Military Review

How the Lockheed P-80 fighter was created


The first prototype of the XP-80. Photo

In February 1945, the U.S. Army Air Force received the first production Lockheed P-80A Shooting Star fighter jets - this is how the era of jet propulsion began aviation. Work on the creation of a new fighter jet started several years earlier. Despite a lot of difficulties, the designers successfully coped with the tasks.

The first attempts

In October 1942, Bell began flight tests of its XP-59A Airacomet, the first US-made fighter jet. During the checks it was found that this machine does not have decisive advantages over piston fighters and is not of interest to the army. The production plans for the XP-59A were drastically reduced and decided to develop a completely new aircraft.

By this time, the United States and Britain had agreed to sell the latest Halford H-1 turbojet engine, later designated de Havilland Goblin. With the use of such a motor, Bell had to develop a new aircraft. He received the designation XP-59B.

He is a side view. Photo

However, soon this project was abandoned. Bell was loaded with orders, and they decided to transfer the development of the jet fighter to Lockheed. In May 1943, the new contractor received the necessary documentation for the XP-59A / B and a promising engine. In addition, the Air Force issued technical requirements for the future aircraft. Outline design started.

In the design process

On June 15, Lockheed introduced the first version of the project with the L-410 brand name. It was prepared by a group of engineers led by young designer Clarence Johnson. Subsequently, they were entrusted with the further development of the project. Just two days later, the customer approved the project, and preparations began for signing a contract for the work.

On June 24, the U.S. Air Force and Lockheed entered into a formal agreement to develop the XP-80 fighter with the H-1 engine. Only 180 days were allocated for design work and the construction of an experimental aircraft. The start of flight tests was planned for the end of 1943.

TRD de Havilland Goblin serial production. Wikimedia Commons Photos

Such stringent timing requirements have led to the introduction of a special design approach. All work was planned to be carried out in secrecy in a separate building on the territory of the enterprise. Responsible for the design was a group of 23 engineers led by Kelly Johnson. 105 workers were to be engaged in construction. To accelerate the project, all its participants were freed from other work. Set a 10-hour work day with one day off per week; at the same time, employees constantly processed and spent the night right at the factory. Organizational measures were taken that affected the specifics of design, the supply of materials for construction, etc.

Working in this mode, aircraft manufacturers on July 20 presented a model of the future aircraft. The Air Force Commission studied it and was generally satisfied, although it made almost two dozen proposals. Taking into account the findings of the commission, the development company could proceed with the construction of the first flight prototype.

Difficult construction

By early August, 105 workers were working on an experimental XP-80, and the designers had to cope with some difficulties. The need to meet tight deadlines led to a temporary rejection of some decisions. They decided to make the first prototype aircraft without a pressurized cabin and with a simplified composition of equipment.

How the Lockheed P-80 fighter was created
Experienced aircraft XP-80A Gray Ghost. Photo

There were problems with the power plant. British colleagues did not have time to deliver the finished H-1 engine, and therefore the XP-80 until a certain time cost it with a wooden layout. At this stage, a proposal arose to use another engine - a promising product of American design or a more powerful modification of the future "Goblin".

The bulk of the construction was completed by the end of October, after which ground checks began. Only in early November, an imported motor arrived, and it was not recommended for use in flight. However, he was immediately put in place of the layout, and the finished car was presented to the customer.

On November 16, representatives of the Air Force signed an acceptance certificate. From the start of design to the delivery of the finished experimental machine, 143 days passed - the contractor met the deadlines and even saved a whole week. While documents were being processed, Lockheed installed the recently received “flight” engine on the aircraft.

Maintenance of the General Electric I-40 / J33 engine with the serial F-80. Korea 1950 Photo by US Air Force

For the neat appearance and elegant contours of the aircraft received the nickname Lulu Belle ("Beauty Lulu"). After coloring in standard colors of the Air Force, the name Green Hornet ("Green Hornet") appeared.

