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The Lockheed P-38L Lightning was one of the best WWII fighter aircraft. It was revolutionary, with its tricycle landing gear, twin booms and turbo-superchargers. About 3,924 were produced, starting with the US Army Air Force models accepted in October of 1941. The P-38 served on all fronts of WWII.

The Japanese referred to the Lightning as "two airplanes with one pilot", and the Germans referred to it as the "fork-tailed Devil". The Lightning was flown by the top two aces of the Pacific conflict, Richard Bong and Tommy McGuire.

On April 18, 1943, a flight of P-38's downed the famed Japanese naval strategist, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, while he was on a tour of the Solomon Islands.

Many thanks to Farqwart for the correct number of units produced.

The Lockheed P-38 was a long range escort and high-altitude interceptor. The aircraft's unusual design made it very distinctive from any angle but also took years to perfect. The P-38 "Lightning" was a twin-engine, twin-tail airframe with the cockpit suspended on the wing between the two engines. Each engine nacelle extended back to become one of the two vertical tails which support a long horizontal stabilizer between them.

The Lightning packed a punch. Mounted in the nose, directly ahead of the pilot were four .50 cal machine guns and one large-bore cannon with a slower firing rate. This placement of the weapons (on the nose) concentrated fire, as opposed to single engine aircraft with the guns mounted on the wings, outside the propeller arc.

The engines of the P-38 were turbocharged allowing for unmatched speed and climb from such a large "fighter." However the turbochargers were top-secret at the time. When the Lighting was demonstrated to the British RAF, the turbocharged model was used. But when the US started building the Lighting for export the turbo was left off, resulting in reduced performance. The RAF P-38 was despised by pilots as sluggish and unmaneuverable.

An advantage to the twin engine design was that the propellers were counter-rotating. That is one turned clockwise and the other counter-clockwise. Unlike many single-engine aircraft, the P-38 did not want to roll to one side. The twin counter-rotating props made the Lighting one of the most stable aircraft of its size. Another advantage was that if the P-38 were hit and lost an engine it could still limp back to friendly territory. This saved the lives of many allied pilots.

Perhaps the Lighting is most famous for shooting down the transport of the Japanese Adm. Yamamoto, commander of the Japanese fleet and mastermind of the Pearl Harbor attack.

Length: 37' 10" ; 11.5 m
Wingspan: 52' 0" ; 15.8 m
Gross Weight: 15,340 lb ; 6,956 kg

No. of Engines: 2
Powerplant: Allison V-1710-27/29
Horsepower (each): 1150

Max Speed: 395 mph ; 636 km/h ; 343 kt

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