Ordered on 30 June 1934, and entered into a US Navy competition for new bomber aircraft to operate from its aircraft carriers, the Douglas entry was one of the winners of the competition. Other aircraft ordered for production as a result of the competition included the Brewster SBA, the Vought SB2U Vindicator, and the Northrop BT-1 which would evolve into the SBD Dauntless.

The XTBD Devastator, which flew for the first time on 15 April 1935, marked a large number of "firsts" for the US Navy. It was the first widely used carrier-based monoplane as well as the first all-metal naval aircraft, the first with a totally enclosed cockpit, the first with power-actuated (hydraulically) folding wings and in these respects the TBD was revolutionary. A semi-retractable landing gear was fitted, with the wheels designed to protrude 10 in. below the wings to permit a "wheels-up" landing which might limit damage to the aircraft. A crew of three was normally carried beneath a large "greenhouse" canopy almost half the length of the aircraft. The pilot sat in front; a rear gunner/radio operator took the rearmost position, while the bombardier occupied the middle seat. During a bombing run, the bombardier lay prone, sliding into position under the pilot to sight through a window in the bottom of the fuselage, using the Norden bomb sight.

The normal TBD offensive armament consisted of either a 1,935 lb Bliss-Leavitt Mark 13 aerial torpedo or a 1,000 lb. bomb, to be carried semi-recessed into a fuselage bomb bay. Alternatively, three 500 lb. general-purpose bombs (one under each wing root and one inside the bomb bay), or twelve 100 lb. fragmentation bombs (six under each wing root), could be carried. This weapons load was often used when attacking Japanese targets on the Gilbert and Marshall Islands in 1942. Defensive armament consisted of a .30 in. Browning machine gun for the rear gunner. Fitted in the starboard side of the cowling was either a .30 in. or .50 in. M2 Browning machine gun.

The power plant was a Pratt & Whitney R-1830-64 Twin Wasp radial engine of 850 hp, an outgrowth of the prototype's Pratt & Whitney XR-1830-60/R-1830-1 of 800 hp. Other changes from the 1935 prototype included a revised engine cowling and raising the cockpit canopy to improve visibility.

The XTBD had a flat canopy that was replaced on production models by a higher, domed canopy over a rollover bar. Other than requests by test pilots to improve pilot visibility, the prototype easily passed its acceptance trials that took place from 24 April-24 November 1935 at NAS (Naval Air Station) Anacostia and Norfolk bases. After successfully completing torpedo drop tests, the prototype was transferred to the USS Lexington for carrier certification. The extended service trials continued until 1937 with the first two production aircraft retained by the company exclusively for testing.

A total of 129 of the type were purchased by the US Navy's Bureau of Aeronautics (BuAer), and starting from 1937, began to equip the carriers USS Saratoga, Enterprise, Lexington, Wasp, Hornet, Yorktown and Ranger. In prewar use, TBD units were engaged in training and other operational activities and were gradually approaching the end of their useful service life with at least one aircraft being converted to target tug duty. By 1940, the US Navy was aware that the TBD had become outclassed by the fighters and bombers of other nations and a replacement  was in the works, but it was not yet in service when the US entered World War II. By then, attrition had reduced their numbers to just over 100 aircraft. The US Navy assigned popular names to its aircraft in late 1941, and the TBD became the Devastator, although its nickname "torpecker" was commonly used.

The Kit

The Great Wall Hobby kit comes in a somewhat largish box for the scale with nice artwork on the top. The box is a top open tray type with a thin cardboard top and a corrugated cardboard bottom. Inside the box one finds five sprues in a light gray and one clear. All are individually bagged in resealable cellophane bags. The cowling is supplied as a separate piece and is also bagged. Also in the box in a resealable cellophane envelope is the decal sheet and two photo etch frets, separated by a sheet of paper. This kit was released in 2012 and I only recently acquired it. One thing I found based on early reviews of the kit that it initially included two cast metal parts which were the wing fold mechanism and a sheet of self adhesive masks for the clear parts. apparently some where along the line the metal parts were deleted and replaced by injection molded parts and the mask sheet was deleted. Early reviews indicated that the masks fit poorly and did not stick well so it's loss is probably a good thing. The parts map still shows and the instructions still call out the cast metal parts. The new plastic parts are on a small sprue marked as sprue 'H' which is not shown on the parts map. Since I planed on having the wings unfolded it wasn't an issue for me one way or the other. As for the masks, Eduard makes a set.

The parts are crisply cast and feature recessed panel lines as well as rivets and fasteners. The rivets are so fine that they will probably disappear under anything but very thin coats of paint. The fabric surfaces are very nicely done as are the corrugated surfaces. I did not find any surface defects on the airframe surfaces. Most of the ejector pin marks will be out of sight but a few may need to be filled. Mold alignment marks are for the most part light. The ailerons and flaps are molded separate but the elevators and rudder are molded in the neutral position.

