The twin-engine "Lightning" of the American aces is the R-38 "Lightning" fighter.
In the early autumn of 1938, the documentation obtained by our intelligence service on the new American high-altitude interceptor Lockheed-22 arrived in Moscow. She was able to steal in the United States by members of the Intelligence Agency of the People’s Commissariat of Defense. Thick packs of photocopies contained technical descriptions, drawings and drawings of the aircraft and its main parts, calculations of flight characteristics and airframe strength, the results of blowing models in a wind tunnel. The originals were printed on forms of Lockheed and carried stamps “Secret”. In the drawings and drawings, a two-gang twin-engined aircraft was extremely unusual in appearance, with a short fuselage-gondola, a three-wheeled chassis and turbo-compressors on engines. Copies of materials sent to the Office of Logistics and the Institute of Air Force. This is what the 1 rank officer Znamensky, who studied the materials on the American aircraft, wrote in his review: “It must be admitted that, in terms of its flight qualities and power of artillery and small arms, the Lockheed-22 interceptor fighter represents a significant step forward in the development of combat aircraft, and in this respect deserves the closest scrutiny from the Red Army ”.
The stolen project was nothing more than the first studies on the well-known fighter Lockhid P-38 "Lightning" (in English - "lightning"). It was at Lightning that an American pilot shot down the first German plane in a war, the Lightning, the first American fighter plane to fly over the capital of the Reich. He became the only multi-purpose serial two-beam fighter of the Second World War, several Dutch Fokkers S.1, who managed to make war for less than a week in May 1940, you can not take into account. “Lightning” was the first among all production aircraft to receive a chassis scheme with a nose-pillar that greatly facilitated take-off and landing. The best aces of the United States fought on it ... But first things first.
Tactical and technical requirements of the US Air Force for a multi-purpose twin-engined fighter aircraft were formulated in 1935, and the following year they were introduced to a number of aircraft manufacturers. The plane was conceived as a universal: interceptor, long-range reconnaissance and escort fighter. In the air force, the project received the X-608 index, and at Lockheed he was assigned the "corporate" number "Model 22".
Chief designers Hal Hibbard and Clarence Johnson worked out six options for building a twin-engine machine. The first was a classic monoplane with motors on the wing and a cockpit in the fuselage. In two projects, the engines stood in a thick fuselage and rotated the pulling or pushing screws in the wings with the help of shafts and gearboxes. Three other options represented a two-girder construction. And in one case, the engines also remained in the short fuselage, and the screw installations in the planes were driven through a system of shafts. In the fifth layout, the engines were placed at the base of the beams, but the fuselage was absent, and the pilot's seat was in the left nacelle. However, for the construction of the chosen sixth version with two beams and a short fuselage in the center of the wing.
Other American firms, Douglas, Curtiss, Bell and Valty, also participated in the competition. But after getting acquainted with all the projects, the military ordered in June 1937 the construction of the XP-38 prototype only to Lockheed. Three months were spent on the preparation of working drawings. Engineers of the Allison Company also worked hard. Especially for the new fighter developed modifications of the motor V-1710 (12-cylinder, V-shaped, liquid cooling), which had the opposite rotation and eliminated the gyroscopic moment. At the same time management was facilitated, and the air flow from the propellers was symmetrical.
GE "Type F" turbochargers, working from exhaust gases, increased engine power to HP 1150. Compressors were placed in nacelles at the rear edge of the wing. Close to the tail in the beams placed radiators with side air intakes. The very design of the fuselage and beams was all-metal type semi-monocoque, with duralumin lining. The single-shaft wing has Fowler flaps and ailerons. The beams ended with keels and were connected by a stabilizer with a height wheel. All steering surfaces - with duralumin trim had trimmers, which is not surprising, given the size of the car. Three-support chassis with a nose strut was removed using hydraulic actuators. The main pillars hid back in flight in the engine nacelles, and the front "leg" - in the lower compartment of the fuselage.
