Rugged, fast and versatile, the Lockheed P-38 Lightning was a potent combat aircraft and a superb fighter bomber, also flying as a night fighter, reconnaissance aircraft and torpedo-bomber. Powered by two liquid-cooled engines, the P-38 had a top speed of 414 miles per hour and carried a 20-mm cannon and four machine guns in its nose.
Designed in 1937 as a high-altitude “pursuit aircraft” (interceptor), the XP-38 was heavier than a Bristol Blenheim Mk. I, which at that time was the standard British medium bomber. Equipped with under wing droppable fuel tanks, the Lockheed P-38 was used extensively as a long-range escort fighter aircraft and saw action in practically every major combat area of the world. The Pacific theatre of operations produced the two highest scoring aces in American history – Major Richard Bong and Major Thomas McGuire, Jr. Both men flew P-38 Lightnings in the Southwest Pacific and each received the Medal of Honor in recognition of his courage and accomplishments.
Known for its exceptional range and the dependability of its two Allison engines, this legendary aircraft made up for any shortcomings with its exceptional set of guns and cannons in its nose, giving it more concentrated firepower than other US fighters, which usually had their guns mounted in their wings. Many different versions, including pathfinder and reconnaissance aircraft configurations, were produced.
After WW2, a number of Lockheed P-38s were used for aerial photography in the private sector. Almost 10,000 P-38s were built. Today, only a few are remaining.
|Type:||Long range fighter and fighter bomber|
|Powerplant:||Two Allison V-1710-27/29|
|Max speed:||414 mph (666 km/hr)|
|Ceiling:||44,000 ft (13 400 m)|
|Range:||475 miles (765 km) on internal fuel|
|Weight (empty):||12,600 lbs (5806 kg)|
|Max. T/O:||21,600 lbs (9798 kg)|
|Wingspan:||52′ 0″ (15.85m)|
|Length:||37′ 10″ (11.53 m)|
|Height:||9′ 10″ (3 m)|
|Armament:||One 20mm cannon, four .50 machine guns, 2,000 lb of bombs, rockets|