Grumman Tarpon (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.


Photos by Gavin Anderson