The fuselage was quite short and ended at the rear edge of the wing. The pilot was sitting in a spacious cockpit with a large convex lantern with binding. In the empty nose, they planned to install an 23-mm Madsen cannon or a TI caliber 22,8 mm with 50 ammunition. A quartet of large-caliber (12,7 mm) M-2 Browning machine guns with a reserve of 200 ammunition for a barrel was added to the gun. According to the calculations of the designers, the plane turned out pretty fast - at the height of 6100 m expected to get 670 km / h. Inspired optimism and other characteristics. So, the height in 9145 m was planned to be reached in 10 minutes and a little, and the ceiling due to the operation of turbochargers was almost 12 km.
At the end of 1938, the first prototype of the XP-38 (unarmed) left the plant’s workshop and moved to March Field airfield. Here, Lieutenant Casey began to run on it, preparing for the first flight. Because of problems with the brakes that required further work, the takeoff was scheduled for January 27. However, immediately after the release of the XP-38 from the runway, flap vibrations arose, leading to a breakdown of their linkage nodes. Casey was able to partially cope with the vibration, increasing the angle of attack. After the 30 minute flight, we had to land the plane from the same angle. Due to the raised nose of the concrete runway, they first touched the keels (received damage), and only then the XP-38 got on the main wheels. After the flaps were repaired and improved, the flight program was continued, and by February 10 the total flight time was about 5 hours. No more serious problems.
To check for speed and range, they planned to fly the XP-38 over the entire United States. Casey was supposed to take off from the Pacific coast in California and reach Wright Field airfield in Dayton, Ohio. February 11 February early morning XP-38 left March Field and, after refueling at the Amarillo base in Texas, landed at Dayton. The plane behaved flawlessly, and decided to continue the flight to the airfield Mitchell Field near New York. On the Atlantic coast, the fighter landed, having stayed on the way 7 h 2 min. The average speed was 563 km / h. Unfortunately, this flight, which proved the good characteristics of the machine, ended in failure. Casey landed, still not trusting the flaps to work efficiently. Therefore, the angle of attack was quite high, and the engines were running at high speeds. Due to the high landing speed of the aircraft several times "tangled" and rolled over, receiving significant damage. Casey himself got off with only bruises, but there was no point in restoring the first prototype.
This accident had no effect on the fate of the "thirty-eighth." At the end of April, 1939 of the year, Lockheed signed a contract for the construction of 13 pre-series YР-38 with engines V-1710-27 / 29. Propellers also rotated in opposite directions, but in a different direction. Unlike the first prototype, when viewed from the cockpit, the screws rotated in the direction from the fuselage. The artillery of the pre-production YР-38 also differed and consisted of 37-mm M-9 cannon (15 ammunition of shells), two 12,7 mm machine guns (ammunition for 200 barrel ammunition) and a pair of 7,62 mm (500 cartridges for barrel). The take-off weight of the YP-38 reached 6514 kg, and the maximum speed on the 6100 m -652 km / h.
Innovative aircraft was quite difficult and expensive to manufacture. Therefore, only 17 September 1940, the first YP-38 took off. Earlier, England and France became interested in the double-beam fighter. In May, the purchasing commissions of these countries visited 1940 in New York, signing a preliminary contract for the supply of fighters with Lockheed. The French Air Force planned to acquire 417 aircraft, and the United Kingdom - 250. However, already in June in Paris, units of the Wehrmacht were marched, and the French order had to be canceled.
"Lightning" and ordered the US Air Force. X-NUMX airplanes were soon added to the first batch of 80 P-38. The serial P-66 were identical to the YP-38, but with 38 caliber machine guns. 12,7 serial P-30 (no letter addition after the number) followed by 38 P-36D, which was distinguished by protective tanks, armored plates by the pilot and a modified oxygen system. The aircraft was immediately assigned the index "D", in order to unify the fighter by designation, with the already existing P-38D and B-39D aircraft, on which such modifications were made. Thus, the “C” and “B” indices were missed, and the letter “A” was given to the experimental XP-24A with a pressurized cabin.
