Lockheed Ventura

Introduction
Service Career
Ventura I
Ventura II
Ventura IIA
Ventura III
Ventura GR.V
Performance (Ventura Mk.I)
Squadrons (excluding home-based Commonwealth squadrons)

Introduction

The Lockheed Ventura was a medium bomber ordered for the RAF after the early success of the Lockheed Hudson. Like the earlier aircraft it was based on an existing civilian airline, in this case the Lockheed Model 18 Lodestar. This had been produced after the relative failure of the Model 14 in the civil market, and was essentially a longer version of the earlier aircraft. This allowed it to carry two extra rows of seats, making it more economical for airlines to run.

Lockheed approached the British Air Ministry in September 1939 with a proposal to produce either a maritime patrol aircraft or medium bomber based on the Model 18. Their approach could hardly have been better timed – the outbreak of the Second World War and the successful introduction into service of the Hudson meant that in February 1940 Lockheed received a contract to produce 25 of the new aircraft. In May this order was increased to 300 aircraft, powered by the 1,850hp Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp S1A4-G eighteen cylinder radial engine. By the end of the year another 375 aircraft had been ordered, bringing the total to 675.

The new Ventura was very similar in appearance to the Hudson. It was much better armed than the earlier Hudsons, with a total of eight 0.303in machine guns in early models and ten in later aircraft. Of these guns two were carried in a flexible mounting in the tip of the nose, two were fixed forward firing guns, two were placed in a ventral position near the rear of the aircraft and two (later four) in the dorsal turret. The turret was moved further forward than in the Hudson, to improve its field of fire by reducing the area blocked by the tail. The bombload was increased to 2,500lb, carried in the internal bomb bay.

The Ventura was produced by Lockheed’s Vega subsidiary. The first Ventura (of 3,028) made its maiden flight on 31 July 1941. The first production aircraft began to reach Britain in September 1941, but it would not enter combat until November 1942.

Service Career

The Ventura had a short career in its original role as a medium bomber. It entered squadron service with No.21 Squadron in May 1942, but did not enter combat until 3 November. By then No.464 (RAAF) Squadron and No.487 (RNZAF) Squadron had also received the Ventura, and on 6 December 1942 they provided forty-seven Venturas for a low level daylight raid on the Philips radio and valve factory at Eindhoven. Although the raid was a success, nine of the Venturas were lost and 37 damaged, leaving only one aircraft unscathed.

After this the aircraft switched to medium level operations, but it had entered service too late, and was already heading towards obsolescence. In May 1942 the Mosquito B.Mk IV had entered service. The “wooden wonder” could carry a very slightly smaller bombload (2,000lb compared to 2,500lb) at a much higher speed than the Ventura (385mph to 312mph) over a slightly longer range, while suffering much lower casualties. All three Ventura squadrons converted to the Mosquito FB.Mk VI during 1943 (No.487 (RNZAF) flew its last Ventura mission on 24 June, No.464 (RAAF) on 10 July 1943 and No.21 Squadron on 9 September).

After leaving Bomber Command the Ventura was sent to Coastal Command, where it replaced the Hudson in a number of squadrons (Nos.519 and 521 Squadrons used it for weather flights, while Nos.13 and 500 used it for anti-submarine patrols over the Mediterranean. All four squadrons had replaced their Venturas by the end of 1944.

The Ventura was used by most Commonwealth airforces. The RCAF received 286 aircraft, using them to equip five maritime patrol squadrons operating from Canada. The RAAF received 75 aircraft, using then on New Guinea. The RNZAF received 139 Venturas, which saw combat over the Solomon Islands. Finally the SAAF received 169 aircraft. Initially these were used to fly anti-submarine patrols from South Africa, but by July 1944 four SAAF squadrons were serving in the Mediterranean. One of these squadrons, No.25 (SAAF), even used the Ventura as a medium bomber over the Balkans.

Variants

Ventura I

The first 188 aircraft were produced as the Ventura Mk I. This was powered by two 1,850hp Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp S1A4-G civil engines, could carry 2,000lb of bombs and was armed with eight machine guns. The first aircraft reached Britain in September 1941. Of the original 188 aircraft one remained in the United States as a testbed, twenty-one went to the RCAF and three crashed while being ferried across the Atlantic.

