Aircraft Type Index

WWW 2 Fighter Planes Index



Picture of Lockheed P-38 Lightning WW2 Fighter

The prototype XP-38 was designed and built by Clarence Kelly Johnson and a team of designers in Burbank, California, as a private venture by Lockheed at a cost of $6,000,000 under tight secrecy and made its maiden flight on the 27th of January 1939. The design of the Lockheed P-38 Lighting was very unorthodox, it used a twin tail boom design and twin engines, this gave the aircraft power and speed above existing fighter aircraft and as it could fly on a single engine could still fly home after damage that would have resulted in a single engine aircraft being forced to crash land due to power loss.

P-38 Lightning


The Lockheed P-38 Lighting offensive armament located in the front of the fuselage pod required no interrupter gear as it was out of the propeller arc had more space for both armament and ammunition than was available with wing mounted weapons, consequently it had more fire power than any of it's WWII contemporaries.

The initial P-38's to be delivered were to the RAF who gave the aircraft the name "Lighting", as US Government regulations prohibited the export of supercharged aircraft they supplied the aircraft un-supercharged and only producing 1,000hp per engine.

Lockheed engineers were very unhappy with the limitation and referred to the resulting aircraft as the "castrated" P-38, once the first Lockheed P-38 aircraft were tested by the RAF they were found to have a maximum speed of only 300 mph the subsequent orders were cancelled but the RAF's choice of name, the "Lighting", well and truly stuck!


Lockheed P-38 Lightning
Glacier Girl

On the 15th of July 1942 this Lockheed P-38F-1-LO Lightning, "Glacier Girl", was forced to make an emergency landing in Greenland en route to the British Isles.  Five decades later having been located frozen under 250 feet of ice in a Glacier, she was recovered and has now been re-built and is flying once more.

Lockheed P-38 Lightning Glacier Girl
Lockheed P-38L Lightning Specifications:
  • Crew: Pilot only
  • Wing span: 52 ft. 0 in (15.84 m)   Length: 37 ft. 10 in. (11.53 m)  Height: 12 ft. 10 in. (3.91 m)
  • Operational weight: 17,500 lb. (7,937 kg)
  • Engine: Twin turbocharged 1,600 hp Allison V-1710-111/113  liquid cooled engines
  • Maximum Speed: 390 mph (627 km/h) at 15,000 ft
  • Service Ceiling: 40,000 ft. (12,192 m)
  • Maximum Range: 900 miles (1,448 km)

Lockheed P-38L Lightning Armament:

  • Single 20 mm. Hispano AN-M2C cannon
  • Four .50" Colt-Browning MG 53-2 machine guns
  • 4,000 lbs of bombs or ten 5 in. unguided rocket projectiles

"Castrated" P-38's

The Lockheed P-38 Lighting was introduced in to US service on the 8th of June 1941 and were the un-supercharged aircraft intended for the RAF, performance was so low they were immediately re-designated as trainers. A total of 9,942 Lockheed P-38 Lighting's were produced between 1941 and September 1945, most fitted with turbo-chargers, the Lockheed P-38 Lightning was retired from USAF service in late 1949

Lockheed P-38

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