In 1943 the Navy sought to maximize the space on its aircraft carriers by developing an attack aircraft that would combine the bombing and torpedo bombing missions. Four companies received orders for prototypes, two of which emerged as the strongest candidates—the Douglas XBT2D-1 and the Martin XBTM-1, both products of companies with long traditions of successful naval strike aircraft.
The XBTM-1 was the first to take to the air, making its maiden flight on August 26, 1944. One of the objectives of the attack aircraft program was to design the airplane around the most powerful engine available, the XBTM-1 equipped with the 2,975 horsepower Wright R-3350-4 engine that was 30% more powerful than the power plant of the front line SB2C Helldiver. This enabled a top speed of 367 M.P.H. and tremendous load carrying capability with four 20mm cannon in the wings and provisions for carrying 4,500 lb. of ordnance. The aircraft proved it could carry much more in April 1949, when the aircraft now displayed in the Museum set an unofficial record for a single-engine aircraft by carrying a 10,689 lb. load aloft.
On January 15, 1945, the Navy placed an order for 750 production aircraft, which received the designation AM-1 Mauler before their maiden flight on December 16, 1946. Technical maladies hindered the airplane during its evaluation by the Navy The final report issued following the Navy's Service Acceptance Trials concluded that the suitability of the Mauler for service was "marginal for long range operations, formation flying, night flying and instrument flying, which demand excessive pilot effort and cause excessive fatigue." During carrier trials the entire aft section of the fuselage of the test aircraft tore away after an arrested landing, and once assigned to active squadron service, the AM displayed a marked tendency to bounce when hitting the flight deck, subsequently causing the aircraft's tailhook to miss the arresting wires.
Attack Squadron (VA) 17A was the first squadron to accept delivery of the Mauler on March 1, 1948, with four additional squadrons also flying the AM-1, including Composite Squadron (VC) 4, which flew the electronic countermeasures version, which was designated the AM-1Q. However, poor operation performance—one squadron skipper called it the “Awful Monster”— coupled with the better performance of its Douglas counterpart, the AD Skyraider (formerly the XBT2D-1) doomed the Mauler to limited operational service. Only 151 were built an by 1950, they had been removed from front line service and assigned to the Naval Air Reserve, in which they served into the mid-1950s.
Delivered in March 1949, the museum’s AM-1 Mauler (Bureau Number 122397) logged 673 flight hours before being retired from the Naval Air Reserve in 1955. During its career it flew from Naval Air Stations (NAS) Atlanta, Georgia, and St. Louis, Missouri. Stored at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland following its service, the aircraft arrived at the museum in 1972.
Manufacturer: Glenn L. Martin Company
Dimensions: Length: 42 ft., 2 in.; Height 16 ft., 10 in.; Wingspan: 50 ft.
Weights: Empty: 14,500 lb.; Gross: 23,386 lb.
Power Plant: One 2,975 horsepower Wright R-3350-4 engine
Performance: Maximum Speed: 367 M.P.H. at 11,600 ft.; Service Ceiling: 30,500 ft.; Range: 1,800 miles
Armament: Four 20mm fixed forward-firing cannon and 4,500 lb. of ordnance