Lockheed P-38 Lightning

P-38 Lightning











Lockheed P-38 Lightning was one of America's most outstanding fighters of World War II. It was slower and less manoeuvrable than the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt and the North American P-51 Mustang but its offensive reputation was second to none: so much so that the Luftwaffe referred to the Lightning as "der gabel-schwanz tenfel" ( the forked-tailed devil). Although the P-38 Lightning was primarily a fighter, its limited use by the RAAF was solely in a photo reconnaisance role.

Design work on the Lightning began in 1937 and the prototype XP-38 first flew on 27 January 1939. Improved versions followed and by August 1945, a total of 9,923 Lightnings had been built. Throughout the war years the Lightning served in many areas but it was particularly successful in the Pacific theatre where its long-range and twin-engine capabilities proved to be most effective. In order to meet an urgent RAAF requirement for photographic reconnaissance, three P-38Es were transferred from the USAAC for service with No 1 Photographic Reconnaissance Unit. A55-1, was received on 31 August 1942, and operated successfully until it was written-off in a landing accident on 2 August 1944 at Coomalie Creek. A55-2 had a less spectacular career and operated only between 4 September 1942 and 18 December 1942, being phased out of service on the latter date. The third Lightning, A55-3 was received from the on 27 February 1943 and operated throughout the year until it was written-off in a wheels-up landing on 10 December 1943. The P-38E was not actually designed as a PR aircraft, but circumstances caused it to be used in this role by the RAAF.

General characteristics

 Crew:                                                     1
Length:                                                   37 ft 10 in (11.53 m)
Wingspan:                                             52 ft 0 in (15.85 m)
Height:                                                   9 ft 10 in (3.00 m)
Wing area:                                             327.5 ft² (30.43 m²)
Empty weight:                                       12,780 lb (5,800 kg)
Max take-off weight:                            21,600 lb (9,798 kg)
Powerplant:                                           2× Allison V-1710-111/113 supercharged V-12, 1,600 hp (1,194 kW)


Maximum speed:                                   414 mph at 25,000 ft (667 km/h at 7,620 m)
Stall speed:                                            105 mph (170 km/h)
Range:                                                    1,100 mi combat, 2,600 mi ferry (1,770 km / 3,640 km)
Service ceiling:                                       44,000 ft (13,400 m)
Rate of climb:                                         4,750 ft/min (1,448 m/min)


Guns:                                                       1 x 20 mm cannon
                                                                4 x 0.50 in guns 
                                                                or Photo reconnaissance camera

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