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Grumman TBF Avenger Carrier-Borne Torpedo Bomber (1942)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 12/5/2014

The Grumman TBF Avenger torpedo bomber saw nearly 10,000 produced during World War 2.

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Destined never to win beauty contests, the Grumman TBF Avenger series of aircraft would go down as one of the most potent torpedo bombers of World War 2. Its design was characterized by its portly fuselage, three-man crew and multi-faceted capabilities than endeared her to many-an-airmen throughout the war. The success of the Avenger stemmed beyond its use by the United States Navy for the aircraft saw extensive service with British and Commonwealth forces as well as becoming a staple of aircraft inventories around the world in the Cold War years. Amazingly, Avengers managed a frontline existence well into the 1950s despite the arrival of the jet age and newer, more modern mounts becoming available - such were the inherent strengths of the might Pearl Harbor "Avenger".

The TBF Avenger was born from a 1939 US Navy requirement intending to replace the already outclassed Douglas TBD Devastator series of carrierborne torpedo dive bomber aircraft. Despite its rather advanced features when it was introduced in 1937 - these including a fully-enclosed cockpit, retractable undercarriage and stressed metal skin construction - global technology quickly superseded the Douglas design to the point that it was made obsolete at the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941. Thrust into war, the United States military feverishly attempted to stock its inventory with more adaptable and modern types, ultimately leaving the Devastator out of its plans. The aircraft was withdrawn from frontline duties as soon as 1942 and was officially retired from the USN inventory in 1944, with only 130 having been procured since inception.

Looking to take advantage of the latest in available engines from top manufacturers such as Pratt & Whitney and Wright, the USN fleshed out their latest requirement and the need was responded to by aircraft concerns Vought and Grumman. Vought delivered their XTBU-1 prototype which the US Navy purchased in two evaluation examples. Similarly, two of the XTBF-1 Grumman prototype were ordered and this became the company's first foray into the world of carrier-based torpedo bombers. The Grumman offering consisted of a conventional monoplane design featuring multiple crew and all-metal construction, designed in a mere five weeks under the direction of Grumman engineer Bob Hall. R. Koch contributed the addition of an internal weapons bay to aid in aerodynamics while keeping a ventral machine gun position in place for defense. Oscar Olsen, having worked for General Electric prior, developed an electrically-powered dorsal turret with "Amplidyne" control where the turret's motor could react to the violent changes in loads during flight maneuvers resulting in excellent reaction time for the gunner. The ungainly design earned the aircraft the in-house nicknames of "Turkey" and "Pregnant Beast" for obvious reasons. Primary armament included a fixed, forward-firing 7.62mm gun along the right side of the nose (to be operated by the pilot), a 7.62mm machine gun in a rear-facing ventral position (for the bombardier) and a 12.7mm heavy machine gun in the dorsal powered turret for a dedicated machine gunner.

The US Navy selected the Grumman design as the winner of the competition and placed an order for 286 aircraft on April 8th, 1940 - this before the prototype had even flown. It was not until August 1st, 1941 that the XTBF-1 achieved first flight with chief engineer Bob Hall at the controls and the aircraft powered by a single Wright R-2600-8 14-cylinder Cyclone radial piston engine of 1,700 horsepower. So promising was the design and so dire a need for viable military aircraft for the USN that the initial procurement order was eventually edited to become "open-ended" in nature.


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Specifications for the
Grumman TBF Avenger
Carrier-Borne Torpedo Bomber


Focus Model: Grumman TBF-1 Avenger
Country of Origin: United States
Manufacturer: Grumman; General Motors - USA
Initial Year of Service: 1942
Production: 9,835


Crew: 3


Length: 40.12 ft (12.23 m)
Width: 54.17 ft (16.51 m)
Height: 15.42ft (4.70 m)
Weight (Empty): 10,080 lb (4,572 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 15,904 lb (7,214 kg)


Powerplant: 1 x Wright R-2600-8 Double-Cyclone air-cooled radial engines generating 1,700hp.


Maximum Speed: 271 mph (436kmh; 235 kts)
Maximum Range: 1,215 miles (1,955km)
Service Ceiling: 22,402 ft (6,828 m; 4.2 miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 2,060 feet per minute (628 m/min)


Hardpoints: 12
Armament Suite:
ORIGINAL:
1 x 7.62mm M1919 Browning machine gun in fixed, forward-firing nose mount.
1 x 7.62mm M1919 Browning machine gun in rear-facing ventral gun position.
1 x 12.7mm M2 Browning machine gun in rear-facing powered dorsal turret.

