The PB4Y-2 Privateer was the most radical modification of the B-24 Liberator to see service during the Second World War. The U.S. Navy had operated a large number of B-24s under the designation PB4Y-1 Liberator, performing the same sort of long range maritime patrols as RAF Coastal Command. The Liberator had proved to be a very good maritime patrol aircraft because of its long range and spacious (and therefore easily modified) fuselage, but it had been designed for a very different mission.
The PB4Y-2 was designed specifically for the maritime patrol role. Most maritime patrols involved a single unescorted aircraft flying for long periods of time at low level over the ocean. The normal B-24 was a tiring aircraft to fly for long periods of time, lacking stability and a limited number of fixed crew positions.
Consolidated had carried out some work on improving the stability of the B-24. In 1942 they had replaced the twin tail of the B-24 with a large single tail to produce the XB-24K. This new tail wasn’t used on the B-24, but was taken up for the navy PB4Y-2. As most maritime patrols were carried out at relatively low altitude, the turbo superchargers were removed from the engines. The fuselage was made seven feet longer to make space for dedicated flight engineer’s and radar operator’s positions, to relieve some of the pressure on the pilot.
The defensive armament of the aircraft was extensively modified. The nose turret, tail turret and forward dorsal turret were all retained. A second dorsal turret was added further back along the fuselage. Finally the waist guns were replaced with two waist turrets with very wide fields of fire which overlapped below the aircraft. This allowed the removal of the ball turret.
The modified aircraft was renamed the PB4Y-2 Privateer. Production began in March 1944, and 736 aircraft were built before production ended in October 1945. Of those aircraft 61 were lost during the war, while the remaining aircraft remained in use through the later 1940s and 1950s. Three squadrons of Privateers took part in the Korean War. They remained the Navy’s only long range maritime patrol aircraft until the appearance of the Lockheed P-3 Orion.
Wing span: 110ft
Length: 74ft 7in
Engines: Four x Pratt & Whitney R-1830-94
Max Speed: 245 mph at 13,750ft
Range: 2,630 miles
Armament: Twelve .50in calibre machine guns in six twin gun turrets.