With her angled flight deck, steam catapult and mirror assisted landing system, the commissioning of the Australian aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne in 1955 heralded the first introduction of pure jet and turboprop aircraft into the Australian Navy's Fleet Air Arm.
Originally equipped with the de Havilland Sea Venom (which had replaced the Hawker Sea Fury MkII at the end of the Korean War), HMAS Melbourne also carried one of the most advanced turboprops of its day - the Fairey Gannet anti-submarine aircraft - but by the mid to late 1960’s, both of these aircraft had already been superceded with more technologically advanced and longer operationally ranging aircraft - changes were called for.
These were to come in the form of an order for ten new Douglas A-4G Skyhawk fighter/ bombers and fourteen Grumman S-2E Tracker anti-submarine aircraft from the US. Combined with a significant upgrade to the Melbourne’s Westland Wessex Mk 31B ASW helicopters, it was a period of frenetic activity for the relatively new Australian Fleet Air Arm with both the A-4 Skyhawks and the S-2 Trackers becoming the largest aircraft to be operated from the decks of the RAN carrier.
The US Navy operated the same aircraft from carriers four times the size of the Melbourne. By 1968 the composition of the Australian Naval Squadrons were at their highest ever number and with the addition of another ten more Skyhawks and 16 replacement S-2 Trackers to replace nine lost in a hanger fire at HMAS Albatros, Australia boasted one of the largest maritme aviation forces in the region.
Between 1967 and 1984 the RAN operated two Squadrons of S-2E and S-2G variants, based at HMAS Albatross in Nowra and as part of the Carrier Air Group aboard the HMAS Melbourne. Equipped with an internal torpedo bay capable of carrying two lightweight torpedoes or one nuclear depth charge, the S-2 Tracker also carried six underwing launch units for rocket pods and conventional depth charges or up to four additional torpedoes.
A centrally-mounted retractable radome for the AN/APS-38 radar and a Magnetic Anomaly Detector (MAD) AN/ASQ-8 unit on an extendable rear mounted boom were also fitted. The AN/ASQ-8 units were also fitted to the Australian P2v7 Neptune subhunters - later to be replaced by the P3 Orion aircraft.
With a shift to faster deployment and a more maneuverable naval force of advanced helicopter carrying, missle equipped frigates, the Australian Federal Government decided not to replace the Melbourne and she was decommissioned in 1982 bringing to a close the era of carrier launched fixed wing aircraft and the Grumman S2 Tracker.
All Grumman Tracker Instruments listed below come complete with detailed Scale Model, Mango Wood Stand & Plaque plus Printed Fact Sheet featuring photo of instrument in aircraft cockpit.
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