STANDARD:
2 x 12.7mm M2 Browning machine guns in wings (1 per wing).
1 x 7.62mm M1919 Browning machine gun in rear-facing ventral gun position.
1 x 12.7mm M2 Browning machine gun in rear-facing powered dorsal turret.

Up to 2,000lbs of internal and external ordnance.

1 x Mk XIII Torpedo in internal bomb bay
4 x 500lb bombs OR 12 x 100lb conventional drop bombs.
5" unguided rockets in various mountings.


Variants:
XTBF-1 - Prototype Model Designation; fitted with Wright R-2600-8 Cyclone radial piston engine generating 1,700hp; 2 examples produced.


TBF-1 - Initial Production Model Designation; 1,526 examples produced.

TBF-1C - Revised armament to include 2 x 12.7mm heavy machine guns in wings (sans 7.62mm machine gun in nose); increased fuel capacity; 765 examples produced.

TBF-1B - Lend-Lease Designation for British Tarpon Mk I/Avenger Mk I

TBF-1D - Added radar in pod under right wing

TBF-1CD - TBF-1C models with radar pod under right wing

TBF-1E - Additional electronics

TBF-1J - All-Weather Variant

TBF-1L - Searchlight fitted to bomb bay

TBF-1P - TBF-1 models converted to photo-reconnaissance platforms.

TBF-1CP - TBF-1C models converted to photo-reconnaissance platforms.

XTBF-2 - Prototype fitting Wright XR-2600-10 series engine

XTBF-3 - Prototype fitting Wright R-2600-20 series engine

TBF-3 - Proposed XTBF-3 production models; canceled.

TBM-1 - General Motors Production; based on initial TBF-1 models; 550 examples produced.

TBM-1C - General Motors Production; based on TBF-1C models; 2,336 examples produced.

TBM-1D - General Motors Production; TBM-1 with underwing radar installation

TBM-1E - General Motors Production; Additional electronics

TBM-1J - General Motors Production ; All-Weather Variant

TBM-1L - General Motors Production; Searchlight fitted to bomb bay

TBM-1P - General Motors Production; TBM-1 models converted for photo-reconnaissance.

TBM-1CP - General Motors Production; TBM-1C models converted for photo-reconnaissance.

TBM-2 - General Motors Production; One-off TBM-1 fitted with Wright XR-2600-10 series engine of 1,900 horsepower.

XTBM-3 - General Motors Production; TBM-1C fitted with Wright R-2600-20 series engine of 1,900 horsepower; four examples completed.

TBM-3 - General Motors Production - based on XTBM-3 prototypes; 4,011 examples produced.

TBM-3D - General Motors Production; added radar under right wing

TBM-3E - General Motors Production; sans ventral gun position; added radar facilities; reinforced airframe.

TBM-3H - General Motors Production; added surface search radar suite.

TBM-3J - General Motors Production; all-weather variant

TBM-3L - General Motors Production; searchlight in bomb bay

TBM-3M - General Motors Production; airborne missile launching platform.

TBM-3N - General Motors Production; night attack variant

TBM-3Q - General Motors Production; electronic warfare variant

TBM-3R - General Motors Production; cargo/passenger transport

TBM-3S - General Motors Production; anti-submarine warfare variant

TBM-3U - General Motors Production; utility variant

TBM-3W - General Motors Production; anti-submarine warfare variant

XTBM-4 - General Motors Production; prototype with new wing folding and stronger airframe; based on TBM-3E production model.

TBM-4 - General Motors Production; proposed model based on the XTBM-4 prototype; never produced.

Tarpon Mk I - Initial British Navy Designation of TBF-1 Avenger.

Avenger Mk I - British Navy; based on TBF-1; 400 examples received.

Avenger Mk II - British Navy; based on TBM-1/TBM-1C mounts; 334 examples received.

Avenger Mk III - British Navy; based on TBM-3; 222 examples produced.

Avenger Mk IV - British Navy; based on TBM-3S; order for 70 examples eventually cancelled.

Avenger AS3 - British Navy; anti-submarine warfare variant; sans dorsal machine gun; 98 examples produced.

Avenger AS3M - British Navy; fuselage boom added with magnetic anomaly detector.

Avenger AS4 - Based on TBM-3S; 100 examples delivered.


Operators:
Brazil; Canada; France; Japan; Netherlands; New Zealand; United Kingdom; United States; Uruguay