Category Archives: Fighterbomber

Fighterbomber

Lockheed P-80A ‘Shooting Star’, 412th FG (Revell)

TYPE: Interceptor fighter

ACCOMMODATION: Pilot only

POWER PLANT: One Allison J-33-A-35 turbojet engine, rated at 2,100 kp thrust

PERFORMANCE: 492 mph at 40,000 ft

COMMENT: The Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star was the first jet fighter used operationally by the USAAF. Designed and built by Lockheed Aircraft Company in 1943 and delivered just 143 days from the start of the design process, production models were flying but not ready for service by the end of WW II. Designed with straight wings, the type saw extensive combat in Korea with the United States Air Force (USAF) as the Lockeed F-80.
The prototype XP-80 had a conventional all-metal airframe, with a slim low wing and tricycle landing gear. Like most early jets designed during World War II – and before the Allies captured German research data that confirmed the speed advantages of swept-wings – the XP-80 had straight wings, similar to previous propeller-driven fighters. It was the first operational jet fighter to have its engine in the fuselage, a format previously used in the pioneering German Heinkel He 178 V1 of 1939, and the later British Gloster E.28/39 Pioneer demonstrator of 1941. Other early jets generally had two engines because of their limited power, these being mounted in external necelles for easier maintenance. With the advent of more powerful British jet engines, fuselage mounting was more effective, and it was used by nearly all subsequent fighter aircraft.
Concept work on the XP-80 began in 1943 with a design being built around the blueprint dimensions of a British Halford H-1 B turbojet (later called the de Havilland Goblin), a powerplant to which the design team did not have actual access. Lockheed’s team, consisting of 28 engineers, was led by the legendary C. L. „Kelly“ Johnson. This teaming was an early product of Lockheed’s Skunk Works, which surfaced again in the next decade to produce a line of high-performance aircraft.
The impetus for development of the P-80 was the discovery by Allied intelligence of the Messerschmitt Me 262 ‘Schwalbe’ (‘Swallow’) in spring 1943, which had made only test flights of its own first quartet (the V1 through V4 airframes) of design prototypes at that time, all fitted with retracting tailwheel landing gear. After receiving documents and blueprints comprising years of British jet aircraft research, the commanding General of the Army Air Forces, Henry H. Arnold, believed an airframe could be developed to accept the British-made jet engine, and the Materiel Command’s Wright Field research and development division tasked Lockheed to design the aircraft. With the Germans and British clearly far ahead in development, Lockheed was pressed to develop a comparable jet in as short a time as possible. Kelly Johnson submitted a design proposal in mid-June and promised that the prototype would be ready for testing in 180 days. The Skunk Works team, beginning 26 June 1943, produced the airframe in 143 days, delivering it to Muroc Army Airfield on 16 November.
The project was so secret that only five of the more than 130 people working on it knew that they were developing a jet aircraft, and the British engineer who delivered the Goblin engine was detained by the police because Lockheed officials could not vouch for him. After the engine had been mated to the airframe, foreign object damage during the first run-up destroyed the engine, which delayed the first flight until a second engine (the only other existing) could be delivered from Britain.
The first prototype was nicknamed „Lulu-Belle“ (also known as „the Green Hornet” because of its paint scheme). Powered by the replacement Halford H1 taken from the prototype de Havilland Vampire jet fighter, it first flew on 8 January 1944.The donated British jet program data had no doubt proved invaluable. In test flights, the XP-80 eventually reached a top speed of 502 mph at 20,480 ft, making it the first turbojet-powered USAAF aircraft to exceed 500 mph in level flight, following the August 1944 record flight of 502 mph by a special high-speed variant of the Republic P-47J Thunderbolt. Contemporary pilots, when transitioning to pioneering jets like the Shooting Star, were unused to flying at high speed without a loud reciprocating engine and had to learn to rely on the airspeed indicator.
The second prototype, designated XP-80A, was designed for the larger General Electric I-40 engine (an improved J31, later produced by Allison as the J33). Two aircraft were built. one was nicknamed the Gray Ghost after its “pearl gray” paint scheme, while the second aircraft was left unpainted for comparison of flight characteristics, became known as the Silver Ghost. The XP-80A’s first test flight was unimpressive, but most of the problems with the design were soon addressed and corrected in the test program. Initial opinions of the XP-80A were not positive and the aircraft were primarily testbeds for larger, more powerful engines and air intake design, and consequently were larger and 25% heavier than the XP-80.
The Shooting Star began to enter service in late 1944 with 12 pre-production YP-80As. A 13th YP-80A was modified to the sole F-14 photo reconnaissance model and lost in a December crash.
The initial production order was for 344 P-80As after USAAF acceptance in February 1945. A total of 83 P-80s had been delivered by the end of July 1945 and 45 assigned to the 412th Fighter Group (later redesignated the 1st Fighter Group) at Muroc Arma Air Field. Four were sent to Europe for operational testing (demonstration, familiarization, and possible interception roles), two to England and two to Italy, but after two accidents, one in England and one in Italy, the YP-80A was temporarily grounded. So the Lockheed Shooting Star saw no actual combat during the conflict.
After the war, the USAAF compared the P-80 and Messerschmitt Me 262 concluding, “Despite a difference in gross weight of nearly 900 kg, the Me 262 was superior to the P-80 in acceleration, speed and approximately the same in climb performance. The Me 262 apparently has a higher critical Mach number, from a drag standpoint, than any current Army Air Force fighter”.
Production oft he Shooting Star continued after the war, although wartime plans for 5,000 were quickly reduced to 2,000. A total of 1,714 single-seat F-80A, F-80B, F-80C, and RF-80s were manufactured by the end of production in 1950, of which 927 were F-80Cs (including 129 operational F-80As upgraded to F-80C-11-LO standards). However, the two-seat TF-80C, first flown on 22 March 1948, became the basis for the T-33 trainer, of which 6,557 were produced (Ref.: 24).

