The Grumman TBF-1 Avenger was the first production version of the aircraft, and the only one to be built by Grumman.
Grumman produced 2,291 Avengers, starting with the two prototypes. They were followed by 1,525 TBF-1s and 764 TBF-1Cs. General Motor's Eastern Aircraft Division produced three times as many Avengers (as the TBM), and was the only manufacturer of the improved TBM-3. Grumman production began slowly in 1942, but picked up speed before ending late in 1943.
Two prototypes were produced, both of which were very similar to all production aircraft that followed. They were both powered by the Wright R-2600-8 engine, as used in the -1 and -1C. There was a second seat in the rear cockpit, slightly to the left of centre, with basic instruments. The rear compartment had three windows on each side - two circular windows and at the front a rectangular one just below the wing trailing edge. The middle window on the starboard side was on the aft crew entry door. The first prototype was built without the fin between the gun turret and tail, but this was added after early tests to improve stability. Both prototypes made their maiden flights during 1941, after the first production contract had been placed.
The rear compartment windows were changed during production. Early aircraft had a forward rectangular window just below the wing trailing edge and two circular windows. The middle window was part of the aft door on the right side of the aircraft. In later aircraft this middle window was eliminated and the rectangular window was replaced with a larger round window level with the trailing edge.
Eastern produced TBM-1s were identical to the Grumman TBF-1 apart from some details of the internal paint scheme.
The TBF-1B was the designation given to early aircraft produced for Britain under the lend-lease scheme. Later aircraft were not given a specific designation.
It soon became clear that the single .30in gun in the nose was of little use in its main role, of suppressing fire from the target during an attack. On the TBF-1C it was removed and was replaced by two .50in guns in the wings, mounting just outside the fold. The increased forward firepower was useful in its main role, and also gave the Avenger the ability to take on Japanese flying boats and the slower bombers, but apparently also encouraged some pilots to treat their aircraft like a fighter!
Internally the rear seat was removed from the cockpit (although it was kept by the British). The duplicate instruments were also removed and the space was used to carry the increasing weight of electrical equipment required over time. The seat in the radio operator's compartment was replaced with a new folding seat that could be locked in position and placed the radio operator much nearer his equipment.
Externally the radio mast was moved back slightly, and was carried vertically, instead of being swept back as on the -1. The engine had a single scoop at the top of the cowling and one cowl flap on each side of the fuselage. This combination was unique to the -1C - the more powerful engine in the TBM-3 required more cowl flaps and a second scoop.
The TBF-1C was 500lb heavier than the -1, and its top speed was reduced to 242mph at sea level and 257mph at 12,000ft.
Production began in 1943. Grumman built 764 aircraft before stopping production altogether at the end of the year. Eastern built three times as many TBM-1Cs, which were once again identical to Grumman built aircraft.
The TBF-1CP was a photographic reconnaissance aircraft equipped with a trimetrogen camera, capable of taking panoramic pictures that spread from horizon to horizon in a single frame.
The TBF-1D was a night bomber produced by installed an ASD-1 (airborne search radar) set on a standard TBF-1 or -1C. The radar was carried in a pod mounted on the leading edge of the right wing. Those aircraft converted from -1Cs had their wing guns removed, while other guns were sometimes removed to save weight. The -1D was used as a control aircraft for night fighters or for airborne early warning duties and on anti-submarine patrols.
The TBF-1E carried extra radar equipment.
The TBF-1J was modified for Arctic conditions, gaining de-icer boots on all leading edges and extra heaters. BuNo.06031 was converted to this standard.
The TBF-1L carried a retractable searchlight in the bomb-bay and was used for anti-submarine warfare and air-sea rescue duties.
A small number of TBF-1s (including BuNo 06307) were given cameras and served a photo-reconnaissance aircraft as the TBF-1P.
Engine: Wright R-2600-8
Crew: 3 - Pilot, Gunner, Radar/ Radio operator
Wing span: 54ft 2in
Height: 16ft 5in
Empty Weight: 10,080lb
Gross Weight: 15,905lb
Max Speed: 271mph at 12,000ft, 251mph at sea level
Cruising Speed: 145mph
Service Ceiling: 22,500ft
Initial rate of climb: 1,430ft/ minute
Range: 1,215 miles
Armament: One fixed forward firing 0.30in gun, one ventral 0.30in gun, one 0.50in gun in powered dorsal turret
Bomb-load: One 22.4in Bliss-Leavitt Mark 13 torpedo or 2,000lb of bombs or depth charges