New problems

On November 17, new ground tests began using the engine. The first start of the motor ended in an accident. There was a destruction of the air intake ducts due to insufficient strength. Debris got into the engine and slightly damaged it. Nevertheless, it was decided to disassemble it and carefully study it.

A fatigue crack was found in the impeller of a centrifugal compressor. As it turned out, the H-1 was not the first to encounter such a problem. During bench tests, several compressors collapsed due to similar cracks.

One of the cars of the YP-80A pre-production batch. Photo

The new engine was brought only at the end of December. During this time, Lockheed managed to repair and improve the air intakes. In the last days of the outgoing 1943, the first engine starts took place, incl. with access to maximum performance.

Fighter in flight

On January 8, 1944, the experienced XP-80 took off for the first time under the control of pilot Milo Burham. The flight lasted only a few minutes. The test pilot was unable to remove the chassis and noted the excessive sensitivity of the ailerons, because of which he went to land. The necessary adjustments were made on the ground, and the second flight took place. Within 20 minutes, M. Burham determined the approximate speed and maneuverability, handling, etc.

The first phase of flight tests lasted a little over a week. It was possible to obtain a speed of up to 750 km / h and determine maneuverability indicators. At the same time, the engine showed insufficient traction and reliability, the loads on the control handle were excessive, etc.

Combatant F-80A in the sky of Korea, September 1, 1950. Photo by US Air Force

From January 17 to January 27, the aircraft was in service, while various systems were being finalized. Also, the aerodynamic appearance has changed slightly. At the end of the month, the car was again lifted into the air and confirmed the full benefit of the changes.

In early February 1944, the Green Hornet was handed over to the 412th fighter group for military trials. At this stage, the aircraft set a new speed record of 800 km / h, tested on-board weapons and showed its capabilities in training air battles.

New project

Back in the summer of 1943, the Air Force and Lockheed discussed the development prospects of the XP-80 project. For all its advantages, such an aircraft was faced with certain limitations. There was a proposal to develop its modification with a more powerful General Electric I-40 engine. Other improvements to the original design were also proposed.

F-80C in the role of bombers. The payload was poor. Korea, August 1952 Photo by US Air Force

Already in September, the team of C. Johnson proposed the project L-141. This aircraft was larger and heavier than the previous L-140 / XP-80, but due to the I-40 engine it had advantages in all basic characteristics. The customer approved the proposal, however, its prospects directly depended on the progress of ongoing work on the XP-80.

Preparation of design documentation for L-141 started at the very beginning of January 1944 and lasted about 10 days. A number of additional research and development was required, but this did not stop the customer. On January 21, they decided to build two prototypes of the L-141, as well as begin preparations for the assembly of pre-production aircraft. Only 130 days were allocated to complete the design and construction of the experimental machines. A few days later, the prototypes L-141 received the XP-80A index, pre-production machines - YP-80A.

Despite the continuity of designs, the XP-80A actually had to be re-designed. The construction of two prototypes began in mid-March, and in June they were brought to the test. The first prototype fighter was painted gray, which is why the nickname Gray Ghost ("Gray Ghost") appeared. The second was left unpainted. Cars were significantly different from each other. So, on the second one an additional cabin was provided for the test engineer.

The next test

The first flight of the Phantom took place on June 10, 1944. Pilot Tony Levier noted good speed and acceleration characteristics. There were problems with the control systems, aileron shaking was observed at high speeds, the air conditioning system supplied hot air to the cabin, etc.

Fighter bomber F-80 performs an attack. May 8, 1952, Korea. Photo US Air Force

One of the identified deficiencies threatened with an accident. A stall was observed in the air intake channel, which could disrupt the engine. The whistle from this phenomenon was heard not only in the cockpit, but also on the ground. This problem was taken up by the chief designer himself. He performed several flights in the second cockpit of the engineer, got acquainted with the phenomenon and found an effective solution. Several slots on the edge of the air intake bypassed the boundary layer and stabilized the flow.

