Consolidated Vultee TBY Sea Wolf Torpedo Bomber
Despite a USN order for 1,100 aircraft, just 180 of the Consolidated Vultee TBY Sea Wolf aircraft were realized.
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The story of the Consolidated Vultee TBY "Sea Wolf" began with competitor Vought who earned a single prototype contract from the United States Navy (USN) for its "XTBU-1" torpedo bomber design in April of 1940. This work stemmed from a 1939 USN torpedo bomber competition and the Vought team emerged with an aircraft design and configuration that was not unlike that of the competing Grumman TBF "Avenger" torpedo bomber. The Vought approach was powered by a single Pratt & Whitney XR-2800-6 radial piston engine of 2,000 horsepower and its crew numbered three under a long-running greenhouse-style canopy. The fuselage was purposely deep for the bomb bay within, The bay featured two-piece powered doors and offered support for conventional drop bombs or a torpedo up to 2,000lbs. Additional armament came from a 0.30 caliber medium machine gun in a fixed, forward-firing mount managed by the pilot and a 0.50 caliber machine gun in a powered aft dorsal turret for a dedicated gunner. A 0.30 caliber machine gun was mounted in a ventral ball facing aft to protect the aircraft's more vulnerable lower rear angles. The wings were cleared for the carrying of 500lb bombs as well as high-velocity, high-explosive rockets.
The XTBU-1 was granted the nickname of "Sea Wolf" and the prototype achieved first flight on December 22nd, 1941. Despite the USN already committed to the Grumman product, the XTBU-1 was furthered as an insurance policy against the Avenger. The XTBU-1 prototype, although heavier than its competitor, showcased better performance which gave it an underlying edge against the favored Avenger design and formal evaluations of the Vought prototype began in March of 1942.
As a result of this phase, the USN contracted for 1,100 Vought TBU-1 torpedo bombers at the height of the war in the Pacific. However, Vought's current commitment lay in manufacture of the classic F4U "Corsair" carrier-based fighter by the thousands which left little room for a new torpedo bomber in the production mix. The aircraft was then contracted out to Consolidated Vultee in December of 1942 which was to produce the aircraft as the "TBY-1". A converted a truck plant in Allentown, Pennsylvania would be its home facility. Both the conversion process and employee training would delay the TBY-1 project for months as manufacture attempted to ramp up.