THE 456th FIGHTER INTERCEPTOR SQUADRON

THE PROTECTORS OF  S. A. C.

 

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PV-1 Ventura Bomber

 

PV-1 "Ventura" Bomber

By Joe Baugher

 

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PV-1

The Lockheed PV-1 (Model 237-27-01) had its origin in a deal cut in mid-1942 between the Navy and the USAAF. At that time, the USAAF was still flying antisubmarine patrols in support of the battle against German submarines in the Atlantic. The US Navy was very unhappy about this, since it had always felt that antisubmarine warfare was its responsibility. In support of this mission, the Navy was anxious to acquire a long-range, land-based heavy maritime reconnaissance and patrol aircraft capable of carrying a substantial bombload. However, the USAAF had always resisted what it perceived as an encroachment by the Navy into its jealously-guarded land-based bomber program, and forced the Navy to rely on long-range floatplanes such as the PBY Catalina, the PBM Mariner, and PB4Y Coronado to fulfill the long-range maritime reconnaissance role. However, the USAAF needed an aircraft plant to manufacture its next generation of heavy bombers, the B-29 Superfortress. It just so happened that the Navy owned a plant at Renton, Washington, which was at that time being operated by Boeing for the manufacture of the PBB-1 Sea Ranger twin-engined patrol flying boat. The Army proposed that the Navy cancel the Sea Ranger program and turn over the Renton factory to them for B-29 production. In exchange, the USAAF would agree to get out of the antisubmarine warfare business and would drop its objections to the Navy's operation of land-based bombers. In support of the Navy's new land-based antisubmarine patrol mission, the USAAF agreed that the Navy could acquire navalized versions of the B-24 Liberator and the B-25 Mitchell. In addition, it was proposed that Lockheed would cease all production of B-34/37 Venturas for the USAAF and would start building a navalized version of the Ventura for the Navy under the designation PV-1 for use in maritime reconnaissance and antisubmarine warfare. The Navy readily agreed to this arrangement.

On July 7, 1942, the USAAF formally agreed to discontinue procurement of B-34/B-37s so that Lockheed Vega could concentrate on the production of the PV-1 for the Navy.

The PV-1 was quite similar to the B-34, differing from it primarily in the inclusion of special equipment to adapt it to the maritime reconnaissance role. The PV-1 differed from the B-34 in having its maximum fuel capacity increased from 1345 US gallons to 1607 gallons, including 807 gallons in permanently-installed wing and fuselage tanks, two 155-gallon underwing drop tanks, and 490 gallons carried in two ferry/long range patrol tanks that could be installed the bomb bay. The engines remained a pair of 2000 hp Pratt & Whitney R-2800-31s. The defensive armament was reduced to two fixed forward-firing 0.50-in machine guns in the upper fuselage decking, twin 0.50-in guns in the dorsal turret, and two flexible 0.30-inch machine guns in the ventral position. The bomb bay was modified so that it could carry 3000 pounds of bombs, six 325-lb depth charges, or one torpedo. The PV-1s were also fitted with certain Navy-specified equipment such as an ASD-1 search radar with a radome installed in the extreme nose.

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-inch machine guns underneath the nose. These aircraft could also carry eight 0.50-inch rockets on launchers underneath the wings.

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The first PV-1 took off on its maiden flight on November 3, 1942. A total of 1600 PV-1s were delivered between December 1942 and May 1944. They were all built by Vega Aircraft Corporation, which had become known simply as Lockheed Plant A-1 by the time production of the PV-1 had come to an end.

Deliveries of the PV-1 to the Navy began in December of 1942. The PV-1 first entered service with the US Navy on February 1, 1943, VB-127 at NAS Deland being the first to receive the type. It was actually preceded into service by the PV-3 by a couple of months, the PV-3 being the designation applied to Ventura IIAs that had been requisitioned by the Navy from RAF contracts.

The first PV-1 squadron into combat was VP-135, which was deployed to the Aleutians in April of 1943. In this theatre, they were subsequently operated by VP-131, VP-136, and VP-139. They flew maritime reconnaissance patrols and carried out strikes against Paramushiro, one of the northernmost Japanese islands in the Kurile chain. Since the PV-1 was radar-equipped, PV-1s would often act as leaders for USAAF B-24 bomber formations. PV-1s were deployed to the Solomons during the autumn of 1943. A detachment from VB-145 operated antisubmarine patrols out of bases in Brazil.

During 1945, the designation PV-1P was allocated to some PV-1s equipped with cameras.

The PV-1 was even operated briefly as a night fighter. Fitted with six nose guns and AI Mk IV radar, PV-1s equipped the Marine Corps' first night fighter squadron, VMF(N)-531, which became operational in the Solomons in September of 1943. It scored its first night kill two months later. VMF(N)-531 was transferred back to the USA during the summer of 1944.

During the war, many PV-1s were delivered to the RAF as the Ventura G.R.V. RAF serials retained for the 387 Ventura G.R.Vs were FN956/FN999, FP537/FP684, JS889/JS984, and JT800/JT898. However, there were many diversions to the RAAF, RCAF, SAAF, and RNZAF. FN965, FN991, FP642, FP643, FP644, FP648, and FP649 were not delivered, FN967, FN972, FN973, FN974, and FN979 were held in Canada, FP654 and FP647 crashed before delivery, and JS889/JS984 were all diverted to the South African Air Force.

