Northrop P-61 Black Widow

The Northrop P-61 Black Widow was the first operational U.S. military aircraft designed specifically for night interception of aircraft, and was the first aircraft specifically designed to use radar. It was an all-metal, twin-engine, twin-boom design developed during World War II. The first test flight was made on 26 May 1942, with the first production aircraft rolling off the assembly line in October 1943.

Although not produced in the large numbers of its contemporaries, the Black Widow effectively operated as a night-fighter by United States Army Air Forces squadrons in the European Theater, the Pacific Theater, the CBI Theater and the Mediterranean Theater during World War II. It replaced earlier British-designed night-fighter aircraft that had been updated to incorporate radar when it became available. After the war, the F-61 served in the United States Air Force as a long-range, all weather, day/night interceptor for Air Defense Command until 1948, and Far East Air Force until 1950.

In August 1940, a full 16 months before the United States entered the war, the U.S. Air Officer in London, Lieutenant General Delos C. Emmons, was briefed on British research in RADAR (Radio Aids to Detection and Ranging), which had been underway since 1936 and had played an important role in the nation's defense against the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain. General Emmons was informed of the new Airborne Intercept radar (AI for short), a self-contained unit that could be installed in an aircraft and allow it to operate independently of ground stations. In September 1940, the Tizard Mission traded British research on many aspects including radar for American production.

The P-61 was also modified to create the F-15 Reporter photo-reconnaissance aircraft for the United States Air Force. The last aircraft was retired from government service in 1954.

General characteristics
  • Crew: 2–3 (pilot, radar operator, optional gunner)
  • Length: 49 ft 7 in (15.11 m)
  • Wingspan: 66 ft 0 in (20.12 m)
  • Height: 14 ft 8 in (4.47 m)
  • Wing area: 662.36 ft² (61.53 m²)
  • Empty weight: 23,450 lb (10,637 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 29,700 lb (13,471 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 36,200 lb (16,420 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2× Pratt & Whitney R-2800-65W Double Wasp radial engines, 2,250 hp (1,680 kW) each
  • Propellers: four-bladed Curtis Electric propeller, 1 per engine
  • Propeller diameter: 146 in (3.72 m)
  • Internal Fuel Tank : 640 gal (2,423 L) of AN-F-48 100/130-octane rating gasoline
  • External Fuel Tank : Up to four 165 gal (625 L) or 310 gal (1,173 L) under the wings

  • Maximum speed: 366 mph (318 kn, 589 km/h) at 20,000 ft (6,095 m)
  • Combat range: 610 mi (520 nmi, 982 km)
  • Ferry range: 1,900 mo (1,650 mi, 3,060 km) with four external fuel tanks
  • Service ceiling: 33,100 ft (10,600 m)
  • Rate of climb: 2,540 ft/min (12.9 m/s)
  • Wing loading: 45 lb/ft² (219 kg/m²)
  • Power/mass: 0.15 hp/lb (25 W/kg)
  • Time to altitude: 12 min to 20,000 ft (6,100 m) (1,667 fpm)

  • 4 × 20 mm (.79 in) Hispano M2 cannon in ventral fuselage, 200 rpg
  • 4 × .50 in (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns in remotely operated
  • 4 x bombs of up to 1,600 lb (726 kg) each or
  • 6 x 5 in (127 mm) HVAR unguided rockets carried under the wings or
  • 1 x 1,000 lb (454 kg) bomb under the fuselage

  • SCR-720 (AI Mk.X) search radar
  • SCR-695 tail warning radar

** Northrop P-61 Black Widow - Warbird Fare

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