Lockheed P-38 Lightning

The Lockheed P-38 Lightning was a World War II American fighter aircraft built by Lockheed. Developed to a United States Army Air Corps requirement, the P-38 had distinctive twin booms and a single, central nacelle containing the cockpit and armament. Named "fork-tailed devil" by the Luftwaffe and "two planes, one pilot" by the Japanese, the P-38 was used in a number of roles, including dive bombing, level bombing, ground-attack, photo reconnaissance missions, and extensively as a long-range escort fighter when equipped with drop tanks under its wings.

The P-38 was used most successfully in the Pacific Theater of Operations and the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations as the mount of America's top aces. In the South West Pacific theater, the P-38 was the primary long-range fighter of United States Army Air Forces until the appearance of large numbers of P-51D Mustangs toward the end of the war. The P-38 was unusually quiet for a fighter, the exhaust muffled by the turbo-superchargers. It was extremely forgiving, and could be mishandled in many ways, but the rate of roll was too slow for it to excel as a dogfighter. The P-38 was the only American fighter aircraft in production throughout American involvement in the war, from Pearl Harbor to Victory Day over Japan.

Lockheed designed the P-38 in response to a February 1937 specification from the United States Army Air Corps. Circular Proposal X-608 was a set of aircraft performance goals authored by First Lieutenant Benjamin S. Kelsey (later Brigadier General) and First Lieutenant Gordon P. Saville (later General) for a twin-engine, high-altitude "interceptor" having "the tactical mission of interception and attack of hostile aircraft at high altitude. The Lockheed design incorporated tricycle undercarriage and a bubble canopy, and featured two 1,000 hp (746 kW) turbo-supercharged 12-cylinder Allison V-1710 engines fitted with counter-rotating propellers to eliminate the effect of engine torque, with the superchargers positioned behind the engines in the booms. Counter-rotation was achieved with the use of "handed" engines, which meant that the crankshaft of each engine turned in the opposite direction of its counterpart. The V-12 engines only required that the spark plug firing order be changed in order for the direction of the crank shaft to be reversed, according to the General Motors Allison V1710 Service School Handbook. It was the first American fighter to make extensive use of stainless steel and smooth, flush-riveted butt-jointed aluminum skin panels. It was also the first fighter to fly faster than 400 mph (640 km/h).

The first unit to receive P-38s was the 1st Fighter Group. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the unit joined the 14th Pursuit Group in San Diego to provide West Coast defense. The first Lightning to see active service was the F-4 version, a P-38E in which the guns were replaced by four K17 cameras. They joined the 8th Photographic Squadron out of Australia on 4 April 1942. Three F-4s were operated by the Royal Australian Air Force in this theater for a short period beginning in September 1942.

On 29 May 1942, 25 P-38s began operating in the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. The fighter's long range made it well-suited to the campaign over the almost 1,200 mi (2,000 km)–long island chain, and it would be flown there for the rest of the war. The Aleutians were one of the most rugged environments available for testing the new aircraft under combat conditions. More Lightnings were lost due to severe weather and other conditions than enemy action, and there were cases where Lightning pilots, mesmerized by flying for hours over gray seas under gray skies, simply flew into the water. On 9 August 1942, two P-38Es of the 343rd Fighter Group, 11th Air Force, at the end of a 1,000 mi (1,609 km) long-range patrol, happened upon a pair of Japanese Kawanishi H6K "Mavis" flying boats and destroyed them, making them the first Japanese aircraft to be shot down by Lightnings.

General characteristics
  • Crew: One
  • Length: 37 ft 10 in (11.53 m)
  • Wingspan: 52 ft 0 in (15.85 m)
  • Height: 12 ft 10 in (3.91 m)
  • Wing area: 327.5 ft² (30.43 m²)
  • Airfoil: NACA 23016 / NACA 4412
  • Empty weight: 12,800 lb (5,800 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 17,500 lb (7,940 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 21,600 lb (9,798 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2× Allison V-1710-111/113 V-12 piston engine, 1,725 hp (1,194 kW) each
  • Zero-lift drag coefficient: 0.0268
  • Drag area: 8.78 ft² (0.82 m²)
  • Aspect ratio: 8.26

  • Maximum speed: 443 mph (712 km/h)
  • Stall speed: 105 mph (170 km/h)
  • Range: 1,300 mi combat (1,770 km / 3,640 km)
  • Service ceiling: 44,000 ft (13,400 m)
  • Rate of climb: 4,750 ft/min (24.1 m/sec) maximum
  • Wing loading: 53.4 lb/ft² (260.9 kg/m²)
  • Power/mass: 0.16 hp/lb (0.27 kW/kg)
  • Lift-to-drag ratio: 13.5

  • 1× Hispano M2(C) 20 mm cannon with 150 rounds
  • 4× Browning MG53-2 0.50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns with 500 rpg.
  • 4× M10 three-tube 4.5 in (112 mm) rocket launchers or
  • 2× 2,000 lb (907 kg) bombs or drop tanks or
  • 2× 1,000 lb (454 kg) bombs or drop tanks or
  • 4× 500 lb (227 kg) or 4× 250 lb (113 kg) bombs or
  • 6× 500 lb (227 kg) or 6× 250 lb (113 kg) bombs or
  • 10× 5 in (127 mm) HVARs (High Velocity Aircraft Rocket) or
  • 2× 500 lb (227 kg) or
  • 2× 250 lb (113 kg) bombs

** Lockheed P-38 Lightning - Warbird Fare

Other Warbirds

Facebook Twitter Stumbleupon Delicious Digg More Favorites

Back To Top