The P-38 was the only American fighter built before World War II to be still in production on VJ Day. Developed through many successively improved versions, the Lightning was used in all US combat zones as a high- and low-altitude fighter, fighter escort, bomber, photographic-reconnaissance aircraft, low-level attack and rocket fighter, and smoke-screen layer.
The first aeroplane developed from the start as a military type by Lockheed, the P-38 was designed to meet an Air Corps specification issued in 1936. The XP-38 prototype flew for the first time on 27 January 1939 and the first YP-38 service-evaluation aircraft of a limited procure-ment order for 13 was delivered to the USAAF in March 1941.
The P-38D was the first version of the Lightning to go into service in the war - an aircraft of this mark was the first American fighter to shoot down an enemy aeroplane, flying over Iceland a few minutes after the US declared war on Germany. The P-38L was the last fighter version to see combat service, which took in the final stages of the Pacific War. Two P-38L Lightnings escorting a Boeing Fortress were actually the first Allied fighters to land on Japanese soil after the surrender.
Built in large numbers throughout the war, the Lightning - as the type was first named by the RAF- appeared in 18 variants. The RAF, however, received only three of 143 aircraft similar to the P-38D which followed the P-38 into production - their performance being unacceptable to the RAF. This resulted from the fact that Lockheed were not permitted to export aircraft with turbocharged engines, making it necessary to install the unsupercharged 775kW Allison V-1710-33 engines which had proved to be underpowered in the XP-38 prototype.
P-38D in US service differed from the original P-38 by introducing self-sealing tanks and tail-unit revisions to overcome buffeting. P-38E had armament changes and were followed by the P-38F with more powerful engines and underwing racks (between engines and fuselage nacelle) for drop-tanks or weapons: late production examples introduced Fowler-type flaps which had a 'droop' setting to enhance manoeuvrability. P-38G had more powerful engines, as did the P-38H and -38J - the latter introduced an improved cooling system and powered ailerons. Most extensively built version was the P-38L (3,923), equipped to carry rocket projectiles beneath the outer-wing panels. Some P-38J were converted to serve as two-seat 'Pathfinders'; some P-38L as P-38M night fighters or TP-38L two-seat trainers; and other versions included F-4 and F-5 photo-reconnaissance aircraft.
The Lightning is remembered especially as a long-range escort for Eighth Air Force bombers making deep-penetration daylight attacks on targets in Germany, as well as for the long-range interception and destruction of the Mitsubishi G4M1 (Betty) bomber carrying Japan's Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto.
| ENGINE||2 x Allison V-1710-111/113 V-12, 1100kW|
| Take-off weight||9798 kg||21601 lb|
| Empty weight||5806 kg||12800 lb|
| Wingspan||15.85 m||52 ft 0 in|
| Length||11.53 m||38 ft 10 in|
| Height||3.91 m||13 ft 10 in|
| Wing area||30.47 m2||327.98 sq ft|
| Max. speed||666 km/h||414 mph|
| Ceiling||13410 m||44000 ft|
| Range||724 km||450 miles|
| Range w/max.fuel||3640 km||2262 miles|
| ARMAMENT||1 x 20mm cannon, 4 x 12.7mm machine-guns, 1451kg of bombs|
|A three-view drawing (1697 x 1063)|
|Lori, mitchroofing=att.net, 28.05.2009|
Hey Gary, I've been watching a documentary on TV and they said that Richard Bong was certainly a big player. When surfing the web his name comes up most of the time. My dad also flew a p38. His plane was shot down over Hungary, he was held captive for a year. You know you can't eject from that plane, you have to turn it over and fall out. My dad is my hero.
|Lori, mitchroofing=att.net, 28.05.2009|
Hey Gary, I am now watching a documentary on the p38 and they do say that Richard Bong was indeed a major player. And when surfing the web his name comes up most of the time. It is a super interesting program. My dad also flew a p38 in wwll. He was shot down over Hungary and was captured and held captive for a year. You know they can't really eject from the plane, have to turn it over and fall out.
|Willie, willmatt22=yahoo.com, 11.05.2009|
Can anyone tell me if the pilots trained to fly the P-38 were selected from the advanced twin engine (bomber) or advanced single engine (fighter) schools.
|leo rudnicki, leo_rudnicki=hotmail.com, 07.04.2009|
The big scoops on the booms are coolant radiators,which gave aerodynamicists shivers. Lightning pilots in Europe commonly shot at Mustangs. One advantage of the P38 was that it didn't look like any other plane. One disadvantage of the P38 was that it didn't look like any other plane from a great distance.A big problem in Eupope, the cockpit was unpressurised, drafty and cold. Few people behind providing the a/c,Air Ministries, DoD's manufaturers or designers gave any consideration to pilot comfort, even tho it has a real relationship with efficiency. P38E was pressurised and P49 locked a bit more comfy but didn't happen. The P38 had a learning curve before a pilot was proficient. some great planes are like that. Tommy MacGuire was dog-fighting an Oscar, one of the dog-fightingest airplanes ever, without dropping his tanks, when he lost it. If he hadn't been just above the trees, he probably would have recovered. Just that onetime, he had too much confidence in himself and his plane and stalled into the ground. The airplane suffered from "compressibility" in a dive from great altitude, like Hawker Typhoon. The temporary fix kits sent to Europe on one ship, sunk by U-boat. No replacements were sent. The little under-wing flaps appeared in production only into P38J run. Robin Olds encountered this effect. He survived, some didn't. When I finally perfect my Time Machine, I'll get rid of the outer tailplane stubs and fit an all-moving stabilator, then move the radiators into the cockpit and then...
My grandfather almost got killed by one of these in a friendly fire incident.
|Charles Shaw, colliershaw=verizon.net, 23.10.2008|
A pilot named Fred A______ wrote a book about his wartime experience training and flying a P-38. I thought the book was named "Doorknob 52" ("Doorknob" being the knickname of his squadron. Does anybody know of this book or author. His last name begins with A. That's all I know.
|Dave, davestevenson49er=gmail.com, 21.10.2008|
I am a WW II airplane buff. I have been trying to find out what the intake ducts between the wings and the tail section on the P38 do. If anyone can help me figure this out I would appreciate it.
Thank You Dave
|Levi Green, Lgrodder58=sbcglobal.net, 10.08.2008|
Do you have blue prints or dimensions for the larger drop tanks on a p-38? Please let me know if you do, i would like to make one. thanks, Levi
|Sean Doherty, sean=dohertyfarms.com, 24.05.2008|
Tommy McGuire americas second highest scoring ace with 38 to Richard Bong's 40 also flew the P-38 also with the fifth airforce and both the P-38 and the fifth airforce's contributions to the war effort are largely overshadowed. I don't know why but it is a travesty. What a great plane.
|Gary Guise, Retmbff=wmconnect.com, 09.05.2008|
I'm always amazed that Americas # 1 ACE of WWII who was Richard Bong, and mdae most, if not all of his Kills in P-38's is ignored in the history of WWII. Do you know hwy this is?
|Gary W. Dillon, gwdillon=comcast.net, 05.05.2008|
My father, Wayne Dillon, ran the motor pool at Fort Wayne in Detroit in the early 1940's. An Italian prisoner of war, under his supervision, made an aluminum model P38 for my father, with material that apparently was melted and then formed into a scale model. Etched on the bottom of the stand base is my name and the artists name.
Do you have any comments about this aircraft ?