name =TBF/TBM Avenger
Grumman General Motors
first flight =
7 August 1941
introduced = 1942
retired = 1960s
status = Retired
primary user =
United States Navy
more users =
Royal Navy Royal Canadian Navy Royal New Zealand Air Force
number built = 9,837
unit cost =
variants with their own articles =
GrummanTBF Avenger (designated TBM for aircraft manufactured by General Motors) was a torpedo bomberdeveloped initially for the United States Navyand Marine Corps, and eventually used by several air or naval arms around the world. It entered U.S. service in 1942, and first saw action during the Battle of Midway.
Design and development
TBD Devastator, the U.S. Navy's main torpedo bomber introduced in 1935 was obsolete by 1939. Bids were accepted from several companies but Grumman's TBF design was selected as the TBD's replacement. Designed by Leroy Grumman, its first prototype was called the XTBF-1. Although one of the first two prototypes crashed near Brentwood, New York, rapid production continued.
torpedo bomberwas the heaviest single-engine aircraft of World War II, and it was the first design to feature a new wing-folding mechanism created by Grumman, intended to maximize storage space on an aircraft carrier; the F4F-4 and later models of Wildcat received a similar folding wing and the F6F Hellcat(both designed by Grumman) would employ this mechanism as well. The engine used was the Wright R-2600-20 (which produced 1,900 horsepower). There were three crew members: pilot, turret gunner and radioman/bombardier/ventral gunner. One .30-caliber machine gun was mounted in the nose, a .50 caliber gun was mounted right next to the turret gunner's head in a rear-facing electrically powered turret, and a single .30 caliber hand-fired machine gun mounted ventrally (under the tail), which was used to defend against enemy fighters attacking from below and to the rear. This gun was fired by the radioman/bombardier while standing up and bending over in the belly of the tail section, though he usually sat on a folding bench facing forward to operate the radio and to sight in bombing runs. Later models of the TBF/TBM dispensed with the nose-mounted gun for one .50 caliber gun in each wing per pilots' requests for better forward firepower and increased strafing ability. There was only one set of controls on the aircraft, and no access to the pilot's position from the rest of the aircraft. The radio equipment was massive, especially by today's standards, and filled the whole glass canopy to the rear of the pilot. The radios were accessible for repair through a "tunnel" along the right hand side. Any Avengers that are still flying today usually have an additional rear-mounted seat in place of the radios, which increases crew to four.
Battle of Midway, all of the three aircraft carriers' torpedo groups (from the USS|Hornet|CV-8, USS|Enterprise|CV-6, and USS|Yorktown|CV-5) had taken horrendous casualties; one group had a single survivor ( EnsignGeorge Gay). This was partly due to the slow speed of the Devastator (less than 200 mph (320 km/h) during glide-bombing) and its weak defensive armament. Ironically, the first shipment of TBFs had arrived only a few hours after the three carriers quickly departed from Pearl Harbor(although a few eventually participated, operating from Midway Island).
The Avenger had a large bomb bay, allowing for one Bliss-Leavitt
Mark 13 torpedo, a single 2000 lb (900 kg) bomb, or up to four 500 lb (230 kg) bombs. The aircraft had overall ruggedness and stability, and pilots say it flew like a truck, for better or worse. With its good radio facilities, docile handling, and long range, the Grumman Avenger also made an ideal command aircraft for Commanders, Air Group (CAGs). With a 30,000 ft (10,000 m) ceiling and a fully-loaded range of 1,000 miles (1,600 km), it was better than any previous American torpedo bomber, and better than its chief opponent, the then obsolete Japanese Nakajima B5N"Kate". Later Avenger models carried radar equipment for the ASW and AEW roles. Although improvements in new types of aviation radarwere soon forthcoming from the engineers at MITand the electronic industry, the available radars in 1943 were very bulky, because they contained vacuum tubetechnology. Because of this, radar was at first carried only on the roomy TBF Avengers, but not on the smaller and faster fighters. Escort carriersailors referred to the TBF as the "turkey" because of its size and maneuverability in comparison to the F4F Wildcatfighters in CVE airgroups.O'Rourke, G.G, CAPT USN. "Of Hosenoses, Stoofs, and Lefthanded Spads". "United States Naval Institute Proceedings", July 1968.]
