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A Brief History Of The P-38 "Lighting"

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By Joe Baugher


The Lockheed XP-38 "Lightning"


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The Lockheed P-38 Lightning racked up an impressive series of "firsts"--it was the first Lockheed-designed military aircraft to go into series production, it was the first twin-engine interceptor to serve with the USAAC, it was the first production fighter powered by the Allison V-1710 in-line engine, it was the first modern fighter equipped with a tricycle landing gear, it was the first American plane to use butt-jointed flush riveted external surfaces, it was the first to make extensive use of stainless steel, it was the first fighter to use a bubble canopy right from the start, it was the first fighter with speeds over 400 mph, it was the first US twin-boom fighter to go into production, it was the first USAAF fighter to shoot down a German aircraft, it was the first USAAF fighter to carry out an escort mission to Berlin, it was the first USAAF plane to land in Japan after that country had surrendered, it was the heaviest US single-seat fighter of World War 2, it was the only American fighter in production at the time of Pearl Harbor to be still in production at the war's end, and it accounted for more Japanese aircraft destroyed in combat than any other US fighter.

A total of 10,037 Lockheed Lightning's were built.

Lockheed was invited along with Boeing, Consolidated, Curtiss, Douglas, and Vultee to take part in a USAAC design competition X-608 for a twin-engine high-altitude interceptor. The specification called for a maximum speed of at least 360 mph at 20,000 feet and 290 mph at sea level, an endurance at full throttle of one hour at 20,000 feet, and the ability to take off and land over a 50-foot obstacle within 2200 feet.

The Lockheed design staff was headed by Hall L. Hibbard. Working with Hibbard was the soon-to-be famous Clarence L. "Kelly" Johnson. After studying a lot of different designs, Hibbard and Johnson finally settled on a twin-boom design with each boom extending aft of the engine and the pilot sitting in an enclosed cockpit in a central nacelle. Each boom was to house one of the new 1150 hp Allison V-1710C twelve-cylinder liquid-cooled engine with an exhaust-driven turbo-supercharger. The Allison engine at that time had just completed a 150-hour type approval test at 1000 hp. The central nacelle contained a forward-firing armament of one cannon and four 0.50-in machine guns. This armament was quite heavy for its time, the standard USAAC armament of the day being one 0.30-in and one 0.50-in machine guns. One advantage of the twin-boom layout was the possibility of installing the armament in the central nacelle, unhampered by synchronizing gear and allowing sighting of the parallel streams of fire up to the maximum range of 1000 yards. Tail surfaces consisted of a fin and rudder at the end of each boom and a horizontal tail-plane and elevator between the booms. It was anticipated that the twin fin-and-rudder tail assembly would increase the effective aspect ratio of the tail-plane by the endplate effect, thereby providing stability over a large c.g. range. At 14,800 pounds, the XP-38 weighed more than a bombed-up Bristol Blenheim I, at that time the standard British medium bomber. Fowler flaps were fitted between the ailerons and the booms and between the booms beneath the trailing edge of the wing center section.

The project was given the company designation Model 22-64-01. Lockheed promised a maximum speed of over 400 mph. Although the USAAC was somewhat skeptical about so radical a design, the Model 22 won Design Competition X-608 and on June 23, 1937, Lockheed was awarded a contract for one XP-38 prototype (Ser No 37-457). Construction began in July 1938. Construction proceeded rather rapidly despite the radical features that it embodied. Few problems were presented by the installation of the Allison V-1710-11/15 (C9) engines, which developed 960 hp at 10,000 feet and 1090 hp at 13,200 feet. Each engine had a General Electric B-1 turbo-supercharger. To combat torque, the propellers rotated in opposite directions, a special version of the Allison engine being produced with a left-hand rotating propeller shaft. The engines had inwardly-rotating propellers. No armament was installed on the XP-38.

The XP-38 aircraft was completed in December of 1938. On the last day of the year, the completed XP-38 was stripped down, covered with canvas, and loaded onto three trucks. In great secrecy, the convoy of trucks was escorted by police to March Field, near Riverside, California, where Air Corps Project Officer Lt. Benjamin S. Kelsey was to began the flight testing. However, on the very first ground run, the wheel brakes failed and the XP-38 ended up in a ditch. Lt. Kelsey finally took the XP-38 into the air for the first time on January 27, 1939. The early test flights turned up some problems with the wheel brakes and with vibrations of the flaps, requiring that some modifications be made to the prototype. Maximum speed was 413 mph at 20,000 feet, and an altitude of 20,000 feet could be attained in 6.5 minutes. Service ceiling was 38,000 feet. Empty weight was 11,507 lbs, gross weight was 13,964 lbs, and maximum takeoff weight was 15,416 lbs

Reaction to the first few test flights was highly favorable. In spite of the problems encountered on its first few flights, it was decided to attempt a record transcontinental flight before delivering the XP-38 to the Army at Wright Field. At daybreak on February 11, 1939, Ben Kelsey left March Field destined for Mitchell Field, New York with refueling stops at Amarillo, Texas and Wright Field, Ohio. On the final leg of the flight, the XP-38 lost power as Kelsey was coming in for a landing at Mitchell Field and crashed on a golf course just short of the runway. Fortunately, Lt. Kelsey was unhurt, but the XP-38 was a total loss.

The Crash Of The XP-38



The Lockheed YP-38 "Lightning"

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In spite of the loss of the XP-38, the Lightning had shown its true potential. On April 27, 1939 a Limited Procurement Order for thirteen YP-38 service test aircraft was issued. Army serials were 39-689/701. The company designation for the planes was Model 122-62-02.

The YP-38 was redesigned for production and had a pair of 1150 hp Allison V-1710-27 and -29 (F2R and F2L) engines equipped with B-2 turbo-superchargers. These engines were equipped with spur reduction gearing rather than the former epicyclical type of gearing. This caused the engine's thrust line to be raised upward. The propellers were outward-rotating rather than inward-rotating as on the XP-38 (that is, the port propeller turned counterclockwise when seen from the rear and the starboard propeller turned clockwise).

The chin-mounted lip intake under the propeller spinner was replaced by a pair of cooling intakes. Enlarged coolant radiators were adopted on both sides of the tail booms.

Armament was revised to substitute two 0.30-in machine guns for two of the four 0.50-in machine guns, and a 37-mm Browning M9 cannon with 15 rounds was substituted for the 20-mm weapon. The 0.50 inch guns carried 200 rounds per gun and the 0.30 inch guns carried 500 rounds per gun. All the guns were mounted in the nose, with the 0.50 inch guns mounted above the 0.30-inch guns. One or two YP-38s were seen with prominent gun enclosure tubes protecting the two 0.50-inch machine guns, with flush plates covering the other gun ports. In reality, most YP-38s were flown without guns installed. At 14,348 lbs, the YP-38 was lighter than the overweight XP-38 due to structural redesign.

