P-38 "Joltin' Josie" makes a low pass
at the Cable Air Fair, Upland, California, USA in July 2002. This aircraft is operated by
the Planes of Fame Air Museum, Chino, California.
(Photo courtesy of Tony Zeljeznjak)
History: In 1937, the US Army Air Force
expressed a need for a new high-altitude fighter design. The Lockheed Company answered the
call with their first military airplane, the XP-38, which first
flew on 27 January 1939. This experimental prototype was shortly followed by full-scale
production of the P-38D, which was equipped with one 37mm gun
and four 12.7mm (0.5 inch) guns in the nose.
At the time of its initial delivery to the USAAF in the fall
of 1941, the Lightning was the fastest fighter in the American inventory. 143 P-38Ds were
also delivered to the Royal Air Force just after Pearl Harbor, but due to an American ban
on the export of turbochargers, the contract was cancelled and the aircraft were returned.
During its production run, over a dozen model variants of the P-38 were built. Most
changes from the early D-model involved improved armament or increased load-carrying
capability. The most-built version was the P-38L, of which 3923
were built. (It is a little-known fact that a small number of Lightnings were built under
license by the Consolidated-Vultee Corporation. 2,000 airplanes were contracted, but
production was halted on VJ-Day after only 113 had been built.)
The Lightning gained fame in the hands of Army Major Richard
I. Bong, whose 40 aerial victories were scored in the P-38, making him the highest-scoring
American ace of the war. P-38 pilots were also credited with the downing of Japanese
The final variants of the Lightning design, the F-4 and F-5,
were photo-reconnaissance models used in Europe and the Far East. Pilots loved the
airplane for its maneuverability, high-altitude capabilities and long flight endurance,
which could reach almost 12 hours with a full external fuel load.
Nicknames: Fork-Tailed Devil; Pathfinder
(P-38L carrying a nose-mounted Mickey radar.)
Engine: Two 1475hp Allison V-1710-111/113 V-12 piston engines
Weight: Empty 12,800 lbs., Max Takeoff 21,600 lbs.
Wing Span: 52ft. 0in.
Length: 37ft. 10in.
Height: 9ft. 10in.
Maximum Speed at 25,000ft: 414 mph
Service Ceiling: 44,000 ft
Normal Range: 450 miles
One 20-mm cannon in nose
Four 12.7mm (0.5 inch) machine guns
Two 1600 lb. bombs
Number Built: 10,037
Number Still Airworthy: ~7
CAF Centex Wing's P-38 Project
AFB P-38G (Ser.No. 42-13400)
The Lost Squadron --
Information about Glacier Girl, the P-38 retrieved from inside a glacier!
P-38 Crash Site -- Photos of
P-38 National Association & Museum,
Riverside, California, USA.
P-38 Lightning Online
White Lightnin' -- Lefty
Gardner's famous P-38.
Wild Bill's P-38 Page
Lightning At War
By Joe Christy and Jeff Ethell
Hardcover, 144 pages
Published 2002 by Ian Allen Publishing
This classic title traces the history of the Lightning
from its initial design all the way though its successes in the Pacific. Contains over 200
action photos and many eyewitness accounts.
[ Click for more great
the P-38! ]
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