Grumman TBF Tarpon (Grumman TBF Avenger)


The Grumman Tarpon was an American developed monoplane carrier-borne torpedo aircraft and light bomber, with cabins for a crew of three, pilot, observer and TAG. Originally the Fleet Air Arm named the aircraft the Grumman Tarpon, changing to Avenger in January 1944 to conform to US Navy nomenculture. Developed from the TBD-1 Devastator, the Avenger was Grumman's first torpedo aircraft, and its robust design had much in common with that of the Company's fighters. The design and engineering team under WT Schwendler developed the aircraft  - the order for two prototypes was placed on 8 April 1940 and the first Avengers went into service just over two years later.

The prototype flew on 1 August, 1941. The first production models, manufactured by Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corp. and designated TBF, were completed on 3 January, 1942. Grumman built a total of 2,293 TBF Avengers between 1942 and December 1943. Grumman production ceased at that time, and Eastern Aircraft, Division of General Motors, built 2,882 of this model, designated TBM, and over 4,600 of the TBM-3 which had a larger engine and strengthened wings to carry rocket projectiles.

The Avenger rapidly displaced the obsolete Devastator aboard US carriers,  and from the
Guadalcanal landings in August 1942 until the end of the PacificWar it remained the only shipboard torpedo aircraft of the US Navy. Whilst the Avenger largely replaced the Fairey Barracuda from 1944-1945 particularly in the Pacific Theatre.

The Avenger operated as a bomber, and as a search and anti-submarine aircraft, rather than as a torpedo-plane.  As a torpedo-plane it was initially hampered by the many serious defects in the American torpedoes.  Moreover the crushing losses inflicted on their torpedo squadrons at the Battle of Midway left the United States Navy with little confidence in aerial torpedo attack, confidence which was only regained with the success of the Avengers at the Battle of the Philippine Sea.

Fleet Air Arm Avenger in 1944

The Royal Navy received 402 aircraft, designated TBF-1Bs under the Lend-lease arrangement with the first squadron, 832 squadron (HMS Victorious) , being equipped in January till February 1943. These aircraft were sometimes modified to British specification by Blackburn Aircraft, including the installation British oxygen systems and gunsights. In addition 25 TBF-1 loans were made to 832 squadron from US Navy at Pearl Harbor on 5 March 1943 (aircraft kept their US BuAer numbers eg BuAer number 05996). Most of these aircraft though had been returned to the US Navy at San Diego by 3 June 1943. Although originally designated Tarpon MkI for British service, they were later re-designated Avenger MkI.

With the demand of Avengers exceeding the capacity of the Eastern Division of Grumman, General Motors was contracted as a second source of supply. Avengers with the designation TBM-1 and TBM-1C were built from September 1942 with a total of 7546 being delivered before the production lines were closed in June 1945. Of these early versions from General Motors, some 334 TBM-1s were supplied to the Royal Navy and designated Avenger MkII.

Delivery of the TBM-3 began in April 1944 with the Royal Navy receiving 222 aircraft which were subsequently designated Avenger MkIII. Wartime Avengers were used by the Royal Navy until June 1947.

In 1953, the Royal Navy began acquiring anti-submarine warfare versions of the Avenger under the Mutual Defense Assistance Program (MDAP). These aircraft were designated the Avenger AS Mk IV or AS Mk V, and were used in the ASW role until the introduction of the Fairey Gannet in 1955.

Avengers were also exported under MDAP to France, Japan, Canada, New Zealand and the Netherlands. In all, 48 Avengers were allocated to the RNZAF, but before the war ended over half of these were handed over to either the US Navy or the Royal Navy's Pacific Fleet, both of which were suffering from aircraft shortages.

The Avenger finally retired in 1962 from the Fleet Air Arm.  A total of 9,839 had been built.

In civilian life the Avenger found a useful role as a fire bomber and many are still in use in Canada.


Tarpon/Avenger I       FAA equivalent of TBF-1, 402 lendlease
Avenger MK II          FAA equivalent of TBM-1C: 334 lendlease, two additional wing guns and drop tanks
 Avenger III               FAA equivalent of TBM-3, 222 lendlease, Wright R-2600-8 engine
 Avenger A.S.Mk 4    Post-war equivalent of TBM-3E. 35 lendlease. Centrimetric  radar equipped
Fleet Air Arm history
          Total FAA 1939-1945           903
          First delivered to RN:           1942
          First squadron 1939-1945:     832 sqdn 1.1943, 845 sqdn 2.1943
          Operational squadron:           832 sqdn 1.1943, 845 sqdn 2.1943
          Last served with RN             Post war many dumped at Sea 1946-1947. On Gosport dump 1952
                                                   Final FAA aircraft retired in 1962.