Lockheed P-38F “Lightning” ,39th Sqd, 35th FG, (Hasegawa)

TYPE: Fighter, fighter bomber

ACCOMMODATION: Pilot only

POWER PLANT: Two Allison V-1710-49/53 liquid-cooled engines, rated at 1,225 hp each

PERFORMANCE: 390 mph at 25,000 ft

COMMENT: The Lockheed P-38 Lightning was an American piston-engined fighter aircraft of WW II. Developed for the United States Army Ai Corps, the P-38 had distinctive twin booms and a central nacelle containing the cockpit and armament. Allied propaganda claimed it had been nicknamed the fork-tailed devil (Gabelschwanz-Teufel“) by the Luftwaffe and “two planes, one pilot” by the Japanese. Along with its use as a general fighter, the P-38 was utilized in various aerial combat roles including as a highly effective fighter-bomber, a night-fighter, and as a long-range escort fighter when equipped with drop tanks. The P-38 was also used as a bomber-pathfinder, guiding streams of medium and heavy bomber; or even other P-38s, equipped with bombs, to their targets. Used in the aerial reconnaissance role, the P-38 would account for 90 percent of the aerial film captured over Europe.
The P-38 was used most successfully in the Pacific Theater of Operations (PTO) and was the primary long-range fighter of Unites States Army Air Forces until the introduction of large numbers of North American P-51D „Mustang“ toward the end of the war.
Lockheed designed the Model 22 in response to a February 1937 specification from the United States Arma Air Corps (USAAC). Circular Proposal X-608 was a set of aircraft performance goals for a twin-engine, high-altitude aircraft having the tactical mission of interception and attack of hostile aircraft at high altitude.  The Lockheed design team chose twin booms to accommodate the tail assembly, twin engines, and turbo-superchargers, with a central nacelle for the pilot and armament.
The Lockheed design incorporated tricycle undercarriage and a bubble canopy, and featured two 1,000 hp turbosupercharged 12-cylinder Allison V-1710 engines fitted with counter rotating propellers to eliminate the effect of engine torque, with the turbochargers positioned behind the engines, the exhaust side of the units exposed along the dorsal surfaces of the booms. The aircraft was the first American fighter to make extensive use of stainless steel and smooth, flush-riveted butt-jointed aluminum skin panels It was also the first military airplane to fly faster than 400 mph in level flight.
Lockheed won the competition on June 1937 with its Model 22 and was contracted to build a prototype officially designated XP-38.  Construction began in July 1938, and the XP-38 first flew on 27 January 1939. After speed testing the Air Corps ordered 13 YP-38s on April 1939, these few “hand made” YP-38’s were used as trainers and test aircraft.
Delivered and accepted production variants began with the P-38D model but the first combat-capable Lightning, as the aircraft was officially named by the USAAC by adopting the British service name, was the P-38E and its photo-reconnaissance variant the F-4
The first P-38E rolled out of the factory in October 1941. Because of the versatility, redundant engines, and especially high speed and high altitude characteristics of the aircraft, as with later variants over a hundred P-38Es were completed in the factory or converted in the field to a photoreconnaissance variant, the F-4, in which the guns were replaced by four cameras. Most of these early reconnaissance Lightnings were retained stateside for training, but the F-4 was the first Lightning to be used in action in April 1942.
After 210 P-38Es were built, they were followed, starting in February 1942, by the P-38F, the first truly operational Lightning. It incorporated racks inboard of the engines for fuel tanks or a total of 910 kg of bombs. 527 machines of this subtype were buit, including several variants. Lightnings of this type took part in their first large-scale operations during the North-African campaign, in November 1942, where mixed success was encountered. The twin engines restricted manoeuverability to some extent and it was unique among fightersof WW II in employing a wheel control instead of a conventional stick, a feature which may also have resulted in reduced ease of manoeuvre. Nevertheless, it proved an effective bomber destoyer and had a sensational zoom climb that could rarely be matched.
The Lockheed P-38F Lightning had also entered service in the Pacific area. Technical difficulties associated with intercooler operations in tropical conditions prevented the Lightning from entering service until the end of 1942, however, the first major engagement with Japanese aircraft occuring on December, when the 39th Fighter Squadron claimed 15 destroyed without loss (the model shown here is a P-38F of the 39th Fighter Squadron, 35th Fighter Group).
During production a continous series of improvements were being developed by Lockheed, some of which remained experimental but others being adopted for production. Among the most important in the latter category were long-range drop tanks and manoeuvring flaps. In early 1942, all P-38 carried the same long-range 75-US gal drop tanks as the Bell P-39 Aircobra and Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, one each side between the fuselage and nacelles. But Lockheed soon developed its own 150-US gal tank, and eventually 300-US gal versions, of laminar flow design. Stressing the wing section two such tanks could be carried by all variants  from the P-38F onwards. To demonstrate the capability oft he Lightning with drop tanks, a P-38F was used late in 1942, to make an endurance flight lasting over 13 hrs and covering 4.677 km, with enough fuel remaining for more than 161 km. Thus, Lightning’s ability to fly long ranges, carrying two drop tanks, now proved especially useful and the P-38 became the most-preferred fighter type operating in the Pacific area.
After production of 2,410 P-38F, -G and –H and corresponding reconnaissance variants the production switched over to the most built P-38J and –L Lightnings (Ref.: 3, 9, 24).

Douglas A-26B „Invader“ (Airfix)

TYPE: Light bomber, ground-attack aircraft

ACCOMMODATION: Crew of three

POWER PLANT: Two Pratt & Whitney R-2800-27 “Double Wasp” radial engines, rated at 2,000 hp each