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The first YP-38 flew on September 16, 1940 with Marshall Headle at the controls. In March 1940, the Army received its first YP-38 for service trials. Production lagged seriously behind schedule, and all thirteen YP-38s had not been completed until June of 1941. Maximum speed was 405 mph at 10,000 feet, and an altitude of 20,000 feet could be reached in six minutes. Normal range was 650 miles. Empty weight was 11,171 lbs, gross weight was 13,500 lbs, and maximum takeoff weight was 14,348 lbs.

During trials, the YP-38s ran into a problem in which the tail began to buffet severely during high speed dives, making it difficult to pull out. On November 4, 1941, the tail booms of YP-38 39-689 came off during a high speed dive over Glendale, California. Test pilot Ralph Virden was killed. This was initially falsely diagnosed as elevator flutter, and a set of external mass balances were added above and below the elevator. This problem was later solved by adding large wing-root fillets at the points where the wings joined the fuselage. This filleting had to be done very carefully, since failure to ensure a tight fit could severely impair the flight characteristics


The YP-38



The P-38 "Lightning"


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Even before the YP-38s had been built and delivered, on September 20, 1939 the Army placed an order for 66 P-38 fighters.

Twenty-nine of these were delivered as P-38-LO (company Model 222-62-02). The P-38 had the same power plants as the YP-38, but armament was changed to one 37-mm cannon and four 0.50-in machine guns. Armor plate and bulletproof glass was added for pilot protection, and fluorescent instrument lighting was provided for night flying. Serials were 40-644/761 and 40-763/773.

P-38 Ser No 40-744 was later modified to study the effects on flight crews of asymmetric cockpit location. The turbo-superchargers were taken off the modified airplane, and the unit in the port boom was replaced by a cockpit for a flight surgeon. References:


The XP-38A


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A change order to the initial contract provided for the completion of one P-38-LO (Ser No 40-762) equipped with a pressurized cockpit. This airplane was re-designated XP-38A. In order to offset the extra weight of the pressurized cockpit, the 37-mm cannon was to be replaced by a 20-mm unit, but no armament was actually fitted to XP-38A prototype. Manufacturer's trials were performed between May and December of 1942, and the XP-38A was accepted by the USAAF at the end of that year. Much of the information gained on the XP-38A project was later used in the XP-49 design. References:



The P-38B / C

Based on combat reports coming in from Europe in the spring and early summer of 1941, the Combat Command and Air Materiel Command decreed that all aircraft in production incorporate certain items to make them "combat capable". Among these were self-sealing fuel tanks, no magnesium flares, a low pressure oxygen system, improved armor protection, and provision for bulletproof glass. The AAF specified that all aircraft with these capabilities be given a "D" suffix. Beginning in August 1941, all production P-38s bore the new designation P-38D. As a result, there never was a P-38B or P-38C References:


The P-38D

Reports coming in from the air war in Europe lead to the Air Combat Command and the Air Materiel Command issuing an order that all combat aircraft currently under construction be fitted with certain equipment that would make them more "combat capable". The USAAF also specified that all aircraft with these capabilities be give a "D" suffix.

The result of these change was that the remainder of the initial order for 66 P-38s were completed as P-38D-LO. The model designation remained 222-62-02. Serials were 40-774/809.

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The P-38D differed from the P-38 in having a low-pressure oxygen system, self-sealing fuel tanks, a retractable landing light, and provision for flares. A change in tail plane incidence, together with a redistribution of elevator mass balances, increased the mechanical advantage of the elevator control, resulting in the elimination of buffeting and facilitating dive recovery. The P-38D featured a new low-pressure oxygen system, which supplanted the old high-pressure oxygen system of earlier versions. This system became standard on all subsequent production models. Normal fuel capacity remained 210 gallons, but maximum internal fuel was reduced from 390 to 340 gallons.

The P-38D had a maximum speed of 390 mph at 25,000 feet. An altitude of 20,000 feet could be reached in 8 minutes. Service ceiling was 39,000 feet. The first P-38Ds began to reach USAAF units in August 1941.

For a brief period, the USAAF considered naming the P-38 "Atlanta". However, the P-38D and subsequent versions were officially christened "Lightning" by the USAAF.

Changes were taking place at such a rapid rate that even the changes introduced on the P-38D did not really make it combat-ready. In 1942, the P-38 was redesignated RP-38 and the P-38D was re-designated RP-38D, the 'R' prefix meaning 'restricted to non-combat roles'. They were used strictly as combat trainers.

P-38s, RP-38s, and some P-38Ds from Selfridge Field were active participants in the September 1941 Army-Navy joint maneuvers in Louisiana, but few of the actually had any guns installed. By the time of Pearl Harbor, there were only 69 P-38 and P-38D fighters on strength. References:


The P-38 I for The RAF

Chronologically, the Lightning Mark I for the RAF was the next model produced. In France, as early as the spring of 1939, the Comite du Materiel and the Etat Major had been taking a look at the P-38 as a possible substitute for the Breguet 700, Potez 671, and Sud-Est S.E.100 twin-engine fighters then under development. In April 1940, the Anglo-French Purchasing Committee ordered 667 P-38 fighters. The two versions were the Model 322-61-03 (or 322-F) for France and 322-61-04 (or 322-B) for Britain.

Both the British and French delegations insisted that the Lockheed fighters be equipped with Allison engines without turbo-superchargers and with strictly right-handed rotation. This was because they wanted the engines to be interchangeable with those of the Curtiss H.81A Tomahawk which had been ordered by both Britain and France in great numbers. In addition, the Committee wanted to optimize the aircraft for medium-altitude combat as was currently the dominant mode of aerial warfare in Europe, rather than the high-altitude role for which the P-38 had originally been designed. The Anglo-French delegation was also aware of the problems currently being experienced by the War Department in the delivery of turbo-superchargers, and did not want to run the risk of costly, time-consuming delays since they wanted all the planes delivered in less than a year. It turned out that this decision was particularly unfortunate.

The British and French Model 322s were to be powered by Allison V-1710-C15 engines without turbo-superchargers that were rated at 1010 hp at 14,000 feet. These aircraft were to have both engines rotating in the right-handed sense. The French version of the fighter was to have French (i.e. metric-calibrated) instruments, French-built radios and French-supplied armament, and were to have throttles which operated in the "French fashion", ie. in the reverse direction from British/American throttles. With these engines, guaranteed maximum speed was 400 mph at 16,900 feet.

