by Tommy H. Thomason

Monday, August 31, 2020

The Colorful TBM-3U

2 September 2020: Sword plans to issue a kit of the TBM-3U at the end of the year.

2 September 2020: The white store under the right wing is an AN/APS-4 radar. See

Sword Models ( has just released three 1/72 scale kits of postwar TBMs (for a summary of all the U.S. Navy variants and a guideline for the presence of an internal or external tailhook, see

SW72130 Avenger AS.4

SW72131 TBM-3S2

SW72132 TBM-3R

The TBM-3R was the first real COD (Carrier Onboard Delivery) in the U.S. Navy. For more, see

One of the significant differences among these versions is the various canopy iterations from the standard one with a prominent machine gun turret. As a result, the TBM-3R kit makes it easy to create a fourth and very colorful variant, the TBM-3U.

The U for Utility TBM was a modification of existing one involving the removal of all offensive and defensive equipment and addition of a target-tow capability. The canopy was basically identical to one of the TBM-3R variants.

This is a notional inboard profile:

Note that the tow reel might be mounted higher to fit within the width of the lower fuselage at that point. The circular structure on which the turret was mounted would probably still be present.

The tail hook might be internal or external depending on the TBM used for the conversion or removed entirely.



 External (note the cutback of the lower gun tunnel)

 This is probably a TBM-3J (note that it still has a rear turret) with the external tailhook removed:

The tow reel might look something like this, less the structure aft of the reel (this is the pod-mounted AD Skyraider tow mechanism):

Although later target-tow airplanes had engine gray fuselages, as of May 1946 they had gloss Sea Blue fuselages as well as an 18-inch wide walkway on the upper surface of the wings adjacent to the fuselage. The upper and lower surface of the wings and horizontal stabilizer were to be Orange Yellow as well as the vertical fin (the rudder was to be Insignia Red). A 36-inch wide Insignia Red band was also to be painted on the upper and lower surface of the wing about one third of the distance outboard from the fuselage to the wing tip.


  1. What is the under wing pod in some of the photos?


    1. It's an APS-4 radar. See link at the top of the post.

  2. Of the three variants released by Sword, the one I prefer is the TBM-3S2. Is there a diagram or photos showing the arrangement of the electronic equipment in the rear compartment? As much as I search, I can't find anything.

  3. TBM-3U is the same plastic as TBM-3R so only difference is decal sheet
    by the way U already in stores