P2V Neptunes Part I


P2V-5F Neptune VP-8 in flight c1958





The Lockheed P-2 Neptune (originally designated P2V until September 1962) was a Maritime patrol and ASW aircraft. It was developed for the United States Navy by Lockheed to replace the Lockheed PV-1 Ventura and PV-2 Harpoon, and being replaced in turn with the Lockheed P-3 Orion. Designed as a land-based aircraft, the Neptune never made a carrier landing, although a small number of aircraft were converted and deployed as carrier launched stop-gap nuclear bombers which would have to ditch or recover at land bases. The type was successful in export and saw service with several armed forces.

Development began early in World War II, but compared to other aircraft in development at the time, it was considered a low priority. 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 may 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, Fairchild C-123 Provider, and Avro Shackleton aircraft were also so equipped. The jet engines were fitted with intake doors that could be closed for economical piston-engine only searching operations. The jet engines could be employed for sprint or short field take-off, but were seldom used in typical operations.

Normal crew access was via a ladder on the aft bulkhead of the nose wheel well to a hatch on the left side of the wheel well, then forward to the observer nose or up through another hatch to the main deck. There was also a hatch in the floor of the after fuselage, near the sonobuoy chutes.


Unique were the seven RB-69 Neptunes (former USN P2V-7s) procured by the USAF for use by the CIA. The basic production aircraft were modified in the famed Lockheed Skunk Works. The specialized equipment was so heavy that each aircraft was individually built for a specific mission. Though painted Navy blue, the aircraft carried USAF markings, operated out of USAF bases, and were flown by CIA crews. The U.S. Navy also used Ferrets during World War II, converting PB4Y Privateers and supplementing them with P4M Mercators and P2V Neptunes.

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, two built.


First production model with R-3350-8A engine and four-bladed propellers; 14 built.


One P2V-1 modified as a prototype of an improved variant with water injected R-3350-24W engines.


Second production model with R-3350-24W engines and three-bladed propellers, had various combinations of gun turrets including a nose turret to replace the gunner position used on the P2V-1, 81 built,

P2V-2N “Polar Bear”

Two P2V-2s modified for polar exploration with ski landing gear and early MAD gear.


One P2V-2 modified as a prototype anti-submarine variant with an APS-20 search radar.


Modied variant with a 3,200hp R-3350-26W engines; 53 built.


Conversions from other P2V-3 models, including P2V-3C and -3W, fitted with the ASB-1 Low Level Radar Bombing System; 16 converted.


Eleven P2V-3s and one P2V-2 modified with rocket assisted takeoff as a stop-gap carrier-based nuclear armed bomber until the A3J arrived, not intended to return for a landing on a carrier.


Airborne Early Warning variant, APS-20 search radar; 30 built.


VIP combat transport; two modified from P2V-3s.

P2V-4 (P-2D)

Upgraded powerplant and fuel capacity and the first variant with tip tanks; 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 two J34 jet engines to increase power on take-off, J34 engines and R-3350 had common fuel system burning AvGas rather than having dedicated jet fuel (as did all Neptunes with jets [less Kawasaki P-2J]), 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 (including 48 assembled in Japan by Kawasaki for JMSDF). P2V-7/P-2H and mods were only Neptunes with raised cockpit canopies.


15 aircraft with non-glazed gun nose for Royal Netherlands Naval Air Service (MLD serial 200-214). Subsequently modified to P2V-7S/SP-2H (augmented by 4 SP-2H from Aéronavale (MLD serial 215-218)

P2V-7LP (LP-2J)

(No relation to Kawasaki P-2J)

Ski landing gear, JATO provisions; four 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 four converted.


Least known of the P2V Neptune family. Five built, two converted for CIA covert operations, obtained with USAF help and operated by ROCAF/Taiwan’s 34th Squadron. Aerial reconnaissance/ELINT platform, modular sensor packages fitted depended on the mission needs. Originally fitted with Westinghouse APQ-56 Side Looking Airborne Radar (SLAR), the APQ-24 search radar, the Fairchild Mark IIIA cameras, the APR-9/13 radar intercept receiver, the QRC-15 DF system, the APA-69A DF display, the APA-74 pulse analyser, the Ampex tape recorder, the System 3 receiver to intercept enemy communications, the APS-54 RWR, a noise jammer, the RADAN system doppler radar navigation, and others. In May 1959, a upgrade program known as Phase VI was approved, and added the ATIR air-to-air radar jammer, replacing APR-9/13 with ALQ-28 ferret system, the QRC-15, 3 14-channel recorders and 1 7-channel high speed recorder to record ELINT systems, the K-band receiver, the ASN-7 navigation computer replacing RADAN, and Fulton Skyhook system.


The C-139 designation was applied to a planned transport version of the Neptune, which was cancelled before any aircraft were built.

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)

Kawasaki P-2J (P2V-Kai)

Japanese variant produced by Kawasaki for JMSDF with T64 turboprop engines, various other improvements; 82 built

Lockheed P2V-7(P-2H) Neptune

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: 2 × Westinghouse J34

Wright R-3350-32W Cyclone Turbo-compound radial engine, 3,700 hp (2,759 kW) wet each

Propellers: 4 bladed propeller, 1 per engine


Maximum speed: 316 kn (363 mp/h) (586 km/h) (all engines)

Cruise speed: 180 kn (207 mp/h) (333 km/h) (max)

Range: 1,912 nmi (2,157 mi) (3,540 km)

Service ceiling: 22,400 ft (6,827 m)


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