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Lockheed P-38 "Lightning"

Heavy Fighter

Nicknamed the 'Fork-Tailed' Devil for Good Reason.

Appearing during the World War 2 years (1939-1945), the Lockheed P-38 'Lightning' became the company's iconic fighter of the period with its twin-boom arrangement and formidable armament all set in the nose. While the Americans fielded a bevy of classic warbirds by the end of the war, the P-38 has always stood out as a unique entry into the field of WW2 aerial warfare. Used along the European and Pacific theaters with equal success, the P-38 went on to be produced in over 10,000 examples with service introduction occurring in mid-1941. The final form flew, for the last time, with the Honduran Air Force in 1965. For its time in the air, the P-38 platform excelled in all roles - escort, interception, reconnaissance, bombing, and night-fighting - such was its versatility.
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Mission Roles

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Full-Frontal Armament

With combined, fixed, forward-firing armament of 1 x 20mm automatic cannon and 4 x Heavy machine guns, the P-38 was one of the best-armed American fighters of the war. A single burst could render most any target neutralized.

Two-for-One Power

The twin inline, liquid-cooled Allison engines of the P-38 not only aided in overall performance but added a level of survivability lacking in single-engined types of the period.

Clear Wartime Success

With production reaching 10,000 units, the P-38 solidified its place in classic American warbird history - becoming one of the most important fighter designs of the period.

True Multirole Performer

The P-38 series proved its worth in many roles, from escorting valuable bomber formations to engaging ground targets directly through use of rockets, bombs, and guns. The Lighting's airframe was one of versatility and could dish out punishment as well as it could take it.


Retired, Out-of-Service (79 yrs)
Lockheed Corporation - USA
10,037 Units
12 Total

National flag graphic of AustraliaNational flag graphic of ChinaNational flag graphic of ColombiaNational flag graphic of the Dominican RepublicNational flag graphic of FranceNational flag graphic of HondurasNational flag graphic of ItalyNational flag graphic of the Kingdom of ItalyNational flag graphic of PortugalNational flag graphic of Taiwan (Republic of China)National flag graphic of the United KingdomNational flag graphic of the United States

Australia; Republic of China (Taiwan); Colombia (civilian); Dominican Republic; France (Free France); Honduras; Kingdom of Italy; Italy; Portugal; United Kingdom; United States

(List includes former, current, and potential operating nations)
P-38L: 2 x Allison V-1710-111/113 V-12 liquid-cooled piston engines developing 1,600 horsepower each and driving three-bladed propeller units.

(Assuming optimal flying/environmental conditions)
Maximum Speed
413 mph | 665 kph | 359 kts
Cruising Speed
277 mph | 445 kph | 240 kts
Service Ceiling
42,651 ft | 13,000 m | 8.08 miles
Operational Range
1,305 miles | 2,100 km | 1,134 nm
4,750 ft/min | 1,448 m/min
(Showcased performance statistics pertain to the P-38L production model)
37.89 feet (11.55 meters)
52.00 feet (15.85 meters)
12.80 feet (3.90 meters)
(Showcased measurements pertain to the P-38L production model)
12,787 lb (5,800 kg)
21,605 lb (9,800 kg)
(Showcased weights pertain to the P-38L production model)
1 x 20mm Hispano M2(C) automatic cannon in the nose with 150 x 20mm projectiles afforded (typical).
4 x 0.50 caliber Browning M2 Heavy Machine Guns (HMGs) in nose with 500 x 0.50 cal ammunition afforded (typical).

Externally-held ordnance under each wing, four total hardpoints (two per wing member) supporting the following:

4 x 112mm (4.5") M10 triple-tube rocket launchers.

Restricted to inboard hardpoints:

2 x 2,000lb conventional drop bombs.
2 x 1,000lb conventional drop bombs.
4 x 500lb conventional drop bombs.
4 x 250lb conventional drop bombs.
6 x 500lb conventional drop bombs.
6 x 250lb conventional drop bombs.

Restricted to outboard hardpoints:

10 x 127mm (5") High Velocity Aircraft Rockets (HVARs).
2 x 500lb conventional drop bombs.
2 x 250lb conventional drop bombs. Supported Types:

Automatic Cannon graphic Automatic Cannon(s)
Conventional Drop Bomb graphic Conventional Drop Bombs
Attack Rocket graphic Rockets / Rocket Pods
Additional Fuel Tank graphic Additional Fuel
P-38 'Lightning' - Base Series Designation.
XP-38 - Prototype designation; single example.
YP-38 - Preproduction / developmental models; 13 produced.
P-38 - Early production form; 30 examples completed.
XP-38A - Pressurized cockpit prototype; single example.
Lightning I - British Royal Air Force designation of French Air Force order; three delivered.
Lightning II - RAF designation of French Air Force order; not delivered.
P-322-I - USAAF unarmed version for testing/training.
P-322-II - USAAF unarmed version for testing/training; V-1710-27/-29 engines.
P-38B - Not produced.
P-38C - Not produced.
P-38D - Self-sealing fuel tanks; revised tailplanes; 36 examples completed.
P-38E - 20mm autocannon replacing original 37mm installation; modified hydraulic system; 210 examples completed.
P-38F - Inboard underwing weapon/fuel hardpoints (2,000lb capacity); 527 units completed.
P-38G - Revised communications set; 1,082 examples completed.
P-38H - Automatic oil radiator flaps; 3,200lb underwing bomb carrying capacity; 601 examples completed.
P-38J - Improved production model; power-assisted ailerons; increased fuel capacity for increased operational ranges; chin radiator placement; flat bullet-resistant windscreen; 2,970 examples completed.
P-38K - Allison 1,425hp rated engines; larger-area propeller blades.
P-38L - Allison 1,600hp rated engines; 3,923 examples produced (113 by Vultee Aircraft).
TP-38L - P-38L converted to tandem-seat trainers; two examples completed.
P-38M - P-38L radar-equipped night-fighter conversion.
F-4 - P-38E photo-reconnaissance variant; 99 examples converted.
F-4A - P-38F photo-reconnaissance variant; 20 examples converted.
F-5A - P-38G photo-reconnaissance variant; 181 examples converted.
F-5B - P-38J photo-reconnaissance variant; 200 examples converted; four delivered to USN as FO-1.
F-5C - P-38J photo-reconnaissance variant; 123 examples converted.
XF-5D - Photo-reconnaissance prototype designation; single example converted from F-5A model.
F-5E - P-38J/P-38L photo-reconnaissance models; 705 examples from coverted airframes.
F-5F - P-38L photo-reconnaissance model.
F-5G - P-38L photo-reconnaissance model; rearranged camera formation.
XFO-1 - USN evaluation models; four examples.

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