Military History Books
by Harold A. Skaarup   www.SilverHawkAuthor.com   
 
Canadian Warplanes 5: The Post War Piston Era, General Motors (Grumman) TBM-3E Avenger, RCN

General Motors (Grumman) TBM-3E Avenger, RCN

Data current to 4 March 2020.

(RCN Photo courtesy of the Shearwater Aviation Museum)

General Motors (Grumman) TBM-3E Avenger AS 3M, RCN (Serial No. 53908), 389.  This Avenger is equipped with a long tubular magnetic anomaly detector (MAD) boom along the portside lower rear fuselage.

The Grumman TBF Avenger (designated TBM for aircraft manufactured by General Motors) is an American torpedo bomber which entered U.S. service in 1942.  One of the primary postwar users of the Avenger was the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), which obtained 125 former US Navy TBM-3E Avengers from 1950 to 1952 to replace the Fairey Firefly aircraft in service at that time.  These Avengers were delivered at a time when the RCN was shifting its primary focus to anti-submarine warfare (ASW), and the aircraft was rapidly becoming obsolete as an attack platform.  Consequently, 98 of the RCN Avengers were fitted with an extensive number of novel ASW modifications, including radar, electronic countermeasures (ECM) equipment, and sonobuoys, and the upper ball turret was replaced with a sloping glass canopy that was better suited for observation duties.  The modified Avengers were designated AS 3.  A number of these aircraft were later fitted with a large magnetic anomaly detector (MAD) boom on the rear left side of the fuselage and were redesignated AS 3M.

When the RCN took delivery of their TBM-3E Avengers they were painted overall in US Navy Dark Blue with Canadian markings and featured a ball turret at the rear of the glass canopy.  The Avengers in their original Dark Blue colour scheme were flown from the air station HMCS Shearwater and the aircraft carrier HMCS Magnificent by No. 825 and No. 826 Squadrons.

Only several months after taking delivery of their TBM-3E Avengers in May 1950, the RCN embarked on a program to modify the aircraft for the specialized anti-submarine role that the RCN had assumed under the 1949 NATO accord.  A total of 98 Avengers were modified to the anti-submarine version, designated as AS 3s, making it the most numerous variant.  The most obvious change incorporated in the modification program was the removal of the TBM-3E's ball turret and the rearward extension of the glass canopy.  The modified Avenger AS 3s were also repainted in the current official RCN paint scheme, the last and most common being Gloss Dark Gray over the upper third of the fuselage and upper surfaces of the wings and tailplanes while the remainder of the aircraft was painted Gloss Light Gray.  In addition to the Pilot, the AS 3s were crewed by an Observer and an Observer's Mate who operated the submarine detection equipment which included radar, electronic counter measure and sonobuoy systems; a later version, the Avenger AS 3M, added a Magnetic Anomaly Detection (MAD) system.  The Avengers were armed with four depth charges; and one homing torpedo; plus, 16 sonobuoys for submarine detection.

RCN leaders soon realized the Avenger's shortcomings as an ASW aircraft, and in 1954 they elected to replace the AS 3 with the Grumman S-2 Tracker (built in Canada by de Havilland and designated CS2F), which offered longer range, greater load-carrying capacity for electronics and armament, and a second engine, a great safety benefit when flying long-range ASW patrols over frigid North Atlantic waters.  As delivery of the new license-built CS2F Trackers began in 1957, the Avengers were shifted to training duties, and were officially retired in July 1960.  (Shearwater Aviation Museum)

Avengers that flew with No. 825 and No. 880 Squadrons carried carried 3 digit pennant numbers in the 300 range from May 1951 to ca 1958.  No. 826 and No. 881 Squadron Avengers were coded AB.  VU 32 Squadron flew Avengers from 1953 to 1960, and VU 34 flew them from 1954.  VX 10 Squadron also flew AEW Avengers (dates unknown).  August 1955, nine pilots from VC920, Downsview, Ontario, become carrier qualified, on Avengers.

Some RCN Avengers carried pennant numbers 324, 325, 341 and 343 with No. 880 Squadron.

 (RCN photo via the Griffin Library)

General Motors (Grumman) TBM-3S being converted to an AS Mk. 3, still wearing USN markings (Star and Bar, No. 225), with temporary RCN markings applied. 537 is part of USN (BuNo. 53782), DK marking unknown.  

(RCN Photo courtesy of the Shearwater Aviation Museum)

General Motors (Grumman) TBM-3E Avenger AS 3, formation flight, Royal Canadian Navy. 

 (RCN Photo courtesy of the Shearwater Aviation Museum)

General Motors (Grumman) TBM-3E Avenger AS 3, Royal Canadian Navy.  

(RCN Photo courtesy of the Shearwater Aviation Museum)

General Motors (Grumman) TBM-3E Avenger AS 3, coded ABF, ABO, K, and ABJ, formation flight, Royal Canadian Navy. 

 (Author Photo)

General Motors (Grumman) TBM-3E Avenger AS 3, coded ABG, Canadian Warplane Heritage, lost in a fire in 1993, shown here at the Toronto Island Airport ca. 1978.

