Lockheed Ventura IIA, B-34

Last revised December 19, 2001



The next version of the Ventura was the Ventura IIA (Model 137-27-02). As opposed to the earlier Venturas which had been ordered directly by Britain, the Ventura IIA was ordered under Lend-Lease contracts. For record-keeping purposes, the Ventura IIA was assigned a US bomber designation of B-34-VE and carried USAAF serials in addition to RAF serials.

200 Ventura IIAs were ordered on August 13, 1941. They carried both RAF (FD568/FD767) and USAAF (41-38020/38219) serial numbers. Like their predecessors, the Ventura IIAs were all to be built in Lockheed's Vega plant.

The Ventura IIA differed from the Ventura II primarily in having US-built armament items substituted for the British-built items. It was fitted with a Martin dorsal turret housing two 0.50-inch machine guns. It had two 0.50-inch machine guns in the nose, twin flexible 0.30-inch machine guns in the nose and ventral positions, plus two flexible 0.30-inch beam guns. A bombload of 3000 pounds could be carried.

As it turned out, only 25 of the Lend-Lease Ventura IIAs were destined actually to reach the RAF. Most of the remainder were either seized by the USAAF or retained in Canada.

Following Pearl Harbor, twenty Ventura IIAs were impressed into USAAF service under the designation B-34-VE. In 1942 their designation was changed to RB-34-VE, where the R prefix meant "restricted from combat use".

45 B-34s were retained in Canada by the RCAF, with RAF serials still being used. The Canadian Ventura IIAs were used primarily for training, being assigned to No 340 Operational Training Unit at Pennfield Ridge, New Brunswick, and to No. 1 Central Flying School at Trenton, Ontario.

All the rest were taken over by the USAAF. The name Lexington was assigned to the B-34 in USAAF service, but few if any ever saw combat with the USAAF. They were used primarily for coastal patrol and training duties with stateside units. 57 were converted as B-34A-2-VE bomber trainers, 28 as B-34A-3-VE gunnery trainers, and 16 as B-34A-4-VE target tugs. In October 1942, the prefix R was added to the designations of these USAAF aircraft, which indicated their restricted, non-combat role.

Beginning in May of 1943, 20 B-34s were taken from USAAF stocks and delivered to the Royal Australian Air Force as RAAF serial numbers A59-1/A-59-20. The RAAF Ventura IIA went to Nos 4 and 11 Communications Units. The RAAF last used its Venturas during the 1946-47 fiscal year, and these aircraft were then scrapped or stored for disposal. The last two, serial numbers A59-6 and A59-17, were sold off to a private operator in February of 1953.

23 ex-B-34A-1-VEs went to the RNZAF with serials NZ4583/NZ4605. It had been intended that these would replace the Hudsons of No. 4 (BR) Squadron at Nausori, Fiji, but these B-34 were found unsuitable and the squadron retained its Hudsons until well into 1944 when it became operational with PV-1s. The RNZAF B-34As were all used for operational training, mostly with No.1 (Bomber) Operational Training Unit at RNZAF Station Ohakea, others with Squadrons "working up" in NZ in between operational tours in the forward area.  All operational Venturas used by the RNZAF were in fact PV-1s.

13 other aircraft from this Lend-Lease contract were delivered to the USAAF as B-34B-1-VE navigation trainers. The B-34B designation had originally been assigned to 550 aircraft that had initially been ordered under the designation O-56-LO. However, these were not built, and the designation B-34B was then reassigned to these 13 navigation trainers. These later were redesignated RB-34B-1-VE, when they were restricted from combat use.

Serials of B-34-VE


Lockheed B-34-VE	41-38020/38219
				c/n 137-4676/4875

Specification of Lockheed B-34A-VE Ventura:

Engines: Two 2000 hp Pratt & Whitney R-2800-31 Double Wasp air-cooled radial engines. Performance: Maximum speed 315 mph at 15,500 feet. Cruising speed 230 mph. An altitude of 15,000 feet and could be attained in 8.2 minutes. Service ceiling 24,000 feet. Normal range 950 miles. Maximum range 2600 miles. Dimensions: Wingspan 65 feet 6 inches, length 51 feet 5 inches, height 11 feet 11 inches, wing area 551 square feet. Weights: 17,275 pounds empty, 25,600 pounds loaded, 27,750 pounds maximum. Armament: Two 0.50-inch machine guns installed in dorsal turret. Twin flexible 0.30-inch machine guns were mounted in the extreme nose. A pair of flexible 0.30-inch machine guns were mounted in a ventral position behind the wing trailing edge. Two fixed forward-firing 0.50-inch machine guns were installed in the upper decking of the nose. A bomb load of 3000 pounds could be carried in an internal bomb bay.

Sources:


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

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

  3. McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Since 1920: Volume I, Rene J. Francillon, Naval Institute Press, 1988.

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

  5. United States Military Aircraft Since 1909, Gordon Swanborough and Peter M. Bowers, Smithsonian, 1989.

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

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

  8. E-mail from Robert Montgomery on role of B-34 in RNZAF. It did not see combat.