p 38 lightning

Discussion in 'General Military Arms & History Forum' started by notabiker, Feb 6, 2008.

  1. notabiker

    notabiker New Member

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    i love the p 38, i did a lot of reading up on them. one very detailed book did not have a lot of good things to say about it in the ETO. said the 8th had so much trouble with reliability that they gave up on them. you would think that with its good range it could have protected the bombers all the way to berlin before the p 51 came out. i know pilots in the pacific loved them. i have talked to ww2 pilotsthat flew them and they are very protective of their ability. it seems that only in the ETO did they have a lot of engine problems.
  2. 17thfabn

    17thfabn New Member

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    The air war in Europe was more of high altitude war, and that's where the P-38's engines had problems. In the Pacific altitudes were action happened tended to be lower. So in this theater the P38 was more effective.

    Also the Japanese fighters were not as advanced as German fighters. So in the Pacific theater the P-38 could dominate it's opposition.

    America's top scoring ace of all time Major Bong with 40 victories flew a P-38.
  3. DWARREN123

    DWARREN123 New Member

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    I believe they eventually put turbo chargers or blowers on them to get the high altitude performance.
  4. Bindernut

    Bindernut Well-Known Member

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    Only the earliest prototypes (and a few planes sent to the British) were non-turbo'd Allison-powered planes. They also lacked the counter-rotating props to negate the prop torque that the later variants were famous for. That and the guns right in front of the pilot made for a super stable gun platform.

    Even with the turbo (or the gear-driven supercharger in the P-40 too), the Allison wasn't as good a performer as the Merlins used in the P-51 and Spitfire or the R-2800 radials used in the P47, F6f, etc. It was limited at higher altitudes but was still effective in the ETO once the allies had gained air superiority. With other planes available for the higher-altitude bomber support roles, the P38 still did a good job for ground support.
    The critical altitude for the J and L was 25,000ft and earlier models it was a bit lower...21,000 if I remember right. Many of the bomber runs were at higher altitudes where the P38 was just running out of steam.

    A big advantage of the P38 in the pacific was the long-range capability and ability to carry a healthy bomb/rocket load. The altitude barrier wasn't as big a factor in the PTO either until later in the war since many Japanese planes also were poorer performers at higher altitudes.
    Many P38 pilots loved the ability of having that second engine to get them home if one was damaged...great feature with the long over-water flights involved in the island-hopping war in the PTO.
  5. Millwright

    Millwright Active Member

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    NB, Interestng mis-info on the P-38....... FWIW all but export, (i.e. England) 38's were turbo-supercharged........Those exported to England were deemed nice enough airplanes, but not better than the Blenheims they were intended to replace.....

    The first P-38s to reach the ETO were "F" models ala 'Glacier Girl'.....They faced three problems. First, most pilots assigned hadn't any multi-engine training/experience. Second, employed at the onset of a vicious winter season, pilots and aircraft suffered from the cold. Pilots from frosted windows and frostbite....engines from cooling and lead separation problems due low temperatures. Third, compressibility and manuver restrictions leading to manuver restrictions AT HIGH ALTITUDE. Early recognition by German pilots due to distinctive sillouette increased this disadvantage. When pilots went 'downstairs' (on the deck) they beat the Luftwaffe's best......

    In the PTO range was god and the later models they received, (G's and L's ) had provisions for external tanks. The "Ls" also discarded the unwieldly leading edge charge air cooling system for a more responsive/efficient control system yielding sea level performance up to 25K'. With boosted airleron conrols and tail warning radar, among other improvements, the P-38 pretty much dominated the best the Japanese could field from Guadacanal on......

    Sources: Martin Caidin and Tony LaVier...... >MW
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