The Lockheed P-38 was a long range escort and high-altitude interceptor. The aircraft's unusual design made it very distinctive from any angle but also took years to perfect. The P-38 "Lightning" was a twin-engine, twin-tail airframe with the cockpit suspended on the wing between the two engines. Each engine nacelle extended back to become one of the two vertical tails which support a long horizontal stabilizer between them.
The Lightning packed a punch. Mounted in the nose, directly ahead of the pilot were four .50 cal machine guns and one large-bore cannon with a slower firing rate. This placement of the weapons (on the nose) concentrated fire, as opposed to single engine aircraft with the guns mounted on the wings, outside the propeller arc.
The engines of the P-38 were turbocharged allowing for unmatched speed and climb from such a large "fighter." However the turbochargers were top-secret at the time. When the Lighting was demonstrated to the British RAF, the turbocharged model was used. But when the US started building the Lighting for export the turbo was left off, resulting in reduced performance. The RAF P-38 was despised by pilots as sluggish and unmaneuverable.
An advantage to the twin engine design was that the propellers were counter-rotating. That is one turned clockwise and the other counter-clockwise. Unlike many single-engine aircraft, the P-38 did not want to roll to one side. The twin counter-rotating props made the Lighting one of the most stable aircraft of its size. Another advantage was that if the P-38 were hit and lost an engine it could still limp back to friendly territory. This saved the lives of many allied pilots.
Perhaps the Lighting is most famous for shooting down the transport of the Japanese Adm. Yamamoto, commander of the Japanese fleet and mastermind of the Pearl Harbor attack.
Length: 37' 10" ; 11.5 m
Wingspan: 52' 0" ; 15.8 m
Gross Weight: 15,340 lb ; 6,956 kg
No. of Engines: 2
Powerplant: Allison V-1710-27/29
Horsepower (each): 1150
Max Speed: 395 mph ; 636 km/h ; 343 kt
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