Welcome to the WWII Forums! Log in or Sign up to interact with the community.

P-38

Discussion in 'Aircraft' started by GunSlinger86, Jan 22, 2017.

  1. GunSlinger86

    GunSlinger86 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2013
    Messages:
    1,152
    Likes Received:
    45
    It had the range, could have had the speed and maneuverability had they used the right engine, turbo-superchargers, etc. What about this fighter made it lack the right stuff to be the main escort? Was it the cost, mass production, or the engine performance, and if so, why not alter it like they did with so many other fighters. It seems they had a good design and model early in the war as this plane, why not work out the kinks?
     
  2. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2013
    Messages:
    1,773
    Likes Received:
    566
    Location:
    London UK
    I have a sense of déjà vu about this thread. I am sure this has been debated in several other threads.

    The short answer is yes, all of the above and the discovery of the excellence of the P51 made it the obvious first choice as a long range escort. Why try to find clever ways to make a big expensive aircraft fly like a single seat fighter when you already have a single seat fighter with a very long range. The P38 was popular in the pacific, where the second engine could be a life saver in case of engine failure over water.
     
  3. lwd

    lwd Ace

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2007
    Messages:
    12,312
    Likes Received:
    1,238
    Location:
    Michigan
    The P-38 cost about twice as much as a P-51 and I assume the maintenance and logistics requirements were also close to double. It wasn't really designed with mass production in mind either. I've always like the P-38 but there were decent reasons for deemphasing it. Turns out we didn't need a interceptor all that much either.
     
  4. harolds

    harolds Member

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2011
    Messages:
    1,877
    Likes Received:
    362
    From what I've read on it, the Allison engines didn't work all that well in the super-cold air at 25,000ft. They had a tendency to quit. Lower down, in the PTO, they worked much better. Secondly, its climb rate wasn't as good as many of its contemporaries (allied and enemy) and; third, its performance couldn't be improved all that much unlike many other fighters. SOOO...it became a ground attack platform and a long-range fighter over the Pacific where it did yeoman work.
     
  5. GunSlinger86

    GunSlinger86 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2013
    Messages:
    1,152
    Likes Received:
    45
    Does anyone know why the US removed the turbo-superchargers before shipping them to the British? That's kind of the point, they needed them for high altitude work, and they removed the aspect that would help that.
     
  6. Poppy

    Poppy grasshopper

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2008
    Messages:
    7,726
    Likes Received:
    814
    Aargh...i love the 38...'Member when a squad jumped the Japanese general what's his face...They sent 38's because 2 engines would get you there and 1 could get you back.
    Yes, superchargers etc...a search of the term "P38" would have turned a wealth of info...but what do i know-
    absolutely nothin'
    say it again
    War, what is it good for
     
  7. GunSlinger86

    GunSlinger86 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2013
    Messages:
    1,152
    Likes Received:
    45
    I know, I have read all about them. I was wondering if someone could offer some personal insight. I'm not talking about 1943 when they shot down Yamamoto. When the British first ordered them, the superchargers were removed before being shipped. It obviously would have affected high altitude performance.
     
  8. GunSlinger86

    GunSlinger86 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2013
    Messages:
    1,152
    Likes Received:
    45
    It was to keep consistency commonality with the other Allison fighters in Europe, mainly the P-40, with the un-turbo-supercharged engine, for ease of maintenance and replacements apparently.
     
  9. Greg Pascal

    Greg Pascal New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2020
    Messages:
    11
    Likes Received:
    3
    The P-38 had 4 flaws when it was first deployed:

    1) The Allison V-1710 had some early intake problems. The intakes were very smooth, and the air-fuel mixture tended to separate before it got to the cylinders, causing some to run rich and some to run lean. This was fixed after about 6 months with a turbulator installed into the big intake track before it split into the two vertical tubes. Presto, no more Allison time bomb … well, at least after fault 2) was also fixed.

    2) The British fuels that they were running were about 20% aromatics. The U.S. fuels, for which the P-38 engines were jetted from the factory, were running about 2% aromatics. So, fuel issues could NOT be duplicated in a test cell until someone thought to send some British fuel home to the U.S.A. about 7 – 8 months into the issue. When they got the British fuel in Indianapolis, the issue was immediately duplicated in the test cell. There is nothing wrong with 20% aromatic gasoline … unless you are jetted for 2% aromatics.

