top of page
  • Writer's pictureroy blewett

Lockheed 26 Neptune

Neptune Aviation P-2Es N410NA and N807NA photographed during their final fire-fighting season in 2017 (Neptune Aviation)

The Vega Airplane Company recognised in 1941 that the United States Navy would need a land-based patrol bomber with greater range and endurance than either the Hudson or Ventura, so began work on the Neptune as a private venture. The bombing of Pearl Harbor led the Navy to focus on ‘off-the-shelf’ procurement rather than on funding the development of new aircraft types and it was not until 4 April 1944, when Vega had been absorbed into Lockheed, that a contract was awarded for the two prototypes. The P2V proved to be a popular and versatile platform, with over 1,100 built over a 34-year period. As well as serving in large numbers with the United States Navy, new-build Neptunes were supplied to Australia, Canada, France, Japan, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom; and pre-owned examples served in Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Portugal.

Neptune Aviation, the last commercial P-2 operator, officially retired its P-2s in a ceremony at Missoula IAP, MT, on 1 October 2017, during which N410NA, N1386C, N9855F and N96278 flew. All four were subsequently flown to White Sands Regional airport at Alamogordo, NM to await disposal with other out of service Neptunes. The final fates of the last eight active Neptunes in the US is as follows:

Tanker 05 (N96278): on display at Glendive, MT

Tanker 06 (N9855F): on display at Klamath Falls, OR

Tanker 07 (N807NA): on display at Paso Robles, CA

Tanker 10 (N4235N): on display at Missoula, MT

Tanker 14 (N410NA): retained by Neptune Aviation as an air display mount

Tanker 43 (N443NA): on display at Gillespie Field, CA

Tanker 44 (N1386C): retained by Neptune Aviation as an air display mount

Tanker 45 (N445NA): to Yankee Air Museum at Willow Run, MI, for eventual display

First flight: 17 May 45 (c/n 26-1001, Bu48237)

Production: 1,133, comprising 1,003 by Lockheed at Burbank, CA, and 130 by Kawasaki at Gifu, Japan.

First delivery: Mar 46 to US Navy (c/n 26-1001, Bu48237)

Last delivery: 14 Mar 79 to Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (c/n 7082, serial number 4783)

Principal variants: 26/XP2V-1 - prototype patrol bomber with 8,000 lb. capacity bomb bay, powered by 2 Wright R-3350-8 Cyclone radials (2 built);

26/P2V-1 - initial production verson with minor aerodynamic improvements (14 built);

126/P2V-2 - improved version with better defensive armament, powered by R-3350-24W radials with water-injection (81 built);

226/P2V-2S - prototype anti-submarine warfare version of P2V-2, featuring AN/APS-20 search radar mounted in a ventral radome, reduced weapons load and increased fuel capacity (1 built);

326/P2V-3 - P2V-2 powered by R-3350-26W with jet stack exhaust (53 built);

326/P2V-3W - airborne early warning version of P2V-3, featuring AN/APS-20 search radar (30 built);

426/P2V-4 - P2V-2S with wing-tip fuel tanks, powered by R-3350-26WA conventional water-injected radial or R-3350-30W compounds (52 built, survivors re-designated P-2D in Sep 62; first flight 14 Nov 49);

426/P2V-5 - developed version of P2V-4 with larger tip-tanks and R-3350-30WA turbo compound radials; a magnetic anomoly detection system housed in a ‘stinger’-type rear fuselage extension was introduced during production (372 built, most retrofitted as P2V-5F with Westinghouse J34-WE-34 turbojet booster engines in under-wing pods; survivors re-designated P-2E in 1962);

626/P2V-6 - multi-role version of P2V-5 with larger bomb bay and provision for minelaying and photo-reconnaissance equipment (67 built, re-designated P-2F);

626/P2V-6M - anti-shipping version of P2V-5 with under-wing racks for Fairchild NUM-N-2 Petrel missiles (16 built, re-designated MP-2F);

726/P2V-7 - final production version for US Navy with aerodynamic refinements, powered by R-3350-32W turbo compound radials and J34-WE-36 turbojets (333 built, of which 48 were assembled in Japan; re-designated P-2H, many were modified with Julie (active echo sounding)/Jezebel (passive detection) anti-submarine equipment as SP-2H);

826/P2V-7 - export version of P2V-7 for Canada, delivered without booster jets (25 built);

RB-69A - electronic surveillance version for the US Air Force (5 built, later transferred to US Navy as SP-2H);

P-2J - Japanese licence-built version powered by 2 Japanese-built T64-IHI-10E turboprops and 2 Ishikawajima J3-IHI-7C turbojets, with lighter, slightly stretched fuselage and AN/APS-80 search radar (82 built; first flight 21 Jul 66).

Conversions: Large numbers of Neptunes were converted whilst in US Navy service, and many brought up to SP-2H standard before disposal. Surviving examples of other Neptune converisons include the AP-2E close support version for the US Army and DP-2E and DP-2H used by the US Navy for drone direction.

Lockheed 26 Neptune survivors
Download PDF • 262KB

120 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page