Ace 1/72 AF2W (Hunter) Guardian Bomber Kit
Item #: ACE-72304
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The increased weight of the Avenger prompted the Navy and Grumman to look into designing a replacement. Work was well underway on the XTB2F (a twin engine design) when, in 1944, the Navy realized it would only be able to operate from its largest carriers and halted work. It then requested that the F7F be considered for modification to fit the torpedo bomber role.
Grumman then went to work on a totally new design for a new two-seat bomber in late 1944. After calculated performance figures indicated that this would be a viable replacement to the Avenger, a request for prototypes was made. This aircraft would be powered by a single R-3350 and a Westinghouse 24C turbo jet. Thanks to delays in both engine programs, stats for a lower performance R 2800 and 19C turbojet were then requested. Despite the lower performance, Grumman was requested to complete the three prototypes. With the availability of the R-3350 and W-24, Grumman was again requested to take the second prototype and fit it with this engine combination. Delivery delays kept pushing back the first flight date, until the first flight was finally made in December of 1946, but without the Westinghouse turbojet operating.
Thanks to the late date of things, the Navy already had much more promising aircraft to fit the XTB3F-1's roles; the Douglas AD-1 and Martin AM-1. Next in priority was something to replace the Avenger in the ASW Hunter-Killer roles and so Grumman was instructed to complete the second prototype as the XTB3F-2S attack version and the third prototype as the XTB3F-1S ASW search version. This required the removal of the turbojet to make space for three operators.
The mock-ups passed inspection and an order for 16 search and 14 attack aircraft was awarded in May 1948. The first prototype flew in November of 1948 and these planes were redesignated AF-2W for the radar plane and AF-2S for the attack or strike aircraft. Eventually 386 AF-2/3s were built with the type being replaced by the S2F-1 Tracker. The Guardian left Naval service by 1957 with the New York Reserves made the last flight. Several were modified as fire bombers and used by Aero Union of Chico, California until 1973. One of these was restored to AF-2S configuration and later donated to the Naval Air Museum in Pensacola.