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After the fall of France in June of 1940, the entire contract for the Model 322s was taken over by Britain. By July of 1941, the RAF recognized that there probably would be a need for high altitude capabilities, and the original contract was amended to provide for the delivery of 143 Lightning Is (British military serials AE978/999 and AF100/220) with the originally-specified V-1710-15 un-turbo-supercharged engines, with the remaining 524 aircraft (serials AF221/AF744) to be delivered as Lightning IIs (Model 322-60-04) with turbo-supercharged V-1710-F5L and -F5R engines with guaranteed top speeds of 415 mph at 20,000 feet.

Because of its non-turbo-supercharged right-handed Allison engines, the Lightning I for the RAF was christened the "castrated P-38" by the factory. It turned out that this nickname was apt.

The first three Lightnings arrived in the UK by sea transport in March of 1942. AF105 was sent to the Cunliffe-Owen Aircraft Limited at Swaythling, Southampton for examination and experiments. AF106 was sent to the A&AEE at Boscombe Down for flight evaluation. AF107 went to the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough for experiments and evaluation.

The performance of this hybrid was quite poor, and the RAF refused any further deliveries of the Lightning I after receiving and testing only three examples.

The remaining 140 Lightning Is of the British contract were completed by Lockheed and were taken over by the USA and designated P-322, P for pursuit and 322 for the Lockheed model designation. They were sent to a special modification center in Dallas, Texas where they were adapted for US service, most of them being used as trainers and for various experimental roles. They retained their original British serial numbers while in USAAF service. Twenty of the P-322s retained their V-1710-C15 engines (USAAF designation V-1710-33) with unhanded propellers They were assigned to operational use in the critical days following Pearl Harbor. The rest of the P-322s were fitted with handed engines (V-1710-27 and -29) but were not given turbo-superchargers. They were used as operational trainers with reduced armament (two 0.50-in and two 0.30-inch machine guns, no cannon).

Only one Lightning II (AF221) was completed. It was taken over by the USAAF as P-38F-13-10, painted with US national markings, but retained its British serial number. It was used by Lockheed for the testing of smoke- laying canisters on racks between the booms and the nacelle, and for the air-dropping of two torpedoes from the same racks. Twenty-eight other British-ordered aircraft were completed as P-38F-13-LO for the USAAF, 121 as P-38F-15-LO, 174 as P-38G-13-LO, and 200 as P-38G-15-LO.


The Model 322

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The Model 332

1940 represented an uneasy feeling with the growing conflict in Europe. France and Britain would soon be engaging the German army and Luftwaffe on a growing scale. Both countries expressed an interest in the Lockheed P-38 design. Both countries felt it could possibly contribute to their own defense against the German onslaught. The British placed an order in March 1940, with the expectations that the first deliveries would start in December 1941. This Lightning Mark I would be the export version of the P-38 E model, and Mk. II would eventually be the P-38 G model. The French interest did not last long because they quickly surrendered to the Germans.

In an attempt to deal with the problems in Europe, the British wanted to add to its air force. They tried to design a twin-engine fighter, but their design was dead in the water, and was abandoned. They expressed interest in the Model 322 fighter. They originally ordered 667 of the "Lightning I", but after the Battle of Britain, they reduced that number to 143. After a British test pilot gave bad reports after flying the aircraft, the British would only accept 3 total aircraft. At the same time, the Unites States Army did not want to use their limited quantity of turbochargers for export. Basically, the British would be receiving "castrated" P-38s. This would cause the aircraft to lose too much performance at high altitudes. Robert Gross consulted with many legal executives, and recommended that Lockheed proceed with the production of the aircraft based on the original plan. This resulted in a standoff between Lockheed and the British Air Ministry. The models in production were eventually converted to Air Corps specifications. Because these P-38s did not contain superchargers, many would be used at twin engine trainers.

The British refusal of this aircraft was attributed to three main reasons. First of all the Battle of Britain was over and the immediate threat was substantially reduced. Secondly, the British treasury was in shambles and could not afford to obtain everything it needed. Lastly, they were concerned with the tail flutter problems, even though it had been researched and corrected. The British lost tremendous amounts of money on their twin-engine Westland Whirland design, but they were afraid of another problem-plagued aircraft. In fact British test pilots who flew the Model 322 felt it was a good plane to fly, but would not be able to deliver the performance needed at high altitudes against the Luftwaffe. The British were in no position to use valuable personnel and resources to experiment with different setups on the Model 322. Many people have speculated what would have happened if they adapted a Merlin engine (the ones used on the P-51) in the Model 322. Unfortunately this will never be known. What is known is that only 3 of these aircraft were ever delivered to the British, and the remaining undelivered aircraft served valuable training and experimentation roles.



The P-38E

The first major production version for the USAAF was the P-38E-LO series (company designation Model 222-62-09). It differed from the D-version in having the 37-mm cannon with the 15-round magazine replaced by a 20-mm cannon with 150 rounds. The P-38E had improved instrumentation and revised hydraulic and electrical systems. It had a revised nose section with double the ammunition capacity of earlier versions. An SCR-274N radio was installed. In the middle of 1941, the Hamilton Standard Hydromatic propellers with hollow steel blades were replaced on the production line by Curtiss Electric propellers with dual blades. The P-38E was powered by Allison V-1710-27/29 turbo-supercharged engines. Maximum speed was 395 mph at 25,000 feet. An altitude of 20,000 feet could be reached in 8 minutes, and service ceiling was 39,000 feet. Weights were 11,880 lbs empty, 14,424 lbs gross, and 15,482 lbs maximum takeoff. Serials of the USAAF P-38Es were: 41-1983/2097, 41-2100/2120, 41-2172, 41-2219, and 41-2221/2292. A total of 210 P-38Es were built.

Early in its life the P-38 earned a reputation as a pilot killer. A terminal velocity dive in a P-38 was believed by many pilots to be a fatal maneuver. It was possible in a high- speed dive to overstress the plane while trying to pull out, and a number of P-38s lost empennages while doing such maneuvers and crashed, usually with fatal results. It was later determined that these problems were the result of the effects of compressibility. Although it was later found that ALL aircraft had problems when they operated in these speed ranges, the P-38 was a pioneer in high-speed flight and thus got a bad reputation.

The most obvious effect of high speeds was the onset of tail flutter, which was at first believed to be caused by turbulence from the wing. The eventual flutter correction worked out by "Kelley" Johnson involved a change of incidence of the entire empennage from -1 deg 15 minutes to 0 degrees 0 minutes and the addition of new fillets at the fuselage-wing leading edge junction.

