Today, few people know that the plane did not immediately receive its sonorous name "Lighting". The British called him that first, and only after that it stuck as an official in the US Air Force. Initially, the Americans expected to name the plane "Atlanta". At the same time, in April, the Lockheed company received large orders from England and France, a total of two of these countries were going to acquire 1940 fighters of this type. However, for obvious reasons, the order of the aircraft for France was never implemented, and with the help of one of the English pilots, his name stuck with the aircraft, with which he entered history - Lightning (eng. "Lightning").
During the Second World War, this fighter became a truly multi-purpose. The Allies used it as an escort fighter, fighter-interceptor, fighter-bomber, leader aircraft, reconnaissance vehicle. Individual copies of "Layting" were truly unique. For example, there were machines designed for setting smoke screens and even evacuating the wounded in a special hanging container. The Germans nicknamed the P-38 fighter "lilhe-tailed devil", and the Japanese called the phrase "two aircraft - one pilot."
At the time of its creation, the P-38 fighter was literally stuffed with a variety of technical innovations. These innovations included a triple-support chassis with a nose-stalk, first implemented on a mass-produced fighter. This solution allowed us to achieve simplified piloting of the aircraft during takeoff and landing. In addition, the aircraft received two powerful engines with turbochargers. And, finally, the very aerodynamic layout of the machine was distinguished by its singularity. All of the above made Lockheed P-38 Lightning a unique combat aircraft of its age. One of the pilots of the 14 th fighter air group, which first flew to the sky on this plane at the beginning of 1942, expressed his impressions of the fighter: “On this plane I am ready to fight anywhere, in various conditions, with the confidence that I am in the hands of the best fighter in the world. "
For the first time, the creation of two-engine fighters began to be talked about during the First World War. The argument of the supporters of such a scheme was that such an aircraft would have greater survivability, and it would also be much more convenient for it to deploy powerful offensive weapons in front of the fuselage. Without resorting to this to reduce the rate of fire and synchronization. The ideas of creating two-seat and three-seat fighters were considered in order to provide fire cover for the rear hemisphere. However, in order to build a twin-engine fighter that would not be inferior to ordinary single-engine in terms of maneuverability and speed, it was necessary, first, to design powerful and lightweight engines that would allow achieving approximately the same weight as single-engine versions . Secondly, to design and produce a robust fuselage, wing and tail structure, which would ensure that the load on the wing - the ratio of the mass of the fighter to the area of its wing. Such designs and engines became available to aircraft designers only at the beginning of the 1930s. For example, in the Soviet Union, Tupolev offered a variant of the twin-engined Mi-3 (ANT-21) fighter, and in Hitler's Germany, the Messerschmitt fighter Bf.110 was designed.
The unusual scheme of a two-girder aircraft with a mid wing and motors located in front of each of the beams was not chosen by chance. Such a scheme on the P-38 Lightning fighter was determined by a technical task that could not be performed using the traditional single-engine layout. To the two-motor scheme, the designers were forced to apply the requirements for maximum speed, range and rate of climb.
At the same time, the two-beam scheme implemented in the aircraft is far from the only thing that predetermined in the future the excellent flight characteristics of the fighter and distinguished it from many other representatives of the fighter aviation times of the second world war. One of the main differences was the combination of a very high specific wing load (almost 1,5 times higher than was accepted at that time) with very powerful Alisson liquid-cooled engines, which were distinguished by a V-shaped arrangement of cylinders. These engines, among other things, had turbochargers that worked using the energy of exhaust gases. Turbocompressors made it possible to maintain engine power even at substantial heights. Another feature of the Layting was its excellent aerodynamics, which were based not so much on fairings and lifts as a well-designed wing, with an extension that was unusual for aircraft of those years.
On a closer look, the Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter is also very impressed with the use of load-bearing walls. The sides and the cockpit floor, the sides of the wheel arches in the fuselage and beams are flat shields made of duralumin. The fact that we are not in the traditional aviation set of frames with stringers, obviously, while the design is light and durable. The aircraft armament compartment was easily accessible thanks to the presence of two large hatches. Projectiles and bullets fly out of the plane through the canals, the outer ends of which are sealed with special paper in normal conditions (special paper) in order to provide an aerodynamically clean surface when flying out of combat conditions. At the same time, with the first fired ammunition, the paper was just torn.
Created in the USA, the P-38 twin-engine fighter was all-metal, its trim on 100% was attached by riveting in the floor. He became the first in the world adopted a fighter with a turbocharger and power in the control system. At the time of its creation, it was the fastest and furthest fighter in the world. These qualities allowed the car to perfectly express themselves in the Pacific theater of operations. Along with this, the downside of the aircraft's innovativeness was its operational problems in the military, and the unsatisfactory supply organization did not allow the aircraft to fully realize its full potential.
The power plant of the fighter was represented by two Allison V-engines with power up to 1475 hp. It is curious that the screws of the engines rotated in different directions, therefore in the modifications of the engines it was indicated - left / right. The propellers of the aircraft rotated in different directions in order to reduce the flow turbulence over the tail. In the tail beams of the aircraft were located engine systems. The supercharger in a semi-submerged state was placed flush with the leading edge of the fighter's wing. The engine cooling radiators were located in the air intakes protruding behind the wing.
