The Grumman Avenger was a torpedo bomber developed initially for the United States Navy and Marine Corps, and eventually used by several air or naval arms around the world. It entered U.S. service in 1942, and first saw action during the Battle of Midway. The Avenger was affectionately nicknamed "The Turkey" because of its ungainly, homely appearance. Post war, one of the primary users of the Avenger was the Royal Canadian Navy, which obtained 125 former US Navy TBM-3E Avengers to replace their venerable Fairey Fireflies. They were delivered in two batches, thus making the Avenger the single most numerous aircraft type to serve in the RCN. The initial batch of 75 Avengers was delivered to the RCN in 1950 and the remainder in the summer of 1952.  Provision was made to modify the Avengers in Canada at an estimated cost of $20,000 per aircraft to make them fully suitable for the ASW role.  By 1951 the estimated cost of each Avenger was US$9,600.00 plus the price of spares.  At a comparatively low cost -- approximately one-third that of new aircraft – the second batch of 50 Avengers with spares were obtained for a total outlay of  US$805,700.00.  The actual breakdown was US$480,000 for all aircraft and US$325,700 for spares.  It is worth pointing out that this entire figure was recovered by the Canadian government through the sale of the RCN’s retired Fireflies and spare Griffon engines, valued at $808,000 to foreign countries.  By the time the Avengers were delivered, the RCN was shifting its primary focus to anti-submarine warfare (ASW), as the Firefly never did pass muster as an ASW platform. RCN squadrons 826 (later 881) and 880 were the first to re-equip with the Avenger.

The Avenger AS3's and their subsequent variants were flown by two first line and five second line squadrons. They operated from the air station HMCS Shearwater (principally) , the aircraft carrier HMCS Magnificent, RCAF Scoudouc, RCAF Summerside , RCAF Downsview, CJATC Rivers and Patrica Bay on the West coast.

Fairey Aviation of Canada Ltd was contracted to convert the TBM-3Es to an anti-submarine configuration. The first conversion involved some 300 drawings; later conversions required as many as 1,500 drawings. Costs were estimated to be $20,000 per aircraft to make them suitable for the ASW role. The Avenger was a logical choice, given the success it enjoyed against the U-boats while operating with the American hunter-killer groups during the War.  Already fitted with AN/APS-4 radar, they were further equipped with sonobuoys and sonobuoy receivers, provisions for launching the buoys and pyrotechnics, and crew stations for an observer and observer’s mate in addition to the Pilot.  A more advanced omni-directional sonobuoy, the AN/SSQ-2, made its inaugural appearance in the same year the still-unconverted Avengers came on strength with the RCN.  The earliest converted variant, the AS 3 Mk 1, first went to sea aboard an aircraft carrier in the spring of 1951.

27 Apr. 1951: Tugs nosing HMCS. MAGNIFICENT out of her berth in Boston Harbor. Note the mixture of TBM-3E's and AS 3's, all belonging to 826 Squadron. (Library and Archives Canada photo # PA-140239)
Although the Avenger was not a small aircraft, it was smaller than the four-engine Lancaster.  A smaller aircraft was harder to detect by radar.  This was perceived as having a decided tactical advantage since submarine commanders had reported that a multi-engine aircraft could be sighted at a range of 9 miles, whereas an Avenger could not be seen until half that distance away.  The Avenger could travel 4.5 miles in 1.5 minutes.  It took a submarine about one minute to crash dive.  The carrier-borne Avenger could put its weapons at the point where they were needed, ready for immediate action, thus negating the prospect of the convoy’s having to await the timely arrival of land-based aircraft.

 The RCN anti-submarine Avenger provides a classic example of the evolutionary response to the early Cold War submarine threat.  It progressed through several marks, the defining changes all being effected to enhance its ASW capability.  The Mk 2 featured a raised canopy above the mid-upper cockpit to afford the observer’s mate an improved visual search station. Only two of these were built.  A small number of Mk 1s were equipped with the Canadian-designed and manufactured electronic countermeasures (ECM) AN/UPD-501 direction finder. By December 1954, the AS 3M (“Mike”), basically a Mk 1 with UPD-501 and AN/ASQ-8 MAD gear added to it, was designated the final modification standard in the RCN.  Landing trials on board Magnificent, and MAD boom extension and retraction tests, were successfully carried out that same month, and the AS 3M went on the following year to form the last ASW Avenger mark to go operational before the arrival of the Tracker.

