Grumman TBF Avenger
Grumman TBF Avenger torpedo plane, illustration from Donald, David, Amerikanische Kampfflugzeuge des Zweiten Weltkriegs
    For a plane that was to have a career of over ten years, the debut that the TBF Avenger gave in the skies over the central Pacific was more than just disasterous. Six Avengers of VT-8, having missed their carrier, had been ferried up to Midway and attacked the IJN carriers, with only one plane surviving the effort.

    The design that led to the Avenger had been ordered by the Navy on the assumption, which was to prove correct, that 900 PS as in the Devastator would not suffice to propel a torpedo bomber with heavy load. This time, the Navy wanted it all: higher speed, greater payload, better range, greater firepower than the Devastator. Special consideration was to be given to a powered gun turret firing aft.

    The Navy's hopes were not easy to fulfill, and Grumman quite obviously was not aiming at good looks when it presented the Avenger around the turn of years 1940/1941 to the Navy. It was, as pilots would call it later, a "turkey". Before the planes arrived at Midway in 1942, the local marines were told "it looks like a pregnant F4F", and least honoring a nickname was perhaps "the pregnant beast". Grumman had designed a plane typical for the firm. It was unique only in a few details - it had a weapons bay holding a torpedo or an amount of bombs equal to the torpedo's weight. It had a tunnel gun behind the weapons bay, and a electrically powered turret above the tunnel gun.

    But besides that, it looked very much like a F4F. It had a large engine and huge squared wings. And another component was equal to the F4Fs outfit, the wing-folding mechanism. Hydraulically moving, the wings would turn vertically until the surfaces would look forward, then fold back to end up parallel to the fuselage. The Navy happily accepted the design, which also received, to the 12.7mm in the turret and 7.7mm in the tunnel, a 7.7mm to fire forward through the propellor, for flak suppression. 

    The first TBF-1 left the production lines in Bethpage in time to fly for the first time on January 3rd 1942. Quick production resulted in quick training, the first squadron to be equipped with the new plane being VT-8. A detachment of this squadron arrived too late in Pearl Harbor to be able to get aboard Hornet for the battle of Midway, flew to Midway, and was almost annihilated. 

    However, there were enough qualified squadrons to supply all three carriers off Guadalcanal with them, and Avengers scored their first success in sinking the light carrier Ryujo at the Battle of the Eastern Solomons. The career of the Avenger was then almost undisturbed. Avengers were the first U.S. carrier planes to receive bombardment radars, making good use of the new device in an attack by night on Truk. Unexpected problems turned up during the Battle of the Philippine Sea - having had no foe to speak of, especially, no major warships, the Navy had grown too certain in the destructive power of bombs to practice much torpedo attacks, and only Belleau Wood's Avengers carried them into battle. Significantly, their target, Hiyo, remained the only carrier sunk by U.S. aircraft in that battle. 

    Torpedo firing improved, however, and it was thanks to the Avenger that IJN battleships Musashi and Yamato were sunk with such relative ease. Avengers served with distinction in other roles. ASW became their prime purpose on the Atlantic CVEs, close support on the Pacific CVEs. Late in the war, AEW (Airborne Early Warning) was added on fleet carriers. 
Commonwealth squadrons used the Avenger during the war, and French, Dutch, even Japanese units used it post-war. 

Stats TBF-1
Length: 12.2 meters / 40.2 ft.   
Wingspan: 16.51 meters / 54.2 ft.   
Weight Empty: 4880 Kilograms / 10.758 lbs.   
Weight Loaded: 7876 Kilograms / 17.363 lbs.   
Weight Maximum:  
Armament: 1 x 7.7mm / 30-caliber machine-guns, over the engine, 1 x 12.7mm / .50-caliber in powered weapon turret, 1 x 7.7mm in tunnel.  
One Mk13 torpedo, or 907kg / 2000lbs bombs / depth charges   
Top Speed: 436 km/h / 270 mph   
Range:  1778 km / 1105 miles   
Ceiling: 7000 meters / 23000 feet   
Climb Rate: ??? meters per minute / ???? feet per minute