Lockheed P-38 Lightning
Representing Lockheed's first fighter aircraft project, the twin-engine, twinboom Lockheed P-38 Lightning was designed to meet a 1937 requirement for a high-altitude interceptor. First flown on 27 January 1939, the XP-38 was followed by production P-38s with nose armament of one 37-mm and four 12.7-mm (0.5-in) guns and powered by Allison V-1710-27/29 engines; their top speed of 628 km/h (390 mph) was greater than any other twin-engine fighter in 1941. The first version to be considered fully operational was the P-38D, however, and this was reaching squadrons at the time of Pearl Harbor. The first of an order for 143 aircraft for the RAF arrived in the UK in December 1941, but after evaluation the Lightning was rejected (on account of a ban imposed on the export of turbochargers) and the contract cancelled. In the USAAF the P-38D was followed by the P-38E, in which the 37-mm cannon was replaced by a 20-mm weapon. The P-38F, with provision for up to a 907-kg (2,000-lb) bombload under the wings, was followed by the P-38G with minor equipment changes; the P-38H could carry up to 1452 kg (3,200 lb) of bombs.
In the P-38J (of which 2,970 were produced) the radiators were located in deep 'chin' fairings immediately aft of the propellers; with maximum external fuel load this version had an endurance of about 12 hours, and it was in this model of the P-38 that America's top scoring fighter pilot of the war, Major Richard I. Bong, gained the majority of his 40 victories. The P-38L was the most-built version (a total of 3,923) and differed from the P-38J only in having -111/113 engines in place of the -89/9 Is previously used. Photo-reconnaissance conversions, the F-4 and F-5, were also widely used in Europe and the Far East. Production of all Lightnings totalled 9,394.
Specification Lockheed P-38L Lightning
Type: single-seat fighter/fighterbomber
Powerplant: two 1100-kW (1,475-hp) Allison V-1710-111/113 V-12 piston engines
Performance: maximum speed 666 km/h (414 mph) at 7620 m (25,000 ft); climb to 6095 m (20,000 ft) in 7,0 minutes; service ceiling 13410 m (44,000 ft); range 724 km (450 miles)
Weights: empty 5806 kg (12,800 lb); maximum take-off 9798 kg (21,600 lb)
Dimensions: span 15.85 m (52 ft 0 in); length 11,52 m (37 ft 10 in); height 2.99 m (9 ft 10 in); wing area 30.42m2 (327.5 sq ft)
Armament: one 20-mm and four 12.7mm (0.5-in) guns in the nose, plus a bombload of up to two 726-kg (1,600Ib) bombs under the wings