200 Grumman TBF-1b and TBF-1c Avenger 1 under Contract no LL91367
Serial Numbers FN750-FN949

Deld              8.42 then to British TA sqdn Quonset Point 11.42, and 845 sqdn Quonset Point from
                    2.43 (FN750). First 34 all to British TA sqdn Quonset Point 11.42-4.43. Most 2.43 to 845.
First sqdn      832 sqdn 1.43 (FN752). Most deld 2.43 to 845 sqdn

201 Grumman TBF-1b and TBF-1c Avenger 1 under Contract no LL91367
Serial Numbers: JZ100-JZ300

Deld               South Africa 11.43 (JZ101), 850 sqdn 9.43 (JZ103) at Squantum
Last RN:         JZ105 RNARY Donibristle to Belfast 2.46, JZ152 FCAS Croydon to CS(A) charge
                     11.47, Gosport dump 7.52

226 Grumman TBM-1 and TBM-1c Avenger II under Contract no Nos-98837
Serial Numbers: JZ301-JZ526

Deld                E Flt RAE 10.43 (JZ313)
Sqdn               JZ316 738 sqdn at Lewiston, USA 9.43; 787 sqdn at Wittering 9.44 (JZ304), JZ309 to
                        798 sqdn at Lee on Solent  9.44, 744 sqdn at Maydown on 10.44 (JZ303)

108 Grumman TBM-Ic Avenger III under Contract No.Noa(S)228
Serial Numbers: JZ527-JZ634

Deld                 3.44 to 820, 856 and 853 eg jz527
Last RN            Many in sqdn till end of WWII. JZ622 RNARY Donibristle to Renfrew 1.46 for
                         dumping at sea from a carrier. JZ587 in 857 sqdn 11.47

86 Grumman TBM-3 Avenger TB III under Contract No.Noa(S)228
Serial Numbers: JZ635-JZ720

Deld                  1.44 C sqdn A&AEE. Most later, tested RNARY Coimbatore 6.45
First sqdn          1.45 787 sqdn at Tangmere
Last RN             Many into 1946 eg JZ638 from 8.46 at 778 sqdn at Ford. Trials in HMS Vengeance
                         22.1.47 of JZ695. 11 sqdn aircraft flown from Schofields to HMS Implacable
                         2.5.1946 , stripped and ditched eg JZ674 and JZ682

26 Grumman TBM-3E Avenger III under Contract No.Noa(S)228
Serial Numbers: JZ721-JZ746
Completed 5.45-6.45 no evidence of delivery to RN

50 Grumman TBM-3E Avenger TB III under Contract No.Noa(S)228.
Serial Numbers: KE430-KE479.

Only 22 shipped to the UK Arrived TOC Roosevelt Field 7.45

60 Grumman TBM-3E Avenger III under Contract No.Noa(S)228
Serial Numbers: KE480-KE539
All cancelled and undelivered

70 Grumman TBM-4 Avenger IV under Contrract No.Noa(S)228
Serial Numbers: KE540-KE609
All cancelled

10 Grumman TBM-1 and TBM-1c Avenger under Contract No.Noa(S)228 .
Serial Numbers: Vl401-Vl410.

Reconditioned aircraft to UK 31.7.45, all received at Lockheed AAU, Renfrew, then to storage

30 Grumman TBM-1, TBM-1c and TBM-3 Avenger under Contract No.Noa(S)228.
Serial Numbers: Vl432-Vl461.

Reconditioned aircraft to UK 31.7.45, all received at Lockheed AAU, Renfrew, then to storage

20 Grumman Avenger under Contract No.Noa(S)228.
Serial Numbers: Vl475-Vl494.

Reconditioned aircraft. Not delivered

10 Grumman TBM-1, TBM-1c and TBM-3 Avenger under Contract No.Noa(S)228.
Serial Numbers: Vl501-Vl510.

Reconditioned aircraft to UK 31.7.45, all received at Lockheed AAU, Renfrew, then to storage

6 Grumman TBM-1c and TBM-3 Avenger under Contract No.Noa(S)228.
Serial Numbers: Vvl994-Vl999.

Reconditioned aircraft, reported as being delivered to Sydney in HMS Reaper 9.45

25 TBF-1 loans to 832 sqdn (HMS Victorious) from US Navy

USN to RN at Pearl Harbor 5.3.43 , 832 sqdn on 23.4.43 (eg BuAer number 05996). Most returned to US Navy at San Diego 3 June 1943.

Aircraft Type:
Grumman TBF Tarpon (Avenger)
Mk I , II, II, IV
Primary Role:
Three-seat torpedo-bomber  - later served as anti-submarine and AEW (airborne early-warning) aircraft 
First Flight: 
First Flight: 1st August 1941
Date operating with FAA squadrons:
Grumman Engineering Corporation - also built by Eastern Aircraft Division (General Motors) 
One 1700hp Wright R-2600-8 engine
 Wing Span: Length: Height: Wing Area: 
Wingspan : 16.52 m 
Length: 12.20 m 
Wing Area: 45.52 sq m
Empty Weight: Max.Weight:
Weight: 6070 kg
Speed: 414km/h Ceiling: 6525m Range: 2236km
One 0.5-inch Browning machine-gun, manually-aimed,  in power-operated dorsal turret 
One 0.3-inch Browning, manually-aimed, in rear ventral position 
One 0.3-inch Browning machine-gun, fixed forward-firing, in upper front fuselage 
Internal fuselage bay for 1 x 21-inch torpedo or 2,000 lb of bombs
700,702,703,706,707,711,721,733,736,738,744,751,756,759,763,764,767,768,774,778,782,783,785,787,797, 798
Battle honours:
Many especially in the Atlantic, Arctic and Pacific
Additional references and notes:
Battle Honours and Operational History


Surviving aircraft and relics

US Avenger TBM-3 Bu53593 preserved at the NNAM (USA)

Preserved US Avenger TBF 53 in the USA

Associations and reunions
Created 3-4-1999, Modified 3-4-2000


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