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The P-38E was still not yet considered combat-ready, and most P-38Es were re-designated RP-38Es while others were used for various tests. 41-1983 was used to test several features which later ended up being used in the P-38J and P-38K versions. Some P-38Es were modified by Lockheed to carry drop tanks as developed for the P-38F-1-LO and later versions.

One modified P-38E deserves special note. During the spring of 1942, the rapidity of the Japanese advance caught everyone by surprise, and the USAAF became concerned with being able to ship its aircraft to the far reaches of the Southwest Pacific area. One idea to improve the ease at which P-38s could be ferried to combat units in the Pacific islands was to equip these fighters with twin floats under the center section. The retractable wheeled undercarriage would be retained, and the floats would be removed before combat operations from forward air bases were undertaken. However, the success of the scheme demanded that a way be found to keep the tail-plane free from spray. As an experiment, P-38E Ser No 41-1986 was fitted with lengthened tail booms, its fins and rudders were re-contoured and its tail-plane was raised nearly three feet above its normal position. In addition, an engineer/observer's seat was installed aft of the cockpit in place of some of the radio equipment. 41-1986 was only flown as a landplane, the proposed twin floats never being fitted. In the event, such floatplane conversions proved to be unnecessary, since by the end of 1942 the US Navy was fully able to provide adequate shipping for aircraft and materiel sent to the Southwest Pacific.

P-38E Ser No 41-2048 was converted in 1942 as a two-seater with an elongated central nacelle extending aft of the wing trailing edge. This aircraft was intended as a research vehicle to find ways of reducing drag. It was the only P-38 to have have a full dual set of flight controls. Later in the war, this experimental aircraft was fitted with enlarged laminar-flow wing sections just outboard of the engine booms, complete with slots and boundary layer control by means of exhaust bleed air.

One P-38E (serial number unknown) was used in 1942 at Orlando to demonstrate the feasibility of towing a Waco CG-4A glider. A proposal was made to modify Lightnings to tow "trains" of up to three of these troop-carrying gliders, but nothing ever came of this idea. References:



The F-4 "Lightning"

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The P-38 / F-4

Ninety-nine aircraft originally ordered as P-38Es were completed as F-4-1-LO (Model 222-62-13) unarmed photo reconnaissance aircraft. They were powered by 1150 hp V-1710-21-29 engines and carried four K-17 cameras in a modified nose. In service, these aircraft carried a pair of 150/165 US gallon drop tanks. Most were retained for training and their restricted use status was reflected in their re-designation as RF-4-1-LO. Serial numbers of the F-4-1-LO aircraft were 41-2098/2099, 41-2121/2156, 41-2158/2171, 41-2173/2218, and 41-2220.


The P-38F

The P-38F version of late 1942 was the first Lightning version that was considered fully combat-ready. It included 377 US-ordered aircraft, plus 150 planes that had originally been ordered under British and French contracts. The P-38F was powered by 1325 hp turbo-supercharged Allison V-1710-49/53 engines and had the same armament as did the E-version--one 20-mm cannon and four 0.50-in machine guns. The weight of the P-38F was significantly higher than that of previous versions--empty weight was 12,264 lbs, gross weight was 15,900 lbs, and maximum takeoff weight was 18,000 pounds. Maximum speed was 395 mph at 25,000 feet. An altitude of 20,000 feet could be reached in 8.8 minutes, a bit slower than the climb rate of earlier versions.

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There were five separate production batches of the P-38F, differing from each other mainly in internal equipment.

The initial F-version was the P-38F-LO (company designation Model 222-60-09). 128 of these were built.

The next F-version was the P-38F-1-LO (Model 222-60-15), which differed from the P-38F-LO in being modified after delivery to carry a pair of drop tanks or a pair of 1000-lb bombs under the wing center sections. Each rack could also carry a Smoke Curtain Installation or a 22-inch torpedo. This version had SCR-525 and SCR-522 radio. 149 of the P-38F-1-LO version were built.

The P-38F-5-LO (Model 222-60-12) version, of which 100 were built, was built from the onset with provision for drop tanks. It also had revised landing lights, desert equipment, identification lights, and various other minor improvements.

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The twenty-nine P-38F-13-LOs and the 212 P-38F-15-LOs were ex-British contract aircraft and were designated Model 322-60-19s by the company. The P-38F-13-LO had modified instruments meeting the British Approved Specification No. 2338. The P-38F-15-LO introduced combat flaps which could be rapidly extended to 8 degrees during maneuvers to tighten the turning radius.

Twenty P-38F-1-LO airframes with 1325 hp V-1710-49/53 engines were completed as F-4A-1-LO (Model 222-60-13) unarmed photo-reconnaissance aircraft with four K-17 cameras in a modified nose. Serials of the F-4A-1-LOs were 41-2362/2381.



The serial numbers of the P-38F/F-4A production batch were as follows:

41-2293/2321 	Lockheed P-38F-LO Lightning 
41-2322 	Lockheed P-38F-1-LO Lightning 
41-2233/2358 	Lockheed P-38F-LO Lightning 
41-2359/2361 	Lockheed P-38F-1-LO Lightning 
41-2362/2381 	Lockheed F-4A-1-LO Lightning 
41-2382/2386 	Lockheed P-38F-LO Lightning 
41-2387 	Lockheed P-38F-1-LO Lightning 
41-2388/2392 	Lockheed P-38F-LO Lightning 
41-7484/7485 	Lockheed P-38F-1-LO Lightning 
41-7486/7496 	Lockheed P-38F-LO Lightning 
41-7497 	Lockheed P-38F-1-LO Lightning 
41-7498/7513 	Lockheed P-38F-LO Lightning 
41-7514/7515 	Lockheed P-38F-1-LO Lightning 
41-7516/7524 	Lockheed P-38F-LO Lightning 
41-7525 	Lockheed P-38F-1-LO Lightning 
41-7526/7530 	Lockheed P-38F-LO Lightning 
41-7531 	Lockheed P-38F-1-LO Lightning 
41-7532/7534 	Lockheed P-38F-LO Lightning 
41-7535 	Lockheed P-38F-1-LO Lightning 
41-7536/7538 	Lockheed P-38F-LO Lightning 
41-7539/7541 	Lockheed P-38F-1-LO Lightning 
41-7542/7543 	Lockheed P-38F-LO Lightning 
41-7544 	Lockheed P-38F-1-LO Lightning 
41-7545/7547 	Lockheed P-38F-LO Lightning 
41-7548/7550 	Lockheed P-38F-1-LO Lightning 
41-7551 	Lockheed P-38F-LO Lightning 
41-7552/7680 	Lockheed P-38F-1-LO Lightning 
42-12567/12666 	Lockheed P-38F-5-LO Lightning 
43-2035/2063 	Lockheed P-38F-13-LO Lightning 
43-2064/2184 	Lockheed P-38F-15-LO Lightning 


The P-38G / F-5A

The P-38G began to roll off the production lines in June of 1942. It was basically similar to the P-38F apart from a change to the Allison V-1710-51/55 (F10) engine with increased boost ratings and offering 1325 hp for takeoff. However, the engine was limited to 1150 hp at 27,000 feet due to inadequate cooling. In addition, the P-38G carried a SCR-274N radio and A-9 oxygen equipment.

