Lockheed PV-2 Harpoon

Last revised December 19, 2001

The Lockheed PV-2 Harpoon (Model 15-27-01) 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, which by now had been absorbed into the Lockheed complex as Plant A-1.

When carrying a maximum fuel load, the PV-1 Ventura had proven to exhibit only a marginal takeoff performance. In order to improve the takeoff 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 underwing drop tanks were used. The twin vertical tail surfaces were increased in area to improve the stability. The armament standardized on two fixed 0.50-inch machine guns in the upper nose decking plus three fixed 0.50-inch machine guns in an undernose pack. The bombardier's position on the early PV-1s was finally deleted. Two 0.50-inch machine guns were carried in the dorsal turret, and two 0.50-inch machine guns were installed in the rear ventral position. Eight 5-inch HVAR rockets could be carried underneath the wings. The internal bombload was increased to 4000 pounds.

The Pratt & Whitney R-2800-31 engines of the PV-1 were retained. In comparison with the PV-1, the Model 15 was expected to have reduced level and climbing speeds because of the increased weight, but was expected to have increased range and better takeoff characteristics. On June 1943, the Navy ordered 500 examples under the designation PV-2. The popular name Harpoon was assigned. Serials were BuNos 37035/37534.

The first Harpoon took off on its maiden flight on December 3, 1943. Bud Martin was the crew captain. 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, which delayed the entrance of the Harpoon into service. In the meantime, the first 30 PV-2s (BuNos 37035/37064) had already been delivered with the original defective wings and were designated PV-2C. Because of difficulties in sealing the integral fuel tank, these planes were assigned to training duties with the outer wing tanks sealed off. Only 69 PV-2s were accepted by the Navy by the end of 1944 because of the need for the wing redesign.

Three follow-on production contracts for a total of 908 Harpoons were awarded (BuNos 37535/37634, 84057/84589, and 102001/102275). The forward-firing armament was increased to eight 0.50-inch machine guns, and they were designated PV-2D. However, only 35 of these follow-on aircraft had actually been delivered when VJ Day brought about the abrupt cancellation of all Harpoon contracts. Final delivery took place in September of 1945.

Once the wing problems had been fixed, 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 when VPB-139 returned to the Aleutians for a second tour of duty after having converting to Harpoons from Venturas. 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 sprayplanes.

During the war, six new PV-2s were supplied to the Forca Aerea Brasileira. They were erroneously designated B-34A in FAB service and bore the FAB serials 5048/5051, 5074, and 5076. They remained in service until the 1950s, and some were modified as transports.

In 1945, the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) ordered 48 PV-2s to replace its PV-1s. The first four of these were delivered in February of 1945, but problems were encountered with these planes and further deliveries were cancelled. All four were returned to the US Navy between late-April and mid-May of 1945.

In the postwar era, numerous foreign air arms were equipped with surplus Harpoons that had been withdrawn from US Navy service.

During the 1950s, the Aeronautica Militare Italiana received a number of PV-2 Harpoons. They equipped the 86o and 87o Gruppi Antisommergibili. They served until the late 1950s when they were replaced by Grumman S2F-1 Trackers.

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. 17 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 survivors were reserialed 4571/4586.

The Netherlands' Marine Luchtvaartdienst received eighteen PV-2s in 1951. They were serialed 19-1/19-18, and served with No 320 Squadron at Valkenburg until they were replaced by P2V-5 Neptunes in late 1953.

The Fuerza Aerea del Peru received a few PV-2s during the 1950s. They equipped one maritime-reconnaissance squadron until the 1960s.

The French Aeronautique Navale (Aeronavale) obtained a few PV-2s which saw some limited service with Escadrille de Servitude 12S before being transferred to Portugal as more modern equipment became available.

In 1954, the Forca Aerea Portuguesa received 18 ex-Dutch Harpoons. Subsequently Portugal received 24 additional PV-2s (some of these being ex-French machines). They were assigned Porguguese serials 4601/4642, and were operated by the Esquadra de Reconhecimento Maritimo at Base Aerea 6 at Montijo. Some later served in the counter-insurgency role in the Portuguese colony of Angola in Africa. By the time that Portugal pulled out of Angola, there were no Harpoons remaining in service.

Serials of PV-2 Harpoon:

37035/37064 		Lockheed PV-2C Harpoon 
				c/n 15-1001/1030
37065/37534 		Lockheed PV-2 Harpoon 
				c/n 15-1031/1500
37535/37550 		Lockheed PV-2D Harpoon 
				c/n 15-1501/1516
37551/37623 		Lockheed PV-2D Harpoon 
				c/n 15-1517/1589
				contract cancelled 
37624/37634 		Lockheed PV-2D Harpoon 
				c/n 15-1590/1600
84057/84064 		Lockheed PV-2D Harpoon 
				c/n 15-1601/1608
84065/84589 		Lockheed PV-2D Harpoon 
				c/n 15-1609/2133
				contract cancelled 
102001/102275 	Lockheed PV-2D Harpoon 
				c/n 15-2134/2408
				contract cancelled 

Specification of Lockheed PV-2 Harpoon:

Engines: Two Pratt & Whitney R-2800-31 air-cooled radial engines rated at 2000 hp for takeoff, 1600 hp at 11,900 feet. Maximum speed 282 mph at 13,700 feet, 271 mph at sea level. Cruising speed 171 mph. Landing speed 83 mph. Initial climb rate 1630 feet per minute. Service ceiling 23,900 feet. Normal range 1790 miles with six 325-lb depth charges. Maximum ferry range 2930 miles. Dimensions: Wingspan 75 feet 0 inches, length 52 feet 1 inches, height 13 feet 3 inches, wing area 686 square feet. Weights: 21,028 pounds empty, 33,668 pounds loaded, 36,000 pounds maximum. Armament: Two fixed 0.50-inch machine guns in the upper nose decking plus three fixed 0.50-inch machine guns in an undernose pack. Two 0.50-inch machine guns were carried in the dorsal turret, and two 0.50-inch machine guns were installed in the rear ventral position. Eight 5-inch HVAR rockets could be carried underneath the wings. The internal bombload was increased to 4000 pounds.


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

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

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

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

  5. E-mail from Robert Montgomery on PV-2 with RNZAF.