The cockpit is very well detailed and takes up all of the first two pages of assembly instructions. Much of the supplied photo etch is used there. The instrument panel has raised bezels and other detail and individual instrument decals are supplied for the instrument faces. The photo etch includes both seat belts and shoulder harnesses but at the time of the battle of Midway which this aircraft represents, only lap belts were in use. The twin gun mount that was only used by VT-8 is supplied with the kit. The instructions show a storage position for the gun but this was only used on the single gun mounts and was not used with the twin gun mount. Separate doors that cover the bombardiers window are included. Again these were designed to be installed open but would be closed when carrying a torpedo which was dropped by the pilot. To close them you may want to add some styrene to strengthen the joint between the two and add some to the area surrounding the doors to provide a surface to glue them.

The engine is well detailed with separate push rods, wiring harness, intake and exhaust manifolds. The cowling includes the choice of open or closed cowl flaps. The propeller is a nice one piece molding with a separate nose cap and counter weights. In a throw back to days of old there are molded in lines to mark where the color paint lines go. Decals are also supplied for the prop tips.

The landing gear are nicely detailed including molded on brake lines. The wheels are in halves and weighted a bit much for Navy carrier aircraft. Two sets of main gear struts are provided, one set for down and one set for retracted.  Noted in a number of other reviews, the shock struts are molded fully extended which gives the aircraft a slightly higher stance than it should have especially when fully loaded. The downside to shortening them is that the box assembly that was used on the torpedoes at Midway may not clear the ground.

The wings are designed to be folded. That said the instructions show them mounted either folded or open but are somewhat unclear what is to be done if installed unfolded. Builders recommend gluing the inner and outer upper wing sections together with some styrene sheet reinforcement. After the upper wings are attached to the center wing section then add the lower outer section. Three bombs are included on the sprues but again the aircraft being represented is from Midway and no bombs were carried in that operation by the TBD's.

OK, lets look at the sprues. The first one has the fuselage halves, bombs, main gear struts and two small parts that mount to the gear struts.

A close up showing the interior structure molded inside the fuselage.

The next sprue has the wing parts.

And a close up showing the wing corrugations.

The next sprue has the tail planes, ailerons, flaps, bombardiers window doors, wing fold parts, fairing for the lower fuselage and cockpit parts.

A close up showing some of the cockpit detail.

The next sprue has the engine parts, prop, torpedo, wheels, tail wheel, tail hook, the alternative Main gear struts, and more interior parts.

A close up showing some of the detail on the above sprue.

This is the sprue that replaced the cast metal parts.

And the cowling which is a separate part.

The clear parts are nice and clear with very little optical distortion. A fully closed canopy is supplied and well as all of the individual parts for opening it up. The rub here is that the parts are too thick to be stacked as they would be when opened. The two small pieces are for windows in the bombardiers position.

The PE parts include engine harness, torpedo props, seat belts and harnesses, a screen for the oil cooler and a host of parts for the cockpit interior.

The decals have a flat finish, good color density and are in register. Most have minimal excess film except for the lettering which is normal. Prop tips and manufacturers decals are supplied for the props as are wing walks. Markings are supplied for two aircraft, one that of Ensign George Gay and the other that of squadron commander John C. Waldron

The instructions are  printed on A4 size glossy paper and form an eleven page booklet stapled at the spine. The cover page repeats the box art and features a brief description of the Midway campaign. The header on the page states "VT-6 at Wake Island 1942" which is obviously wrong and apparently wasn't changed from another release of this kit. Page one has the usual safety warnings, a parts map and a paint chart featuring CSI Creos Mr. Hobby colors as well as Vallejo and Tamiya and generic color names. Page 2 through 9 feature the assembly steps which aren't numbered but total 25 in number. Assembly diagrams are for the most part clear with some exceptions and shading is used to illustrate parts being added. Pages 10 and 11 are in full color and are the painting and marking diagrams. Both aircraft supplied on the decal sheet are identical color wise and differ only in the squadron code letters and numbers. I have no experience with Great Wall Hobby decals so can't speak to their quality.

After Market Goodies

I decided to go with an Eduard Zoom color PE set [FE966] for this kit as my experience punching out and installing extremely small instrument faces has not been good. The set provides some parts that duplicate some of those supplied with the kit so when build time comes I'll decided which makes the most sense to use. This is one of Eduard's newer sets that has a clear overlay on the instrument dials saving one the effort of doing that oneself.
Also a handy item to have is the Eduard mask set [EX354]


This is a very nicely detailed kit that except for a few idiosyncrasies goes together reasonably well. The only other choice in this scale is the 40+ year old Monogram kit that requires a lot of filler to build and is not anywhere near as well detailed as this kit. Take your time and take the advise given in the first listed review below and you should end up with a nice result.

Links to kit builds or reviews

Build reviews can be found here and here.


TBD Devastator in Action by Al Adcock and Wikipedia

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Updated  5/25/19