The Grumman TBF Avenger was the replacement for the The Douglas TBD Devastator, the U.S. Navy’s main torpedo bomber introduced in 1935. Designed by Leroy Grumman it took first flight August 7, 1941 with one of the two proto types crashing.
The Avenger was the heaviest single engine aircraft in World War II. Grumman designed the Avenger to also use the new Sto-Wing patented “compound angle” wing-folding mechanism, intended to maximize storage space on an aircraft carrier.
The engine used was the twin-row Wright R-2600-20 Twin Cyclone fourteen-cylinder radial engine, which produced 1,900 horsepower. It held a three member crew, the pilot, turret gunner and radioman/bombardier/ventral gunner
A single synchronized .30 caliber machine gun was mounted in the nose, a .50 caliber gun was mounted right next to the turret gunner’s head in a rear-facing electrically powered turret, and a single 0.30 caliber hand-fired machine gun flexibly-mounted ventrally (under the tail).
The large bomb bay allowed for one Bliss-Leavitt Mark 13 torpedo, a single 2,000-pound (907 kg) bomb, or up to four 500-pound (227 kg) bombs. It was better than any previous aircraft at dropping these torpedoes.
Pilots said it flew like a truck (for better or worse) and had good radio facilities, docile handling, and long range. The Escort carrier personnel nicknamed it “turkey” because of it’s size and (lack of) maneuverability.
On August 24, 1942, the Avengers were able to sink the Japanese light carrier Ryūjō. the first “major” prize for them was in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal in November 1942, when Marine Corps and Navy Avengers helped sink the Japanese battleship Hiei, which had already been crippled the night before.
They also saw action in the Battles of the Philippine Sea and Leyte Gulf. The Avenger proved an effective submarine killer. During the course of the war, Avenger squadrons sank around 30 enemy submarines in the Atlantic and Pacific.