Grumman Tarpon I (TBF-1 Avenger)

During the late 1930s the U.S. Navy began to modernize its fleet of carrier aircraft. By the end of the decade, all metal monoplane fighters, dive bombers and torpedo bombers were in service. In addition, advanced fighters and dive-bombers were in the testing stage. Torpedo bomber development, however, had not kept pace and the Douglas TBD-1 Devastator, which entered service in 1937, still equipped the Torpedo Bomber (VT) squadrons. The Navy realized that further development could not overcome the Devastator's lack of speed and range, and in 1939, the Bureau of Aeronautics issued a design specification for a new carrier-based torpedo bomber. Both the Vought and the Grumman companies submitted designs to fulfil the specification.

Grumman's design was designated the XTBF-1. It bore a family resemblance to the company's successful Wildcat fighter. Besides a general similarity in appearance, the new torpedo bomber used the same rearward-folding wings as did its smaller cousin. This allowed the large TBFs to be packed tightly together and to fit on deck elevators, increasing the number that could operate from carriers. The Grumman torpedo bomber could even operate from the small escort carriers, whose size prohibited their carrying many other large aircraft.