 (Author Photos)

General Motors (Eastern) TBM-3E Avenger AS 3 (BuNo. 53858), C/N 3920, Reg. No. C-GCWG, RCN 86180, being restored to airworthy status.  To be painted as NAVY 324 (Serial No. 86180), an aircraft that flew with RCN 880 and 881 Squadrons.

The CWH Museum's Avenger is a TBM-3E built by General Motors, Eastern Aircraft Division in 1945.  It flew with the US Navy until the early 1950s, when it was phased out.  Later it was converted to a spray plane and operated in California, from 1963 to 1972.  In 1976, Forest Protection Ltd, New Brunswick, purchased it and the aircraft continued to fly in a similar role, until it was finally retired from commercial service in 1992.  In 2000, it was sold to a French aircraft preservation group, but they were unable to arrange transport for it across the Atlantic.  The Museum acquired the Avenger with the help of a generous donor in late 2009.  (CWHM)

 (Library and Archives Canada Photos, MIKAN No. 4951377)

General Motors (Grumman) TBM-3E Avenger AS 3, coded ABP, ca 1957. 

(Library and Archives Canada Photos, MIKAN No. 4821508)

General Motors (Grumman) TBM-3E Avenger AS 3, coded ABP, RCN, ca 1957.

(Library and Archives Canada Photos, MIKAN No. 4820891)

General Motors (Grumman) TBM-3E Avenger AS 3,  ex-USN (Serial No. Bu. 85685), RCN (Serial No. 53488), NAVY-348, Shearwater, Nova Scotia, ca 1957. 

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4820890)

General Motors (Grumman) TBM-3E Avenger AS 3,  USN (Serial No. Bu. 85685), RCN (Serial No. 53488), NAVY-348, Shearwater, Nova Scotia, ca 1957. 

 (Library and Archives Canada Photos, MIKAN No. 48208944)

General Motors (Grumman) TBM-3E Avenger AS 3, ex-USN (Serial No. Bu. 85685), RCN 685, ca 1957. 

(RCN Photo courtesy of the Shearwater Aviation Museum)

General Motors (Grumman) TBM-3E Avenger AS 3M, RCN (Serial No. 53908), NAVY 389. 

(RCN Photo courtesy of the Shearwater Aviation Museum)

General Motors (Grumman) TBM-3E Avenger AS 3M, RCN (Serial No. 53908), NAVY 389. 

 (RCN Photo courtesy of the Shearwater Aviation Museum)

General Motors (Grumman) TBM-3E Avenger AS 3M, RCN (Serial No. 53908), NAVY 389. over the Halifax Citadel. 

(USN Photo)

General Motors (Grumman) TBM-3E Avenger AS 3, RCN (Serial No. 53241), on the flight deck of HMCS Magnificent (CVL 21), circa 1953.

 (USN Photo)

General Motors (Grumman) TBM-3E Avenger AS 3, RCN (Serial No. 86233), coded ABB, flying over HMCS Magnificent (CVL 21), circa 1953. 

(USN Photo)

General Motors (Grumman) TBM-3E Avenger AS 3, RCN (Serial No. 86233), coded ABB, flying over HMCS Magnificent (CVL 21), circa 1953.

 (RCN Photo via Mike Kaehler)

General Motors (Grumman) TBM A/S 3M Avenger, RCN (Serial No. 53109), at Shearwater, Nova Scotia, in front of the Training Squadron 40 hangar.  VT-40 operated from 1954-1959 and was then incorporated into VU 32.  This aircraft carried the pennant number 431.

 (RCN Photo via Mike Kaehler)

General Motors (Grumman) TBM A/S 3M Avenger, RCN (Serial No. 53109). 

(DND Photo via Mike Kaehler)

General Motors (Grumman) TBM-3E Avenger AS 3W2, RCN Serial No. 53782). 

(DND Photo via Mike Kaehler)

General Motors (Grumman) TBM-3E Avenger AS 3W2, RCN Serial No. 53782), being armed with rockets, on the East coast. 

 (USN Photo)

Grumman Avenger AS.3 aircraft on the flight deck of the Canadian aircraft carrier HMCS Magnificent (CVL 21), circa 1953. In September 1953 the carriers USS Wasp (CVA-18), USS Bennington (CVA-20) and HMCS Magnificent conducted the exercise "Mariner" in the North Atlantic. On the afternoon of 23 September 1953, with 42 planes aloft, the carriers were completely sogged in by fog. After Vice Admiral T.S. Combs and Rear Admiral H.H. Goodwin had ordered to ditch all planes near the submarine USS Redfin (SSR-272) at 1620 hrs, however, the fog lifted and all planes could be recovered safely with only minimum fuel remaining. This was then called the "Mariner Miracle".

 (USN Photo)

Grumman Avenger AS.3 aircraft on the flight deck of the Canadian aircraft carrier HMCS Magnificent (CVL 21), circa 1953. 

 (Author Photos)

General Motors (Grumman) TBM-3 Avenger (Serial No. 85861), coded TFD, Shearwater Aviation Museum, Nova Scotia.

 (Author Photo)

General Motors (Grumman) TBM-3E Avenger (Serial No. 53610), C-FIMR.  Aircraft No. 23.  Flown to the Shearwater Aviation Museum on 26 July 2012, painted as 303.