While preparations were under way for the production of mass-produced cars, the pilots of Lockheed and the United States Air Force thoroughly flew the pre-production YР-38. During the flight tests of the Lightnings, we faced two unpleasant problems - the vibration of the tail and the poor handling when diving at high speeds. Vibration of the tail assembly was handled quite easily by setting balancing weights on the elevator and modifying the fairings in the place where the wing and fuselage were mated (the flow of air has now decreased). And the second problem was busy for a long time. Due to the compressibility of air at dive speeds with the numbers M = 0,7-0,75, the elevator became practically ineffective. It was necessary to test various profiles and designs in a wind tunnel. Only by 1944 (!), The problem was finally solved, and at all P-38 they removed the speed limit during a dive.
For the first batch of P-38 and P-38D, the USAF ordered an additional 40 aircraft. The serial P-38 was ready in June 1941, and the P-38D rolled off the assembly line in October. In December, after the attack of the Japanese aircraft carriers on Pearl Harbor, the United States entered World War II and orders for a new aircraft increased sharply. By that time, there were two successive modifications of the "thirty-eighth" - the P-38E and the "Model 322-B" - (the export version for the UK). Now, besides the index, the aircraft was assigned its own name. At first the name “Atlanta” was suggested, but the final choice was left for the more harmonious “Lightning”. The British always had a special opinion and assigned their names to export aircraft. But the new fighter company "Lockheed" was the exception, retaining the native "American" name.
By the end of 1941, the Royal British Air Forces had planned to get 667 Lightnings MkI and MkII. MkI corresponded to the equipment P-38D, but with engines V-1710 (1090 hp) without turbochargers. The first MCI in the camouflage of the Royal Air Force and English identification marks took off in August 1941. The first three cars went overseas, where, in the Boscombe Down test center, they began to conduct assessment flights. The opinion of the British pilots about the plane was not very high. In the reports, the pilots primarily pointed to the poor maneuverability of the Lightning, although otherwise the data were comparable to other twin-engined fighters of the time. They also attributed the number of defects to the sun glare from the engine nacelles that prevented a safe landing. Nevertheless, the criticism had an effect, and the delivery of the 143 Lightning MkI was refused.
Work on the assembly of these machines have already gone and 140 of them transferred to the US Air Force. The planes received their own P-322 index (from "Model-322В") and flew only over the territory of the United States. 40 Р-322, who were in the ranks of 7 on December 1941, with the outbreak of hostilities sent to guard the west coast of the country. The unclaimed “British” were based in Alaska and the Aleutian Islands. Most of the P-322, which later received more powerful F-series engines, flew up to the 1945 of the year, mostly as training machines.
Did not get to England and 524 "Lightning" MkII with engines V-1710F5L (1150 hp) with turbochargers. In October, only one car was managed to repaint 1942 in camouflage of the Royal Air Force, but the rest of the aircraft remained at home under the indices Р-38F and Р-38G. These modifications were replaced on the Lightning conveyor P-38, produced since the fall of the 1941.
The P-38E (a total of 310 machines was released) was distinguished by the X-NUMX-mm M-20 cannon (instead of the unreliable M-1), the modified hydraulic and electrical systems and the increased machine-gun ammunition. At the end of the 9, two aircraft of this variant were converted into an F-1941 photo reconnaissance aircraft. All weapons were replaced by four cameras. In 4, X-NUMX P-1942E was also subjected to similar modifications, also crossing them in F-97.
The P-38F differed from the P-38 in the V-1710-49 / 57 (1225 hp) engines. The Lightnings 547 with the letter "F" descended from the stocks, of which 20 is in the version of the photo reconnaissance F-4А. "Lightning" with high-altitude motors V-1710-51 / 55 received the index Р-38G, and Р-38Н was equipped with a pair V-1710-89 / 91 (1425 hp). And these options had unarmed photo versions. From 1462, P-38G 180 became F-5 scouts, and 200 received the number F-5В (they differed in photo equipment). Among the 601 P-38H, the F-5С reconnaissance aircraft made up 128.
In the summer of 1943, an experienced XP-50 (created on the basis of the P-38C) was tested, designed for high-altitude reconnaissance. In this car in an enlarged fuselage found a place for the observer. He was responsible for the operation of the K-17 camera in the cockpit and the panoramic camera in the tail boom. A pilot, if necessary, could fire from a pair of abandoned machine guns. True, the serial release of this option did not take place.