Ventura II

The Ventura Mk II saw an increase in engine power, with the installation of 2,000hp Pratt & Whitney R-2800-31 US military engines. The bomb bay was redesigned to allow the Mk II to carry 3,000lb of bombs or a 780 US gallon fuel tank. Of the 487 Mk IIs produced 196 reached Britain and the Commonwealth, 264 were taken by the USAAF (as the Lockheed Model 37) and 27 went to the US Navy as the PV-3 (the designation PV-1 was reserved for US Navy production of the standard Ventura and PV-2 for an improved version with longer range).

Ventura IIA

The Ventura Mk IIA was the lend-lease version of the Mk II, powered by the same 2,000hp Pratt & Whitney R-2800-31 engines. The IIA received the USAAF designation B-34, and of the 200 ordered only 66 were delivered to British or Commonwealth countries, while the rest served with the USAAF as the B-34, B-34A and B-34B. The Ventura Mk IIA carried American guns, so the .303in guns of the original British aircraft were replaced with .50in guns – two in the nose, two in a Martin dorsal turret, two flexible guns in the nose and ventral positions and two flexible beam guns, for a total of ten guns.

Ventura III

The Mk.III designation was reserved for the O-56/ B-37 version of the Ventura, powered by Wright R-2600-13 engines. Only 18 were produced and all were retained by the USAAF.

Ventura GR.V

The Ventura GR Mk.V was the British designation for the PV-1 naval patrol version of the aircraft. Of the 1,600 PV-1s produced 387 or 388 reached the RAF and Commonwealth airforces. The GR.Mk V used the same engines as the Ventura II, but had room for 1,607 US gallons of fuel, an increase of 263 gallons over the B-34/ Ventura II. The GR.V carried six 0.50in machine guns (two fixed forward guns, two in the dorsal turret and two in the ventral position), while the bomb bay was modified to allow it to carry six 325lb depth charges or one torpedo.

Performance (Ventura Mk.I)

Crew: 5
Engines: Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp S1A4-G
Horsepower: 1,850
Span: 65ft 6in
Length: 51ft 5in
Empty weight: 17,233lb
Loaded weight: 22,500lb
Maximum weight: 26,000lb
Maximum Speed: 312mph at 15,500ft
Cruising Speed: 272 mph
Service ceiling: 25,000ft
Range: 925 miles
Guns: eight 0.303in machine guns
Bomb load: 2,500lb

Squadrons (excluding home-based Commonwealth squadrons)

Sqn

Type

Dates

Notes

No.13

V

Oct 43-Dec 43

Anti-submarine duties, North Africa

No.21

I and II

May 42-Sept 43

Daylight bomber, operational 3 November 1942-9 September 1943

No.140

I

Feb 42-Jan 44

Reconnaissance

No.251

 

Aug-Oct 44

Air-sea rescue from Iceland

No.299

I and II

Nov 43-Jan 44

Airborne forces, training only

No.459 (RAAF)

V

Dec 43-July 44

Anti-shipping, Aegean

No.464 (RAAF)

I and II

Sept 42-Sept 43

Daylight bomber, operational 6 December 42-10 July 43

No.487 (RNZAF)

I and II

Aug 42-Sept 43

Daylight bomber, operational 6 December 42-24 June 43

No.500

V

Dec 43-July 44

Anti-submarine duties over Western Mediterranean

No.519

V

Oct 43-Oct 44

Weather flights over North Sea and north from Scotland

No.521

 

Dec 43-Oct 44

Weather flights from UK

No.624

II

Sept-Oct 43

Special duties (only two Venturas)

No.17 (SAAF)

V

Aug 43-Feb 45

Maritime patrol, Mediterranean

No.22 (SAAF)

V

June 44-Oct 45

Reconnaissance from Malta

No.25 (SAAF)

I

July 44-Dec 44

Bomber squadron over Balkans

No.27 (SAAF)

V

July 44-Jan 45

Anti-submarine duties, Mediterranean

No.1 (RNZAF)   1943-45 Solomon Islands and Rabaul Campaigns
No.2 (RNZAF)   1943-45 Solomon Islands and Rabaul Campaigns
No.3 (RNZAF)   1944-45 Solomon Islands and Rabaul Campaigns
No.4 (RNZAF)   1943-45 Solomon Islands and Rabaul Campaigns
No.8 (RNZAF)   1944-45 Kavieng Campaign
No.9 (RNZAF)   1943-45 Solomon Islands and Rabaul Campaigns

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (29 May 2008), Lockheed Ventura , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_lockheed_Ventura.html

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