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PB4Y-2/P4Y-2 Privateer
U.S. Navy PB4Y-2 from VP-23 in flight.
Role Maritime patrol bomber
Manufacturer Consolidated Aircraft
Introduction 1943
Retired 1954, U.S. Navy
1958, U.S. Coast Guard
Primary users United States Navy
United States Coast Guard
Produced 1943–1945
Number built 739
Developed from Consolidated B-24 Liberator

The Consolidated PB4Y-2 Privateer was a World War II and Korean War era patrol bomber of the United States Navy derived from the Consolidated B-24 Liberator. The Navy had been using unmodified B-24s as the PB4Y-1 Liberator, and the type was considered very successful. A fully navalized design was desired, and Consolidated developed a dedicated long-range patrol bomber in 1943, designated PB4Y-2 Privateer.[1] In 1951, the series was redesignated P4Y-2 Privateer. A further change occurred in October 1962 when remaining Navy Privateers (all having previously been converted to drone configuration as P4Y-2K) were redesignated QP-4B.

Design and development

A PB4Y-2 carrying ASM-N-2 Bat glide bombs.

The Privateer was externally similar to the Liberator, but the fuselage was longer to accommodate a flight engineer's station, and had a tall single vertical stabilizer rather than the B-24's twin tail configuration. The defensive armament was also increased to 12 .50-in (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns in six turrets (two dorsal, two waist, nose and tail), with the B-24's belly turret being omitted. Turbosuperchargers were not fitted to the engines since maritime patrol missions were not usually flown at high altitude. The Ford Motor Company (which produced B-24s for the United States Army Air Forces) had earlier built an experimental variant (B-24K) using the single tail of a B-23 Dragon.[2] Aircraft handling was improved, and the Air Corps' proposed B-24N production model was to be built by Ford, but the order was canceled on 31 May 1945 and the B-24N never entered production. The Navy's desire for substantial redesigns, however, had sustained interest in the new tail assembly.

The Navy eventually took delivery of 739 Privateers, the majority after the end of the war, although several squadrons saw service in the Pacific theater in the reconnaissance, search and rescue, electronic countermeasures, communication relay, and anti-shipping roles (the latter with the "Bat" radar-guided bomb.)

Operational history

The Privateer entered Navy service during late 1944, Patrol Bomber Squadrons 118 and 119 (VPB-118 and VPB-119) being the first Fleet squadrons to equip with the aircraft. The first overseas deployment began on 6 January 1945, when VPB-118 left for operations in the Marianas. On 2 March 1945 VPB-119 began "offensive search" missions out of Clark Field, Luzon in the Philippines, flying sectored searches of the seas and coastlines extending from the Gulf of Tonkin in the south, along the Chinese coast, and beyond Okinawa in the north.

The Privateer was used as a typhoon/hurricane hunter from 1945 to the mid-1950s. One aircraft, designated BuNo 59415 of VPB-119, went down when it experienced mechanical trouble while investigating a Category 1 typhoon near Batan Island in the Philippines. It attempted to land on the island, but was unable to do so and crashed. It was one of the only six hurricane hunter flights ever lost, and the only one found.[3]

U.S. Coast Guard PB4Y-2G.

Privateers were also used during the Korean War to fly "Firefly" night illumination missions dropping parachute flares to detect North Korean and Chinese seaborne infiltrators. In addition, Privateers were used by the US Navy for signals intelligence (SIGINT) flights off of the coast of the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China. On 8 April 1950, Soviet La-11 fighters shot down a US Navy PB4Y-2 Privateer (BuNo 59645) over the Baltic Sea, off the coast of Liepāja, Latvia. Named the Turbulent Turtle, the aircraft was assigned to Patrol Squadron 26 (VP-26), Det A [4] The French also used Privateers as bombers during the Indochina War.

All Navy PB4Y-2s were retired by 1954, though unarmed PB4Y-2G Privateers served until 1958 with the Coast Guard before being auctioned off for salvage.

The family was redesignated P4Y-2 Privateer in 1951. The earlier XP4Y-1 Corregidor was a completely different design, based on the Consolidated Model 31 twin-engine flying boat.

PB4Y-2 were still being used as drones in the 1950s/early 1960s, designated PB4Y-2K initially and then P4Y-2 based names after 1951.[citation needed][Clarification needed] They were then redesignated QP-4B under the 1962 United States Tri-Service aircraft designation system, part of the new patrol series, between the Lockheed P-3 Orion and the Martin P-5 Marlin.