    Later, the U.S.A. and the UK agreed on a standard fuel aromatic content and performance number levels, and the issue just disappeared. By that time, the P-51 was already in the ETO and was escorting bomber streams.

    3) The P-38 used a muff around the exhaust to heat the cockpit. Since the tube to the cockpit was 10 feet long, the air wasn’t very hot when it got to the cockpit. So, the P-38 pilots were basically freezing on long missions. It was an issue for almost 2 years before they installed an electric cockpit heater and EVERYONE was much happier.

    4) The P-38 pilots were green, with no combat experience when they got to the UK. So, basically, they had to learn tactics the hard way. If you cruised into a combat zone at cruise power and were attacked, you had to: a) turn on the gunsight, b) throttle back a bit, c) increase propeller rpm to combat level, d) throttle up to combat power, and … by the time they did this, they could easily be already shot down.

    They learned to come into a potential combat area already set up for combat, and all they had to do was react by throttling up, turning into the attack, and going for it.

    A 5th fault was a low critical Mach number, which was not well understood in WWII. But, it got corrected by the addition of dive flaps just outboard of the nacelles on the underside of the wing somewhat late in the game, and there never WERE enough dive flaps to go around, especially after a shipload of them was torpedoed and sunk while on the way to Europe.


    These faults were not really the fault of the P-38 except for the cockpit heat, which had been noted in the U.S.A. but was never corrected before the aircraft was adopted. It is worth noting that the two top U.S. aces both flew P-38s, and 3 of our top 10 aces flew P-38s. 2 flew F4Fs, 2 flew P-47s, 1 flew an F6F, 1 flew a P-51, and Pappy Boyington flew and got victories in both the P-40 and the F4U.
     
    Takao likes this.
  10. Ricky

    Ricky Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 10, 2004
    Messages:
    11,842
    Likes Received:
    42
    Location:
    Luton, UK
    Are you the same Greg Pascal who was on TGPlanes? I wonder what Lightning would make of this topic? ;)
     
  11. Greg Pascal

    Greg Pascal New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2020
    Messages:
    11
    Likes Received:
    3
    Yes, I am. Lightning (or anyone else from Paolo's website) would be a welcome discussion. I have mellowed a bit since TGP.

    The P-38 had a few issues, but they got worked out except for the low critical Mach number. Nevertheless, when they DID get worked out, the P-38's main work in the ETO had been supplanted by the P-51, and most P-38s had been transferred to the MTO, PTO, and CBI, where they did good work. It was a good airplane in the end.

    The P-38, in total (all theaters), had the third most victories (3,740) of any U.S. fighter, right behind the P-51 (5,884) and the F6F (5,168).The P-47 had 3,634. The P-40 was fifth (2,225) and the F4U was sixth (2,140). Again, these number are from all theaters, not just the ETO.

    Cheers.
     
  12. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 7, 2015
    Messages:
    2,309
    Likes Received:
    919
    Because that was what the French and British who bought and were to pay for them specified. They wanted mid-level altitude performance and all right-hand engines. In July 1941, the RAF amended the contract to only provide 143 Lightning I and 524 Lightning II with the turbochargers. Only three Lightning I were delivered to the RAF. The rest were taken over by the USAAF in the aftermath of Peal Harbor. So was the only Lightning II completed. The RAF never flew any Lightning operationally.
     
  13. Greg Pascal

    Greg Pascal New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2020
    Messages:
    11
    Likes Received:
    3
    The P-38 had the third most air-to-air kills of any U.S. fighter, in all theaters put together.

    1. The P-51 had 5954.
    2. The F6F had 5,158.
    3. The P-38 had 3,785.
    4. The P-47 had 3,661.
    5. The P-40 had 2,226.
    6. The F4U had 2,140.
    7. The F4F had 1,012.
    8. The FM-2 had 422.

    So, there is nothing wrong with the P-38. It was the mount of our two top aces and for 3 of the top 10 aces. That puts it squarely in very good territory.

    When the P-38 got to Europe, it had a few faults. The cockpit heater was bad. The Allison intake system needed a turbulator in it to prevent separation of fuel and air. The fuel they used initially was not the same as U.S. fuel, and the engines were mis-jetted as a result. The pilots were green, with no combat experience.

