The Lockheed P2V Neptune is largely a forgotten aircraft, as it arrived too late for World War II and was eventually overshadowed by its replacement, the Lockheed P3 Orion; but the Neptune served in large numbers as the aerial backbone of the West's defense of the oceans.
The first of two prototype Neptunes, designated the XP2V-1, took to the air from Burbank, California, on 17 May, 1945. Tests indicated that the new aircraft was highly manouverable and had excellent performance. The US Navy took delivery of its first Neptunes in 1946; after the first two prototypes, 15 P2V-1s were provided. The third P2V-1, named the Truculent Turtle, was fitted with auxiliary fuel tanks and used to set an unrefueled long distance flight record in September, 1947, flying from Perth, Australia, to Columbus, Ohio, with a crew of four Navy officers and a young kangaroo.
The P2V-2 had uprated Wright R-3350-24W engines, with takeoff power of 2,800 horsepower, each driving a three-bladed Hamilton Standard propeller (replacing the four-bladed prop used on the P2V-1). The P2V-2 had a solid nose, replacing the glass nose of the P2V-1, that contained radar and six fixed 20-millimeter cannon; the new nose made the P2V-2 about 76 centimeters (2.5 feet) longer.
The first P2V-2 reached the US Navy in 1947, with the last of the 81 built reaching the service the next year.
The P2V-3 featured even more powerful engines -- Wright R-3350-26Ws, with takeoff power of 3,200 horsepower. The P2V-3 was built as four subvariants: the standard P2V-3, the P2V-3W antisubmarine warfare aircraft, the P2V-3Z armed transport, and the P2V-3C carrier-launched aircraft. A total of 83 P2V-3s of all types were built.
The first P2V-4 flew in 1949. This variant had even more powerful engines, twin Wright R-3350-30W Turbo-Compound engines with 3,750 horsepower each (though early production had the earlier R-3350-26W engines and was upgraded to the new engines later).
The P2V-4 incorporated some of the added fuel tanks that were evaluated on the Truculent Turtle to provide extended range. It carried radio sonobuoys to improve its antisubmarine capabilities, and was known as the "Snorkel Snipper" since its likely prey was to be diesel submarines operating with snorkels. 52 P2V-4s were built.
The P2V-5 first flew in late 1950, and was the most popular Neptune variant, with 424 being built into spring, 1951. It retained the same powerplants as the P2V-4, but the six fixed 20-millimeter guns in the nose were replaced by a nose turret mounting twin 20-millimeter guns.
The P2V-6 was essentially a P2V-5 with different electronic equipment fits for mine-laying and antisubmarine warfare, and resembled the P2V-5 except for a bigger nose and smaller radome. 83 P2V-6s were built in 1952 and 1953.
The last US-built model of the Neptune was the P2V-7, with yet another uprated Wright radial, the R-3350-32W, with 4,000 HP take-off power. It had an improved canopy with a better all-round view and a longer fuselage. Wingtip tanks were streamlined and made smaller.
Some 359 P2V-7s were built, beginning in 1954, including 16 built by Kawasaki in Japan for the country's Self-Defence Forces. 33 P2V-7s were supplied to France. The type was redesignated P-2H in the 1960s.
The very last version of the Neptune was the Japanese-built P-2J (original P2V-KAI, where "KAI" means "modification"), and was apparently something of a dinosaur. Work on the P-2J was begun in 1961, when the type was clearly obsolescent, and the first P-2J didn't fly until 1969 -- with the last of 89 delivered in 1979.
A total of 1,188 Neptunes were built in all; the aircraft was highly successful and had a long and productive lifetime.
|General characteristics P2V-7|
|Primary function||ocean patrol aircraft, mine-laying and antisubmarine warfare|
|Power plant||Two radial piston Wright R-3350-32W engines|
|Thrust||2x 4,000 HP||2x 2,983 kW|
|Wingspan||103 ft 10 in||31.7 m|
|Length||91 ft 8 in||28.0 m|
|Height||28 ft 1 in||8.6 m|
|Max. loaded weight||80,000 lb||36,300 kg|
|Max. speed||364 mph||586 km/h|
|Range, without tanks||4,350 miles||7,000 km|
|Armament||Nose turret mounting twin 20-millimeter guns, possible four 30 cm (11.5 in) Tiny Tim rockets and 16x 12.7 cm (5 in) High Velocity Air Rockets (HVARs); four 900 kg (2,000 lb) bombs, or eight 450 kg (1,000 lb) bombs, or 16x 225 kg (500 lb) bombs; 12x 150 kg (325 lb) depth charges or two 980 kg (2,165 lb) aerial torpedoes.|
|Crew||Eight; the number of crew would vary in some versions but would range up to about ten.|