PERFORMANCE: 355 mph


COMMENT
: The A-26 “Invader” was Douglas Aircraft’s successor to the A-20 (DB-7) “Havoc”, also known as Douglas “Boston”, one of the most successful and widely operated types flown by Allied air forces in World War II. The Douglas XA-26 prototype first flew on 10 July 1942. Flight tests revealed excellent performance and handling, but problems with engine cooling led to cowling changes and elimination of the propeller spinners on production aircraft. Repeated collapses during testing led to strengthening of the nose landing gear.
The Douglas A-26 was originally built in two different configurations. The Douglas A-26B had a gun nose, which originally could be equipped with a combination of armament including 12.7 mm machine guns, 20mm or 37mm auto cannon, or even a 75mm pack howitzer (which was never used operationally). Normally the gun nose version housed six (or later eight) .50 caliber machine guns, officially termed the “all-purpose nose”, later commonly known as the “six-gun nose” or “eight-gun nose”. The Douglas A-26C “Invader” had a glass” nose, officially termed the “Bombardier nose” and contained a Norden bombsight for medium altitude precision bombing.
After about 1,570 production aircraft, three guns were installed in each wing, coinciding with the introduction of the “eight-gun nose” for A-26Bs, giving some configurations as many as 14 12.7 mm machine guns in a fixed forward mount. A-26C nose section could be exchanged for an A-26B nose section, or vice versa, in a few man-hours, thus physically and officially changing the designation and operational role. The “flat-topped” canopy was changed in late 1944 after about 820 production aircraft, to a clamshell style with greatly improved visibility.
Alongside the pilot in an A-26B, a crew member typically served as navigator and gun loader for the pilot-operated nose guns. A tractor-style “jump seat” was located behind the “navigator’s seat”. In most missions, a third crew member in the rear gunner’s compartment operated the remotely controlled dorsal and ventral gun turrets, with access to and from the cockpit possible via the bomb bay but only when that was empty. The gunner operated both dorsal and ventral turrets via a novel and complex (and problematic) dual-ended periscope sight, which was a vertical column running through the center of the rear compartment, with traversing and elevating/depressing periscope sights on each end. The gunner sat on a seat facing rearward, and looked into a binocular periscope sight mounted on the column, controlling the guns with a pair of handles on either side of the column. When aiming above the centerline of the aircraft, the mirror in the center of the column would flip, showing the gunner what the upper periscope was seeing. When he pressed the handles downward, as the bead passed the centerline the mirror would automatically flip, transferring the sight “seamlessly” to the lower periscope. The guns would aim wherever the periscope was aimed, automatically transferring between upper and lower turrets as required, and computing for parallax and other factors. While novel and theoretically effective, a great deal of time and trouble was spent trying to get the system to work effectively, which delayed production, and it was difficult to keep maintained in the field even once production started.
The Douglas Company began delivering the production model A-26B to the USAAF on September 1943, with the new bomber first seeing action with the Fifth Air Force in the Southwest Pacific Theater on June 1944, when Japanese-held islands near Manokwari were attacked. The pilots in the 3rd Bomb Group’s 13th Squadron, “The Grim Reapers”, who received the first four A-26s for evaluation, found the view from the cockpit to be restricted by the engines and thus inadequate for low-level attack. General George Kenney, commander of the Far East Air Forces stated that, “We do not want the A-26 under any circumstances as a replacement for anything”.