In addition to the use of various engines, the designers of "Lockheed" introduced and other changes in the "Lightning". In January, 1942-I installed nodes for two suspended tanks for 568 l or 1136 l. The wing was strengthened, and if necessary, bombs of 454 kg or 762 kg were hung on these units. With additional fuel tanks, the Lightning range increased significantly, which clearly demonstrated the X-NUMX-th F-1942F flight in August through the USA. Fueled "to the eyeball" fuel "Lightning" without weapons and a pair of tanks for 38 l for 1136 hours overcame 13 km, and the rest of gasoline allowed to fly another 4677 km.
At the end of the 1942, P-38F was tested as a torpedo bomber. Under the wing, one torpedo weighing 875 kg and one tank per 1136 l (or two torpedoes simultaneously) were hung. The tests were quite successful, but the Lightning didn’t appear on the front. On the same plane they tried to drop the 908-kg bomb, and a similar fighter-bomber managed to make war in Europe at the end of the 1944 year. For patrolling over the Pacific, Lockheed’s designers have proposed the creation of the Float Lightning. The relevant documentation was prepared, but the floats were not installed.
Designers worked on new high-altitude versions of the two-beam "Lightning". The first "Lightning" with a pressurized cabin, as already mentioned, was an experienced XP-38A. In November, the 1942 th flew an improved version of the XP-49 with Continental XI-1430-1 engines (12-cylinder, V-type inverted type, liquid cooling), HP 1600 power. On this "spiderman" they planned to install a pair of 20-mm cannons and four 12,7-mm machine guns. But during the flight the only XP-49 left unarmed, since it took to accommodate the second crew member - an observer engineer. Glider towing was another profession for the P-38. In the tail section, locks were installed, and the Lightning in 1942 was successfully tested on towing the Waco C-4A airborne glider. In the same year, an air gas generator was tested in flight to set up a smoke screen for the advancing infantry.
Production of "Lightning" increased with each passing year. In 1941, the 207 fighters were released, and the next, 1478. "Lightning", increasingly attracted to combat sorties, opened by downed Japanese aircraft 4 August 1942 of the year. On this day, a pair of P-38 343 th fighter group, taking off from the Adak airfield in Alaska, found and shot down two Kavanishi flying boats H6K4 Mavis.
In July, 1942-th "Lightnings" participated in the operation "Bolero" - the transfer of aircraft from the United States to bases in the UK. The first to redeploy 200 "thirty-eighths" 14 of the fighter group, flying overhead tanks through Newfoundland, Greenland and Iceland. Each group of four fighters was led by a Boeing B-17 leader plane. The Lightnings of the 27 Fighter Squadron (1 Fighter Group) remained in Iceland to patrol the North Atlantic. 15 August 1942, the pilot of the R-38 of this squadron won the first victory of the US Air Force over the German aircraft. "Lightning", together with the P-40 fighter (33 group), managed to shoot down the four-engined Fw-200 "Condor".
In November 1942, a part of the Lightnings flew from England to bases in the Mediterranean to participate in Operation Torch, an Allied airborne assault force in North Africa. In the skies over Tunisia, two-beam "Lightning" often acted as escort fighters of their bomber. Air battles with German and Italian aircraft happened quite often and went with varying success, due to the lack of maneuverability of heavy Lightnings. So, only 48-th fighter group from November 1942-th to February 1943-th lost 20 Р-38 and 13 pilots, five of them are January 23.
However, the “Lightning” did not remain in debt, being considered a serious opponent in the air due to its good speed characteristics. 5 On April, the crews of the 82 group of the US Air Force intercepted the 17 of the Luftwaffe aircraft, knocking down the 5. Their colleagues from the 1 fighter group were even more successful, destroying the same day 16, and four days later 28 more aircraft with a swastika on the tail. True, in fairness, it is worth noting that virtually all of these victories were over the German bombers. In October, pilots of the 14 group excelled over Crete. "Thirty-eighths" attacked the compound low-speed Ju-87, in that battle (although it is difficult to call it a battle), the group commander announced seven Junkers who had been shot down. By that time, the Lightnings themselves became increasingly involved in ground attack aircraft with bombs suspended under the fuselage.
