Lockheed XP-58 Chain Lightning
1944
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Lockheed XP-58 Chain Lightning

The Lockheed XP-58 Chain Lightning resulted from a US Army contract, of 27 April 1943, which tasked Lockheed to build 'one (1) airplane, pursuit, fighter, two-engine, two-place, known as the XP-58, complete and conforming to the contractor's specifications'. The big, twin-boom XP-58 'convoy fighter' followed in the tradition of the P-38 Lightning and experimental XP-49 but had almost nothing in common with them - not dimensions, not components, not performance. The XP-58 owed its origin to Colonel Elliot Roosevelt, son of the President, who almost alone created the notion that a brute-sized, awesomely-armed escort fighter was needed. Roosevelt, however, really wanted Howard Hughes, not Lockheed, to build it.

The first of two XP-58s began taxi tests in 1943 and took to the air very belatedly on D-Day, 6 June 1944. The second airframe was never fully completed but was trucked in parts to the super-secret test centre at Muroc Dry Lake, California. By the time Howard Hughes' competing machine, the XF-11 reconnaissance craft, flew in 1946, the 'convoy fighter' idea had been dropped and the sole flyable XP-58 was a relic, abandoned to the elements after being moved to Wright Field, Ohio.

Its first flight was a 50-minute shakedown which took the XP-58 from the manufacturer's Burbank plant to Muroc. From 6 June to 8 September 1944, Lockheed pilots put 19.3 hours on the airframe. On 22 October 1944, it was ferried to Wright Field where it performed well in tests but, because of the cost of continuing a marginal programme with a 'one-off' machine, even with a second for spare parts, the programme was terminated in 1945. Derelict at Wright Field as late as January 1946, the Chain Lightning was scrapped in 1947.

3-View 
Lockheed XP-58 Chain LightningA three-view drawing (1280 x 826)


Specification 
 CREW2
 ENGINE2 x Allison V-3420-11/13, 1950kW
 WEIGHTS
    Take-off weight17770-19500 kg39176 - 42990 lb
    Empty weight14340 kg31614 lb
 DIMENSIONS
    Wingspan21.33 m70 ft 0 in
    Length15.07 m49 ft 5 in
    Height4.88 m16 ft 0 in
    Wing area55.74 m2599.98 sq ft
 PERFORMANCE
    Max. speed700 km/h435 mph
    Cruise speed455 km/h283 mph
    Ceiling11640 m38200 ft
    Range2000 km1243 miles

Comments
bombardier, 21.10.2011

That plane was armed with four 37mm guns.

Ralph Irish, 08.05.2011

Re: the comments: "abandoned to the elements" and "the Chain Lightning was scrapped in 1947"

Does this mean that the airframe/aircraft no longer exists? Or is it somewhere at Wright-Patt, waiting for something to happen 64 years later?

Klaatu, 07.05.2011

The Chain-Lightning was too big to have been an effective day-fighter, and the AAF already had the Northrop P-61 Black Widow in production to fulfill the night-fighter role. The twin-engine long-range escort fighter role was fulfilled by the P-82 Twin Mustang, which entered production just after the end of the war. As for the Hugh's F-1, that was not a meant to be a fighter at all, but a long-range, high-performance photo-reconnaissance plane.

Kadesh, 16.02.2011

Looks a bit like the Black Widow, wouldn't you say?

Federico, 27.01.2011

Strange airplane. It was really too big to be an effective escort fighter. Maybe it could have been a good night fighter, or at least a reconaissance/attack aircraft...

Dan Harrison, 12.03.2010

My father Neil Harrison was project engineer on this airplane. The government kept changing wht engine he could use and every change ment redesign. This slowed the design process and the war ended andthe project closed.
Dan

Dan Harrison, 12.03.2010

My father Neil Harrison was project engineer on this airplane. The government kept changing wht engine he could use and every change ment redesign. This slowed the design process and the war ended andthe project closed.
Dan

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