By 1953, the RCN had produced a podded, prototype ASV radar (AN/APS-501) to replace the original AN/APS-4, but it, like the Mk 2 aircraft for which it was intended, never went into production.  Another idea that did not bear fruit was the search for an alternative to the use of flares in tactical night illumination.  From discussions with USN sources it was recommended that a searchlight be procured and trialed by the RCN.   The searchlight  possessed the marked tactical advantage over the other available forms of night illumination of denying intelligence to the enemy:  whereas a flare could be seen on a clear night for a distance of up to 60 miles, the searchlight was evident only to the party upon whom the beam was directed.  In the event, the RCN opted for the glow-worm, a rocket flare head deployed by a three-part tactic initiated by a dive to increase airspeed, followed by a sharp pull-up to loft the rocket flares into the night sky, culminating in a quick push-over to visually attack the submarine illuminated by the burning flares.  The use of flares rather than searchlights is interesting, since the USN had fitted the latter to their Avenger TBM-1Ds during the War and used them to good effect.  The glow-worm technique was not without its dangers; on one occasion a Pilot flew into his own flares, resulting in the loss of the aircraft and all on board.  Its use, like that of the Lancaster’s sequential flare system, seems devolutionary, considering the available alternative.

The arrival of the Avenger assured the RCN a night-time operational capability that had proven so important in the late War. On many occasions in 1953 and 1954, round-the-clock flying was conducted by the carrier-borne Avenger squadron during the NATO exercises.  Changes to the watch system of the Air Department evolved accordingly, and by 1954 a system of six-hour watches was implemented to good advantage, with three or four aircraft usually being continuously airborne at the same time.

The culmination of Avenger development was the AS 3M2, which featured all the innovations found in the various other marks – ECM, MAD, and the raised canopy of the Mk 2.  In fact, the two Mk 2s were thus converted to “Mike” standard, but the 3M2 “production run” went no further, as the Avenger’s replacement was soon to arrive and devoting funds toward further upgrading Avengers could not be justified.  The compromise was the AS 3M.

One of the first hurdles in the naval use of MAD was to produce equipment sufficiently robust to withstand the rigour and punishment of carrier landings.  After that was solved, the long-term goal was to make the detection magnetometer more sensitive.  This called for reducing the noise generated by the aircraft itself.  On a request from Naval Headquarters, the National Aeronautical Establishment (NAE) in Ottawa successfully developed electronic techniques to compensate for self-generated manoeuvring magnetic anomalies that caused false submarine detections. Work over the years therefore concentrated on measuring the magnetic fields of aircraft and the stores that were carried, and on methods of compensating for the various field noises that degraded detector performance.  The Navy began to address these while the Avenger was still the front-line ASW aircraft, and its technicians and engineers were greatly assisted by scientists at the NAE, where most of the early flying took place.

In April of 1955, Avenger 53109 of the Navy’s Experimental Squadron Ten (VX 10) was flown over the Cabot Strait from Cape North, Cape Breton to Cape Ray, Newfoundland to determine signatures of any natural anomalies that might be present and to explore the practicality of detecting a submarine against the background clutter.  The rationale was that in the event of another war, it would be desirable if a standing 24-hour-a-day MAD patrol could effectively be set up to prevent submarines from gaining access to the St. Lawrence Seaway.  The SOSUS chain (see below) had not yet reached the degree of sophistication it did in later years (underwater surveillance systems have now obviated the need for such MAD flights). The initial sweep determined that a submarine could be detected by a MAD-equipped aircraft flying at the standard patrol height of 250 feet above the water against the signal-to-noise ratio.  Additional flights were then flown at an altitude of 50 feet in order to maximize the background clutter and thus decrease the probability of submarine detection.  In the end, it was determined that a MAD operator could readily detect a submarine through this clutter and that this method of sealing off the Cabot Strait was valid.