Well proven "Lightning" in the Pacific. Back in August, the 1942 Fighter Squadron arrived at Port Moresby (New Guinea) in August. However, due to technical problems with overheating of motors in the tropics, real combat missions started only by the end of the year, having finished the cooling system. But already in the first battle of 39 December, the Americans shot down several Japanese aircraft. Interesting information of the parties on the outcome of this battle. In total, the Lightning pilots announced 27 shot down Japanese cars (some articles even indicate 11 airplanes), including the pair recorded the future best American ace Richard I. Bong. However, only one P-15 Lieutenant Sparks received engine damage in this battle. The Japanese pilots of the 38-th Sentai, in turn, announced seven Lightnings that were shot down. In fact, according to the available documents, the 11 th kokutai lost one Zero in battle, the second A582M was damaged and crashed during a forced landing (the pilot was still alive), in addition, one Val was shot down and the other was bomber returned to base with damage. In the 6 th Sentae lost two Ki-11 "Hayabus" and one pilot. At the same time, it is worth considering that, in addition to P-43, P-38 also participated in that battle, which the Lightnings hurried to help.
The Lightning, with its long range, was ideally suited for patrolling over vast ocean expanses. That is why on April 18, 1943, on the attack of Japanese bombers with Admiral Yamamoto, the 18 Lightnings of the 339th Squadron went aboard. From the intercepted radiogram, the Americans learned of the commander’s arrival on Bougainville Island fleet The countries of the rising sun were not going to miss such a chance. Having flown over the ocean for about 700 km, the Lightnings definitely came to the enemy at the estimated time. After a fleeting battle, the Japanese sailors had to choose a new commander. According to the Americans, they shot down three Mitsubishi G4M bombers and three A6M Zero fighters, losing one Lightning in the battle.
Two months later, the names of the pilots of the 339 Squadron were again on the lips of Air Force personnel. The Lightning Forces intercepted a large group of Aichi D3 dive bombers under the cover of Zero fighters. More than others after landing rocked Lieutenant Murray Shubin. During one sortie, the pilot recorded six air victories at his own expense, immediately becoming the best American ace in the Pacific.
Problems with cooling engines "Lightning" led to the creation of another modification - P-38J. Now the air after the turbochargers, before getting into the carburetor, was cooled in additional radiators under the screw of the screw. A radiator in the beams received wider side air intakes. Thanks to the modifications, the power of the V-1710-89 / 91 engines increased at altitude, the P-38J at 9145 m developed speed to 665 km / h, and the range with outboard tank 1136 l was 3218 km.
Total collected 2970 P-38J, which, as the release, constantly improved. In particular, they increased the capacity of wing tanks on the 416 l. Wing shields appeared on the P-38J-25 modification, making it easier to control the plane during a dive. Soon the serial P-38J was equipped with aileron boosters. Thus, heavy "Lightning" was the first among all the fighters to receive power steering in control.
P-38J was followed by a version of the P-38L with V-1710-111 / 113 motors (1475 hp), released as 3923 machines. More 700 "Lightning" P-38J and L converted into reconnaissance F-5E, F and G (different photographic equipment). An experienced modification was the P-38K with V-710-75 / 77 engines and larger diameter screws. But the new engines demanded a serious change in the design of the wing (we would have to change the factory equipment), so the series did not take place.
The Lockheed Company did not stop working on the improvement of the already released Lightnings. In Alaska, circled P-38G with retractable skis. The flights were successful, but there were no orders for the combatant units. Conducted on the "Lightning" and testing of various weapons. At the Wright Field airfield, the P-38L flew into the air with a powerful battery of three 15,24 mm machine guns and eight 12,7 mm machine guns, and under each plane there was also a pair of large-caliber machine guns. But for use at the front, the designers chose the rocket weapon. Under the wing, guides appeared for the unguided HVAR missiles. First, they were located seven in a row under each plane. And the final was the version with five rockets on each side, hung on one node, "herringbone."