On the afternoon of
7 December 1941, Grumman held a ceremony to open a new manufacturing plant and display the new TBF to the public. Coincidentally, on that day, the Imperial Japanese Navyattacked Pearl Harbor, as Grumman soon found out. After the ceremony was over, the plant was quickly sealed off to ward against possible enemy action. By early June 1942, a shipment of more than 100 aircraft was sent to the Navy (although most were too late to participate in the pivotal Battle of Midway).
However, six TBF-1s were present on
Midway Island, as part of VT-8 (Torpedo Squadron 8), while the rest of the squadronflew Devastators from the Hornet. Unfortunately, most of the pilots had very little previous experience, and only one TBF survived (with heavy damage and casualties). As author Gordon Prangementions in " Miracle at Midway", the outdated Devastators (and lack of new aircraft) contributed somewhat to the lack of a complete victory.
24 August 1942, the next major naval battle occurred at the Eastern Solomons. With only the carriers USS|Saratoga|CV-3 and "Enterprise", the 24 TBFs present were able to sink the Japanese aircraft carrier "Ryūjō" and claim one dive bomber, at the cost of seven aircraft.
The first major "prize" for the TBFs (which had been assigned the name "Avenger" in October 1941, before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor) was at the
Naval Battle of Guadalcanalin November 1942, when Marine Corps and Navy Avengers helped sink the battleship"Hiei".
After hundreds of the original TBF-1 models were built, the TBF-1C began production. The allotment of space for specialized internal and wing-mounted fuel tanks doubled the Avenger's range. By 1943, Grumman began to slowly phase out production of the Avenger to produce F6F Hellcat fighters, and the Eastern Aircraft Division of General Motors took over, with these aircraft being designated TBM. Starting in mid-1944, the TBM-3 began production (with a more powerful powerplant and wing hardpoints for drop tanks and
rockets). The dash-3 was the most numerous of the Avengers (with about 4,600 produced). However, most of the Avengers in service were dash-1s until near the end of the war (in 1945).
Besides the traditional surface role (torpedoing surface ships), Avengers claimed about 30
submarinekills, including the cargo submarine "I-52". They were one of the most effective sub-killers in the Pacific theatre, as well as in the Atlantic, when escort carriers were finally available to escort Allied convoys. There, the Avengers contributed in warding off German U-Boats while providing air cover for the convoys.
After the "Marianas Turkey Shoot", in which more than 250 Japanese aircraft were downed,
Admiral Marc Mitscherordered a 220-aircraft mission to find the Japanese task force. At the extreme end of their range (300 nautical miles out), the group of Hellcats, TBF/TBMs, and dive bombers took many casualties. However, Avengers from USS|Belleau Wood|CVL-24 torpedoed the light carrier "Hiyō" as their only major prize. Mitscher's gamble did not pay off as well as he had hoped.
In June 1943, future-President
George H.W. Bushbecame the youngest naval aviator at the time. While flying a TBM with VT-51 (from the USS|San Jacinto|CVL-30), his TBM was shot down on 2 September 1944over the Pacific island of Chichi Jima. [ Hove, Duane. "American Warriors: Five Presidents in the Pacific Theater of World War II". Shippensburg, Pennsylvania: Burd Street Press, 2003. ISBN 1-57249-260-0.] Both of his crewmates died; however, because he released his payload and hit the target before being forced to bail out, he received the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Another famous Avenger aviator is
Paul Newman, who flew as a rear gunner. He had hoped to be accepted for pilot training, but did not qualify because of being color blind. Newman was onboard the escort carrier USS|Hollandia|CVE-97 roughly 500 miles from Japan when the Enola Gaydropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. [ [http://www.history.navy.mil/bios/newman_p.htm Biographies in Naval History] ]
TBF/TBMs sank the two Japanese "super battleships": the "Musashi" and the "Yamato" (which was Admiral
Isoroku Yamamoto's flagshipfor most of the war). The Avengers played a major role in the Allied victory during World War II, although torpedoes had become largely outdated (replaced by the faster and more effective dive bombers) by then.
