Aircraft, Airport, Aircraft Specification

Lockheed P-38 Lightning

Lockheed P-38 Lightning

P-38 World War II American fighter

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.

P-38 introduced in 1939

When first introduced in 1939, the Lightning was able to fly a steady course at 413 mph (665 km/h) making it the fastest production airplane in the world and it remained one of the fastest climbers’ right up to the end of the WW II.

It wasn’t as fast as the Messerschmitt Me 209 which was able to attain a record 469 mph (755 km/h), but this record setting machine was built for the purposes of promoting the Messerschmitt Bf 109 and only four aircraft were built.

Multipurpose Aircraft

P-38 was used in a number of roles, including dive bombing, level bombing, ground-attack, night fighting, photo reconnaissance missions, and extensively as a long-range escort fighter when equipped with drop tanks under its wings.

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 in the early versions was too slow for it to excel as a dogfighter.

The P-38 was the only American fighter aircraft in production throughout American involved in the war, from Pearl Harbor to Victory over Japan Day. What would become one of the best fighters’ in World War II was created more by happenstance than by design.

The Lockheed P-38 Lightning was originally designed as a bomber-interceptor and was never intended to be a fighter.

P-38 Most Successful Twin-Engine Fighter of World War II.

The Weight was kept minimum and it was far more advanced and faster than its U.S. counterparts, the Bell P-39 Airacobra and Curtiss P-40 Warhawk. It caught the attention of the US Army Air Corps (USAAC) very quickly and it was in great demand.

It became faster than the Zero-even on one engine. It also shot down more Japanese airplanes than any other fighter during World War II-seven of the top scoring USAAF aces in the Pacific flew the P-38. It was as versatile as the de Havilland Mosquito, but it was the only truly successful twin-engine fighter of World War II.

P-38 Hand-built Airplane

It was basically a hand-built airplane and was never meant to be mass produced. All skin sections were butt-joined using flush riveting, and all flight controls were metal covered.

The total order was expected to be only fifty aircraft, so when orders started coming in by the hundreds, and Lockheed had to scramble to find room to increase production.

In 1937, the USAAC sent out specification X-608 to the leading aircraft manufacturers’ for a new pursuit aircraft. Lockheed had previously completed in 1936, but lost against Bell’s XFM-1 Airacuda.

Lockheed was new in the military aircraft market and by competing against Boeing and Douglas, many felt they it was overstepping its boundaries. However, this view wasn’t shared by Lockheed’s president Robert E. Gross and he gave the go ahead for his design team to proceed with a plan.

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