    Over 9 months or so, these faults were all rectified but, by the time they WERE fixed, the P-51 had been assigned the long-range escort role (no use having two different fighters in the same role), and the P-38s were set to other theaters of operation for the most part. It di very well in the PTO, CBI, and MTO theaters.
     
  14. the_diego

    the_diego Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2016
    Messages:
    376
    Likes Received:
    74
    A lousy fighter in that it simply wasn't there. It wasn't over Pearl harbor or Clark in 1941. It wasn't over Midway or Henderson in 1942. Its biggest contribution was in shooting down a bomber carrying a Japanese fleet admiral.
     
  15. Greg Pascal

    Greg Pascal New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2020
    Messages:
    11
    Likes Received:
    3
    You have a LOT of reading to do. Enjoy it.

    For the record, fighters and fighter manufacturers don't assign themselves to ANY base. It is the service operating the aircraft who does that task. Midway and Guadalcanal were Naval battles, not Air Corps battles. When the P-38 WAS the fighter on the scene, it shot down more Japanese aircraft than any other Army Air Corps fighter. The Hellcat got more victories, but the Navy / Marines fought the Pacific battles not involving land bases, which was a LOT of them.
     
    Kai-Petri likes this.
  16. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2010
    Messages:
    3,006
    Likes Received:
    706
    The P-38 was not operational at the time of Pearl Harbor or Clark Field. One might think that the -38 might have preceded the -39 or -40, but that's not the case. The P-40 was the latest in a series of fighters from Curtiss and formed the majority of our front line fighters in 1941. P-38s were first deployed to the Aleutians and Iceland, scoring their first kills in both areas in August 1942. One - like myself - might argue that the South or Southwest Pacific should have had a higher priority for our newest high-performance fighters, but that's a question of policy rather than any flaw in the aircraft.
     
  17. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2010
    Messages:
    3,006
    Likes Received:
    706
    The basic rationale for the P-38 was that we couldn't get the desired performance from a single-engined aircraft. When we developed single-engine fighters like the P-47 and-51 that could match or exceed the -38's performance, there was less of a need for the -38.

    The twin engines and the range the P-38 ultimately achieved proved valuable in the Pacific throughout the war.

    Like most aircraft, the P-38 was improved considerably in successive models, resolving issues that had shown up in early war experience. We might recall that the P-47, -51, and others also had early shortcomings that were remedied.
     
  18. Greg Pascal

    Greg Pascal New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2020
    Messages:
    11
    Likes Received:
    3
    The only two fighter aircraft I know of that were in production when the war began and were STILL in production when the war ended were the Spitfire and the Bf 109.Both were at or near the top of the heap most of the time in the ETO. Both were very adaptable to improvements.

    The Spitfire Ia started with 1030 hp and the Mk 24 ended with 2,120 hp. That is 2.06 times the initial power. Speed went up by 1.24. It was an effective fighter at high or low speeds.

    The Bf 109 B-1 had 670 hp and the Bf 109 K-4 ended with 1,578 hp (1,600 PS). That is 2.36 times the initial power. Speed went up by 1.51. Butm when the Bf 109 K-4 was going that fast, it was running to or from a fight. It was not fighting. Handling above 350 mph was not great in either roll or pitch at speed. The Bf 109 was a good dogfighter in the 180 - 290 mph range.

    So, both airframes were not only adaptable, but also there was sufficient powerplant / propeller development to warrant the changes.

    If we look at non-fighters, we have the DC-3 / C-47 and Ju-52 also in continuous production. I'm sure there were a few others, including the Piper Cub / L-4, but no other fighters I am aware of. That says a lot about the development potential designed in by Reginald Mitchell and Willy Messerschmitt.
     
  19. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2003
    Messages:
    6,017
    Likes Received:
    822
    Location:
    Phoenix Arizona
    Because in 1939 - 40 the turbocharger technology was still classified by the US Army and not available for export. Interestingly, most of the P-38's on the British order (Lockheed Model 422's) when returned were reworked at the factory into P-38G with the turbochargers now installed and ended up being sent to Alaska and the Aleutians.
     
  20. harolds

    harolds Member

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2011
    Messages:
    1,877
    Likes Received:
    362
    Japanese zero?
     

Share This Page