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Fighter of the Week: the Lockheed P-38 Lightning

Fighter of the Week: the Lockheed P-38 Lightning

A WW II-era American piston-engined fighter aircraft, the Lockheed P-38 Lightning was developed for the United States Army Air Corps. It had distinctive twin tail booms and a central nacelle containing the cockpit and armament. The P-38 was used for interception, dive bombing, level bombing, ground attack, night fighting, photo reconnaissance, and escort missions for bombers, it was an extensively long-range escort fighter when equipped with drop tanks.

The P-38 was used very successfully in the Pacific Theater of Operations and the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations as the aircraft of America’s top aces, Richard Bong (40 victories), Thomas McGuire (38 victories) and Charles H. MacDonald (27 victories). In the South West Pacific theater, the P-38 was the primary long-range fighter of United States Army Air Forces until replaced by the P-51D Mustangs toward the end of the war.

Extremely forgiving the P-38 could be somewhat mishandled in several ways but the roll rate of the early versions was too low to be considered a good dogfighter. The P-38 was the only American fighter aircraft in high-volume production throughout America’s involvement in the war, from Pearl Harbor to Victory over Japan Day. At the end of the war, orders for 1,887 more were cancelled.

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