The RAF Ventura G.R.Vs operated with No. 519 and 521 Squadrons of Coastal Command and with Nos. 13 and 500 Squadrons in the Mediterranean. They were also used briefly by No. 624 Squadron for special duties and mine spotting. Some of the RAF aircraft were later modified for transport duty with No. 299 Squadron of RAF Transport Command as the Ventura C.V.

The RAAF received 55 PV-1s diverted from US Navy stocks. Serials were A-59-50/A59-104. The RAAF PV-1s served primarily in New Guinea with No 13 Squadron until replaced by Australian-built Bristol Beauforts. The RAAF disposed of its Venturas during the 1946-47 fiscal year.

The Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) received 116 PV-1s with serials NZ4501/NZ4582 and NZ4606/NZ4639. They served with Nos 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, and 9 Squadrons and saw extensive service in the Solomons whey they flew bombing, reconnaissance, and air rescue duties. The Ventura was not initially a popular choice, the B-25 Mitchell being preferred by air and ground crews alike.  The introduction of the type into squadron service was not smooth; technical problems causing the grounding of the entire Ventura fleet on one occasion.  Flying characteristics which were completely different from those of the docile Hudson gave rise to a number of accidents; in all 40 Venturas were lost in RNZAF service, either through enemy action or accidents.  By the war's end however, the Ventura had gained at least a grudging respect, and in many cases undying affection, from those who had flown and serviced they type both in New Zealand and under operational conditions in the Pacific. New Zealand Venturas were phased out of service in 1946, when No. 2 Squadron was disbanded.

The South African Air Force received 134 Ventura Mk.Vs diverted from British contracts. They were used to equip some five squadrons (Nos. 22, 23, 25, 27, and 29) which were used at home to protect shipping going around the Cape of Good Hope. In addition, they were used in the Mediterranean theatre. No 22 Squadron operated from Gibraltar while No. 27 Squadron operated in the Balkans in late 1944 on anti-shipping and antisubmarine warfare duty. South African use of the Ventura Mk.V continued into the postwar era, and some remained with No. 2 (Maritime) Group until well into the 1960s.

The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) received 20 Ventura G.R.Vs diverted from Royal Air Force contracts. In addition, the RCAF received 137 ex-US Navy PV-1s, which were given the Canadian serials 1241/2777. The PV-1s (along with the G.R.Vs) were assigned to five maritime squadrons (Nos 8, 113, 115, 145, and 149) in Canada. Several RCAF PV-1s continued to serve after the war in patrol, training, and target towing roles.

A small number of PV-1s were delivered to the Free French beginning in 1944. These were operated by Flotille 6F until they were replaced by Bloch MB 175s in the immediate postwar period.

The Forca Aerea Brasileira was supplied with 14 ex-US Navy PV-1s, which in FAB service were incorrectly designated B-34. They were assigned the FAB serials 5034/5047.

Bureau of Aeronautics serials of PV-1:

29723/29922		Lockheed PV-1 Ventura
				c/n 237-4876/5075
34586/34997		Lockheed PV-1 Ventura
				c/n 237-5076/5475
33067/33466		Lockheed PV-1 Ventura
				c/n 237-5476/5887
48652/48939		Lockheed PV-1 Ventura
				c/n 237-5888/6175
49360/49659		Lockheed PV-1 Ventura
				c/n 237-6176/6475

Specification of Lockheed PV-1 Ventura:

Engines: Two Pratt & Whitney R-2800-31 air-cooled radial engines rated at 2000 hp for takeoff, 1600 hp at 11,900 feet. Performance: Maximum speed 322 mph at 13,800 feet, 296 mph at sea level. Cruising speed 170 mph. Landing speed 91 mph. Initial climb rate 2230 feet per minute. Service ceiling 26,300 feet. Normal range 1360 miles with one torpedo, 1660 miles with six 325-lb depth charges. Dimensions: Wingspan 65 feet 6 inches, length 51 feet 9 inches, height 11 feet 11 inches, wing area 551 square feet. Weights: 20,197 pounds empty, 31,077 pounds loaded, 34,000 pounds maximum. Armament Two fixed forward-firing 0.50-in machine guns, twin 0.50-in guns in dorsal turret, and two flexible 0.30-inch machine guns in the ventral position. A pack containing three 0.50-inch machine guns could be added underneath the nose. 3000 pounds of bombs, six 325-lb depth charges, or one torpedo could be carried in the internal bomb bay.

By Joe Baugher

 

Sources:

  • American Combat Planes, Third Enlarged Edition, Ray Wagner, Doubleday, 1982.

  • Post World War II Bombers, Marcelle Size Knaack, Office of Air Force History, 1988.

     

  • United States Navy Aircraft Since 1911, Gordon Swanborough and Peter M. Bowers, Naval Institue Press, 1990.

     

  • Victor or Vanquished?, Martin Bowman and Michael O'Leary, Air Classics, Vol 32, No 5, May 1996.

     

  • Lockheed Aircraft Since 1913, Rene J. Francillon, Naval Institute Press, 1987.

     

  • British Military Aircraft Serials, 1912-1969, Bruce Robertson, Ian Allen, 1969.

     

  • E-mail from Robert Montgomery on PV-1 service with RNZAF.

 

 

 

 

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02/10/2014

 

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