Flight tests of the XP-80A Gray Ghost lasted until March 20, 1945 and ended in an accident. In the next flight, the engine collapsed, and the entire tail was literally chopped off. T. Levier escaped with a parachute. The second two-seat aircraft by this time managed to become a flying laboratory for testing new engines.

Pre-production batch

An official order for a pre-production batch of YP-80A aircraft appeared on March 10, 1944 - a few months before the flight of the prototype XP-80A. The contract stipulated the supply of 12 cars. Later ordered an intelligence modification under the designation XF-14. Equipment for the Air Force was to be minimally different from the existing single-seat prototype.

The only experienced XP-80 at the National Museum of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Wikimedia Commons Photos

On September 13, 1944, the first YP-80A took off, followed by other pre-production vehicles. The tests of the first two aircraft passed without problems. On October 20, a third fighter crashed in its first flight; pilot M. Burham died. In this regard, the order was supplemented to receive the required 12 aircraft.

In the fall of the same year, several ready-made aircraft were handed over to the Air Force to work out operational issues and combat use. In the future, all 12 fighters were used in various organizations, units and formations. They were used in military tests, according to the results of which there was a recommendation for adoption.

Work Summary

The first order for the full-fledged P-80A Shooting Star series appeared in April 1944, long before the completion of work on experimental and pre-production aircraft. The contract stipulated the supply of two batches of equipment with a total number of 500 units. In February 1945, the army received the aircraft of the first P-80A-1-LO series and began their development.

Serial F-80A at the Air Zoo Museum. This aircraft managed to serve both in combat and in the training unit. Wikimedia Commons Photos

Then there were new contracts and deliveries, rearmament, etc. The main operator of such equipment was the Air Force. Several vehicles were transferred to study the Navy. For use on the deck of aircraft carriers, they were finalized with the installation of new equipment.

A few years later, the fighters, renamed F-80, first took part in real battles. Together with the later and more advanced jet aircraft, they were used during the war in Korea. The operation of such equipment continued until the mid-fifties. Then new programs for rearmament and transition to other aircraft began. The era of jet combat aircraft, launched by the P-80 project, was gaining momentum.
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  1. tlauicol
    tlauicol April 13 2020 05: 08 New

    like Lansen. only sweep wings
    1. Fitter65
      Fitter65 April 13 2020 10: 17 New
      Quote: Tlauicol
      like Lansen. only sweep wings

      Rather, this Lansen is similar to the R / F-80, if you look at the years of development of Lansen.
      Saab 32 "Lansen" (Swedish. Saab 32 Lansen, lansen - spear) - Swedish fighter and attack aircraft. Developed by SAAB. He made his first flight on November 3, 1952. Serially produced in 1953-1959 (449 aircraft built),
  2. mark1
    mark1 April 13 2020 05: 26 New
    The article is interesting but not finished. There is no TTX table, and many decades of service are not mentioned as a combat training T-33. According to the title of the article, this seems to be not necessary, but it shows well how high-quality the product was created in a short time.
    1. The leader of the Redskins
      The leader of the Redskins April 13 2020 06: 21 New
      I agree, too compressed for an airplane from tkotorgo, one might say, the jet aircraft of the United States is "dancing".
    2. Fitter65
      Fitter65 April 13 2020 10: 32 New
      Quote: mark1
      The article is interesting but not finished.

      As always, the author forgot to indicate where to find a continuation laughing Russian-language version is possible here
      there is still a bunch of specialized English-language literature, for example, such a publication Davis L. P / F-80 Shooting Star in action, Carrollton, 2008
      I remember there was even a Japanese edition ...
    3. Fitter65
      Fitter65 April 13 2020 10: 37 New
      Quote: mark1
      the decades-long service is not mentioned as a combat training T-33.

