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Picture of Northrop P-61C Black Widow Fighter

The Northrop P-61 Black Widow was the only purpose built radar equipped knight fighter, it was an all-metal twin engined twin boom design Vladimir H. Pavlecka, Northrop's Chief of Research, he started design initially for the RAF who had advised him of their need for a night fighter capable of carrying the secret and rather bulky and heavy radar equipment, when later he was advised of the USAAC's need of a new fighter he realised this requirement must be to house an An American built version of radar and used the existing partially completed design which he had been working on for a month to meet the USAAC's requirement.

Northrop P-61C Black Widow Fighter Plane


The P-61 Black Widow became operational in 1944 in the European theatre, it's performance was similar to the British De Havilland Mosquito the crews of each type of aircraft claiming their plane was superior, the only notable difference was the cost, the wooden Mosquito was cheaper and quicker to build making it the better choice for war impoverished Britain. Replacement of the Black Widow by F-82F/G Twin Mustang night fighters began in early 1948 and within two years the Black Widow was no longer in service, the last operational P-61 leaving Japan during May 1950.

Northrop P-61B Specifications:

  • Crew: pilot, radar operator and optional gunner
  • Length: 49 ft 7 in (15.11 m)
  • Wingspan: 66 ft 0 in (20.12 m)
  • Height: 14 ft 8 in (4.47 m)
  • Empty weight: 23,450 lb (10,637 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 36,200 lb (16,420 kg)
  • Engines: Twin 2,250 hp (1,680 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-2800-65 Double Wasp water injected radials
  • Maximum speed: 318 knots (366 mph, 589 km/h) at 20,000 ft (6,095 m)
  • Combat range: 530 nm (610 mi, 982 km)
  • Ferry range: 1,650 nm (1,900 mi, 3,060 km) with four external fuel tanks
  • Service ceiling 33,100 ft (10,600 m)

Northrop P-61B Armament:

  • Four 20 mm Hispano M2 cannon in ventral fuselage
  • Four 0.50 cal (12.7 mm) Browning M2 machine guns in upper turret
  • Four under-wing bombs of up to 1,600 lb (726 kg) each or six 5 inch (127 mm) HVAR unguided rockets

Northrop P-61B Avionics:

  • SCR-720 (AI Mk.X) search radar
  • SCR-695 tail warning radar

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