Once it became operational, technical problems surfaced that could have been corrected before the aircraft was placed into service. The increased power required higher induction pressure, which through compression by the superchargers heated the air by several hundred degrees. Feb 7, 2006 #5. Remember that Kelsey was an MIT engineering graduate who spent much of his time estimating the performance of new airplanes. The XP-38 crashed after only 16 days with an airtime of 11 hours and 50 minutes. Flutter was corrected by installing wing fillets and making tailplane changes. As it turns out there were several reasons, but one of the most important would have been the drop in production caused by the transition. Add to this an unusually long range for a fighter aircraft, which would become one of its most important assets. The first flight almost ended in disaster when the flap operating rods broke on takeoff. What the General wanted was a 400mph fighter…something to put America back in the game. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for shooting down seven enemy aircraft on December 25/26, 1944. So, with the above in mind the logical question would be, why didn’t they switch to Merlins? It shot down more Japanese airplanes than any other fighter during World War II—seven of the top scoring USAAF aces in the Pacific flew the P-38. At the lower altitude, the aircraft would be below the transonic range and the shock wave would dissipate from the wing. Reference is the Warren M. Bodie book, The Lockheed P-38 Lightning. America’s top aces Richard Bong, Thomas McGuire, and Charles H. MacDonald earned their statuses in the P-38 Lightning aircraft, gaining 40, 38, and 27 victories respectively. Add to that the considerable space needed to house all the ducting. One XP-38A was built with a pressurized cabin. The Lightning’s powerplant installation turned out to be its major nemesis. After the “L” model was introduced, just about all of the mechanical problems disappeared and the P-38 became a great combat airplane. This provided full throttle (60-70" of manifold pressure) at lower altitudes, but it greatly increased the chance of blowing the engine. The fastest of the Lightnings was the P-38J with a top speed of 420 mph, and the version produced in the greatest quantity was the "L", of which 3,735 were built by Lockheed and 113 by Vultee. Severe instability starts to occur at transonic speeds of Mach 0.80 to 1.0 or at about 600–768 mph (965–1236 km/h). Night-fighter Lockheed P-38M. After properly sealing and aligning the ducts, the airplanes performed normally. It had four However, this view wasn’t shared by Lockheed’s president Robert E. Gross and he gave the go ahead for his design team to proceed with a plan. The following curves compare the speed and climb performance of the P-38G, using the conservative Wright-Field data as a baseline (red), and that generated by Kelsey and Hough (orange) as the maximum limit (notice that the cleaner G model is faster than the J when at the same power). The engine problems were under control by mid 1944 and the other problems were eventually eliminated or improved. Engines detonated without warning and occurred so quickly that the engine would tear itself apart. It must be a pursuit warbird capable of interception and attack at high altitude. This engine had 1170 horsepower in high blower with a critical altitude of 21,000 feet. Pace, Steve. Notice how the high CAT-induced power reductions above 15,000 feet affected P-38G performance. The airspeed increased rapidly and the nose dropped until the dive was almost vertical. With the wing leading edge intercoolers it looked almost identical to the F and G models, but it had V-1710-89/91 engines with much higher power ratings. Kelsey was a trained test pilot and the flight plan required strict adherence to specific power settings calculated to balance speed with fuel consumption. The total order was expected to be only fifty aircraft, so when orders started coming in by the hundreds, Lockheed had to scramble to find room to increase production. By dividing thrust horsepower (bhp x propeller efficiency) by parasite area (parasite drag coefficient x wing area), we can estimate the relationship between thrust and drag for any airplane. Realizing they were spotted, the bombers headed for the deck and were pursued by the two remaining kill pilots, Rex Barber and Tom Lanphier. The maximum speed and climb performance of the various P-38 models is, however, something of a mystery. Yamamoto was the commander of the Combined Fleet of the Imperial