      So after all, if you hook on the T-33, it immediately pops up
      Lockheed F-94 "Starfire" ("Starfire") (born Lockheed F-94 Starfire) - the first all-weather jet interceptor of the US Air Force. It was developed by Lockheed on the basis of the combat trainer T-33 in the late 1940s.
      therefore, the author stopped in time, laughing, frightened that tighten. Well, or just the amount of memory is not designed for such an array of information.
  3. Rajah
    Rajah April 13 2020 06: 27 New
    When testing the R-80, the best American ace 2MB Richard Ira Bong was killed. There is not a word about this in the article.
  4. Fedorov
    Fedorov April 13 2020 06: 41 New
    When the MiG-15 appeared in Korea, he immediately became a "grandfather. And he was urgently written off-withdrawn. Since the flying hearse was not needed by the Americans."
    1. Firelake
      Firelake April 13 2020 07: 10 New
      Compare cars of different generations ... well, that’s honestly so. Our answer is MiG-9 and Yak-15. They stood in service for so long that right away is breathtaking)
    2. Fitter65
      Fitter65 April 13 2020 18: 02 New
      Quote: Fedorov
      When the MiG-15 appeared in Korea, he immediately became a "grandfather. And he was urgently written off-withdrawn. Since the flying hearse was not needed by the Americans."

      The specialist is immediately visible. Our MiG-9 and Yak-15, which were created later than the R-80, were not even suitable for him. If we compare, this is the first serial American reagent, with our first reagents. And if you compare the F-80 with the Mig-29 (in some countries the F-80 and T-33 were still flying for the first take-off of the MiG), so Shuting Star invented nothing ...
  5. Aleksandr72
    Aleksandr72 April 13 2020 08: 37 New
    I first read about this plane in my childhood - there were such books from the series "100 Questions - 100 Answers", one of them described the first battle between jet aircraft that took place in the skies of North Korea. As I remember, in that battle MiGs met (who was at the controls - it was not specified) and P-80 "Shooting Star". The MiGs, taking advantage of the advantage in speed and in the rate of climb, went to the tail of the enemy and the Shooting Star were shot down. And not a word about the fact that Soviet pilots were in the MiGs.
    According to the American version, on November 8, 1950, the first-ever air battle between jet fighters took place. In this battle, the first lieutenant Russell Brown shot down an MiG-15.
    According to our version (even included in Wikipedia): on November 1, 1950, the MiG-15 and F-80C links met. At the same time, an attack from the side of the sun pilot Simon Khominyh shot down one Shooting Star (pilot Frank VanSykl died). It was supposedly the first ever air battle between two jets.
    Who do you believe more? Even if according to official American statistics in the Korean War, the Shooting Stars shot down 18 enemy aircraft (including 4 MiG-15s, as well as one ... La-7, which was not used in Korea - the North Korean Air Force was armed with Yak- 9, and La-11 fought from the Lavochkin in Korea, in particular as part of the 351st iap (commander Hero of the Soviet Union V.N.Makarov) night fighters (45 machines), but about the meetings of La-11 and P-80 in battle I have not seen any mentions). All victories on the P / F-80 were won during 1950-1951, i.e. at the initial stage of the Korean War and mainly against piston aircraft. At the same time, 371 F-80Cs and 28 RF-80s were lost, not counting the losses of training T-33s. It is not without reason that after the Korean War, all combat versions of the Shooting Star were withdrawn from the Air Force and transferred to the Air Force of the US National Guard.
    And the main merit of "Shooting Star" I believe that it became a real training desk for training American (and not only) pilots to fly jet aircraft, so the training version of the F-80 - T-33 Shooting Star was produced in the amount of 5700 copies. This is against 1718 combat P / F-80s in all modifications.
  6. pmkemcity
    pmkemcity April 13 2020 09: 46 New
    On June 15, Lockheed introduced the first version of the project with the L-410 brand name.

    There is something in common.
  7. Engineer
    Engineer April 13 2020 10: 18 New
    Elegant, the dog. Americans can still create clean forms whenever they want