The P-38G served as the base for a light bomber, called the Drup Snoot (Stretched Nose). A plexiglas flashlight was installed in the elongated nose and a navigator was added to the crew who was responsible for the work of the Norden bomb-sight. At the factory near Belfast, the 25 Lightnings, which were part of the 8 Air Force of the United States Air Force, were finalized. Another version of the Drup Snoot was the version with the AT / APS-15 radar sight in the nose, at which the navigator-operator was sitting. Radar sight set on several dozen P-38L, also fought in Europe.
The first combat mission "Stretched noses" made 10 on April 1944 on April, attacking targets under the Disir. Two squadrons of the 55 th fighter group served as bombers, and they were covered from above by single Lightnings. Each Drup Snut carried one 454-kg bomb and a suspended tank. Although the target was covered by clouds, the navigators accurately reached the point of discharge. In the future, "Lightnings" bomber made flights with one or even a pair of larger bombs on 908 kg, but without tanks.
The main profession of "Lightning", of course, remained "destructive" work. Before the targets in Germany, the American B-17 and B-24 bombers were very often accompanied by Lightnings, thanks to their long range. There were exceptions. In June, the 1944 th single "thirty-eighth" 82 th fighter group attacked a refinery in Ploiesti with a dive. Romanian anti-aircraft gunners and pilots are well prepared for the "meeting", having managed to bring down 22 "Lightning".
Later the Lightnings of the 82 and 14 of the fighter groups participated in the so-called shuttle flights, accompanying the B-17 and B-24 bombers. The Americans took off from bases in Italy, dropped bombs over Romania and Germany, and landed on Soviet airfields. Here, after refueling and rest, the crews left for the return flight. But with the pilots of “Lightning”, “Stalin's falcons” could get to know each other closely not only in the canteen of the airfield of Poltava. In the autumn of 1944, a real air battle took place between the allies in the sky of Yugoslavia.
These events occurred after the liberation of Belgrade by the Red Army. In early November, on the road near the city of Nis, the rifle corps of Lieutenant General GP Kotova. There was no air cover since in this area aviation there was no enemy. A fighter regiment of the 17th Air Army, commanded by Major D. Syrtsov, was based near the city. The situation at the airport was calm, and on that day the link was on duty of captain A. Koldunov (twice future Hero of the Soviet Union, air marshal and commander in chief of the country's air defense). There was a roar of airplanes in the sky. Syrtsov looked anxiously into the sky, although he was sure that the Germans should not be here. But the planes turned out to be the American R-38, which, it seemed, on their own initiative was going to cover our troops from the air, although there was no need for this. Soon, however, the Lightings stood in a circle and one after another began to attack the convoy. The whole road was immediately enveloped in smoke. Our soldiers waved red banners and white rags, signaling to the Americans that they had attacked the allies. But the bombs continued to roll down. Syrtsov immediately rushed to his airfield. Six R-38s swept low over it and our Yak-9 fighter took off. Before he reached the CP, the regiment saw how Koldunov’s plane took off, followed by two more “Yaks”. Syrtsov ordered the whole regiment to be raised, and soared. On the radio, he several times transmitted: "Do not open fire! Send signals that we are ours." But the Americans shot down another one of our fighters, whose pilot, fortunately, managed to jump with a parachute.
Meanwhile Koldunov crashed into a large group of Lightnings and at first close shot one and then the other. He managed to repeat the attacking maneuver, and soon two more "ally" were on the ground. And just our aces shot down seven aircraft. One American pilot on a parachute descended along the road and was picked up by infantrymen. Since there was no one to interrogate on the spot, Syrtsov sent him to the headquarters of the 17 Army. During this raid, many of our soldiers died, including the commander of the Corps, General General GP. Kotov. All the dead were buried on the spot, and according to the recollections of Koldunov and Syrtsov, the candles lit by local residents did not go out for a few days on the graves. To disassemble the incident, the commander of the 17 th air army, General V. Sudet, flew to the regiment. His point of view was this - the Soviet pilots acted correctly and distinguished themselves should be noted. But not to write reports to the army headquarters, not to give information to the correspondents. Nobody wanted to spoil relations with the allies without a high command from above.
