PB4Y-2 Privateer

As capable as the B-24 proved in fighting U-boats, it was still at heart a high altitude bomber, and in 1943 Consolidated received a contract for a long-range patrol bomber evolution of the Liberator. The PB4Y-2 was much different from the baseline B-24, with a stretched fuselage, single tall vertical tail, and revised nacelles for the R-1830-94 engines. Christened Privateer, the PB4Y-2 was slower than the Liberator, but was well suited top conducting long range sorties over the vast Pacific. Defensive armament was heavy, with two Erco-built waist turrets, another two Martin dorsal turrets, and Consolidated nose and tail turrets. The Privateer served as the launch platform for the Special Weapons Ordnance Device Mk.9 – more commonly known as the Bat. This early example of a “smart” weapon was a high-winged plywood airframe built around a 1,000lb bomb and fitted with an active radar seeker. Bat was first used operationally by VPB-109 in late April 1945, followed by VPB-123 and -124. Some 33 Bats were expended during the war; results left something to be desired, although this was partially attributed to a lack of specialized training and support. A notable success with the Bat was the crippling of the small escort vessel Aguni.

Although supplanted by Lockheed’s P2V Neptune in the postwar era, the Privateer served into the 1950s, especially in the “ferret” role, snooping around the territory of the USSR. The Privateer was actually the last B-24 variant to remain in service with the US military, as a few drone targets were still around to be redesignated as QP-4Bs in 1962. Former USN aircraft were supplied to France, which used them as overland bombers in Indochina. The Nationalist Chinese were also supplied with the type, and as late as 1961 one was shot down by a Burmese Sea Fury. The US Coast Guard also flew demilitarized Privateers as PB4Y-2Gs until 1958.

Although long retired from military duties, a handful of Privateers were retained as civilian “bombers” of a sort well into the 1990s, as Hawkins & Powers Aviation operated a small fleet of PB4Y-2s as fire retardant bombers. These aircraft had supercharged R-2600s from scrapped B-25s, all armament deleted, and tankage added for nearly ten tons of retardant.


U.S. Hammered Piston Ring Company ad, with a color photo of a PB4Y-2 in flight Aviation June 1945 p.203

Photo: closeup of a Bat missile under a Privateer wing Aviation News December 17, 1945 p.7

Koppers Company ad, illustrated by a Privateer photo Aviation News December 31, 1945 p.2

Photo: Privateer being lifted by a crane Flight 3 June 1955 p.749

Photo: Privateer firefighter N3739G/Tanker 30 Flight International 5 August 1978

Large side view shot of ex-NATC Privateer as N7682C Warbirds International Jan/Feb 2000 p.58-59

Photo: color side view of restored Privateer N6813D preserved at Willow Run. Warbirds International July 2000 p.42-43

Photo: "Consolidated Privateer repainted at Pima" FlyPast March 2016 p.15 ex firefighter N3739G Gerry Manning 1000 Preserved Aircraft in Colour p.79 PBY-2 N3739 of T+G, and the Privateer displayed at Pensacola

Scale Models-Warplane Special, 1982 1/144th scale Privateer drawings with cross sections

Jim Winchester American Military Aircraft: A History of Innovation p.93: color profile of a VP-871 Privateer; small photo of an RAF RY-3/Liberator C. Mk IX

Brown, Wagner Sky Trucks USA p.53-57: photos of Privateer fire fighters, including Tankers 121 and 123, and H+P #25 as preserved at Willow Run

Nick Veronico, Ron Strong AMARG America's Military Aircraft Boneyard p.19: photo of a USCG P4Y-2G in storage

Related Links Consolidated Liberator in RAF Service

Review: Consolidated B-24 Liberator: Production Line to Frontline