Production of the P-38G was divided across six blocks. There were 708 US-ordered Model 222-68-12 aircraft. 80 of these were P-38G-1-LOs which were generally similar to the P-38F-15-LOs but with the new engines, improved oxygen equipment and more reliable radios. Twelve of them were P-38G-3-LOs with B-13 superchargers. 68 were P-38G-5-LOs with revised instrumentation and 548 were P-38G-10-LOs which combined the improvements introduced in the two previous blocks with winterization equipment, provision for carrying 1600 lb bombs underneath the wing center section, or a triple cluster of 4.5-inch rocket launchers on each side of the central nacelle. The 374 Model 322-68-19s (174 P-38G-13-LOs, equivalent to the P-38G-3-LO and 200 P-38G-15-LOs, corresponding to the P-38G-5-LO) came from the cancelled British contract for Lightning IIs which was taken over by the USAAF.

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Nose Camera

Unarmed photographic reconnaissance versions of the P-38G were also produced under the designation F-5A. A single F-5A-2-LO (model 222-62-16) was completed by modifying a P-38E airframe (41-2157) by installing V-1719-21/29 engines. All of the other F-5As (Model 222-68-16) had P-38G airframes and 1325 hp V-1710-51/55 engines. Twenty F-5A-1-LOs, twenty F-5A-3-LOs, and 140 F-5A-10-LOs had the same modifications as P-38G variants with corresponding block numbers, and came off the production line in parallel with their fighter counterparts. All were unarmed and carried five cameras.

One F-5A-10-LO (Ser No 42-12975) was modified as an experimental two-seat reconnaissance aircraft under the designation XF-5D-LO. The camera operator was located in a glazed nose compartment with two forward-firing 0.50-in machine guns. Three K-17 cameras were installed, one underneath the nose and one in each tail boom.

One P-38G-5-LO (42-12866) was used as a test-bed for the proposed XP-49 armament (two 20-mm cannon and four 0.50-in machine guns). The USAAF also undertook at Wright Field preliminary design for a proposed derivative of the P-38G which was to have carried a 75-mm cannon in a revised and enlarged central nacelle. However, this concept never got past the initial design stage.

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The P-38G had a loaded weight some 200 pounds less than that of the P-38F, and was the most widely-built version of the early Lightnings. 1082 P-38Gs had been delivered by March of 1943. 181 of these had been completed as F-5A photo reconnaissance aircraft and another 200 had been completed as F-5Bs with camera installations similar to that of the F-5A-10-LO but with engines and airframe identical to those of the later P-38J-5-LO. One F-5A-10-LO (Ser No 42-12975) was modified as an experimental two-seat reconnaissance aircraft under the designation XF-5D-LO.

Specification of P-38G-1-LO

Maximum speed: 345 mph at 5000 feet, 360 mph at 10,000 feet, 400 mph at 25,000 feet. 850 miles range on internal fuel at cruising speed of 219 mph at 10,000 feet. 1750 miles range at 211 mph at 10,000 feet with two 125 Imp. gall. drop tanks. Climb to 10,000 feet in 3.7 minutes, climb to 20,000 feet in 8.5 minutes. Service ceiling of 39,000 feet. Weights were 12,200 lbs empty, 15,800 lbs normal loaded, 19,800 lbs maximum loaded. Dimensions were wingspan 52 feet 0 inches, length 37 feet 10 inches, height 9 feet 10 inches, wing area 327.5 square feet. Armed with one 20-mm Hispano M1 cannon with 150 rounds and four 0.50-in Colt-Browning MG 53-2 machine guns with 500 rounds per gun. Could carry two 325, 500, or 1000-lb bombs.

Serials for the F-5A/P-38G production run were as follows:

41-2157 	Lockheed F-5A-2-LO Lightning 
42-12667/12686  Lockheed F-5A-1-LO Lightning 
42-12687/12766  Lockheed P-38G-1-LO Lightning 
42-12767/12786  Lockheed F-5A-3-LO Lightning 
42-12787/12798  Lockheed P-38G-3-LO Lightning 
42-12799/12866  Lockheed P-38G-5-LO Lightning 
42-12870/12966  Lockheed P-38G-10-LO Lightning 
42-12967/12986  Lockheed F-5A-10-LO Lightning 
42-12987/13066  Lockheed P-38G-10-LO Lightning 
42-13067/13126  Lockheed F-5A-10-LO Lightning 
42-13127/13266  Lockheed P-38G-10-LO Lightning 
42-13267/13326  Lockheed F-5A-10-LO Lightning 
42-13327/13557  Lockheed P-38G-10-LO Lightning 
43-2185/2358    Lockheed P-38G-13-LO Lightning 
43-2359/2558    Lockheed P-38G-15-LO Lightning 


The P-38H

The P-38H (Model 222-81-20) differed from earlier versions in being powered by 1425 hp Allison V-1710-89/91 engines. The P-38H was fitted with automatic oil radiator flaps in order to solve a chronic engine overheating problem and enable military power above 25,000 feet to be increased from 1150 to 1240 hp. An M-2C cannon took the place of the M-1, and the bomb capacity for each under wing rack was raised to 1600 pounds. In most other respects, this model was identical to the P-38G-10-LO.

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The first of 226 P-38H-1-LOs went into service in May of 1943. The 375 P-38H-5-LOs were fitted with B-33 instead of B-13 turbo-superchargers which gave improved high-altitude performance.

Empty weight was 12,380 pounds, normal loaded weight was 19,500 pounds, and maximum loaded weight was 20,300 pounds. Maximum speed was 402 mph at 25,000 feet. An altitude of 20,000 feet could be attained in 6.5 minutes. Service ceiling was 40,000 feet. Normal range was 350 miles, and maximum range with external tanks was 2400 miles.

Serials of the P-38H production run were as follows:

42-13559 	Lockheed P-38H-1-LO Lightning 
42-66502/66726  Lockheed P-38H-1-LO Lightning 
42-66727/67101  Lockheed P-38H-5-LO Lightning 


The P-38J


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Through all the modifications leading from XP-38 to P-38H, the basic contours of the engine nacelles of the Lightning had remained virtually unchanged. The P-38J version, which first began to appear in August of 1943, introduced some appreciable differences in the geometry of the engine nacelles which make this and later versions easily distinguishable from earlier versions of the Lightning.

