P38 Lightning (Walk Around 5530)
By Larry Davis
Publisher: Squadron/Signal 2003 82 Pages
PDF 52 MB
The pilots of Hitler's Luftwaffe called the Lockheed P-38 Lightning tier Gabelschwanz Teufel - the "Forked-Tail Devil* - after facing it over North Africa. The P-38 was the most advanced aircraft of its time. Its pilot sat in a nacelle slung between two engine booms, each housing one Allison V-1710 engine. This power enabled the Lightning to exceed 400 mph (643.7 kmh).The nacelle also housed the armament of four .50 caliber ( 12.7mm) machine guns and a large hore cannon.
The Lightning began with the XP-38 prototype of 1939; the basic design was little changed between the YP-38 of 1940 and the P-38H of 1942. The two V-1710 engines were fitted into streamlined nacelles, with General Electric turbo-superchargers mounted atop the mid-nacelle. A vertical tail assembly was mounted onto each nacelle, while a single horizontal stabilizer connected the tail assemblies. This unique configuration resulted in the German nickname of 'Forked-Tail Devil.* The P-38 was also the world's first production aircraft equipped with a tricycle landing gear.
The P-38-LO was the first production Lightning variant, which equipped the 1st Pursuit Group i Fighter Group from 1942). US Army Air Corps (later Army Air Forces) in mid-1941. The P-38D. P-38F.. P-38F. P-38G. and P-38H soon followed off Lockheed's production line. These variants had little external changes, with the major differences between them being upgraded engines and instruments.
A 20mm weapon on the P-38E and later models replaced the 37mm cannon that armed early Lightnings. The upper canopy was changed from a starboard side-opening model to an aft hinged item on late production P-38Fs. Early Lightning variants saw action with USAAF squadrons in theaters ranging from Alaska and North Africa to the South Pacific.
In November of 1942. the P-38.J introduced significant changes in the Lightning's external appearance. Lockheed moved the supercharger intercoolers from the wing leading edge to an open front intake directly under the propeller spinner. This resulted in the distinct "chin" that identified late model P-38s. The P-38J was powered by two 1425 hp V-I7I0-F17 engines, which gave it a maximum speed of 414 mimi (666.3 kmh). while it had a range of 1400 miles (2253 km). Only the North American P-51 Mustang exceeded the Lightning's speed and range. Lockheed built 9923 Lightnings, ending with the P-38M Night Lightning night fighter in 1945.