Production of the TBF Avenger began in 1941 and by June of 1942 the United States Navy flew these planes into combat during the battle of Midway. Their huge popularity presented a problem for Grumman and they had to contract much of the production out to the General Motors Corporation. Grumman completely ceased production of the Avenger in December of 1943 and General Motors continued production. General Motors built 7,546 of the 9,836 Avengers built. Avengers built by General Motors were designated TBM. During its WWII life span, the Avenger design changed very little which allowed it to be built in huge quantities.
The Avenger’s torpedo–delivery capability had a huge impact on the Japanese fleet during the war and its rugged simplicity made it highly resistant to enemy air defenses. The plane was also used on dive bombing missions and had a large bomb bay for a single 2,000 lb. bomb or up to 4 500 lb. bombs. The planes massive tail surfaces are the reason why pilots remember the controls as heavy, nicknaming it a “turkey.” Despite this, the plane could be flown hands off and the spacious cockpit provided even a chart table that slid forward for pilot mapping. The Avenger had a 30,000 ft. ceiling and was capable of flying a 1,000 mile range. It was the heaviest single – engine aircraft of WWII and it was the first design to feature a new wing-folding mechanism which was intended to maximize storage space on an aircraft carrier.
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 (12.7mm) 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.
|Date of Manufacture
|Grumman TBF/TBM “Avenger”
|54 feet 2 inches
|40 feet 11 inches
|Single 1900 hp Wright R2600-20 radial piston engine
|Rate of Climb
|Number of Crew
|Two forward firing 12.7 mm machine guns, One 12.7 mm turret
|One torpedo or up to 2000 lbs in bomb bay
|9836 (7546 manufactured TBM by General Motors)
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