Lockheed P-38 Lightning

The P-38 was not just a pursuit fighter, it  was so versatile it could also be a bomber, a ground strafer, a reconnaissance plane, and an escort.  It flew at a very high-rate of speed and altitude for its time.   The P-38 had distinctive twin booms and a single, central nacelle containing the cockpit and armament. The multi-engine configuration reduced the Lightning loss-rate to anti-aircraft gunfire during ground attack missions.

That second engine was vitally important, single-engine airplanes equipped with power plants cooled by pressurized liquid were particularly vulnerable to ground fire. Even a small puncture in one coolant line could cause the engine to seize in a matter of minutes.

The firepower was equally as impressive consisting of one 20MM cannon and four .50 caliber machine guns mounted in the central nacelle.  These guns allowed for incredible precision and concentrated fire power when shooting at the target because they were all lined up right in front of the pilot.

In April 1943, America’s intelligence decoded a Japanese message that informed them that Admiral Yamamoto was going to visit the northern Solomon Islands on April 18th. Yamamoto was still considered to be a major figure in the Pacific War and the decision was taken to  kill him. Sixteen P-38 Lightning fighters from 339th Fighter Squadron were ordered to intercept and shoot down Yamamoto’s plane. They intercepted two G4M ‘Betty’ bombers escorted by six Zero fighter planes. Both ‘Betty’ bombers were shot down and Yamamoto was killed

By the end of the war, over 10,000 P-38 Lightning’s had been built in a variety of versions, and was the only American fighter aircraft in active production throughout the duration of American involvement in the war, from Pearl Harbor to Victory over Japan Day.

The P-38 Lightning turned out to be a real “work horse” for the USAAF. It served around the world as a fighter, fighter-bomber, and photographic reconnaissance aircraft and will always be considered one of three great USAAF fighters of World War II.

Lockheed P-38 Lightning

Type: Fighter
Crew: 1 Pilot
Armament:(4) .50 cal machine guns and (1) 20 mm cannon

Length: 37″-10 inches;
Height: 12″-10 inches;
Wingspan: 52″
Max Weight: 17500 lbs loaded

No. of Engines: 2
Power plant: Allison V-1710’s
Horsepower: 1745 hp each
Range: 1100 miles
Ceiling: 40000 feet

4 thoughts on “Lockheed P-38 Lightning

  1. Warbird Post author

    I agree Vegas, the P-38 was designed by the famous Kelly Johnson of Lockheed who went on to found the Skunk Works, which later designed and built the U2 and SR-71 to name just a few.

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