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 the Second World War had ended with the United States and would re-enter service with the Royal Navy in 1953.
During 1939 the United States Navy was looking to replace its Douglas TBD Devastator with a newer, modern torpedo bomber and initiated a contest to find a new aircraft. This
led 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.
The prototype was now ready for its first flight which it made on the 1st August 1941 with Bob Hall, Grumman's chief engineer at the controls. Prior to this 285 TBF Avengers had been ordered in
December 1940. The aircraft featured folding wings and a three man crew, which comprised a pilot, bomb-aimer and gunner/wireless operator. Given the name Avenger in October 1941 a second prototype
flew on the 7th December 1941 and underwent flight testing before being sent to the United States Navy to undergo evaluation which had finished by December 1941 with the new aircraft
The 30th January 1942 would see the first TBF-1s enter service when United States Navy Squadron VT-8 received the first examples. Powered by the 1,700-hp Wright R-2600-8 engine the TBF-1 had a top
speed of 259 mph, range of 1,020 miles with a service ceiling of 21,400 ft. Armament consisted of two 0.30-in machine-guns and was able to carry 2,000lb bombs or torpedoes. The Grumman TBF-1 Avenger
would first see action with the United States Navy during the Battle of Midway (4th June 1942 - 7th June 1942) with USN Squadron VT-8 alongside the Douglas TBD Devastator, however both
aircraft suffered considerable losses with only one Avenger left out of the six that took part. 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 Avenger would also see service with the Fleet Air Arm under the designation TBF-1B with the 1st January 1942 seeing No. 832 Naval Air Squadron becoming the first to receive the type whilst based
at Naval Air Station Norfolk. After becoming accustomed to the type No. 832 Naval Air Squadron were to be based aboard USS Saratoga (CV-3) in April 1943 and would become the first Fleet Air Arm 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 the Second World War (1939 - 1945) to the Americans and No. 820 Naval Air Squadron even attacked Tokyo, Japan. The last wartime Avengers were retired
by the Royal Navy by the 3rd June 1945.
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, the XTBF-2 powered by the 1,900-hp Wright XR-2600-10 engine and the XTBF-3 powered by the 1,700-hp Wright 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.