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TBM-3W Cadillac I

The U.S. Navy, in 1944, under the threat of Kamikaze attack, ordered the development of a radar system that could be carried aloft in an aircraft. Which would expand the radar horizon under which the Fleet was to operate during a series of campaigns through the Philippines and northwards to Japan. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was tasked with developing a workable system in February 1944 under Project Cadillac (a reference to a mountain in the state of Maine, where some of the equipment testing had taken place) and a prototype system was built and flown in August on a modified TBM Avenger torpedo bomber. With tests proving successful, the system being able to detect low flying formations at a range in excess of 100 miles, the US Navy ordered production of the TBM-3W, the first AEW aircraft to enter service. TBM-3Ws fitted with the AN/APS-20 radar entered service in March 1945, with some 36-40 eventually being constructed.

A fiberglass radome containing the AN/APS-20 radar was installed at the front of the Bombay and in between the main wheels; it had a modified cockpit, housing only the pilot. A couple of radar specialists were ensconced in a turtle backed compartment in the rear fuselage. It had nine external antennas and in order to maintain the required aerodynamic yaw control, which had been affected by the large belly radome, a pair of finlets was added above and below the horizontal stabilizers. The AN/APS-20 radar was just a part of a new package of mission avionics installed aboard the TBM-3W. It was complemented by the AN/APX-13 Identification Friend of Foe (IFF) system. The IFF used the United States Navy A and G frequency bands to distinguish whether a contact was a friendly or enemy aircraft.

The Avenger was purely an AEW radar aircraft, as the aircraft had a crew of only a single pilot and one radar operator. All control functions were conducted on surface ships, with radar data transmitted via a data link which gave the video image and radar antenna angle to enable a tactical picture to be developed in the Combat Information Center (CIC).

Tests were conducted aboard the USS Ranger between January and April, 1945, they revealed that a single aerial target could be detected at twice the range of a radar picket ships radar range whilst an enemy formation could be located from two to four times farther out still. Also an enemy surface vessel could be picked up six times further away that was possible before with surface radars. The second world war was to end before the Cadillac 1 aircraft could be used against the Japanese.

Following the success of Project Cadillac, Project Cadillac II was commenced in 1944, with the aim of producing a flying command center. This lead to the development of the PB-1W, a modified B-17, using the same AN/APS-20 radar as the TBM-3W, but with several operators on board who could steer defending fighters towards targets via radio. The PB-1W was specifically designed to counter the Kamikaze threat, operating from land bases in support of the Fleet at sea.



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