Earlier P-38s had passed the compressed air from the turbo-superchargers through a hollow passageway lying along the leading edge of the wing all the way from boom to wing tip and back in order to cool it down before it entered the carburetor. There were problems encountered with this arrangement. The difficulty in controlling the superchargers caused frequent engine backfires, some of which actually caused changes in the shape of the wing leading edge. The large area of these wing intercoolers also make them vulnerable to gunfire. The P-38J (known by the Lockheed company as the Model 422) introduced a revised power plant installation, with the intercooler being changed to a core-type radiator located below the engine. The air intake for the intercooler was sandwiched between the oil radiator intakes in a deeper, lower nose. The core-type radiator took cooling air through the central duct behind the propeller and exhausted it through a controllable exit flap, thus permitting a considerable amount of control over the the temperature of the air entering the carburetor. The leading edge tunnels were eliminated and were replaced by additional self-sealing fuel cells in the outer wing panels.

This modification was initially tested on P-38E Ser No 41-1983. The P-38J also had redesigned Prestone coolant scoops on the tail booms. All P-38Js retained the V-1719-89/91 engines of the P-38Hs, but their more efficient cooling installations enabled military rating at 27,000 feet to be increased from 1240 to 1425 hp, while at that altitude war emergency rating was 1600 hp.

The revised beard radiators produced some additional drag, but it was more than adequately compensated for by the improved cooling which made the Allison finally capable of delivering its full rated power at altitude. Consequently, the P-38J was the fastest variant of the entire Lightning series--420 mph at 26,500 feet. Maximum speed at 5000 feet was 369 mph, 390 mph at 15,000 feet. Range was 475 miles at 339 mph at 25,000 feet, 800 miles at 285 mph at 10,000 feet, and 1175 miles at 195 mph at 10,000 feet. Maximum range was 2260 miles at 186 mph at 10,000 feet with two 250 Imp gall drop tanks. An altitude of 5000 feet could be attained in 2 minutes, 15,000 feet in 5 minutes, 10,000 feet in 7 minutes. Service ceiling was 44,000 feet. Weights were 12,780 lbs empty, 17,500 lbs normal loaded, 21,600 lbs maximum. Wingspan was 52 feet 0 inches, length was 37 feet 10 inches, and height was 9 feet 10 inches. Wing area was 327.5 square feet. Armament consisted of one 20-mm Hispano M2(C) cannon with 150 rounds plus four 0.50-inch Colt-Browning MG 53-2 machine guns with 500 rounds per gun. In addition two 500, 1000, or 1600-lb bombs or ten five-inch rockets could be carried on under wing racks.

The 1010 Model 422-81-14s included three production blocks. The first block consisted of ten service test P-38J-1-LOs. These were quickly followed by 210 P-83J-5-LOs with two 55-US gallon additional fuel tanks in the leading edge space previously occupied by the intercoolers and thus restoring maximum internal fuel capacity to 410 gallons (1010 gallons with drop tanks). Modifications, including the addition of stiffeners, were required to prevent deformation of the new wet wing leading edge. The last production block consisted of 790 P-38J-10-LOs with flat windshields with the bulletproof glass panel being incorporated into the windshield.

These were followed by Model 422-81-22s in two blocks. The first block consisted of 1400 P-38J-15-LOs with revised electrical systems. The second block consisted of 350 P-38J-20-LOs with modified turbo regulators.

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 When earlier J-series Lightnings went into a high speed dive, their controls would suddenly lock up when a certain speed was reached and the nose would begin to tuck under, making recovery from the dive very difficult. The problem would begin at Mach 0.65 to 0.68, accompanied by vigorous buffeting and a strong nose-down pitch. As speed increased, it became progressively more and more difficult to recover from the dive, larger and larger stick forces being required for a pullout. At Mach 0.72, dive recovery became for all practical purposes impossible, and runaway dives that got this far out of hand usually had fatal results. The onset of severe buffeting would, of course, usually provide adequate warning for a pilot in a diving P-38 that he was about to encounter a problem, but it is easy to get distracted while in the stress of combat. This dive recovery problem was so severe that the Lightnings found it very difficult to follow German fighters in a dive, allowing many Luftwaffe fighters to escape unscathed.

The problem was eventually traced to a shock wave that formed over the wings as the Lightning entered the transonic regime, the shock wave preventing the elevators from operating. In order to counteract this problem, starting with the P-38J-25-LO (Model 422-81-23) production block, a small electrically-operated dive flap was added underneath each wing outboard of the engine nacelles and hinged to the main spar. These dive flaps would change the characteristics of the airflow over the wing, offsetting the formation of the shock wave and permitting the elevators to operate properly. This innovation largely solved the problems encountered by diving P-38s.

210 P-38J-25-LOs were built.

The P-38J-25-LO production block also introduced power-boosted ailerons. These consisted of ailerons that were operated by a hydraulically-actuated bell-crank and push-pull rod, making it easier for the pilot to maneuver the airplane at high airspeeds. This boosting system was one of the first applications of powered controls to any fighter, and required only 17 percent of the previous stick forces. The hydraulic aileron booster system vastly improved the roll rate and thereby increased the effectiveness of the P-38 in combat. P-38Js with power-boosted ailerons proved to have the highest roll-rates of any fighter.

In March of 1944, Colonel Benjamin Kelsey reached an indicated speed of more than 750 mph during a high-speed dive in a P-38, which would have made the P-38 the first supersonic fighter. However, it was later discovered that compressibility effects on the airspeed indicator at about 550 mph had given a greatly exaggerated reading. Nevertheless, the Lightning handled quite well at high speeds, and its strong airframe withstood the excessive aerodynamic loading produced by these high-speed dives.

With the increased use of the Lightning as a light bomber, the type was modified to carry in place of the forward-firing armament either a bombardier with a Norden bombsight in a glazed nose enclosure, or a "Mickey" BTO (Bombing Through Overcast) bombing radar in the nose with an operator station between the radar and the pilot's cockpit. These modifications were developed at the Lockheed Modification Center in Dallas, Texas. These so-called "droop-snoot" Lightnings were used to lead formations of P-38s each carrying two 2000-lb bombs which were released on instructions from the lead bombardier.

Two P-38J-20-LOs (serials 44-23544 and 44-23549) were modified in Australia during the autumn of 1944 for use as single-seat night fighters, carrying AN/APS-4 radar in a pod underneath the starboard wing. These modifications were tested in New Guinea and the Philippines.

