By Tommy H. Thomason

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Designation Story Redux

In A Designation Story (, I discussed why the WF-2 was a -2 and not a -1.

In it, I mentioned the TF-1, which was the Carrier On-board Delivery (COD) derivative of the ASW S2F as the WF-2 was the AEW derivative of the S2F. I also wrote about the TF-1 in my summary history of COD,

All these years, it had never occurred to me that the T in TF didn't make sense for a COD. At the time, T was the mission designation for trainer. The Navy mission designation for transport was R (I don't know why) or JR, if it was a utility transport (I don't know what the difference is between a utility transport and a regular transport is either). So strictly speaking, as a transport it should have been designated RF or a JR3F (there was a JRF and a JR2F). In the 1962 DoD-driven redesignation of Navy airplanes, it was rightfully given a C for Cargo designation, C-1.

It turns out that for some reason, the Navy decided that it would be designated a trainer. And of the five missions listed on the TF-1 SAC, three are training, including the first two:
Of course, it would have been a lot cheaper to build S2Fs without the mission equipment and designate them S2F-1Ts. It would have (and eventually did when the early S2Fs were replaced with more capable S2Fs) been capable of all those missions, albeit with less volume for cargo/passengers and a cabin door smaller than a car's. It wouldn't, however, have been capable of resupplying a carrier with a nuclear weapon the size of the Mk7, which if I remember correctly, was the actual raison d'etre of the TF...


Logan Hartke said...

I'm not saying this is why, but there were cases were active TF-1s on carriers were more trainers than anything else. My grandfather was on the plane crew of the USS Ranger's (CVA-61) TF-1 Trader not long after it was launched. At that time, the carrier itself was assigned a single Trader, not actually in any squadron. For example, when the USS Ranger went from the East Coast to the West Coast, all the planes on board flew off before it went around South America, save the Trader. They were an East Coast unit and the Ranger had an air wing consisting of just one Trader until it got around to the West Coast.

Anyway, he said that their job was pick up mail, spare parts, and personnel, as most COD planes do. Except, they couldn't do that since then the squadrons of Traders in the areas they operated in would be out of a job, so the land-based Trader squadrons wouldn't let them. As it was, my grandfather says that the overwhelming majority of their plane's flights were just so that the aviation officers on board not actually flying with a squadron could get stick time. It kept the higher ranking officers qualified while they were at sea. In that sense, most of the flights undertaken by the USS Ranger's Trader (and almost every other Trader assigned directly to a carrier, I'd imagine) were, in fact, training flights.

On that note, this relationship (short-lived as it was) between the COD plane operated by the carrier and those operated by land-based squadrons always intrigued me. I know you've looked at the aircraft themselves, but I'd be very interested if you tracked down some of the organizational/functional history of COD planes in a future post on one of your blogs. Keep up the great work!

Anonymous said...

Interesting post and thank's for the anecdote.

Anonymous said...

I'm not exactly sure what this post is all about, and its 2 years since the last post, but I had some personal experience with the TF-1 while serving in the USMC circa 1957-60. I was in 2nd Force Recon and we used the TF-1 as a parachute platform. Made several jumps from the aircraft, including during a Med cruise when we jumped from a TF-1 in Spain and Italy. We were scheduled to make the 1st jump involving taking off from a carrier but bad weather cancelled it out. All the jumps from the TF were from land based facilities, including jumps at Ft. Bragg. Just thought I might add something to the conversation.