Douglas needed better results from the “Invader’s” second combat test, so A-26s began arriving in Europe in late September 1944 for assignment to the Ninth Air Force. The initial deployment involved 18 aircraft and crews assigned to the 553rd Squadron of the 386th Bomb Group. This unit flew its first mission on September 1944. No aircraft were lost on the eight test missions, and the Ninth Air Force announced that it was happy to replace all of its Douglas A-20s and Martin B-26 “Marauders” with the Douglas A-26 “Invader” (Ref.: 24).

Douglas A-26C „Invader“ (Airfix)

TYPE: Light bomber, ground-attack aircraft

ACCOMMODATION: Crew of three

POWER PLANT: Two Pratt & Whitney R-2800-27 “Double Wasp” radial engines, rated at 2,000 hp each

PERFORMANCE: 355 mph

COMMENT: The Douglas A-26 “Invader” was Douglas Aircraft’s successor to the A-20 “Havoc”, in British service known as Douglas “Boston”, and was one of the most successful and widely operated types flown by Allied air forces in World War II. It was a twin-engine light bomber and ground attack aircraft, was fast and capable of carrying twice its specified bomb load.
A re-designation of the type from A-26 to B-26 led to confusion with the Martin B-26 “Marauder”, which first flew in November 1940, about 16 months before the Douglas design’s maiden flight. Although both types were powered by the widely used Pratt & Whitney R-2800 “Double Wasp” eighteen-cylinder, double-row radial engine, they were completely different and separate designs. Roughly 5,300 Martin “Marauders”, originated in 1939, were produced twice as many in comparison to the Douglas design.
The Douglas XA-26 prototype first flew on July 1942. Flight tests revealed excellent performance and handling, but problems with engine cooling led to cowling changes and elimination of the propeller spinners on production aircraft. Repeated collapses during testing led to strengthening of the nose landing gear. The Douglas A-26 was originally built in two different configurations. The Douglas A-26B had a gun nose housed six to eight .50 caliber machine guns, officially termed the “all-purpose nose”, later commonly known as the “six-gun nose” or “eight-gun nose”. The Douglas A-26C’s “glass” nose, officially termed the “Bombardier nose”, contained a Norden bombsight for medium altitude precision bombing. The A-26C nose section included two fixed M-2 guns, later replaced by underwing gun packs or internal guns in the wings.
After about 1,570 production aircraft, three guns were installed in each wing, coinciding with the introduction of the “eight-gun nose” for A-26Bs, giving some configurations as many as 14 .50 in machine guns in a fixed forward mount. The A-26C nose section could be exchanged for an A-26B nose section, or vice versa, in a few man-hours, thus physically changing the designation and operational role. The “flat-topped” canopy was changed in late 1944 after about 820 production aircraft, to a clamshell style with greatly improved visibility. Alongside the pilot in an A-26B, a crew member typically served as navigator and gun loader for the pilot-operated nose guns. In an A-26C, that crew member served as navigator and bombardier, and relocated to the nose section for the bombing phase of an operation In most missions, a third crew member in the rear gunner’s compartment operated the remotely controlled dorsal and ventral gun turrets, with access to and from the cockpit possible via the bomb bay only when that was empty (Ref.: 24).