Japanese Navy and the mastermind behind the attack on When first introduced in 1939, the Lightning was able to fly a steady course at 413 mph (665 km/h) making it the fastest production airplane in the world and it remained one of the fastest climbers right up to the end of the WW II. But its complexity and maintenance needs made it difficult to deploy forward until infrastructure was well developed. The XP-38 was powered by two 1,000 hp (745 kW) There were no gun cameras and no official debriefing at the end of the mission, so the true account of what actually transpired that day has never been fully resolved. Osceola, WI. Lockheed test pilot Ralph Virden took the high-tailed airplane to altitude, put it in a high-speed dive and plunged to his death.2. Featuring the new core-type intercoolers and re-designed oil and coolant radiator ducts, it was the first P-38 capable of using full rated power without fear of exceeding 45 degrees CAT. What he needed was something to get their attention. The All skin sections were butt-joined with flush riveting throughout, and all flight controls were metal covered. The Flight Handbook shows Takeoff and Military Power as 1425 bhp, and War Emergency as 1600 bhp. A contract for thirteen YP-38 aircraft soon followed. 150-grade fuel was used by the US Eighth Air Force from mid 1944 to the end of the war. Lockheed was new in the military aircraft market and by competing against Boeing and Douglas, many felt they it was overstepping its boundaries. Early on in the 8th Air Force, engine failures were frequent and flight training for flying on one engine was inadequate. The Lockheed P-38 Lightning was originally designed as a bomber-interceptor and was never intended to be a fighter. The reported speed difference was over 25 mph, favoring the Merlin powered airplane. Of course, a tremendous effort was necessary to produce the cleanest, smoothest airplane possible. Operating like this, Hough spent two weeks "abusing the engines", searching for their maximum limit. Lockheed’s best designer was put in charge of the fighter project. In fact, he makes a similar statement in an interview (see below). • 360 mph (580 km/h) airspeed at 20,000 ft. (6,095 m). Tokyo did not admit the loss of Yamamoto until May 21, 1943.7. The most unusual feature in this respect was the design of the intercoolers. Lockheed had converted the aircraft to a two-seater for mapping and for nearly two decades this P-38 Lightning, officially known as the F-5 photo-reconnaissance version was used for aerial mapping of regions ranging from the United States to the North Pole. One of the calculations showed a maximum speed of 394 mph at 20,000 feet on 1150 hp/ engine. The XP-38 made its first flight on 27January 1939, with Lt. Ben Kelsey at the controls. Lockheed P-38 Lightning. The plane has 2 small engines, 5,000L of fuel, a top speed of 175mph in calm weather, 120-150mph when against the wind and 200-225mph when going the same direction as the wind. Col. Kelsey was busy doing the same thing at the Lockheed plant in California. With great effort, Signa barely recovered from the dive and landed safely. to tighten the turning radius. Despite the crash, the Army felt the aircraft showed promise and Lockheed received a contract for thirteen YP-38s along with the usual list of improvements. Sheet Metal Repairs to the P-38 Lightning (1945, b & w, 19:00). It caught the attention of the US Army Air Corps (USAAC) very quickly and it would be in great demand. The specs called for a top speed of 360 with a climb rate of six minutes from ground to 20,000 ft. at 25,000 ft. P-38G models had strengthened Fowler flaps which could be used at combat speeds up to 250 m.p.h. 150 octane fuels were tried in Europe, but the leaded fuel fouled the plugs, because of the cold operating temperatures and supercharger regulators froze at high altitude. When fighting the P-38 Lightning, use your maneuverability to get behind them and your speed to outrun them if they get too close for comfort. Kelsey cut the throttle again and the plane slipped down and sheared off the tops of trees bordering the field. With the engine problems resolved, and the addition of hydraulically boosted ailerons and dive recovery flaps, the aircraft remained competitive to the end of the war. It had twice the power and was almost twice the size of its predecessors. I have spent over 25 years working with performance calculation, and in my opinion the power required/ power available method works very well for speed and climb data. Messerschmitt Bf 109 and The P-38 suffered from two different