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P-2 (P2V) Neptune
SP-2H of VP-7 over the Atlantic in the mid 1950s.
Role Maritime Patrol and Anti-Submarine Warfare
Manufacturer Lockheed
First flight 17 May 1945
Introduced March 1947
Retired 1984 From military use
Primary users United States Navy
Japan Maritime Self Defense Force
Royal Australian Air Force
Royal Canadian Air Force
Argentine Navy
Variants Kawasaki P-2J

The Lockheed P-2 Neptune (P2V until September 1962) was a Maritime patrol and ASW aircraft. It was developed for the United States Navy by Lockheed to replace the PV-1 Ventura and PV-2 Harpoon, and being replaced in turn with the P-3 Orion. Designed as a land-based aircraft, the Neptune never made a carrier landing, although a small number of aircraft were converted for carrier use and successfully launched. The type was successful in export, seeing service with several armed forces.


Design and development

XP2V-1 prototype in 1945
A P2V takes off from the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVA 42) in 1951
P2V-2 of VP-18 over NAS Jacksonville, 1953

Development began early in World War II, but in comparison to other aircraft in development at the time it was considered a low priority. So it was not until 1944 that the program went into full swing. A major factor in the design was ease of manufacture and maintenance, and this can be said to have been a major factor in the type's long life and worldwide success. The first aircraft flew in 1945. Production began in 1946, and the aircraft was accepted into service in 1947.

It was one of the first aircraft to be fitted in operational service with both piston and jet engines. The Convair B-36, several Boeing C-97 Stratofreighter, C-123 Provider, and Avro Shackleton aircraft also achieved that distinction; it leads naturally to an unusual sound during overflight.

Operational history


Vietnam War

During the Vietnam War, the Neptune was used by the US Navy as a gunship, an overland reconnaissance and sensor deployment aircraft, and in its traditional role as a maritime patrol airplane. The Neptune was also utilized by the U.S. Army's 1st Radio Research Company (Aviation), call sign 'Crazy Cat,' located at Cam Ranh Bay, as an electronic 'ferret' aircraft.

Falklands War

The Argentine Navy had received at least 16 Neptunes in different variants since 1958 including eight ex-RAF for use in the Escuadrilla Aeronaval de Exploración (English: Naval exploration squadron). They were intensively used in 1978 during the Operation Soberania against Chile including over the Pacific Ocean.[1]

During the Falklands War (Spanish: Guerra de las Malvinas) in 1982, the last two airframes in service (2-P-111 and 2-P-112) played a key role of reconnaissance and aiding Dassault Super Étendards, particularly on the 4 May attack against HMS Sheffield. The lack of spare parts, caused by the US having enacted an arms embargo in 1977 due to the Dirty War, led to the type being retired before the end of the war; Argentine Air Force C-130 Hercules took over the task of searching for targets for strike aircraft.

In 1983, the unit was reformed with Lockheed L-188 Electras modified for maritime surveillance and in 1994 these ones were replaced with P-3B Orions.

Other military operators

The Royal Air Force Coastal Command operated 52 P2V-5s, designated Neptune MR.1s as a stop-gap modern maritime patrol aircraft until the Avro Shackletons could enter service.[2] They were used from between 1952[3] and March 1957,[4] being used for Airborne Early Warning experiments as well as for maritime patrol.[5]

In Australia, the Netherlands, and the US Navy, its tasks were taken over by the much larger and more capable P-3 Orion, and by the 1970s, it was only in use by patrol squadrons in the US Naval Reserve. In Canada, its tasks were taken over by the CP-107 Argus, followed by the CP-140 Aurora. The US Naval Reserve abandoned its last Neptunes in 1978, those aircraft also having been replaced by the P-3 Orion. By the 1980s, the Neptune had fallen out of military use in most purchasing nations, replaced by newer aircraft.

Neptune Aviation Services' P-2V Neptune drops Phos-Chek on the 2007 WSA Complex fire in Oregon.

In Japan, the Neptune was license-built from 1966 by Kawasaki as the P-2J, with the piston engines replaced by IHI turboprops. Kawasaki continued their manufacture much later than Lockheed did; the P-2J remained in service until 1984.

Civilian firefighting

P-2/P2Vs are currently employed in aerial firefighting roles by operators such as Aero Union and Neptune Aviation Services and can carry 2,400 gal (9,084 l) of retardant with a service life of 15,000 hours. Neptune proposes to replace them with Bombardier Q200 and Q300 aircraft which are estimated to have a service life of 80,000 hours.