Bell Model 3 (Unicraft, Resin)

TYPE: Fighter, fighter-bomber. Project

ACCOMMODATION: Pilot only

POWER PLANT: One Allison V-1710-35 liquid-cooled engine, rated at 1,150 hp

PERFORMANCE: 350 mph at 10,000 ft

COMMENT: In 1936 the Bell Aircraft Corporation’s design team began work on the Bell XP-39, a radical design of a single-seat fighter with the engine mounted behind the pilot, driving the airscrew by means of an extension shaft. This arrangement appeared to offer superior manoeuvrability, the engine weight being concentrated around the fighter’s center of gravity. But the first flight test proved that this unorthodox fighter had a low ceiling, slow rate of climb and relative lack of manoeuvrability. So alternatively the engine was mounted forward and the cockpit was positioned to the back.  This and some more minor changes led to the design of the Model 3. But calculations proved no advantage of this model compared to the P-39 “Aircrobra”, so the project was not further followed (Ref.: 13).

Republic P-47 D-15-RA ‘Thunderbolt’, 61 FS, 56 FG (Matchbox)

TYPE: Long-range escort-fighter and fighter-bomber

ACCOMMODATION: Pilot only

POWER PLANT: One Pratt and Whitney R-2800-21 radial engine, rated at 2,300 hp

PERFORMANCE: 433 mph at 30.000 ft

COMMENT: The Republic P-47 D ‘Thunderbolt’ differed little from its predecessor P-47 C apart from changes in the turbo-supercharger exhaust system, water injection as standard for the R-2800-21 engine, and some minor changes. The P-47 D was the first version of the ‘Thunderbolt’ to serve with the USAAF in the pacific theatre. Towards the end of 1943, 8th Air Force ‘Thunderbolts’ began returning from escort missions “on the deck”, strafing targets of opportunity with their unused ammunition, and their success was partly responsible for the adaptation of the ‘Thunderbolt’ for what was  to become its most successful role – that of a fighter-bomber. More than 5,800 P-47D ‘Thunderbolts’ are built, all possessed the original framed sliding canopy introduced on the initial production B-model. Later versions were equipped with an all-round vision bubble-type cockpit canopy (Ref.: 24)

Republic P-47N-5-RE Thunderbolt, 19 FS, 318 FG (Heller)

TYPE: Long-range escort fighter, fighter bomber,

ACCOMMODATION: Pilot only

POWER PLANT: One Pratt & Whitney R-2800-57C radial engine, rated at 2,800 hp

PERFORMANCE: 460 mph at 30,000 ft

COMMENT: The main role for the Republic P-47N was as an escort fighter for the Boeing B-29 Superfortress bombers flying raids on the Japanese home islands. But in the final stage of the war the P-47N was used very successfully as a ground attacker. App. 1.100 P-47N’s were equipped with zero-length rocket launchers for six or 10 rockets, depending on whether or not bombs or drop tanks were carried under the wings.  In April 1945, the 318 Fighter Group was re-equipped on P-47N’s and operated from Ie Shima island, off the coast of Okinawa. Bombing and strafing missions were flown until the end of the hostilities (Ref.: 9).