A P-38J-5-LO (serial number 42-67104) was tested at Wright Field and Orlando, Florida as an experimental night fighter with a radar operator sitting on a jump seat just aft of the pilot. The AN/APS-4 radar was initially mounted under the fuselage in a pod just aft of the nosewheel. This pod proved to be rather easily damaged by stones thrown up by the nosewheel during takeoffs and landings, so it was repositioned beneath the starboard wing, but this resulted in interference from the adjacent engine nacelle.

Beginning in September of 1944, a P-38J was used to test a unique method for extending the range of escort fighters by having the fighter engage a hook trailed from a B-24H bomber. Attached to the hook was a standard drop tank. After contact, the tank was automatically attached to standard external tank fittings beneath the fighter's wing. The method proved to be basically feasible, but it required considerable skill on the part of the Lightning pilot in order for it to work. Consequently, this innovation was not pursued any further.

A number of P-38Js were modified in service as TP-38J-LO two-seat "piggyback" trainers with a jump seat aft of the pilot. Some of these aircraft carried an AN/APS-4 radar pod underneath the starboard wing and were used to train P-38M crews.

At least one P-38J was successfully flown with skis. P-38J-1-LO Ser No 42-13565 was fitted with an experimental retractable ski installation.

The initial photo-reconnaissance version of the P-38J was the F-5B-1-LO (model 422-81-21). It had the same camera installation as did the earlier F-5A-10-LO (equivalent to P-38G-10-LO), but had an airframe and engines identical to those of the P-38J-5-LO. The F-5B-1-LO introduced a Sperry automatic pilot, which became standard on all subsequent reconnaissance versions. Two hundred of these photographic aircraft were built, serial numbers being 42-67312/67401 and 42-68192/68301. This was the last of the Lockheed production of the reconnaissance version of the Lightning, subsequent F-5 versions being modifications of standard P-38 fighter airframes performed after delivery.

The F-5C-1-LO was the designation given to P-38J airframes converted at the Dallas Modification Center to a standard basically similar to that of the F-5B-1-LO but with improved camera installations. A total of 123 aircraft is believed to have been so modified. The serial numbers of the P-38J aircraft so modified are not known.

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A total of 200 P-38J-15-LO fighter airframes were converted in Dallas to F-5E-2-LO reconnaissance configuration. These were produced to a standard similar to that of the F-5C-1-LO. The designation F-5E-3-LO was given to a similar conversion of 205 P-38J-25-LO airframes. Again, any record of the serial numbers of the P-38J aircraft modified to F-5E-2-LO or F-5E-3-LO standards seems to have been lost.

One F-5B-1-LO (42-68220) was modified with a revised camera installation and was re-designated F-5F-LO.

The few surviving USAAF P-38J aircraft were re-designated F-38Js in 1948 when the USAAF became the USAF and the P designation was changed to F.

P-38J-10-LO Ser No 42-67762 is currently held in storage at the Paul Garber Preservation, Restoration and Storage Facility at Suitland, Maryland. I saw it there on November 2 of this year. It is more or less intact, but needs some restoration work before it is really presentable.



Serials of the P-38J/F-5B were as follows:

42-12867/12869 		Lockheed P-38J-1-LO Lightning 
42-13560/13566 		Lockheed P-38J-1-LO Lightning 
42-67102/67311 		Lockheed P-38J-5-LO Lightning 
42-67312/67401 		Lockheed F-5B-1-LO Lightning 
42-67402/68191 		Lockheed P-38J-10-LO Lightning 
42-68192/68301 		Lockheed F-5B-1-LO Lightning 
42-103979/104428 	Lockheed P-38J-15-LO Lightning 
43-28248/29047 		Lockheed P-38J-15-LO Lightning 
44-23059/23208 		Lockheed P-38J-15-LO Lightning 
44-23209/23558 		Lockheed P-38J-20-LO Lightning 
44-23559/23768 		Lockheed P-38J-25-LO Lightning 


The P-38K

There was only one P-38K-1-LO built. This prototype (42-13558) combined a P-38G-10-LO airframe with 1425 hp V-1710-75/77 engines housed in nacelles similar to those of the P-38J and driving broader-chord propellers.

The P-38K proved to be little better in performance than the J-version and the engines used were in short in supply. Consequently, the P-38K was not developed any further.



The P-38L

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The P-38L was the final production version of the Lightning and was numerically the most important of all the Lightning versions. Lockheed built 3810 P-38Ls and Consolidated-Vultee at Nashville built 113 more. The P-38L was powered by 1475 hp Allison V-1710-111/113 engines with a war emergency rating of 1600 hp at 28,700 feet and a military rating of 1475 hp at 30,000 feet. Except for the more powerful engines, the P-38L was generally quite similar to the previous P-38J.

The P-38L was produced in two blocks. The 1290 P-38L-1-LOs were similar to the P-38J-25-LOs except for the new engines. Some were modified by the USAAF as TP-38L-1-LO two-seat familiarization trainers. The 2520 P-38L-5-LOs had submerged fuel pumps and, after the unsatisfactory testing fourteen five-inch HVAR on zero-length launchers beneath the wing outer panel, under wing rocket "trees" for ten five-inch rockets were mounted. The racks underneath the wing center sections were strengthened to enable either 2000-lb bombs or 300-US gallon drop tanks to be carried.

Like the P-38J, the P-38L could be fitted with either a glazed bombardier station or bombing radar in the nose.

P-38L-1-LO Ser No 44-23601 was fitted with three 0.60-inch machine guns in a postwar experiment. However, tests at Elgin AFB in 1946 were not successful. The guns themselves betrayed structural deficiencies, and the shell links failed whenever the aircraft underwent either positive or negative acceleration.

P-38L-1-LO Serial No 44-24649 was modified as a specialized ground strafing version with eight 0.50-inch guns in the nose and two under wing pods each carrying two more 0.50-in machine guns

P-38L-5-LO Ser No 44-25605 was rebuilt by Hindustan Aircraft in India as a special VIP aircraft for a General Stratemeyer. The plane had a transparent nose, which made it look a lot like the "Droop Snoot" pathfinder Lightnings used in the European theatre. The General sat in a special seat inside the nose, and the inside walls of his "office" were lined with leather. There were even provisions for a built-in Thermos jug (I won't even ask what was IN the jug :-)). Sort of reminds me of General Dreedle in the movie *Catch 22*. Nowadays, if *Sixty Minutes* were to get wind of such an extravagance on the part of the military, heads would roll.

