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Crazy Cat revisit

31 August 2019

One of the U.S. Army’s Lockheed AP-2E Neptunes used in the Vietnam War (U.S. Army Aviation Museum)—©2019 Joseph May/SlipstreamPhotography

The Army required larger intelligence aircraft in Vietnam as the war expanded into Laos—especially with regard to recon on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The Crazy Cats of 1st Radio Research Company were tasked to fly SIGNINT missions over the trail gathering low energy radio and Morse Code transmissions of NVA and Viet Cong activities. The Neptune allowed them to loiter as required and simply gather more information per mission than the smaller aircraft normally allowed to be flown by the Army, per the agreement between the USAF and the Army.

The U.S. Army’s path to flying the Neptune was tread carefully. Initially their C-2 Caribou aircraft were considered but they were soon going to the USAF. As it turns out they found solution and solace with the U.S. Navy which allowed the use of a handful of their Neptunes, a loan of their maintenance and logistics staff as well as a well established maintenance system present in theater. But, to better ensure the USAF had no bad feeling’s of having one of their roles usurped, the Army’s Neptune was designated AP-2 instead of the expected RP-2—having the paper appearance of an attack aircraft instead of a recce aircraft. The Army also flew Neptunes as the OP-2 which had a clear nose which allowed for the last use of the Norden Bombsight dropping various and clever sensors along the trail for detecting movement and sounds. Thanks to Nicholas Veronico for that observation. Nick is a wonderful aviation historian and author of several books in the field—many of which have been reviewed here, just use his name in the search window to find them.

One of the U.S. Army’s Lockheed AP-2E Neptunes used in the Vietnam War (U.S. Army Aviation Museum) better showing the wingtip antenna pods—©2019 Joseph May/SlipstreamPhotography

One of the U.S. Army’s Lockheed AP-2E Neptunes used in the Vietnam War still retaining the MAD boom (U.S. Army Aviation Museum)—©2019 Joseph May/SlipstreamPhotography

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Terry Welshans permalink
    31 August 2019 10:33

    The sonobuoy’s signals were received by overhead QU-22B Pave Eagle (modified Beech A-36 Bonanzas) aircraft and relayed to offshore EC-121R intel aircraft for analysis. This program was code named “Igloo White”. The actual attack was coordinated with the USAF and resulted in pin-point air strikes.

    There is a Lockheed AP-2H at the Pima, AZ museum. It is an actual attack version with the glass nose and a retractable belly gun pod.

    The Lockheed P2V series of aircraft are in my opinion the peak of piston powered aircraft.

    One other odd variant was transferred to the USAF as their B-69, later identified as the RB-69. Although identified as a USAF aircraft, it was operated by the CIA and flown by PRC pilots. This one was packed with elint and was used for clandestine missions over China. All were lost on missions.

    • shortfinals permalink
      31 August 2019 18:28

      Welllll – the post-WW2 Mosquito PR.34a (ceiling, 43,000ft, speed 430 mph, range 3,400miles) might have given it a run for its money! Mind you, I am somewhat biased……..

      • Terry Welshans permalink
        31 August 2019 22:27

        Yes indeed. It was lighter and faster, too, to say nothing about those fantastic RR engines.

        One of the first P2V-1s flew from Perth, Australia, to Columbus, Ohio in September 1946, a distance of 11,235 miles, in 55 hours and 17 minutes, a record it held until 1962.

        Eventually placed in storage and later displayed at NAS Norfolk, Virginia, the historic aircraft (Bureau Number 89082) was placed under the auspices of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and eventually shipped to Pensacola by barge in 1977. Originally on loan to the National Naval Aviation Museum, the airplane was formally transferred in 1990. It was battered by Hurricane Ivan Sept. 16, 2004, but has since been restored and is now on display inside the National Naval Aviation Museum building.

    • travelforaircraft permalink
      1 September 2019 00:35

      Thanks…I have stuff to look up now 🙂

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