The latest modification was the double night fighter Р-38М. The release of the Black-widow P-61 nightlight ordered by the Nor-troop company was delayed, and temporarily decided to create a similar machine based on Lightning. Experiments with the installation on the radar aircraft were first performed by engineers in combat units. In the 6 Fighter Squadron in New Guinea, two P-38Gs were transformed into a night fighter with their own forces. The SCR-540 radar was placed in a hanging tank, and the operator’s position was equipped behind the pilot. True, the squadron was brought to the United States before they had time to test the structure in a real battle.
At Lockheed, the modifications were completed more professionally. The AN / APS-4 locator in a cigar-shaped container was hung under the nose, and the operator sat behind the pilot. After test flights with shooting, it turned out that the ejected liners damage the radome radome. I had to move the radar under the right plane. Several modified P-38J were transferred to the 481 training group for testing. After the evaluation flights, the USAF ordered 75 machines that received the P-38M index. The first serial Р-38М were ready at the beginning of 1945, and did not have time to take part in the hostilities. After the capitulation of Japan, the night Lightnings were based in the defeated country before the start of the 1946, entering the 418 and 421 squadrons.
In World War II, "Lightning" managed to fly and with the identification marks of France. After the landing of the Anglo-American troops in Africa, France joined the anti-Hitler coalition and received airplanes from the allies. On November II, six F-33 photo reconnaissance cameras, and then F-1943 photo cameras, were the first to be deployed to the II / 4 group. Parts were based at different times in Italy, Sardinia, Corsica and France. The most famous French pilot of Lightning was undoubtedly the writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery, who died on his unarmed Lightning, not returning from July 5's 31 flight of the year. According to the Luftwaffe archives, on this day, the Germans shot down only one double-row Lockheed fighter. Therefore, it is precisely known that Exupery was the victim of the “Focke Wolf” Fw 1944D-190.
Three photo reconnaissance aircraft F-4 were transferred to the Australian Air Force, where they were used to observe the Japanese at the end of the war. 15 Lightnings (mostly F-5 intelligence agents) in the 1944-45 years, the Americans sent to China. With the beginning of the civil war in the country, these planes turned out to be both of Chiang Kai-Shek and the Communists Mao. Another country that received the two-beam "Lightning" was Portugal, but here the case intervened. In November, the 1942 of the P-38F pair flew from England to North Africa. By mistake, the pilots began to land in Lisbon. One of the pilots immediately figured out the situation and, without turning off the engine, immediately flew into the air. But the second car did not have time to take off and went to the Portuguese as a trophy. The plane entered the squadron of the Air Force of the country. In December, the 18 Bell fighters and the P-39 Aero Cobra were also included in this squadron. They also landed in Portugal by mistake.
After the end of the war, the "thirty-eighth" was fairly quickly removed from service by the US Air Force, although other piston fighters (Р-51 and Р-47) continued to carry combat service. Several Lightnings remained in service until 1949, as training machines. In 1947, several dozen “thirty-eighths” were sent to Honduras as military assistance. Four aircraft in 1961 returned to their homeland when they were already of interest as museum exhibits. One “Lightning” of this group took its place in the exposition of the museum of the USAF. In 1949, after the formation of NATO, 50 "Lightning" was transferred to Italy. Their service was short-lived, and soon in the front-line units piston fighters from Lockheed were replaced by jet Vampires.
Thus, the two-beam "Lightning" were in service a little more than 10 years, and became the only American fighter, whose mass production began before Pearl Harbor, and lasted until the surrender of Japan. By August, 1945-th released a total of 9923 aircraft of all modifications. Although a series of other piston fighters (P-39 Aerocobra, P-47 Thunderbolt and P-51 Mustang) were superior to Lokhida’s aircraft, this did not affect the attitude of the pilots to the car. Pilots loved their Lightning for long range and reliability - two motors are always better than one. Yielding single-engine vehicles in maneuverability, "Lightning" was very good for long-distance patrols at altitude.
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