A number of PB4Ys were supplied to the Republic of China Air Force for use in missions over the People's Republic of China. One was shot down by ground fire on 12 September 1954, near Xiamen, People's Republic of China. The crew of nine were killed. Another was shot down on 15 February 1961 by Burmese Hawker Sea Fury fighter aircraft, near the Thai-Burmese border, killing the crew of five. Two other crew members were taken prisoner. This aircraft was carrying supplies for Chinese Kuomintang forces fighting in northern Burma.[5]

Privateers in aerial firefighting

P4Y-2 Tanker 123 BuNo 66260 (N7620C), of Hawkins & Powers in service supporting the CDF, at Chester Air Attack Base in the late 1990s—crashed 18 July 2002.

PB4Y-2 BuNo 66261 (marked as BuNo 66304) in the collection of the National Museum of Naval Aviation at NAS Pensacola, Florida.

A limited number of refitted PB4Ys continued in civilian service as airtankers, dropping fire retardant on forest fires throughout the western United States. On 18 July 2002, one such refitted PB4Y, BuNo 66260 (seen in picture to right) operated by Hawkins and Powers Aviation of Greybull Wyoming, broke up in flight while fighting a wildfire near Rocky Mountain National Park. Both crew members were killed in the accident, and the Federal Aviation Administration temporarily grounded all large air tankers in the region.[6] Following the accident, all remaining Privateers were retired. (See 2002 airtanker crashes.)


  • PB4Y-2 :
  • PB4Y-2B:
  • PB4Y-2M:
  • PB4Y-2S:
  • PB4Y-2G:
  • PB4Y-2K:
  • P4Y-2 :
  • P4Y-2B:
  • P4Y-2M:
  • P4Y-2S:
  • P4Y-2G:
  • P4Y-2K :
  • QP-4B :


 Republic of China
 United States


  • 59701 - D&G Inc. in Casper, Wyoming.[7]
  • 59763 - Ronald Sathre in Union City, California.[8]
  • 59819 - Lone Star Flight Museum in Galveston, Texas.[9]
  • 59882 - Bob J. Hawkins in Greybull, Wyoming.[10]
  • 66300 - Yanks Air Museum in Baldwin Park, California.[11]
  • 66302 - P4Y-2 LLC in Phoenix, Arizona .[12]
On display

Specifications (PB4Y-2)

3-side drawing of the PB4Y-2 Privateer.

Data from Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War II[15]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 11: two pilots, navigator, bombardier, five gunners, two radio operators
  • Length: 74 ft 7 in (22.73 m)
  • Wingspan: 110 ft 0 in (33.53 m)
  • Height: 30 ft 1 in (9.17 m)
  • Wing area: 1,048 ft² (97.4 m²)
  • Empty weight: 27,485 lb (12,467 kg)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 65,000 lb (29,500 kg)
  • Powerplant: 4 × Pratt & Whitney R-1830-94 radial engines, 1,350 hp (1,007 kW) each


  • Maximum speed: 300 mph (261 kn, 482 km/h)
  • Cruise speed: 175 mph (121 kn, 224 km/h)
  • Range: 2,820 mi (2,450 nmi, 4,540 km)
  • Service ceiling: 21,000 ft (6,400 m)
  • Wing loading: 62 lb/ft² (300 kg/m²)


See also


  1. Baugher, Joe. "Convair PB4Y-2 Privateer." American Military Aircraft, 23 August 1999. Retrieved: 13 November 2010.
  2. Baugher, Joe. "Consolidated B-24N Liberator." American Military Aircraft. Retrieved: 13 November 2010.
  3. Tannehill, Ivan Ray. The Hurricane Hunters. New York: Dodd Mead, 1955. ISBN 0-396-03789-5.
  4. "Intrusions, Overflights, Shootdowns and Defections During the Cold War and Thereafter." Retrieved: 25 July 2011.
  5. Pocock, Chris. The Black Bats: CIA Spy Flights Over China From Taiwan, 1951–1969. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Military History, 2010. ISBN 978-0-7643-3513-6.
  6. "Two Die in Crash Fighting Colorado Wildfire." Retrieved: 13 November 2010.
  7. "PB4Y-2 Privateer/59701" FAA Registry. Retrieved: 11 June 2012.
  8. "PB4Y-2 Privateer/59763" FAA Registry. Retrieved: 11 June 2012.
  9. "PB4Y-2 Privateer/59819" FAA Registry. Retrieved: 11 June 2012.
  10. "PB4Y-2 Privateer/59882" FAA Registry. 11 June 2012.
  11. "PB4Y-2 Privateer/66300" FAA Registry. Retrieved: 11 June 2012.
  12. "PB4Y-2 Privateer/66302" FAA Registry. Retrieved: 11 June 2012.
  13. "PB4Y-2 Privateer/59876" Yankee Air Force Retrieved: 11 June 2012.
  14. "PB4Y-2 Privateer/66261" National Museum of Naval Aviation Retrieved: 11 June 2012.
  15. Bridgeman 1946, pp. 217–218.
  • Bridgeman, Leonard. “The Consolidated Vultee Privateer.” Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War II. London: Studio, 1946.'ISBN 1-85170-493-0.

External links

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