As an ensign in the Navy, Leroy Randle Grumman had worked with Albert and Grover Loening on a Navy monoplane contract. Upon resigning his naval commission in 1920, Grumman joined the Loenings as test pilot for their Air Yacht amphibians, and over the next several years, he took over full responsibility for the company's aircraft design.
The Loenings sold out their company in 1929 and backed Grumman in a venture of his own incorporated in 1929 at Farmingdale, New York. With their investment of $30,000 making up almost half of the initial capital, Grumman and five other engineers opened the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation in an abandoned garage in Baldwin, Long Island.
Contractor to U.S. Navy and Coast Guard. Built FF-1 (first flown 1931) and SF-1 two-seat biplane fighters with retractable landing gear, followed by single-seat F2F (first flown October 1933) and F3F (delivered 1936), plus all-metal amphibian as the JF-1 (first flown May 1933), later known as the Duck.
In 1936 Grumman moved to Bethpage, Long Island, NY.
Subsequent production, mainly for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, included F4F Wildcat fighter (first Grumman monoplane, first flown September 1937), TBM Avenger torpedo-bomber (first flown August 1941), F6F Hellcat fighter (delivered from 1943), F7F Tigercat twin-engined carrier fighter-bomber (first flown December 1943) and F8F Bearcat fighter (first flown August 1944) during Second World War, plus Widgeon and Goose (delivered from 1939) amphibians.
By 1943 his staff had grown from six to 25,000 employees.
Postwar aircraft included the antisubmarine Guardian (first flown December 1945), Albatross amphibian (first flown October 1947), F9F Panther as its first jet fighter (first flown November 1947), and F11F Tiger day jet fighter (first flown July 1954 in original F9F-9 form).
Grumman's entry into specialized electronic warfare aircraft began in December 1952 with the first flight of its S2F Tracker (later S-2), though this was a carrierborne antisubmarine aircraft. From Tracker were developed variants for carrier transport operations; the C-1 Trader and, more importantly, the WF (later E-1) for airborne early-warning, with an over-fuselage radome (first flown March 1957) and based on the S-2A. Such was the success of the E-1 concept that the much improved E-2 Hawkeye was developed, which first flew in October 1960 (originally as W2F-1) and remains in production in 1999 by Northrop Grumman, itself leading to the C-2 Greyhound transport derivative (first flown November 1964). Grumman also developed the OV-1 Mohawk for the U.S. Army for observation, first flown April 1959 and also using the successful twin-turboprop engine layout.
In April 1960 Grumman flew the A2F-1, which in production form became the A-6 Intruder twin-jet carrier borne long-range and low-level strike aircraft, finally withdrawn from service in the late 1990s. Intruder itself spawned an electronic warfare variant, the EA-6 Prowler, first flown May 1968 and still in service in 1999. The final fighter to carry the Grumman name was the F-14 Tomcat, designed as a carrier based variable-geometry long-range type armed with super-long-range Phoenix air-to-air missiles (first flown December 1970, entering service with the U.S. Navy from 1972 and exported to Iran for land-based operations from 1976).
Grumman merged with American Aviation to form Grumman American.
By the time Tomcat had flown company had been divided (1969) into Grumman Aerospace and other individual corporations via the Grumman Corporation holding company. American Aviation Corporation became part of Grumman American Aviation Corporation in 1973. In May 1994 Grumman and Northrop merged to form Northrop Grumman.