The Lockheed P2V "Neptune" is unique in that it is the
only American naval land-based patrol plane ever designed expressly for this
purpose. Both the "Neptune's" predecessor, the PV2 "Harpoon", and
successor, the P3 "Orion", were first built by Lockheed as transports... the
PV2 as the "Lodestar", and the P3 as the "Electra". The P2V was also the
last US military aircraft to feature the Emerson ball turret, which was
installed for a time in the aircraft nose, and was the last radial engine
powered bomber accepted for delivery by the US. From May 12, 1945 to the
end of its production run in 1962, 1,036 "Neptune's" were produced in seven
major variants, with the US Navy receiving the vast majority. The
"Neptune's" versatility is evident from the many missions this aircraft was
called on to perform... it truly set the standard for modern patrol aircraft.
In early 1941, Lockheed Aircraft's Vega division began
design work on a twin-engined bomber. It was felt that the aircraft,
utilizing the then new Wright R-3350 Cyclone engine, would be able to carry a
larger bomb load for longer distances than existing four-engined heavy bombers
like the B-17 "Flying Fortress" and B-24 "Liberator". The resulting
aircraft design, designated "model 26", was a large, mid-wing bomber,
accommodating a crew of seven. Because it was a relatively low wartime
priority, (at the time even longer range and heavier bomb loads were being
planned for), the "model 26" project's R-3350 engines were diverted to another
project, the Boeing B-29 "Superfortress". Development of the "model 26"
prototype was renewed as the war progressed, however, with fifteen aircraft
ordered by the Navy in April of 1944. The XP2V-1 "Neptune", as it was
designated, was finally flown for the first time toward the end of the war on
May 17, 1945, shortly after the German surrender.
Assuming its patrol duties with the US Navy shortly
after the Second World War, "Neptune's" saw their first combat use during the
Korean Conflict. There they were used in ground attack, mine laying, day
and night bombing and rocket attack and as armored combat transports as well.
They became the "Cold War" patrol aircraft along both American coasts, were
active in the Cuban missile crisis, and participated in the American space
program as well. During the Viet Nam war P2's were involved with
electronic warfare and, as night and all-weather interdiction aircraft.
The OP-2E version flown by
VO-67 dropped sensors along the Ho Chi Minh trail and other supply routes
to detect enemy troop and vehicle movement, and even the Army flew them as an
attack variant, the AP2E.
most famous "Neptune" was, without a doubt, a P2V-1, the "Truculent Turtle",
which, from September 29th through October 1st, 1947, flew non-stop, without
refueling, from Perth, Australia, to Columbus, Ohio, a world-record setting
distance of 11,235 miles. This piston engine powered record stood almost
forty years, until Burt Rutan's "Voyager" circled the globe non-stop in
December of 1986. A more typical "Neptune" mission lasted ten hours,
with a crew of ten. Because of the long mission capabilities, the P2's
were equipped with a small galley and an electric stove. The only bunk,
however, was soon removed to make way for additional electronics gear, with
the floor or wing being the only place to stretch out.
The P2V-7 model, the type acquired and now operated by
the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum, was first flown in 1954. Re-designated
SP-2H, OP-2E, and AP-2H after 1962, "Neptune"s continued to serve through the
Viet Nam war and until the mid 1970's. By that time, however, the P3
"Orion" had replaced the P2 in all service but with reserve units. Most
found their way to Davis Monthan Air Force Base, in Arizona, where they were
placed in storage.
click on portions of the photo for
details and photos about that part of the aircraft
As with many of the aircraft with a relatively long production
run, the original P2 design saw a great many changes from model to model.
Successive "Neptune" models gradually removed armament in favor of more
anti-submarine electronics, but all models kept the large weapons bay included
in the design of the first "Neptune" model, the P2V-1. In additional
armament, the P2V-1 carried three pairs of 12.7 mm machine guns and mountings
for up to sixteen under-wing
The P2V-2 model added up to eight 20mm cannons in the nose,
tail, and dorsal position. The P2V-3 began the trend of eliminating
armament in place of more electronics, by adding APS-20
radar and the characteristic belly radome. The P2V-4 introduced the
turbo-compound engine and auxiliary
wingtip fuel tanks. Increasing weight (Including the addition of
Jezebel underwater detection equipment) caused many of the P2V-5 models to
include the retrofit of Westinghouse J 34 jets to improve takeoff, and to add
maneuvering speed during combat. (This model was designated the P2V-5F).