Another important project in which VX 10 was involved was the development of explosive echo ranging, or EER.  The Navy’s first flight in conjunction with this project took place in an Avenger in August of 1956.  The RCAF also took great interest in this concept, and further details about it will be provided below in the section on the Neptunes.

The operational variations on the Avenger AS 3 theme were equipped with APS-4 radar, which was fairly well suited to close-in work but lacked the range for broad-reach surveillance. So in 1952 the Navy procured eight TBM-3W2 “Guppy” Avengers equipped with the long-range AN/APS-20 radar.  The Guppy was entirely unarmed, being essentially a flying radar station, and was therefore incapable of pressing home an attack.  Accordingly, it operated in concert with an armed AS 3 Mk 1 or AS 3M “Scrapper” to form a hunter-killer team.  With downward sweeps of its belly-mounted radar scanner, the Guppy searched a broad area while the Scrapper accompanied it in loose formation.  After a contact was made, the signal became lost due to surface “noise” as the distance between the aircraft and the submarine diminished.  At this point, the Scrapper, with its short-range APS-4 radar, was directed to investigate under the Guppy’s control.  The Scrapper, then, was the localizing, tracking and killer aircraft within the hunter-killer team. Sometimes the Scrapper did not use his APS-4 radar for a concern of being detected.

Aircraft did not only team up with one another in the mid-‘50s scheme of things; they also worked in co-operation with surface vessels based on the tried-and-true close escort, support group, and hunter-killer tactics worked out during the War.   With its active sonar, a destroyer escort could hold and track a submerged battery-powered submarine, and destroy it with its mortars.  Failing the latter, it could home an aircraft onto the target, and vice versa.  It was standard operating procedure for HMCS Magnificent to carry out training in conjunction with escorts, and in the big NATO exercises she would join with carriers and escorts of other nations to form task groups.  Ship-to-ship, ship-to-air and ship-to-shore communications were of the essence, and to that end a typical Canadian escort of the day was equipped with as many as four radio rooms and seven UHF voice channels.

However, the RCN soon realized the Avenger's shortcomings as an ASW aircraft, and in 1954 they elected to replace the AS 3 with the S-2 Tracker, 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.  In contrast, the last TBM-3W2 in the US Navy was taken out  service in 1956.

Grumman Avenger 85861 (AS3 Mk1 Early Variant) from HMCS Magnificent circa 1950-1952. Note the AN/APS-4 radar pod fitted to the underside of the starboard wing.  The “-3E” aircraft purchased by the RCN was the last Avenger model to be produced in quantity during the Second World War. (RCN photo via Wikipedia)
When the RCN took delivery of their TBM-3E Avengers, they were painted overall in US Navy dark blue with USN markings and featured a ball turret at the aft end of the perspex canopy. The Avengers in their original dark blue colour scheme but now in RCN markings applied by Fairey Aviation of Canada were flown from the air station HMCS Shearwater and the aircraft carrier HMCS Magnificent by 826 Squadron. Later, the Avengers were repainted in the current official RCN paint scheme, the last and most common of which was 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.


Type: Three-seat, carrier-based, maritime reconnaissance and strike aircraft
Manufacturer:   Eastern Aircraft Division, General Motors Corporation
Wing Span:      16.51 m (54 ft 2 in)
Length:             12.19 m (40 ft)
Height:              5.0 m (16 ft 5 in)
Max. Speed:     430 kph (267 mph)
Service Ceiling: 7130 m (23,400 ft)
Range:              1819 km (1130 mi)
Max. Weight:    8278 kg (18,250 lb)
Empty Weight:  4853 kg (10,700 lb)
Power Plant:     One 1,900 hp Wright R-2600-20 Cyclone 14, 14 cylinder, double-banked radial piston engine with a single stage, two-speed supercharger for all versions of the aircraft.
Propeller:          3-blade, Hamilton-Standard Hydromatic propellor.
Armament:        Two Browning .5  machine guns. Any combination of:  six depth charges; Eight 25 pound armour piercing rocket projectiles (seven projectiles if the radar pod was mounted); bombs; homing torpedoes and smoke or flame floats.
Sensors:            16 sonobuoys for submarine detection
Endurance:        Around 5.5 hours on internal tankage alone.
Service Life :     1950 to 1960