Bell P-39D “Airacobra”, 36th FS, 8th FG (Airfix)

TYPE: Fighter, fighter bomber

ACCOMMODATION: Pilot only

POWER PLANT: One Allison V-1710-35 liquid-cooled Vee engine with single-stage supercharger, rated at 1,150 hp

PERFORMANCE: 360 mph at 15,000 ft

COMMENT: The Bell P-39 “Airacobra” was one of the main American fighter aircraft in service when the United States of America entered the World War II. Designed by Bell Aircraft, it had an innovative layout, with the engine installed in the center fuselage, behind the pilot, and driving a tractor propeller via a long shaft. It was also the first fighter fitted with a tricycle undercarriage.  Although its mid-engine placement was innovative, the P-39 design was handicapped by the absence of an efficient turbo-supercharger, limiting it to low-altitude work. The XP-39 made its maiden flight on 6 April 1938 achieving 390 mph at 20,000 ft, reaching this altitude in only five minutes. A production order was placed and by the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, nearly 600 P-39s had been built. When P-39 production ended in August 1944, Bell had built 9,558. Most important variants were Bell P-39N and P-30Q, if which 4,773 have been built. The “Airacobra” saw combat throughout the world, particularly in the Southwest Pacific, Mediterranean and Russian theaters. But the “Airacobra” found itself outclassed as an interceptor and the type was gradually relegated to other duties. It often was used at lower altitudes for such missions as ground strafing (Ref.: 23).

Republic XP-47H Thunderbolt (Airmodel, Vacuformed, Parts from Matchbox, Parts from Pavla, and Self-conversion)

TYPE: Fighter, fighter bomber

ACCOMMODATION: Pilot only

POWER PLANT: One Chrysler XI-2220-11 inverted-Vee in-line engine, rated at 2,500 hp

PERFORMANCE: 414 mph

COMMENT: While the production of the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt had been emerging in ever-mounting quantities, Republic’s engineers had been investigating other ways in which the Thunderbolt could be improved. Two P-47D-15-RAs were assigned for testing the Chrysler XI-2220 engine, a 16 cylinder inverted-Vee liquid-cooled unit which transmitted its power to a propeller shaft by way of gears located midway along the crankshaft. The design was such as to produce an extremely finely-streamlined cowling of low frontal area, despite the engine’s ability to produce 2,500 hp. The converted aircraft were designated Republic XP-47H and remembered to a pre-war project, the Republic XP-69. Extensive redesign of the P-47 airframe was necessary to install the XI-2220-11 engine, with which was associated a General Electric CH-5 single-stage turbosupercharger in a modified installation in the rear fuselage. The first flight was not made until July 1945 and in one of the 27 flights a top speed of 414 mph had been recorded. The second XP-47H flew briefly after the war ended (Ref.: 9).

Republic XP-47J Thunderbolt (Matchbox, Parts from Pavla, Self conversion)

TYPE: Fighter, fighter bomber

ACCOMMODATION: Pilot only

POWER PLANT: One Pratt & Whitney R-2800-57 Double Wasp radial engine plus one General Electric CH-5 turbosupercharger, rated at 2,800 hp at 32,500 ft

PERFORMANCE: 505 mph at 34,500 ft

COMMENT: In 1942 studies made by Republic culminated in proposals for a “lightweight” P-47 with an improved engine installation. Construction of two prototypes was authorized, but within a few weeks it became clear to Republic and the USAAF that the more radical development of the P-47 powered by a 3,000 hp Pratt & Whitney R-4300 Wasp Major, than proceeding as the Republic P-72 held greater promise than the P-47J within a similar timescale, and work on the latter project was limited to a single XP-47J. This sole prototype had a lightened wing structure, a more powerful variant of the R-2800 radial engine, driving a four-bladed propeller with a large spinner and a fan to assist the flow of cooling air through a narrow annulus around the spinner. A separate intake scoop beneath and behind the engine cowling provided air for the General Electric CH-5 supercharger in the rear fuselage. The first flight was made in November 1943, and on August 1944 a speed of 505 mph was recorded, at 34,450 ft. This was the highest known speed achieved up to that time in level flight by a propeller driven aircraft and established the XP-47J as one of the few such aircraft to have broken through the 500-mph “barrier” (Lit.: 9).