Lockheed PV-2D Harpoon in Lake Washington Forward Back Home

PV-1 VenturaThe Lockheed PV-2 Harpoon was a major redesign of the PV-1 Ventura to optimize it for the maritime reconnaissance role. The redesign turned out to be so major that it was assigned a new basic model number of Vega Model 15. Like its predecessors, the PV-2 Harpoon was built by Lockheed's Vega subsidiary.

When carrying a maximum fuel load, the PV-1 Ventura had proven to exhibit only a marginal takeoff performance. In order to improve the performance, new enlarged outer wing panels were installed on the PV-2. These increased the overall wingspan by 6 feet 6 inches to 75 feet and wing area from 551 to 686 square feet. Integral fuel tanks were installed in the outer wing panels to bring maximum fuel capacity to 1863 US gallons when bomb bay tanks and under wing drop tanks were used. The twin vertical tail surfaces were increased in area to improve the stability.

Tiny Tim rocket in PV-2D On June 1943, the Navy ordered 500  PV-2 aircraft under the designation Harpoon. The first Harpoon took off on its maiden flight on December 3, 1943. Early tests indicated a tendency for the wings to wrinkle dangerously. A quick modification involving a 6-foot reduction in wingspan to obtain a uniformly flexible wing did not cure the problem, and Lockheed was forced to carry out a complete wing redesign delaying the Harpoon’s entrance into service.

Test Fire of Tiny Tim rocketIn order to accommodate a larger payload the bomb bay doors were redesigned giving the PV-2 a distinctive bulge on the underside. The modifications allowed two Tiny Tim rockets to be carried completely enclosed. This image is of a Tiny Tim test firing in California. The white square of the PV-2’s fuselage is a reference mark used to access the attitude of the rocket at ignition.

The Harpoon turned out to be a thoroughly reliable and popular aircraft. The PV-2 was taken into combat for the first time in March of 1945.  The combat use of the Harpoon by the Navy was fairly brief, and was cut short by the end of the war in the Pacific. The Navy continued to use the Harpoon for several years after the war was over. At one time, Harpoons equipped eleven VP squadrons with the Naval Reserve. It was finally phased out of service in August of 1948. Several Harpoons ended up on the commercial market after having been declared surplus to Navy requirements. Some were modified as private transports with deluxe interiors and a few were modified as agricultural spray planes.

Japanese PV-2DIn the postwar era, numerous foreign air arms were equipped with surplus Harpoons that had been withdrawn from US Navy service. The PV-2 was among the first aircraft to equip the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) after that service came into being in July of 1951. Seventeen PV-2s were supplied to the JMSDF where they were assigned the serial numbers 4101/4117. One of these planes crashed in 1955, and the surviving aircraft were designated 4571/4586.

By the time the PV-2's problems had been resolved the plane was on revision 'D'.   Only 35 PV-2D aircraft were delivered before VJ Day brought about the abrupt cancellation of all Harpoon contracts. The limited number of PV-2D aircraft makes this find potentially valuable and important.

Lockheed PV-2D Harpoon Image Gallery

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