"Truculent Turtle"

The third production P2V-1 was chosen for a record-setting mission, ostensibly to test crew endurance and long-range navigation but also for publicity purposes: to display the capabilities of the Navy's latest patrol bomber. With time, the aircraft has come to be called "Truculent Turtle," but, in fact, its nickname was simply "The Turtle," which was painted on the aircraft's nose (along with a cartoon of a turtle smoking a pipe pedaling a device attached to a propeller).

P2V-1 Turtle in 1946

Loaded with fuel in extra tanks fitted in practically every spare space in the aircraft, the Turtle set out from Perth, Australia to the United States. With a crew of four (and a nine-month-old gray kangaroo, a gift from Australia for the Washington, D.C. zoo) the plane set off on 9 September 1946, with a RATO (rocket-assisted takeoff). 2½ days (55h18m) later, the Turtle touched down in Columbus, Ohio, 11,236.6 mi (18,083.6 km) from its starting point. It was the longest unrefueled flight made to that point - 4,000 mi (6,400 km) longer than the USAF's B-29 Superfortress record. This would stand as the absolute unrefueled distance record until 1962 (beaten by a USAF B-52 Stratofortress), and would remain as a piston-engined record until 1986 when Dick Rutan's Voyager would break it in the process of circumnavigating the globe.


P2V-3 of VP-5 in 1953
P2V-5 with nose turret in 1952
An OP-2E of VO-67 in 1967/68 over Laos
P-2H of VP-56 in 1963
Restored French P-2H in Australia, 2004
US Navy AP-2H of VAH-21
Minden Air's Tanker 55, formerly an SP-2H, at Fox Field
RB-69A of the CIA in USAF markings

Lockheed produced seven main variants of the P2V. In addition, Kawasaki built the turboprop-powered P-2J in Japan. Model names after the 1962 redesignation are given in parentheses.

Prototype, one produced.
First production model, 15 built.
Second production model, 81 built.
P2V-2N "Polar Bear"
Modified Neptune with ski landing gear and early MAD gear, 1 built.
Upgraded powerplant, 83 built.
Carrier-based Neptune, 11 built.
Conversions from other P2V-3 models, including P2V-3C and -3W, fitted with the ASB-1 Low Level Radar Bombing System, 16 converted.
Airborne Early Warning variant, APS-20 search radar, 30 built.
VIP combat transport, 2 built.
P2V-4 (P-2D)
Upgraded powerplant and fuel capacity, 52 built.
Replaced solid nose with turret, APS-20 and APS-8 search radars standard, jettisonable wingtip fuel tanks. Late models featured observation nose and MAD gear in place of nose and tail turrets, 424 built.
P2V-5F (P-2E)
Modification with J34 jet engines, deleted wing rocket stubs, increased bombload.
Designation applied to P2V-5F with special SIGINT/ELINT equipment used by the US Army's 1st Radio Research Company at Cam Ranh Bay.
P2V-5FD (DP-2E)
P2V-5F with target towing or drone launch capability, various defensive equipment and all weaponry deleted.
P2V-5FE (EP-2E)
P2V-5F with Julie/Julie ASW gear but without other changes of P2V-5FS (SP-2E). Assigned almost exclusively to USNR.
P2V-5FS (SP-2E)
P2V-5F with Julie/Jezebel ASW gear.
Modified for use as part of Operation Igloo White with Observation Squadron 67 (VO-67), only 12 converted.
P2V-6 (P-2F)
Aerial mine delivery capability, APS-70 search radar, upgraded powerplant, 83 built.
AUM-N-2 Petrel missile launch capability.
P2V-6M (MP-2F)
Formerly P2V-6B, 16 produced; note that originally the M mission modifier prefix stood for missile carrier, but was eventually dropped, becoming the role-modifier for multi-mission aircraft.
P2V-6F (P-2G)
P2V-6/P-2F refitted with J34 jet engines.
P2V-6T (TP-2F)
Trainer version with armament deleted, wingtip tanks often deleted.
P2V-7 (P-2H)
Last Neptune variant produced by Lockheed, upgraded powerplant, jet pods standard, improved wingtip tanks, APS-20 search radar, bulged cockpit canopy, early fitted with nose and tail turrets, but replaced with observation nose and MAD tail, dorsal turret also fitted early and replaced with observation bubble, 311 built.
P2V-7LP (LP-2H)
Ski landing gear, JATO provisions, 4 built.
P2V-7S (SP-2H)
Additional ASW/ECM equipment including Julie/Jezebel gear.
Naval designation of the RB-69A variant.
Specialized ground attack variant for Heavy Attack Squadron 21 (VAH-21), only 4 converted.
Aerial reconnaissance, fitted with Side Looking Airborne Radar (SLAR) equipment, 5 built, two converted. Used by the CIA in USAF markings. Two operated in Europe were retired in 1961, all five operating in Asia were lost (1 crashed, 4 shot down by PR China)[6]
Neptune MR.1
British designation of P2V-5, 52 delivered.
CP-122 Neptune
RCAF designation of P2V-7.(jet pod not initially fitted to 25 P2V-7 aircraft delivered to RCAF, but subsequently retrofitted)[7]
Kawasaki P-2J (P2V-Kai)
Japanese variant produced by Kawasaki with T64 turboprop engines, various other improvements; 82 built.


