Lockheed P-38 Lightning


1st Flight 1939

The Lockheed P-38 Lightning is an American single seated, piston-engine fighter aircraft that was used during World War II.

Developed for the United States Army Air Corps, the P-38 had distinctive twin booms and a central nacelle containing the cockpit and armament. 

Along with its use as a general fighter, the P-38 was utilized in various aerial combat roles including as a highly effective fighter-bomber, a night fighter, and as a long-range escort fighter when equipped with drop tanks.

The P-38 was also used as a bomber-pathfinder, guiding streams of medium and heavy bombers; or even other P-38s, equipped with bombs, to their targets. 



United States Army Air Force designation for one prototype Lockheed Model 22 first flown in 1939.


Redesigned pre-production batch with armament, 13 built.


First production variant with 0.5 in guns and a 37 mm cannon, 30 built.


Thirtieth P-38 modified with a pressurised cockpit.

Lightning I

Former Armée de l’air order for 667 aircraft (being reduced to 143 Lighting I’s) which was taken by the Royal Air Force.

Three delivered to RAF, remainder of the order was delivered to USAAF.

Used C-series V-1710-33 engines without turbochargers and right hand propeller rotation

Lightning II

Royal Air Force designation for cancelled order of 524 aircraft using F-series V-1710 engines.

Only Lightning II built was retained by USAAF for testing, the rest of the order was completed as P-38F-13-LO, P-38F-15-LO, P-38G-13-LO, and P-38G-15-LO aircraft


22 Lightning I’s of the 143 built were retained by the USAAF for training and testing. Most were unarmed, although some retained the Lighting I armament of 2 × .50 cals and 2 x .30 cals.


121 P-322-I’s re-engined with the V-1710-27/-29 and used for training.

Most were unarmed.


Proposed variant of the P-38A, not built.


Proposed variant of the P-38A, not built.


Production variant with modified tailplane incidence, self-sealing fuel tanks, 36 built.


Production variant with revised hydraulic system, 20 mm cannon rather than the 37 mm of earlier variants, 210 built.

P-38E Floatplane

Proposed floatplane variant of the P-38E with upswept tail booms and fitted with droppable, fuel-filled floats.

One prototype converted from P-38E 41-1986 with modified tail booms, but was not fitted with floats.

Did not enter production.


Production variant with inboard under wing racks for drop tanks or 2000 lb of bombs, 527 built.


Production variant with modified radio equipment, 1082 built.


Production variant capable of carrying 3200 lb of under wing bombs and an automatic oil radiator flaps, 601 built.


Production variant with improvements to each batch, including chin radiators, flat bullet proof windscreens, power-boosted ailerons and increased fuel capacity, 2970 built. Some modified to pathfinder configuration and to F-5C, F-5E and F-5F.


With 1425 hp engines with larger broad-bladed propellers, one built, a P-38E was also converted to the same standard as the XP-38K.


With 1600 hp engines, 3923 built which included 113 built at Vultee, later conversions to pathfinders and F-5G.


Two P-38Ls converted as tandem seated operational trainers.


Conversion of P-38L as a radar-equipped night-fighter.


Photo-reconnaissance variant of the P-38E, 99 built.


Photo-reconnaissance variant of the P-38F, 20 built.


Reconnaissance variant of the P-38G, 181 built.


Reconnaissance variant of the P-38J, 200 built, four later to the United States Navy as FO-1.


Reconnaissance variant of the P-38J, 123 conversions.


Prone-observer variant, one conversion from a F-5A.


Reconnaissance variant converted from the P-38J and P-38L, 705 converted.


Reconnaissance variant conversions of the P-38L.


Reconnaissance variant conversions of the P-38L, had a different camera configuration from the F-5F.


United States Navy designation for four F-5Bs operated for evaluation.


Crew: 1

Length: 37 ft 10 in (11.53 m)

Wingspan: 52 ft 0 in (15.85 m)

Height: 12 ft 10 in (3.91 m)

Wing area: 327.5 sq ft (30.43 m2)

Aspect ratio: 8.26

Airfoil: root: NACA 23016; tip: NACA 4412

Empty weight: 12,800 lb (5,806 kg)

Gross weight: 17,500 lb (7,938 kg)

Max takeoff weight: 21,600 lb (9,798 kg)

Powerplant: 1 × Allison V-1710-111 V-12 liquid-cooled turbo-supercharged piston engine, 1,600 hp (1,200 kW) WEP at 60 inHg (2.032 bar) and 3,000 rpm

(Left-hand rotation fitted to port)

Powerplant: 1 × Allison V-1710-113 V-12 liquid-cooled turbo-supercharged piston engine, 1,600 hp (1,200 kW) WEP at 60 inHg (2.032 bar) and 3,000 rpm

(Right-hand rotation fitted to starboard)

Propellers: 3-bladed Curtiss electric constant-speed propellers (LH and RH rotation)


Maximum speed: 414 mph (666 km/h, 360 kn) on Military Power: 1,425 hp (1,063 kW) at 54 inHg (1.829 bar), 3,000 rpm and 25,000 ft (7,620 m)

Cruise speed: 275 mph (443 km/h, 239 kn)

Stall speed: 105 mph (169 km/h, 91 kn)

Combat range: 1,300 mi (2,100 km, 1,100 nmi)

Ferry range: 3,300 mi (5,300 km, 2,900 nmi)

Service ceiling: 44,000 ft (13,000 m)

Rate of climb: 4,750 ft/min (24.1 m/s)

Lift-to-drag: 13.5

Wing loading: 53.4 lb/sq ft (261 kg/m2)

Power/mass: 0.16 hp/lb (0.26 kW/kg)

Drag area: 8.78 sq ft / 0.82 m2

Zero-lift drag coefficient: 0.0268


1× Hispano M2(C) 20 mm cannon with 150 rounds

4× M2 Browning machine gun 0.50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns with 500 rpg.

4× M10 three-tube 4.5 in (112 mm) M8 rocket launchers; or:

Inner hard points:

2× 2,000 lb (907 kg) bombs or drop tanks; or

2× 1,000 lb (454 kg) bombs or drop tanks, plus either

4× 500 lb (227 kg) bombs or

4× 250 lb (113 kg) bombs; or

6× 500 lb (227 kg) bombs; or

6× 250 lb (113 kg) bombs

Outer hard points:

10× 5 in (127 mm) HVARs (High Velocity Aircraft Rockets); or

2× 500 lb (227 kg) bombs; or

2× 250 lb (113 kg) bombs.




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