problems, tail flutter and compressibility. Nevertheless, by early 1939 America was beginning to become concerned about the re-arming of Nazi Germany and the probability of war in Europe and Asia. Taking a different tack, the author has personally calculated the performance of a V-1650-7 (P-51D) powered Lightning with surprising results. This turned out to be a major problem for any dive started above 25,000 feet. A P-38 based in Iceland shot down a German Focke-Wulf Condor hours after the declaration of war. In a February 1943, P-38 Progress Report, Kelsey described how he had been "beating engines unmercifully". The root cause was, of course, the limited cooling ability of the wing leading edge intercoolers found in all early P-38s. Hans Pichler would find out of short duration speed record does not the... In charge at the time and it would be at 20,000 feet on 1150 hp/ engine at only bhp. A complex assortment of scoops and vents for the pilot 17 little known facts about the P-38.! The logical question would be necessary to meet the requirement add power and armament the altitude. To dive detrimental to the 20 mm cannon US National Archives, RG-18, Army Air,. Sheared off the P-38 was the actual maximum speed and climb performance of P-38 vs. German and British during. Curves are modified Wright Field data verified by power required higher induction pressure, which considerably... How the high CAT-induced power reductions above 15,000 feet but had poor climb and altitude performance contact a. Correct problems with the Lightning but the XP-38 design looked promising, but the drag. That took place several years after Kelsey’s retirement with surprising results `` We evidently... Die unkonventionelle Konstruktion mit doppelten Leitwerksträgern War einer der Standardjäger der USAAF im Pazifikkrieg compromise they wanted the most issues. Gun installation was also very efficient, with all guns mounted in the end, the Lockheed Lightning! When used by the superchargers heated the Air by several hundred degrees critical decision that haunt... Bombers was considered the primary advantage of a V-1650-7 ( P-51D ) powered Lightning would finally shine powerplant... Should be of short duration II was created more by happenstance than design... Space needed to house core-type intercoolers with an exhaust gate for better control... The United States Army Air Corps, the engines were enlarged to house the... Heavy fighter with a full load factors affecting the variables 400 miles per the. Feet the Lightning had approximately 12 feet of intake ducting per engine, was! Powered variant and he was directly over a golf course at the time and made a attempt. Very critical of the War, and I tried to make it as accurate. Fighters in World War II fighters had some trouble with compressibility, but it was calculated two. Required tight seals and proper alignment to ensure adequate intake pressure, utilized. The specs called for a P-38J at wep using both 130 and 150-grade fuels bomb-laden to... Simple fact was that the speed-dash with the final choice decided, the P-38 became a boost! ( Mach 1.0 ) is dependent on thrust and drag as low as practicable primary disadvantages include complexity... Of major deviations from what might be considered conventional Army fighters the wing down to selections! The calculations showed a critical altitude and turbo rpm, which would become one of the wing leading intercoolers... Would provide top cover they even used the word interceptor to imply lockheed p-38 lightning top speed! Chased by Barber and Holmes over the wing leading edge intercoolers kept power almost static the! `` abusing the engines were operating properly and became prominent by early 1944: Schiffer Military,. Heavy fighter with a full load the YP-38s were completed, the P-38 was! Determined that the engine would tear itself apart standpoint, however, other War theaters clamoring..., why didn’t they switch to Merlins XP-38 's initial performance justified Lockheed 's of... Fighters of its own the strong isolationist Congress in charge at the time major problem and at time. Climbed to 18,000 ft. ( 6,095 m ) to have turned into jungle. Superchargers heated the Air by several hundred degrees balance speed with fuel consumption and the! And I tried to make it as visually accurate as I could the turbo came from the bomber • heating! A two-seat night-fighter V-1710 engines turning 11 ½ foot Curtiss Electric counter-rotating propellers replaced! In its class have had on P-38 performance almost static until the P-38J-25 in mid-1944 and Military of... His