A RAAF SP-2H with a USN P-5 and a RNZAF Sunderland in 1963
A Neptune MR.1 of 217 Sqn Coastal Command RAF in 1953
Aero Union P-2 Tanker 16 at Fox Field in 2003, without jet engines
Neptune Aviation Services' Tanker 44 takes off from Fox Field to fight the California wildfires of October 2007

Military operators

 Republic of China
 United Kingdom
 United States

Civilian operators



Data from Combat Aircraft since 1945[9]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 9-11
  • Length: 77 ft 10 in (23.72 m)
  • Wingspan: 100 ft 0 in (30.48 m)
  • Height: 28 ft 4 in (8.56 m)
  • Wing area: 1,000 ft² (92.9 m²)
  • Empty weight: 34,875 lb (15,819 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 64,100 lb (29,076 kg)
  • Powerplant:Wright R-3350-26W Cyclone-18 radial engine, 3,200 hp (2,386 kW) wet each
  • Propellers: 3 bladed propeller, 1 per engine



  • Rockets: 2.75 in (70 mm) FFAR in removable wing-mounted pods
  • Bombs: 8,000 lb (3,629 kg) including free-fall bombs, depth charges, and torpedoes

P-2H (P2V-7)

Lockheed P2V-7(P-2H) Neptune

Data from Combat Aircraft since 1945[9]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 7-9
  • Length: 91 ft 8 in (27.94 m)
  • Wingspan: 103 ft 10 in (31.65 m)
  • Height: 29 ft 4 in (8.94 m)
  • Wing area: 1,000 ft² (92.9 m²)
  • Empty weight: 49,935 lb (22,650 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 79,895 lb (35,240 kg)
  • Powerplant:Wright R-3350-32W Cyclone Turbo-compound radial engine, 3,700 hp (2,759 kW) wet each
  • Propellers: 4 bladed propeller, 1 per engine



  • Rockets: 2.75 in (70 mm) FFAR in removable wing-mounted pods
  • Bombs: 8,000 lb (3,629 kg) including free-fall bombs, depth charges, and torpedoes

See also

Related development

Comparable aircraft

Related lists


  1. ^ Historia y Arqueologia Marítima
  2. ^ Howard Air Pictorial August 1972, p.284.
  3. ^ Howard Air Pictorial August 1972, p.285.
  4. ^ Howard Air Pictorial September 1972, p.360.
  5. ^ Howard Air Pictorial August 1972, pp. 285–286.
  6. ^ The Lockheed P2V Neptune & Martin Mercator
  7. ^ Canadian Military Aircraft Designations on
  8. ^ Lockheed SP-2H Neptune entry at Historia y Arqueologia Marítima website (Spanish)
  9. ^ a b Wilson, p.82
  • Howard, Peter J. "The Lockheed Neptune in R.A.F. Service: Part 1". Air Pictorial, August 1972, Vol. 34. No. 8. pp. 284–289, 294.
  • Howard, Peter J. "The Lockheed Neptune in R.A.F. Service: Part 2". Air Pictorial, September 1972, Vol. 34. No. 9. pp. 356–360.
  • Sullivan, Jim, P2V Neptune in action. Squadron/Signal Publications: Carrollton, TX, 1985.
  • Wilson, Stewart (2000). Combat Aircraft since 1945. Fyshwick, ACT, Australia: Aerospace Publications Pty Ltd. ISBN 1-875671-50-1.  

External links


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