The addition of the MAD stinger, first on the P2V-5, and the deletion of guns
as the subs went nuclear, brought the "Neptune" to its final major
configuration, the P2V-7, which was flown first on April 26, 1954. This
last model was to remain in service for more than 20 years. P2V "Neptune's"
were operated by the US Navy, Army and Air Force, as well as Argentina,
Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, the Netherlands, Portugal, and the United
Kingdom. In addition, the Japanese defense force utilized the design,
produced under license by Kawasaki, with turboprop power plants.
Despite the "Neptune's" long service history, and significant
role in aviation and in our nation's defense, very few of these unique
aircraft have been preserved in museums. The Naval Museum in Pensacola
does have on display both the "Truculent Turtle" and a P2V-7 model as well.
An AP2H exists on display at the Pima Air Museum in Tucson. A few more
remain as gate guardians at Naval Air Stations, including NAS Brunswick, and
Operational "Neptunes" are even more difficult to find.
Several have found service as fire bombers in the western United States.
At this time, restored operating examples can also be found in the Netherlands
and in Australia. In the United States, a few other P2V-7's have been
operated for a time by museums, but not consistently.
The Mid-Atlantic Air Museum has operated its P2V-7, flying to airshows to
display the aircraft, for more than ten years. The aircraft is an
"ongoing restoration", each year becoming more authentic with the addition of
The Museum acquired two P2V's through the Federal
Surplus Property program during the fall of 1983. BU NO 145915 filled
the following assignments during its time with the US Navy: VP 21 and VP-23,
NAS Brunswick, VP-92 NAS South Weymouth, VP-94 NAS New Orleans, VP-56 NAS
Norfolk, and VP-67 NAS Memphis. It served actively during the Cuban
missile crisis in 1962, with VP-24.
In storage for several years at Davis Monthan Air Force Base,
covered with preservatives and desert dust, the Museum's "Neptune" was a
dismal sight as it greeted a work party of Museum volunteers. Over a
week's time they removed animal nests, installed instruments and avionics, and
made the aircraft flight-worthy. A two day return trip to the Museum's
home in Pennsylvania was achieved without incident. (The crew chose not
to use the heaters in the aircraft, in order to not risk problems, which made
for an extremely cold wintertime return trip!) Museum volunteers set to
work immediately cleaning up the aircraft and beginning the restoration
As a "flying" museum, part of the mission of the Mid-Atlantic
Air Museum is not only to restore, but also operate classic aircraft like the
P2V. The "Neptune" travels to five or six airshows each year, where it
performs fly-bys for the crowd and is also opened for tours to the general
public. Thousands of people each year have the experience of touring the
P2 from the bow observer station to the MAD stinger. Most air show
visitors have little knowledge about the aircraft and its mission. Museum
volunteers "man" many of the crew positions, helping to explain the functions
of the crew members and use of the equipment on board. They share the
history of the aircraft that, for many years, was the major airborne defense
system for the US coasts. Visitors are always amazed at the lack of
creature comforts and cramped space, are impressed with the galley, and enjoy
climbing over the wing as a part of their tour. Museum volunteers have
also benefited from the tours, learning a great deal about the "Neptune" from
those who flew aboard them.
From the time the aircraft flew to its first airshow,
ex-"Neptune" crewmen have been drawn to the aircraft. They climb aboard
to reminisce, to show family members the aircraft that they spent so much time
serving aboard. Reserve squadrons have provided much of the now outdated
electronics equipment which has been installed on the aircraft, and provided
uniforms, manuals, and photographs for the museum collection, as well.
Just as fascinating have been the hundreds of stories collected from ex-P2
crewmen concerning their eventful and not-so-eventful missions.
Everything from combat experiences and engine out performance to pranks played
on new crew members has been recounted.
MAAM's "Neptune" restoration is now complete with sonobuoy,
radar and electronic equipment, operational bomb bay and searchlight.
In 1985 at the Experimental Aircraft Association Convention at Oshkosh,
Wisconsin the Museum's BUNO 145915 was awarded the 'Best Restored Bomber'
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