PV-1 Ventura / PV-2 Harpoon

PV-1 Ventura / PV-2 Harpoon

On July 1st 1943 LCDR Curtis L. Tetley assumed command of the newly created VB-144 at NAS Alameda, CA. The squadron was assigned to fly the Lockheed PV-1 Ventura.

The Lockheed Ventura was a bomber and patrol aircraft of World War II, used by United States and British Commonwealth forces in several guises. It was developed from the Lockheed Model 18 Lodestar transport, as a replacement for the Lockheed Hudson bombers then in service with the Royal Air Force.

Lockheed Ventura/B-34 Lexington

The Ventura was very similar to its predecessor, the Lockheed Hudson. The primary difference was not in layout; rather, the Ventura was larger and heavier than the Hudson. The RAF ordered 188 Venturas in February 1940. They were delivered from mid-1942 onwards. Venturas were initially used for daylight raids on occupied Europe. They proved unsuited to this task, because (like many other bombers used by the RAF), they were too vulnerable without long-range fighter escorts. They were replaced in this role by the de Havilland Mosquito. The Venturas were gradually transferred to patrol duties with Coastal Command, 30 went to the RCAF and some to the SAAF.

The RAF placed a further order for 487 Ventura Mark IIs, but many of these were diverted to United States Army Air Forces service. The U.S. Army Air Forces placed its own order for 200 Ventura Mark IIA, which were put into service as the B-34 Lexington. Later redesignated RB-34.

PV-1 Ventura

The PV-1 Ventura, built by the Vega Aircraft Company division of Lockheed (hence the ‘V’ Navy manufacturer’s letter that later replaced the ‘O’ for Lockheed), was a version of the Ventura built for the U.S. Navy. The main differences between the PV-1 and the B-34 were the inclusion of special equipment in the PV-1, adapting it to its patrol-bombing role. The maximum fuel capacity of the PV-1 was increased from 1,345 gal (5,081 l) to 1,607 gal (6,082 l), to increase its range; the forward defensive armament was also reduced for this reason. The most important addition was of an ASD-1 search radar.

Early production PV-1s still carried a bombardier’s station behind the nose radome, with four side windows and a flat bomb-aiming panel underneath the nose. Late production PV-1s dispensed with this bombardier position and replaced it with a pack with three 0.50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns underneath the nose. These aircraft could also carry eight 5 in (127 mm) HVAR rockets on launchers underneath the wings.

On 27 Jun 1945, VPB-144 was transferred to Eniwetok, via Johnston and Majuro Islands. The squadron was placed under the operational control of TF 96.1. Sector and photographic reconnaissance patrols were conducted over Wake and Ponape islands. During this time the squadron aircraft were upgraded to the PV-2 Harpoon.

PV-2 Harpoon

The PV-2 Harpoon was a major redesign of the Ventura with the wing area increased from 551 ft² (51.2 m²) to 686 ft² (63.7 m²) giving an increased load-carrying capability. The motivation for redesign was weaknesses in the PV-1, since it had shown to have poor-quality takeoffs when carrying a full load of fuel. On the PV-2, the armament became standardized at five forward-firing machine guns. Many early PV-1s had a bombardier’s position, which was deleted in the PV-2. Some other significant developments included the increase of the bomb load by 30% to 4,000 lb. (1,800 kg), and the ability to carry eight 5-inch (127 mm) HVAR rockets under the wings.

While the PV-2 was expected to have increased range and better takeoff, the anticipated speed statistics were projected lower than those of the PV-1, due to the use of the same engines but an increase in weight. The Navy ordered 500 examples, designating them with the popular name Harpoon.

Early tests indicated a tendency for the wings to wrinkle dangerously. As this problem could not be solved by a 6 ft (1.8 m) reduction in wingspan (making the wing uniformly flexible), a complete redesign of the wing was necessitated. This hurdle delayed entry of the PV-2 into service. The PV-2s already delivered were used for training purposes under the designation PV-2C. By the end of 1944, only 69 PV-2s had been delivered. They finally resumed when the redesign was complete. The first aircraft shipped were the PV-2D, which had eight forward-firing machine guns and was used in ground attacks. When World War II ended, all of the order was cancelled.

With the wing problems fixed, the PV-2 proved reliable, and eventually popular. It was first used in the Aleutians by VP-139, one of the squadrons that originally used the PV-1. It was used by a number of countries after the war’s end, but the United States ceased ordering new PV-2s, and they were all soon retired from service.

Specifications (B-34 Lexington)

General characteristics

  • Crew: 6
  • Length: 51 ft 5 in (15.7 m)
  • Wingspan: 65 ft 6 in (20 m)
  • Height: 11 ft 10 in (3.6 m)
  • Wing area: 551 ft² (51.2 m²)
  • Empty weight: 20,197 lb (9,160 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 31,000 lb (14,000 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 34,000 lb (15,000 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2× Pratt & Whitney R-2800 radial engines, 2,000 hp (1,500 kW) each


  • Maximum speed: 322 mph (518 km/h)
  • Cruise speed: 230 mph (370 km/h)
  • Range: 1,660 mi (2,670 km)
  • Ferry range: 2,600 mi (4,200 km)
  • Service ceiling: 26,300 ft (8,020 m)
  • Rate of climb: 2,035 ft/min (15.4 m/s)
  • Wing loading: 56.4 lb/ft² (275 kg/m²)
  • Power/mass: 0.13 hp/lb (0.21 kW/kg)




  • 3,000 lb (1,400 kg) general ordnance or
  • 6 × 325 lb (147 kg) depth charges or
  • 1 × torpedo