The Avenger was also used by the
Royal Navy's Fleet Air Armwhere it was initially known as the " Tarpon" however this name was later discontinued and the Avenger name used instead. The first 402 aircraft were known as Avenger Mk 1, 334 TBM-1s from Grumman were the Avenger Mk II and 334 TBM-3 the Mark III. Post war the antisubmarine version was the "Avenger AS Mk IV" in RN service.
The only other operator in
World War IIwas the Royal New Zealand Air Forcewhich used the type primarily as a bomber, operating from South Pacific Island bases. Some of these were transferred to the British Pacific Fleet.
During World War II, the US aeronautical research arm
NACAused a complete Avenger in a comprehensive drag-reduction study in their large Langley wind tunnel[ [http://gis.larc.nasa.gov/masterplan/section7_public/#history History of Langley Research Center] ] . The resulting NACA Technical Report shows the impressive results available if practical aircraft did not have to be "practical".
In 1945 Avengers were involved in pioneering trials of
aerial topdressingin New Zealandthat led to the establishment of an industry which markedly increased food production and efficiency in farming worldwide. Pilots of the Royal New Zealand Air Force's 42 Squadron spread fertilizer from Avengers beside runways at Ohakea air base.
The postwar disappearance of a flight of American Avengers, known as
Flight 19, began the Bermuda Trianglelegend.
One of the primary postwar users of the Avengert was the
Royal Canadian Navy, which obtained 125 former US Navy TBM-3E Avengers from 1950 to 1952 to replace their venerable Fairey Fireflies. By the time the Avengers were delivered, the RCN was shifting its primary focus to anti-submarine warfare(ASW), and the aircraft was rapidly becoming obsolete as an attack platform. Consequently, 98 of the RCN Avengers were fitted with an extensive number of novel ASW modifications, including radar, electronic countermeasures(ECM) equipment, and sonobuoys, and the upper ball turret was replaced with a sloping glass canopy that was better suited for observation duties. The modified Avengers were designated AS 3. A number of these aircraft were later fitted with a large magnetic anomaly detector(MAD) boom on the rear left side of the fuselage and were redesignated AS 3M. However, RCN leaders soon realized the Avenger's shortcomings as an ASW aircraft, and in 1954they elected to replace the AS 3 with the S-2 Tracker, which offered longer range, greater load-carrying capacity for electronics and armament, and a second engine, a great safety benefit when flying long-range ASW patrols over frigid North Atlantic waters. As delivery of the new license-built CS2F Trackers began in 1957, the Avengers were shifted to training duties, and were officially retired in July 1960. [ [http://www.shearwateraviationmuseum.ns.ca/aircraft/avenger.htm Shearwater Aviation Museum- Aircraft History- Grumman Avenger] ]
Many Avengers have survived into the 21st century working as spray-applicators and water-bombers throughout North America, particularly in the Canadian province of
Forest Protection Limited (FPL) of Fredericton, NB once owned and operated the largest civilian fleet of Avengers in the world. FPL began operating Avengers in 1958 after purchasing 12 surplus TBM-3E aircraft from the