The wing of the fighter was a completely free-carrying structure, which consisted of two consoles, a center section and two tips. The metal outer skin of the wing at certain intervals was reinforced by the inner corrugated skin. The front edges of the wing contained fuel tanks with a capacity of 235 liters each. The main fuel tanks of the aircraft, each of 340 liters, were located behind the side member in the center section along with the reserve tanks on the 227 liters installed in front of the main side member. The internal fuel supply on board was 1605 liters, in addition to this, the aircraft could carry two 568-liter or 1135-liter discharged fuel tanks.
The fuselage gondola contained the cockpit, radio equipment and weapons. The pilot's cockpit lantern consisted of two transparent side panels sliding along the guides, an optically flat, bullet-proof visor and a drop-down top panel fliping back. The cockpit booking included armored plates on the front bulkhead, below and behind his seat. Radio equipment was mounted at the rear of the fighter cockpit.
The beams consisted of power plants, which were located in front of the main spar, the front section attached to the wing, and the rear section, which contained air intakes and cooling radiators. In the right beam there was one oxygen cylinder, and in the left two more. The tail of the aircraft had two rudders and vertical keels. The main landing gear of the fighter was located under the turbochargers in the front sections of the beams and retracts, and the front landing gear was in front of the fuselage nacelle immediately behind the weapon bay and retracted into the nacelle also back. All landing gear tightly closed enough shutters, not protruding into the air stream.
All small arms of the aircraft were located in its nose. This approach allowed designers to eliminate the use of synchronizers for firing through a screw. The 20-mm gun was located in the center, below the heavy machine gun. Four 12,7-mm machine guns were one behind the other, thus solving the problem of placing ammunition, feeding cartridges and ejecting spent cartridges.
Fighters Р-38 Lightning were widely used by the USAF during the Second World War, especially actively in the Pacific Ocean, as well as the Chinese-Burmese-Indian theater of military operations. In the south-western Pacific theater of war, these aircraft served as the main long-range fighter practically until the end of the war (until a sufficient number of single-engine P-51D Mustang entered the army). It is worth noting that two of the most successful fighter pilots in the history of military American aviation - Thomas McGuire (38 downed aircraft) and Richard Ira Bong (38 downed aircraft) flew precisely on the R-40 "Lighting". Also on this plane flew the author of the “Little Prince”, the famous French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery, who died flying over the Mediterranean Sea in the summer of 1944. Presumably his plane was shot down by a German fighter, Bf.109.
There are P-38 fighters on the account and a very daring operation to eliminate the famous Japanese admiral Yamamoto. On April 17, 1943, 18 Lightning fighters attacked and shot down a G4M bomber, on which the famous admiral, as well as Zero fighters from his cover, attacked and shot down over one of the islands in the Pacific Ocean. As a result of this attack, the admiral died, for the Japanese imperial fleet it was an irreparable loss.
During the years of the Second World War, no P-38 Lightning fighter aircraft was supplied to the Soviet Union under Lend-Lease, although the USSR made the corresponding request. All fighters of this type, which eventually ended up in our country, were picked up after making forced landings in Eastern Europe. But even there these fighters were a rarity. Of the 162 airplanes of the Allies, which the Soviet troops found in the territory they occupied by mid-May 1945, there was only one P-38. In fact, of course, there were more, but not by much, and their condition left much to be desired.
For example, one such fighter made an emergency landing at Nagykeres near Budapest in January 1945. The fighter with the inscription "Pride of Jane" was engaged in escorting bombers, but was hit by an enemy and landed on a field covered with melted snow with a retracted landing gear. When landing the engine hoods were crumpled, and the screws were bent. The pilot was not injured and was evacuated from the crash site by a team of specialists from the Soviet 5 air army. Such a case was not the only one.
However, only one P-38 was able to bring in a state of airworthiness in the USSR. This fighter took part in the "shuttle" operations of American bombers from bases in Ukraine. The car made a forced landing and was abandoned. It was a fighter P-38L-1 with the words aboard the Blacks. For some time, this aircraft belonged to the 173-th long-range fighter regiment, which was armed with American A-20G, converted into heavy fighters. At the same time, only flying flights were carried out on “Lighting”. Initially, this regiment was based near Minsk, but then flew to Poland. Only after the war, the aircraft was transferred to the Air Force Research Institute for extensive testing.
Flight specifications of the P-38L:
Overall dimensions: length - 11,53 m, height - 3,91 m, wing span - 15,85 m, wing area - 30,43 m2.
Empty weight - 5800 kg.
Maximum take-off weight - 9789 kg.
The power plant - two 12-cylinder V-shaped engine Allison V-1710 XHUMXxXNNXX hp
The maximum flight speed is 667 km / h.
Cruising flight speed - 443 km / h.
Stalling speed - 170 km / h.
Practical range - 725 km.
Practical ceiling - 13 000 m.
Armament: 1X20-mm cannon Hispano M2 (150 ammunition shells), 4x12,7-mm machine gun M2 (500 ammunition), up to 10 127-mm NURS HVAR, up to 2 X908 kg bombsheets XNUMX-mm NURS HVAR, up to XNUMXXNUMX kg bombsheets XNUMX-mm NURS HVAR, up to XNUMX xNUMX kg bombsheets XNUMX-mm NURS HVAR, to XNUMX xNUMX kg bombs XNUMX-mm NURS HVAR, to XNUMX xNUMX kg bombs XNUMX-mm NURS HVAR, to XNUMX xNUMX kg bombsheets
Crew - 1 man.