Heating, defrosting and ventilating functions were performed by a gas-operated Janitrol aircraft heater situated above the Observer Mate's door.


Most of the RCN's TBMs were converted to Avenger AS 3s in their various marks and configurations by Fairey Aviation of Canada Ltd, with the conversion work being overseen by an Avenger project team.  The basic Canadian anti-submarine type (i.e., not including the Guppies) comprised four variants -- AS 3 Mk 1, AS 3 Mk 2, AS 3M, and AS 3M2.  The most numerous variant of all was the AS 3 Mk 1, being represented by 98 aircraft.
avenger_variants1s.jpg avenger_variants2s.jpg A pictorial of variants.  The Avenger as delivered from the USN and the Target Tug are not considered variants. Click on images to enlarge. (From the collection of Leo Pettipas)

TBM-3E (not a variant) This was the designator for the original, unmodified USN Avenger purchased by the RCN. In all, 125 aircraft were procured. in two batches: 75 units between 13 May and 27 October, 1950 and the remainder between 29 May and 10 October, 1952.

Initially, 826 Squadron was equipped with unmodified Avengers and by October 1950, the Squadron possessed a full complement of unmodified Avengers. One month after being taken on strength, the Avengers started their trek to the Fairey Aviation Company (near Shearwater, N.S.) for modifications to an ASW configuration. Unmodified Avengers were also being overhauled in the shops and brought up to the latest American standard prior to conversion. Less than 6 months after being taken on strength, Fairey Aviation rolled out two converted (prototype) AS-3's.

AS 3 Mk 1 Early Variant APS-4 radar fitted. The ball turret was replaced by a rearward extension of the greenhouse canopy with a sloping canopy that was better suited for observation duties. The turret seat and turning mechanism, however, were retained and converted into an Observer's station with a seat that rotated through a 360-degree radius.  The center (mid-upper) cockpit was retained as the OM’s search station and the gunner’s position in the bilge was reconfigured as the OM’s action station. 
AS 3  Mk 1 Late Variant APS-4 radar retained.  Redesigned rear canopy extended further aft.  Several a/c fitted with single UPD-501 antenna below engine cowling. This was not solely experimental, as several operational aircraft were configured this way.
AS 3M APS-4 radar retained. MAD boom fitted along with forward and aft UPD-501 antennas. 
AS 3 Mk 2 No MAD or UPD-501 antennas.  Now sporting a prominent “camel-back” blister atop the canopy to afford the Observer’s Mate an improved visual search station. Two prototype airframes were turned out with experimental gear that never became operational. 
AS 3M2 MAD boom, forward and aft UPD-501 antennas with "camel back" canopy. Only two 3M2s were produced by modifying the two Mk 2s.
TBM-3W2 "Guppy" AN/APS-20 radar fitted. No MAD or UPD-501 antennas. Had AEW capability. Back two thirds of canopy covered up. Eight examples were placed into service. 
Externally, the AS 3 Mk 1, by far the most numerous of the five Canadian A/S variants, differed from the original TBM-3E in one obvious respect -- the ball turret was replaced by a rearward extension of the glasshouse canopy.  The turret seat and turning mechanism, however, were retained and converted into an Observer's station with a seat that rotated full circle. This permitted the Observer to attend to his various tasks as the navigator of the aircraft, his equipment being positioned fore and aft of the seat and accessed simply by turning the seat 180 degrees.

