and shared the same airframe design with the similar Grumman "Tracker" and "Tracer" products.
Origins of the Trader stemmed from a United States Navy requirement for a modern anti-submarine carrier-based warplane. In 1950, Grumman delivered on the response with their Model G89 product, a rather compact, twin-engine, propeller-driven design. The United States Navy assigned the prototype designation of XS2F-1 to the Grumman model and first flight was achieved on December 4th, 1952. Developmental models carried the designation of YS2F-1 up until 1962. Two prototypes were produced and these were followed by fifteen developmental airframes. However, while this program went on to produce the Anti-Submarine Warfare-minded "S2F-1 Tracker", the "TF-1 Trader" was born from the S2F Tracker (as was the "WF-2 Tracer"). Deliveries commenced in 1954. In comparison, the Trader saw production totals peak at only 87 examples while the Tracker went on to be produced in some 1,284 total examples.
The TF-1 Becomes the C-1, Births the TF-1Q and Evolves the WF-2
The TF-1 featured a cabin area that could be setup to ferry up to up to nine adult passengers or up to 3,500lbs of goods. She was branched off into an Electronic CounterMeasures variant in the converted "TF-1Q", of which only four existed (as part of the 87 production total). The Trader program was further developed to include a modified Airborne Early Warning (AEW) platform originally known as the "TF-1W" and this project became the radome-mounting "WF-2 Tracer" (itself ultimately to become the "E-1 Tracer" after the 1962 redesignation). 1962 saw a restructuring in the way the United States Military designated their aircraft, resulting in an all-new designation for the Trader series. She gave up her original TF-1 designation to become the "C-1A". Similarly, the TF-1Q became the "EC-1A" that same year. Other aircraft in the USAF, USN, USMC and US Army inventories followed suit.
The C-1 Trader fulfilled its rather inglorious obligation to transfer personnel and materials from land-based locations to her awaiting carriers. Throughout the 1950- and 1970-decades of the Cold War, she was used to deliver that all-important personal mail to Navy sailors as well as goods to awaiting American carriers around the world. Her role was made particularly important during America's involvement in the Vietnam War where her mail deliveries were sometimes the sole bright spots on these USN ships stationed offshore Southeast Asia. To extend her usefulness, the Trader was also put into action as an all-weather trainer and helped USN aviators get their first taste of carrier operations in all conditions. For all her service, the Trader went on to become an oft-forgotten portion of USN aviation lore. Her service with the USN ended rather quietly in 1988, leaving the US Navy as her sole operator during the whole of her tenure.
C-1 Trader Walk-Around
The Trader showcased a conventional exterior design. The cockpit was fitted to the extreme forward portion of the fuselage just behind a short snub-nose assembly. The pilots maintained views out of side, forward and above window panels with clear views of the engines. The cabin area was afforded a series of side-mounted viewports all their own. Wings were high mounted along the fuselage sides and could be folded (just outboard of each engine nacelle) for improved carrier storage. Each wing fitted an engine nacelle and the high wing mounting helped to provide adequate clearance for the large-diameter propeller blades. The engine nacelles ran ahead and behind the leading and trailing wing edges respectively. The wings sported some noticeable dihedral in their design. The fuselage tapered off towards amidships and collapsed down to form the base of the empennage. The tail section was dominated by a single large vertical tail fin with a swept leading edge surface and a rounded/clipped tip. Horizontal planes were affixed to either fin side and showcased strong dihedral, completing a "Y" shape at the rear. The undercarriage was of a conventional tricycle arrangement made up of two main landing gear legs (single wheeled) and a nose landing gear leg (double wheeled). The main legs retracted rearwards into each respective engine nacelle underside while the nose landing gear leg - this fitted to the extreme forward portion of the fuselage - retracted rearwards under the flight deck floor. There was a tail hook fitted to the base of the tail as well as a diminutive tail wheel - both could be retracted. A standard crew was made up of the two pilots, seated side-by-side in the cockpit.
Power and Performance
Engines were a pair of Wright R-1820-82WA Cyclone 9 cylinder radial piston engines each delivering 1,525 horsepower and spinning a large three-blade propeller. Performance included a top speed of 287 miles per hour with a range of nearly 1,300 miles. The Trader maintained an empty weight of 18,750lbs and a Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) nearing 29,150lbs.
The End of the Road
The C-1 Trader was ultimately replaced by the Grumman C-2 Greyhound, a derivative of the Grumman E-2 Hawkeye.