The Avenger torpedo-bomber continued Grumman's legacy of successful carrier aircraft and would first see action during the Battle of Midway. Seeing service with the Fleet Air Arm, who would briefly
name it the Tarpon, the Grumman TBF Avenger would remain in service after World War 2 had ended with the United States and would re-enter service with the Royal Navy in 1953.
During 1940 the United States Navy was looking to replace its Douglas TBD Devastator with a newer more modern torpedo-bomber and initiated a contest to help them find a new aircraft. This
lead to four prototypes being ordered, two from Grumman on the 8th April 1940, designated XTBF-1 followed a couple of weeks later with two from Vought, which were designated XTBU-1,
however Vought's aircraft would be built by Consolidated and known as the TBY Sea Wolf. Although Grumman had a good pedigree for building carrier fighters, this was new territory for the
Bill Schewndler lead design team.
The prototype was now ready for its first flight which it made on the 1st August 1941, featuring folding wings and powered by the 1,700-hp Wright R-2600-8 Cyclone 14 radial engine
producing a top speed of 271 mph for the Avengers three man crew, which comprised a pilot, bomb aimer and gunner/radio operator. Defensive armament consisted of three machine-guns,
one pilot controlled 0.30-in, one ventral 0.30-in used by the bomb aimer and the radio operator used a dorsal turret with a 0.50-in machine gun.
The Avenger prototype underwent flight testing before being sent to the United States Navy to undergo evaluation which had finished by December 1941 with the new aircraft proving
satisfactory. The 30th January 1942 would see the first TBF-1s enter service, having been ordered during December 1940, and by the end of 1943 over 2,293 TBF-1 and TBF-1Cs, which had an
additional two 0.50-in machine-guns in the wings, were delivered.
The Grumman Avenger would first see action with the United States Navy during the Battle of Midway, which started on the 4th June 1942, alongside the Douglas TBD Devastator, however
both aircraft suffered considerable losses with only one Avenger left out of the six that took part.
The Avenger would also see service with the Fleet Air Arm under the designation TBF-1B with the 1st January 1942 seeing No. 832 Squadron becoming the first to receive the type whilst based
at Norfolk Naval Air Station. After becoming accustomed to the type No. 832 Squadron were to be based aboard USS Saratoga in April 1943 and would become the first FAA squadron to be used
in action from a carrier of the United States Navy. This occurred in June 1943 when they supported the United States Marine Corps whilst landing in the middle of the Solomon Islands chain.
As with a number of other American aircraft used by the British they gave the type its own name, which was Tarpon, before reverting to Avenger in January 1944.
The Fleet Air Arm would provide further support during the closing stages of World War 2 to the Americans and No. 820 Squadron even attacked Tokyo. The last wartime Avengers were retired
by the Royal Navy by the 3rd June 1945. The TBM-3E would enter service with the Royal Navy eight years later in 1953 for a brief period before being superseded by the Fairey Gannet.
With demand for the Avenger outstripping Grumman's production capacity it was decided to outsource production to help meet the demand. General Motors Eastern Division was chosen and
these aircraft would be known as the Grumman TBM Avenger, and these started to appear during September 1943.
Grumman continued development of the type with two further prototypes produced:
XTBF-2 powered by the XR-2600-10 engine.
XTBF-3 powered by the R-2600-20 engine.
Although neither of these reached the production stage and further development of the type would continue with the General Motors TBM-3.
In total 2,293 of the type were produced by Grumman and as well as being used by the United States Navy and Royal Navy the Royal Canadian
Navy and Royal New Zealand Air Force would be among the users.
Also see: Grumman TBM Avenger