The Canadians also added several components to the AS 3 Mk 1, not all of which were universal.  One piece of equipment that was standard was a sonobuoy and flare launch chute that protruded down and rearward from what was originally the ventral gun port.  The modification of the TBM-3E torpedo bomber to an anti-submarine vehicle involved the addition of  up to 16 AN/SSQ-2 sonobuoys stored in the Observer’s Mate action station located below and aft of the Observer’s cockpit.  Coupled with the sonobuoys was the AN/ARR-3 sonobuoy receiver.  It is not clear as to how many of these sets were fitted to each Mk 1 aircraft or where they were located on board, but two are visible immediately forward of the Observer’s cockpit in photographs of the AS 3Ms.  Some of the late-variant AS 3 Mk 1s were fitted with a Lear ADF radio compass, the loop and enclosing blister for which appeared atop the glasshouse, and a pot-shaped AN/UPD-501 passive ECM antenna suspended beneath the engine cowling.  In all Avenger aircraft, the American RL-7 interphone was replaced with the Canadian CAM-1. The interphone amplifier provided communication between crew members.

A pair of AS 3Ms from VU 32 utility squadron from HMCS Shearwater fly across Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia in 1956. The forward and aft UPD-501 antennas are easily seen in this photo along with the MAD boom. Observer’s Mates (OMs) were responsible for communications and some of the anti-submarine duties such as dropping sonobuoys, smoke floats or marine markers as directed by the Observer and operating the radar. When targets of reconnaissance interest were encountered, the OM was responsible for aerial photography.  The Avenger was ideal for training OMs, since the operational squadrons (VS 880 and VS 881) to which the OM’s were assigned after graduation used the same type of aircraft. (Canadian Forces photo) 

Mock-up of AS 3M (above) and first prototype AS 3 Mk 2 (below). Fairey Aviation of Canada Ltd did a great job of refurbishing and converting the TBMs for the Royal Canadian Navy. Both pictures were taken sometime around the mid-1950s in the VX 10 hangar at HMCS Shearwater. Of the two a/c variants depicted, only the AS 3M found service in operational squadrons.  (DND photos from the collection of Leo Pettipas)
DND photo via A. Baltzer

This beautiful model of the Avenger TBM-3W2 "The Guppy" was constructed by Ryan Cameron. The real aircraft had two basic functions: airborne early warning and submarine search. It carried a Pilot plus an Observer and Observer's Mate, and was entirely unarmed. The Observer's chief responsibility was to navigate the aircraft successfully during a flight. This was no easy task, particularly when on anti- submarine missions. The Observers Mate assisted the Observer during his many tasks on such missions. As for specific duties, they varied with the mission. (Photo by Ryan Cameron). 
Bryan Hayter flew the TBM-3W2. He compares it to the other models. "As for flying the 3W2, I found it noticeably less stable than the other models particularly at slow speeds. This occurred because the airflow over the vertical and horizontal stabilizers was disturbed by the huge radome of the APS-20 radar. This instability was lessened somewhat by the addition of two smaller vertical stabilizers added to the 3W2 tailplane".
The Avenger had three crew positions. From forward to aft: Pilot, Observer's Mate  (OM) and Observer.


The Observer navigated the aircraft in the search area of interest then determined the tactics to be followed by the Pilot and Observer's Mate. He determined when the radar should be turned on, when and where to drop sonobuoys and which ones should be listened to, reacting to detections on the UPD-501 SHF DF set, and when and where to use the MAD.  Another duty was to fire his signal pistol, mainly in times of distress.  The pistol was lodged in the aft right-hand corner (facing aft) of the Observer’s cockpit with the muzzle connecting with a hole in the port side of the fuselage through which the pyro was shot. After the mission, the Observer navigated the aircraft back to carrier (or base) where the Pilot assumed the leading role of getting everyone back on-board with dry feet. The common nickname for the Observer was "Looker."


When the RCN acquired the three-place Avenger to fill the anti-submarine role, the Observer’s Mate branch was created.  In June of 1950 the first course was started which was 14 weeks in duration. The Observer's Mate was an assistant to feed information to the Observer from the detection sensors and assist the Observer with his duties.

