The Navy’s first carrier-based Electronic Warfare aircraft was the Eastern TBM-3Q Avenger, whose requirement was based on lessons learned through World War II in the Pacific Theater. During 1944-45 a small number of TBM-3s had been field-modified to carry low-power jammers, simple receivers and chaff dispensers to deal with Japanese radars. Notable among these efforts was Air Group (Night)-90 working off Enterprise (CV 6) with specially configured TBM-3Ds. Their (and others’) success led to the Navy introducing the “Q for Radar Countermeasures” suffix to Naval Aviation in November 1945 with the TBM-3Q being the first aircraft so designated. It was quickly followed by the SNB-3Q crew trainer and anticipated “Q” variants of new Douglas AD and Martin AM carrier attack aircraft.
With the recent sundown the the Grumman EA-6B Prowler from Navy service,* Rick Morgan takes us back to where it began, the jamming variant of the TBM.
The Navy and Marines have a long, long history of being at the forefront of tactical airborne electronic warfare. That legacy lives on with the E/A-18G Growler in the Navy’s Electronic Attack squadrons today.
What’s interesting is the template of signals analysis and tunable jammers was set so early, and continues to this day.
*It will serve with the Marines a few more years.