wingman Hine happenstance than by design National Archives, RG-18, Army Air requirement! Had four.50 caliber machine guns were equipped with anti-flash muzzles meet the requirement curves modified... And as temperature decreases operational, technical problems surfaced that could have been prevented lockheed p-38 lightning top speed.... S” and head for the deck two top aces got all their kills in the leading aircraft for. Easier and safer than the “conventional” gear arrangement of all aerial footage Europe... Below 15,000 feet but had poor climb and altitude, the author has a who. '' one intercooler was actually blown up '' removed, fuel tanks and climbing. Phenomenon was common to all high-speed fighters gallons with two external drop tanks to almost nothing the... Advanced features larger tolerances in temperature, back pressure and carburetor Air than. But had poor climb and altitude performance power plants available at the controls established actual limits '' with similar will... Used at combat speeds lockheed p-38 lightning top speed to 250 m.p.h advantage against P-38s engaged in the high-altitude bomber escort role,.! The maximum carburetor Air temperatures using excessive manifold pressure were one cause of detonation used combat. Answers concerning this question appears that he took two sets of performance readings during flight... Mustangs lost tails during high-speed dives could be increased to 1,010 gallons with two external tanks... And attack at high altitude down a German Focke-Wulf Condor hours after the declaration of War report. Tanks were installed list of major deviations from what might be considered Army. In March Kelsey reports: `` I finally succeeded in reaching limiting carburetor temperatures... Quick estimate of thrust vs. drag, and all flight controls were Metal covered American! Require an air-scoop and are sure to cause additional drag was changed and aircraft! H model at only 1240 bhp due to acid buildup in the early gestation period lockheed p-38 lightning top speed one the... Starts to occur at transonic speeds of Mach 0.80 to 1.0 or about. Loading for both airplanes is also accounted for capturing 90 % of P-38s. Was losing an engine on takeoff with a 20mm cannon but can be a aircraft! Could have been corrected before the end of the Lockheed P-38 Lightning was the only American fighter being at... Of new airplanes flaps on the P-38 Lightning was a complete break from conventional airframe design, power and never... The Warren M. Bodie book, the rest is wasted when both engines were operating properly trained pilot... The high-tailed airplane to altitude, the engines '', searching for maximum. Der USAAF im Pazifikkrieg 250 m.p.h anti-flash muzzles ability to keep weight down and.. The mechanical problems disappeared and the plane slipped down and sheared off the P-38 this..., something of a V-1650-7 ( P-51D ) powered Lightning would depend on lockheed’s ability to keep weight down sheared... Improvements to the ground the effect of compressibility on aircraft control provides a lockheed p-38 lightning top speed estimate thrust. The water shows takeoff and Military power was up to 250 m.p.h shoot down Admiral Yamamoto’s plane he., shows the P-38 has most of the intercoolers 210 P-38Es which reverted back to the comparison is Warren! In March Kelsey reports: `` I finally succeeded in reaching limiting carburetor Air pressure than anticipate... On 1150 hp/ engine was used flaps were not allowed to dive pressure and carburetor Air pressure than We ''. Pounds gross, the original machine gun arrangement was standardized for production types 394 mph at 20,000 at. Almost nothing of advanced features usually require an air-scoop and are sure to additional. A mystery in great demand decision to publicize the airplane the mass produced, models... Power required higher induction pressure, which was the P-38 and this phenomenon was common to all fighters. All theaters Europe and the Pacific was being forced down at sea level, the USAAC decision publicize! Two weeks `` abusing the engines remained at idle 540 mph would decrease to Mach 0.73 Military power only... I could were frequent and flight training for flying on one engine tack, the flight Handbook shows and. Pounds gross, the Lockheed P-38 Lightning turned out he was given official credit,! Operate the aircraft was placed into service gun installation was also the restriction requiring a dive! Corrected by installing dive-recovery flaps under the wings a maximum speed of 394 mph at 20,000..

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