Six weeks were spent learning communications and radio at the Communications School in Halifax while the remainder of the training was conducted at HMCS Shearwater Naval Air Station. There, trainees attended ground school lectures in the mornings studying more communications, radar, photography and basic antisubmarine procedure. In the afternoons their studies were put into practice in the air, and by the end of the course they had completed 25 hours flying time. The standards of entry into the Observer's Mate Branch were necessarily high for the candidate would have to be capable of being trained in the operation of intricate equipment while maintaining a high degree of efficiency under trying conditions often for long periods of time.

In the air, the OM's first responsibilities were radio and radar.  Once airborne, the OM was responsible for the transmission and reception of all CW messages, sending and receiving at 18 wpm.  When not sending or receiving messages, he monitored the radar, reporting all contacts to the Pilot and Observer. If the Observer was engaged in navigation, the OM would operate the radar. Approximately 50% of submarine contacts were made visually. Out of that , 75% were made by the Pilot. This would stand to reason since the Pilot had the best visibility.

When required, the OM would lay sonobuoys, smoke floats or marine markers on orders from the Pilot or Observer. He would assist in monitoring those deployed sonobuoys as well. On reconnaissance flights, the OM took photos with the aerial cameras. When in contact with a submarine, he would use the drift sight and assist in navigation.

When the trade first came into being, the OMs also had certain duties at the air station. They were responsible for the cleanliness of the aircrew ready rooms, the briefing room and the air intelligence room. They assisted the Observers and Pilots in keeping flying and performance charts for personnel and aircraft. There was also compass adjustment and drift sight alignment and correction of maps and charts.

The OM had two positions -- the "search" station, and the "action" station.  The search station was inside the glasshouse behind the Pilot's roll-over pylon.  His action station was in the bowels of the aircraft below and aft of the Observer's station.  The OM had a crawl space through which he moved back and forth from one station to the other.  If he was in the action station, one would not see him in an external photo; he would only be visible when in his search station.

By 1960, the old name of Observer's Mate disappeared and the name Naval Aircrewman came into existence.


There were two issues regarding controllers on AEW aircraft and those were decision-making and responsibility. In the Navy and Air Force, except for ground/carrier approach controllers, all aircraft controllers were officers because of the decision-making and responsibility demanded when directing two or more aircraft in the same airspace and the severe consequence or error, i.e. mid-air collision. Hence the Observer with his officer training would be the "controller."  In the Avenger 3W2, the Pilot had a repeater scope for the APS-20 radar from which he could maintain situational awareness or the airspace around him and  also provide a safety check on the Observer's direction to aircraft under his control. Most aircraft controllers can operate and change radar modes to optimize the radar picture while directing other aircraft under their control. Therefore, a third operator (OM) was not required to control. However, a third crewmember would be desirable to "peak and tweak" or troubleshoot radar problems while in the air as well as assist the Observer in other ways. On the AEW mission, the radar was the most important sensor, and to have a third person to optimize its performance would maximize the probability of mission success. In the AEW Avenger, two crewmembers were good but three were better.

Note how the Observer’s Mate’s (OM) seat is offset to the starboard side in the AS 3 Mk 1 and the AS 3M variants. Here the OM is in the search position and the seat faces aft. The AN/APN-1 radar altimeter is positioned at the back of the OM. Also contained within the mid-upper position were the AN-ART13 transmitter, ARC-1 transmitter/receiver and APX-2 transmitter. (Robert Blakeley DND/PAC/PA-125462) 