Royal Canadian Navy[http://www.forestprotectionlimited.com/english/history.html FPL : About FPL : History / Timeline ] ] . Use of the Avenger fleet at FPL peaked in 1971 when 43 aircraft were in use as both water bombers and spray aircraft. FPL was still operating 3 Avengers in 2007 configured as water-bombers [ [http://nbinsects.blogspot.com/2007_06_01_archive.html New Brunswick Insects, etc.: June 2007 ] ] . The company sold three Avengers in 2004 (C-GFPS, C-GFPM, and C-GLEJ) to museums or private collectors. The Central New Brunswick Woodsmen’s Museumhas a former FPL Avenger on static display. [ [http://www.woodsmenmuseum.com/id2.html Woods Museum] ] An FPL Avenger that crashed in 1975 in southwestern New Brunswick was recovered and restored by the Atlantic Canada Aviation Museumand is currently on display. [ [http://acam.ednet.ns.ca/avenger/avenger.htm Avenger ] ]
There are several Avengers in private collections around the world. [ [http://area51aviation.co.uk/northweald.html Area 52 Aviation] ]
Brazilian Navyoperated Avengers in 1950s.;flag|Canada|1921
Royal Canadian Navyoperated Avengers until 1960, when replaced by the S-2 Tracker.;FRA
Aéronavaleoperated Avengers in 1950s.;JPN
Japan Air Self-Defense Forceoperated Avengers in 1950s.;NLD
Royal Netherlands Navyoperated Avengers in 1950s.;NZL
Royal New Zealand Air Force
No. 30 Squadron RNZAF
No. 31 Squadron RNZAF
No. 41 Squadron RNZAF
No. 42 Squadron RNZAF
** Central Fighter Establishment;UK
Fleet Air Arm;USA
United States Navy
United States Marine Corps;URY
Uruguayan Navyoperated Avengers in 1950s.
Flight 19 disappeared on
5 December 1945while on a training mission over the Atlantic. According to the popular Bermuda Trianglestories, the flight leader reported a number of odd visual effects while lost; i.e. mentions of "white water", the ocean "not looking as it should", and his compass spinning out of control, before simply disappearing. Furthermore, Berlitz in his book claimed that because the TBM Avengerbombers were built to float for long periods, they should have been found the next day considering what were reported as calm seas and a clear sky. However, not only were the aircraft never found, a Navy search and rescue seaplane that went after them was also lost and never found. Adding to the intrigue is that the Navy's report of the accident was ascribed to "causes or reasons unknown". [http://www.bermuda-triangle.org/html/the_disappearance_of_flight_19.html Disappearance of Flight 19] ]
While the basic facts of the Triangle version of the story are essentially accurate, some important details are missing. The popular image of a squadron of seasoned combat aviators disappearing on a sunny afternoon did not happen. By the time the last radio transmission was received from Flight 19, stormy weather had moved in and the Sun had set. Only the Flight Leader, Lt.
Charles Carroll Taylor, had combat experience and any significant flying time, but at the same time he had less than six months of flight experience in the south Florida area, less than the trainees serving under him, and a history of getting lost in flight, having done so three times previously in the Pacific theater during World War II and being forced to ditch his Avengers twice into the water. Lt. Taylor also has since been depicted as a cool, calm and confident leader. Instead, radio transmissions from Flight 19 revealed Taylor to be disoriented, lacking confidence in his decisions, and completely lost.
Exaggerated claims also often stated that all the aircraft were having compass problems, however later naval reports and written recordings of the conversations between Lt. Taylor and the other pilots of Flight 19 do not indicate this. As for the Navy's report, it is stated that blame for the loss of the aircraft and men rest upon the flight leader's confusion. However the wording was changed from blaming Taylor to "cause unknown" in a second official report in deference to the wishes of his family. It was this incident as stated in the second, altered report, plus the later losses of the airliners "Star Tiger" and "Star Ariel", which began the legend of the Bermuda Triangle.
