Grumman TBF/TBM Avenger (1941)
US Navy torpedo-bomber (1942), 9,839 built
The well named "avenger", Juggernaut of retribution
The Grumman TBF Avenger is the well-remembered, massive WW2 US Navy torpedo bomber, which forged an enviable reputation as the main stick of the fleet carrier force in mosy iof the Pacific Campaign. Although not exempt of issues at first it never suffered the comparison with the ill-fated Helldiver and was beloved by its pilot. Extremely rugged, this behemoth of a plane replaced with success the Dauntless and crippled the might of the IJN until the end of the war. Coupled with the Hellcat, Grumman solidified an unprecedented credit in the USN for his war-winning design.
The Avenger shared credit for sinking the Yamato and Musashi as well as many other ships (like the cruiser Mogami and man others), destroyers and even 30 submarines. Greatly modified after the war, the Avenger was well-exported and still relevant as an ASW patrol plane until the 1960s. A legendary design, that will deserve a comprehensive study.
A replacement for the Devastator
With the Vindicator, the Devastator was the main USN torpedo bomber in service on carriers of the USN until after the battle of Midway in June 1942. Developed to replaced the TBD-1, already obslolescent in 1939 the Avenger was larger, with an engine almost twice as powerful and giving a bomb bay to use an improved aerial torpedo or bombs (1,500 kg). It proved also invaluable for reconnaissance with a camera and flares, and could do precisision bombing. It was one of the best aircraft of the American air fleet, extremely rugged, powerful, reasonably protected against gunfire, and well defended by a turret and belly MG gunner, it proved reslient, a perfect complement of the equally rugged F6F Hellcat of the same manufacturer. The prototype first flew in 7 August 1941. It was introduced gradually in 1942 and replaced all older models (but not the Dauntless) at the end of 1942. It became the bedrock of the Essex class
aircraft carriers as well.
The pilot was complemented by the turret and belly gunners, but both had multiple duties on board. The MG gunner was also navigator seated behind the pilot during flight, and the belly gunner was also the camera operator, and bombardier as well, responsible at aimng the bombs or torpedo on target. Although stable, reliable, and without any vice, the Avenger without escort, even with its defensive armament, was still incapable of winning a dogfight with Japanese fighters. For that reason it teamed with escorting Hellcats. Its self defense and durability were a last-ditch protection.
The beginnings of the Avenger were good: During an attack at Tulagi, May 4, 1942, before the battle of Coral Sea, they attacked the Japanese "B" invasion fleet. In 1944, the same Avengers, equipped with homing torpedoes started to attack enemy submarines and made quite a tally, starting with I-56 in the Indian Ocean. Production by Grumman, already invested with the Hellcat, was taken over by General Motors ("TBM"), and total deliveries reached 9,839 planes. The last planned TBM-4 were cancelled in late 1945. They had about forty different variants. Modifications however went on after the war and included a full modernization in the 1950s.
In addition to the USN and USMC, the Avenger was also used during WW2 by the Royal Navy, Royal Canadian Navy and Royal New Zealand Air Force, and after the war, it was exported to Brazil, Cuba, France, Japan, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, and Uruguay, seeing a lot of action until the late 1960s.
⚠ Note: This post is in writing. Completion expected in late 2022.