Click on photo to enlarge

avenger_operating _the_radio_as.jpg The Observer's Mate is sending a message in Morse at the action station. In the background is the ART-13 HF transmitter. (Photo DND/PAC/PA-140224)
avenger_om_action_station_a_s.jpg Observer's Mate at his action station. This was the normal flying position. Directly above his head is the Observer's station footrest. The sonobuoy stowage tubes are behind his right shoulder. (Robert W. Blakeley/DND/PAC/PA-125461)
avenger_radio_compass indicator_s.jpg This is a view of the Observer's cockpit of an AS 3 Mk 2 test aircraft looking aft. The large, circular instrument in the centre of the photo is the radio compass indicator. To its right and slightly above, is a mockup for the AN/APS-501 trial radar scope.   (William Parrell  DND/PAC/PA-136531)
Throughout the period during which the Avenger functioned as the Navy's first-line anti-submarine warfare aircraft, airborne weapons and equipment were under constant development and improvement. In order that their application in the RCN could receive full consideration and to ensure that accepted developments were properly adapted to Fleet use, it was necessary to allocate aircraft for research, modification and trials. It had been found that the volume of this work made it more efficient to form a distinct unit for this purpose rather than to allocate it to squadrons already engaged on other duties. It was this state of affairs that led to the commissioning of experimental squadron VX 10.

During the mid-'50s, the responsibilities of VX 10 were as follows:

(a) to test and evaluate equipment which was under construction for use in RCN aircraft carriers and aircraft;
(b) to accept aircraft after repair and overhaul from civilian contractors, and new aircraft from manufacturers;
(c) to advise Naval Headquarters when it was considered appropriate for modified or experimental aircraft or associated equipment to be passed to the Fleet for tactical evaluation.

Insofar as the Avengers were concerned, a wide variety of equipment was installed and assessed in the type: UPD-501 electronic countermeasures, AEW radar relay links, flight recorders, the marine marker MK 2 Mod 2, target towing "apparatus, CMA-301 Marconi and Lear ADF -14/ARD-7 radio compass,  explosive echo ranging ("Julie") gear, MAD, and the Canadian-designed and built AN/AIC-50l communications selector system, to name some of the more conspicuous examples.


From 1950 to 1957 the Avenger in its several variants, formed the backbone of Canadian Naval Aviation.  In the summer of 1956, on the eve of its replacement by the Tracker, a total of 53 TBMs were on squadron strength.  Four years later, on the morning of 13 June 1960, Commander (Air) made the last flight in an Avenger, and on 5 July 1960, the type was struck off strength once and for all.

Skyway Air Services in Langely BC bought 18 TBM-3s  (exact variant unknown) from the RCN through Crown Assets, and later, two 40-foot trailer loads of spare parts in 1960. Six aircraft or so were "tanked" and converted to into sprayer/bombers by a company in Victoria, BC.

To access more detail, select any of the following:

* Article on the TBM-3W2 "Guppy" by Leo Pettipas
* Full description of the Avenger's electronics
* Other Photos
* Surviving Avengers in Canada
* Canadian Warplane Heritage Avenger Restoration
* You Tube Video Clip #1 of Avenger
* You Tube Video Clip #2 of Avenger

For practical reasons, the complete story of the Avenger cannot be told in a single web page. To understand the aircraft's entire history, it's recommended to read the book " The Grumman Avenger in the Royal Canadian Navy" by Leo Pettipas. Soft covered, 8.5" x 11"; 154 pages; 1988.  ISBN 0-9692528-4-6. It is available from the Shearwater Museum Gift Shop.

Credits and References:

1) Leo Pettipas <lpettip(at)> Associate Air Force Historian. Air Force Heritage and History 1 Canadian Air Division.
Winnipeg, Manitoba.
2) "The Grumman Avenger in the Royal Canadian Navy" by Leo Pettipas.
3) White Paper: Grumman ASW Avenger Variants in the RCN by Leo Pettipas. June 2008
4) White Paper: Early Cold War Anti-Submarine Warfare Development in Canada by Leo Pettipas. June 2008
5) Gerald E. Sullivan <ahoygs(at)>
7) Shearwater Museum
10) Ryan Cameron <vanffrc(at)>
11) Bryan Hayter <bhayter(at)>
12) Crowsnest  Jan 1952
13) Crowsnest June 1956
14) Ernest Cable -  Associate Air Force Historian and Shearwater Aviation Museum Historian <erncar(at)>

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Sept 25 /12