pecifications (TBF Avenger)
plane or copter?=plane
jet or prop?=prop
length main=40 ft 11.5 in
length alt=12.48 m
span main=54 ft 2 in
span alt=16.51 m
height main=15 ft 5 in
height alt=4.70 m
area main=490.02 ft²
area alt=45.52 m²
empty weight main=10,545 lb
empty weight alt=4,783 kg
loaded weight main=17,893 lb
loaded weight alt=8,115 kg
max takeoff weight main=
max takeoff weight alt=
type of prop=
number of props=1
power main=1,900 hp
power alt=1,420 kW
max speed main=276 mph
max speed alt=444 km/h
range main=1,000 miles
range alt=1,610 km
ceiling main=30,100 ft
ceiling alt=9,170 m
climb rate main=2,060 ft/min
climb rate alt=10.5 m/s
loading main=36.5 ft·lbf²
loading alt=178 kg/m²
power/mass main=0.0094 hp/lb
power/mass alt=0.17 kW/kg
**1 x 0.30 cal (7.62 mm) nose-mounted
M1919 Browning machine gun(on early models)
**2 x 0.50 cal (12.7 mm) wing-mounted
M2 Browning machine guns
**1 x 0.50 cal (12.7 mm) dorsal-mounted M2 Browning machine gun
**1 x 0.30 cal (7.62 mm) ventral-mounted M1919 Browning machine gun
** Up to 2,000 lb (907 kg) of bombs
**1 × 2,000 lb (907 kg)
Mark 13 torpedo
TBY Sea Wolf
List of military aircraft of the United States
* Drendel, Lou. "TBF/TBM Avenger Walk Around". Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications, Inc., 2001. ISBN 0-89747-424-4.
* Drendel, Lou. "Grumman TBF/TBM Avenger". "U.S. Navy Carrier Bombers of World War II". Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications, Inc., 1987, pp. 89–120. ISBN 0-89747-195-4.
* Francillon, René. "Grumman (Eastern) TBF (TBM) Avenger (Aircraft in Profile 214)". London: Profile Publications Ltd., 1970. No ISBN.
* Jackson, B.R. and Thomas E. Doll. "Grumman TBF/TBM "Avenger" (Aero Series 21)". Fallbrook, California: Aero Publishers, Inc., 1970. ISBN 0-8168-0580-6.
* Jackson, B.R. and Thomas E. Doll. "Supplement to Grumman TBF/TBM "Avenger". Fallbrook, California: Aero Publishers, Inc., 1970. ISBN 0-8168-0582-2.
* Kinzey, Bert. "TBF & TBM Avenger in Detail & Scale". Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications, Inc., 1997. ISBN 1-888974-06-0.
* Pelletier, Alain. "Grumman TBF/TBM Avenger" (in French). Paris: Ouest France, 1981. ISBN 2-85882-311-1.
* Prange, Gordon William et al. "Miracle at Midway". New York: Viking, 1983. ISBN 0-14-006814-7.
* Scrivner, Charles L. "TBF/TBM Avenger in Action". Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications, Inc., 1987. ISBN 0-89747-197-0.
* Skulski, Przemyslaw. "Grumman Avenger (Seria Pod Lupa 5)". Wroclaw, Poland: Ace Publications, 1997. ISBN 83-8615-340-7.
* Tillman, Barrett. "Avenger at War". London: Ian Allan Ltd., 1979. ISBN 0-7110-0957-0.
* Tillman, Barrett. "TBF/TBM Avenger Units of World War 2". Botley, UK; Osprey Publishing Ltd., 1999. ISBN 1-85532-902-6.
* Treadwell, Terry C. "Grumman TBF/TBM Avenger". Mount Pleasant, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing, 2001. ISBN 0-75242-007-0.
* [http://www.acepilots.com/planes/avenger.html The Avenger]
* [http://www.warbirdsresourcegroup.org/NARG/avengerwalkaround.html Walkaround]
* [http://www.newsday.com/community/guide/lihistory/ny-history_motion_runway1,0,3813284.story?coll=ny-lihistory-navigation Raising Grumman]
* [http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq15-2.htm History.navy.mil "Flight 19"]
* [http://www.americanairpowermuseum.com/htm/avenger.htm American Air Power Museum]
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