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Specification of the P-38L:

14,100 lbs empty, 17,500 lbs combat loaded. Maximum speed was 360 mph at 5000 feet, 390 mph at 15,000 feet, 414 mph at 25,000 feet. An altitude of 20,000 feet could be reached in 7 minutes. Service ceiling was 40,000 feet. Maximum range at sea level was 900 miles. At 30,000 feet, maximum range was 2260 miles (with drop tanks). Dimensions were wingspan 52 feet 0 inches, length 37 feet 10 inches, height 12 feet 10 inches, and wing area 328 square feet Armed with one 20-mm Hispano AN-M2C cannon with 150 rounds and four 0.50-inch Browning machine guns with 500 rounds per gun.

There were two photographic reconnaissance versions of the P-38L, designated F-5F and F-5G. All F-5F and F-5G photo-reconnaissance planes were modified from existing P-38L airframes at Lockheed's modification center in Dallas. The photographic-reconnaissance version of the P-38L-5-LO was designated F-5F-3-LO. It combined the P-38L-5-LO airframe and engines with the revised camera installation of the F-5F-LO. The last photographic-reconnaissance version of the Lightning was the F-5G-6-LO. It was modified in Dallas from P-38L-5-LO airframes. It differed from the F-5F-3-LO in having revised nose contours to provide more space for photographic equipment and a wider selection of cameras. No record seems to survive of the serial numbers of the P-38Ls that were converted to F-5F and F-5G photo-reconnaissance aircraft.

In June 1944, the USAAF had supplemented Lockheed's production capacity with a order from the Consolidated-Vultee Aircraft Corporation plant at Nashville, Tennessee for 2000 P-38L-5-VN fighters. These planes were similar to the Lockheed-built P-38L-5-LO. Delays in getting the new production line started resulted in only 113 P-38L-5-VNs being delivered to the USAAF by the end of the war in August of 1945. Shortly after V-J Day, the remaining 1887 aircraft of the order were cancelled. A similar fate befell 1380 P-38L-5-LO fighters then on order from Lockheed.

After the war was over, large numbers of P-38Ls were scrapped or sold off as surplus. The small number of P-38Ls still remaining in USAF service in 1948 were re-designated F-38L.

There is a P-38L currently on display at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio. However, it is painted as a P-38J-10-LO with a serial number of 42-67855.

The serial numbers of the P-38L were as follows:

44-23769/25058 	Lockheed P-38L-1-LO Lightning 
44-23059/27258 	Lockheed P-38L-5-LO Lightning 
44-53008/53327 	Lockheed P-38L-5-LO Lightning 
44-53328/54707 	Lockheed P-38L-5-LO Lightning - order cancelled.  
43-50226/50338 	Convair P-38L-5-VN Lightning 
43-50339/52225 	Convair P-38L-5-VN Lightning - contract cancelled.  


The P-38M

Early in 1943, at least two unidentified P-38Fs were modified in the field by the Fifth Air Force as single-seat night fighters by fitting an SCR540 radar with yagi antennae on the nose on both sides of the central nacelle, and above and below the wings. In order to make room for the radar, two of the 0.50-inch machine guns and their ammunition boxes had to be moved forward. Three P-38Js were also modified in the field as experimental night fighters.

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However, these modifications were all single seat, and it was found that the flying of the plane and the operation of the radar was too much of a job for just one person. Consequently, Lockheed attempted to adapt the P-38L as a two-seat night fighter. In 1944, Lockheed converted P-83L-5-LO Ser No 44-25237 as a two-seat night fighter, with the radar operator sitting aft of the pilot under a raised section of the canopy. The aircraft was fitted with an AN/APS-6 radar in an external ra-dome underneath the nose, relocated radio equipment and anti-flash gun muzzles.

This modification was successful, and provided the USAAF with a night fighter having a top speed of 406 mph at 15,000 feet as compared to only 369 mph at 20,000 feet for the Northrop P-61A Black Widow. Consequently, the Army issued a contract change calling for the Lockheed Modification Center in Dallas to convert 80 additional P-38L-5-LOs into P-38M twin-seat night fighters (some sources give 75, but 80 serials are identified). They were painted glossy black overall. These were just entering service when the war ended. The P-38M saw operational service in the Pacific in the last few days of the war. It was an effective night fighter with very little performance penalty over the standard single-seat Lightning.

Flash eliminators were fitted to all guns, mainly to aid the pilot in retaining night vision when they were fired. Experiments were conducted with the object of shielding the turbo-supercharger exhaust, but the entire exhaust system was so hot that it glowed at night, making the small reduction of visibility possible with the shielding of the actual efflux relatively pointless. Consequently, no modifications of the exhaust system were undertaken on "production" P-38Ms. Initial climb rate was 3075 feet per minute, and an altitude of 20,000 feet could be attained in 8.7 minutes.

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A total of 80 P-38Ls were converted to P-38M configuration. Serials of P-38Ls converted to P-38M configuration were as follows: 44-26831, 26863, 26865, 26892, 26951, 26997, 26999, 27000, 27108, 27233, 27234, 27236, 27237, 27238, 27245, 27249, 27250, 27251, 27252, 27254, 27256, 27257, 27258, 53011, 53012, 53013, 53014, 53015, 53016, 53017, 53019, 53020, 53022, 53023, 53025, 53029, 53030, 53031, 53032, 53034, 53035, 53042, 53050, 53052, 53056, 53062, 53063, 53066, 53067, 53068, 53069, 53073, 53074, 53076, 53077, 53079, 53080, 53082, 53083, 53084, 53085, 53086, 53087, 53088, 53089, 53090, 53092, 53093, 53094, 53095, 53096, 53097, 53098, 53100, 53101, 53106, 53107, 53109, 53110, 53112.

There is a P-38M on display at the Champlin Fighter Museum at Falcon Field, Mesa, Arizona. It no longer has its ra-dome slung under the nose, but the two-seat configuration is still retained. That radar operator in the rear must have been REALLY cramped!

 By Joe Baugher



  • Lockheed Aircraft Since 1913, Rene J. Francillon, Naval Institute Press, 1987
  • The P-38J-M Lockheed Lightning, Profile Publications, Le Roy Weber Profile Publications, Ltd, 1965.
  • War Planes of the Second World War, Fighters, Volume Four, William Green, Doubleday, 1964.
  • Famous Fighters of the Second World War, William Green, Doubleday, 1967.
  • The American Fighter, Enzo Anguluci and Peter Bowers, Orion Books, 1987.
  • Wings of the Weird and Wonderful, Captain Eric Brown, Airlife, 1985.
  • United States Military Aircraft since 1909, Gordon Swanborough and Peter M. Bowers, Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989.
  • E-mail from Terence Geary on disposition of Lightning Is.




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