P-38 Lightning: The Best Plane From World War II?

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It had speed but I heard that didn't make it a terribly good in an era where guns in a turning fight were the only effective weapon against other aircraft.

IL-2 is the best most accurate WW2 sim out there... even thought it's only 1G flying you will still learn a lot... like manage your energy and defection shooting...

For what its worth IL-2 Great Battles ME-262 takes a turn at a Spitfire and P47...​



B-17 Formation Attacked by Me-262s​



Killing Me-262​



Me-262 versus P38​

 
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Exactly right ^^^™

And let's not forget....

The US ability to make oil, fuel, and diesel for our equipment made a HUGE difference too. The Germans had huge problems with lack of fuel and we never had that problem. So did the Japanese.
And dont forget the complelty lack of quality Pilot training in Germany and Japan.
 
My 8th grade science teacher was one the 16 that intercepted Yamamoto’s Betty. Great guy and teacher. Wish I would have taken the time to get to know him better.
My 8th grade science teacher as well was an airplane guy during WWII, I still remember the explanation he gave about getting a bucket of prop wash !
 
I read that another problem with the P-38, was the cockpit windows could not be opened during flight, because it caused severe buffeting on the rear tailplane. This made the cockpit very hot and uncomfortable in the Pacific theater. And pilots often flew in shorts and tennis shoes, with a parachute.

And if I'm not mistaken, I thought the F4-U Corsair was the first 400 MPH fighter in our inventory.


"The F4U Corsair was the first U.S. single-engine production aircraft capable of 400 mph in level flight."
 
I read that another problem with the P-38, was the cockpit windows could not be opened during flight, because it caused severe buffeting on the rear tailplane. This made the cockpit very hot and uncomfortable in the Pacific theater. And pilots often flew in shorts and tennis shoes, with a parachute.

And if I'm not mistaken, I thought the F4-U Corsair was the first 400 MPH fighter in our inventory.


"The F4U Corsair was the first U.S. single-engine production aircraft capable of 400 mph in level flight."
Key words: "Single-engine."

I swore the P-38 had a roll-down window. Maybe that was the P-39 I'm confusing it with.

I'd trade the discomfort for two engines over the vast Pacific, any day. Wouldn't want to wind up as chicken of the sea for sharks. Besides, it doesn't take much altitude to cool right off. So I think the heat would be a short lived issue just when on the ground or near it.
 
Also, funny how Lindberg the pacifist worked so hard to sneak into in a little combat!

Lindbergh wasn't a pacifist, he was an "isolationist". There's a difference...

Didn't you know he was a Nazi sympathizer?

I think calling Lindbergh a Nazi-sympathizer is a bit overkill, but he certainly had an antisemitic background and believed in the nonsense racial theory pseudoscience early on. But this more paralleled the Nazis along with other extremist nationalists around Europe and North America, but IIRC he began to condemn their actions as they became more openly belligerent...
 
I think calling Lindbergh a Nazi-sympathizer is a bit overkill, but he certainly had an antisemitic background and believed in the nonsense racial theory pseudoscience early on. But this more paralleled the Nazis along with other extremist nationalists around Europe and North America, but IIRC he began to condemn their actions as they became more openly belligerent...
Well he did receive the Service Cross of the German Eagle bestowed on behalf of Hitler by Hermann Goering in 1938 and people at the time called him a Nazi sympathizer in the press at the time. If you're really against something, you can always decline it, but he did accept it.
 
Well he did receive the Service Cross of the German Eagle bestowed on behalf of Hitler by Hermann Goering in 1938 and people at the time called him a Nazi sympathizer in the press at the time. If you're really against something, you can always decline it, but he did accept it.

Yeah, I also read he had affairs with at least three German women fathering several "Nordic" children with them. He was an isolationist but did advocate a strong defense in which the US Military could seal off the Western Hemisphere from any European threat. He also believed the stereotypical Jewish cliches, but toured the concentration camps after the war and (privately) condemned Nazi persecutions of the Jews even before the war. He was a man of contradictions, and also a bit of a A-hole. But in the end I don't think he would have had any inclinations about shooting at his former Luftwaffe pals had he been allowed to serve in the USAAF. But yes, his constant apologism for Nazi outrages and policies made this impossible. But one cannot dismiss that he did contribute to the US war effort and helped Henry Ford (also a bit of a ****) transition his plants to bomber production - ones that hit Germany more than they did Japan....
 
As far as the P-38 vs. the P-51 as to which was better, I believe the P-51D was the better overall fighter from an economic and production point of view (one engine vs. two making it much cheaper to produce). It was easier for pilots to learn to fly and it could bring bombers all the way into Germany and back. But there were several pilots at the end of the war that considered the P-38J/L to be a better fighter in the hands of an 'expertin" pilot with a lot of experience. The earlier P-38's such as the H had issues. They could match the range of the bombers, but the pilots couldn't as they froze in cockpits that the twin-boom design struggled to heat at high altitude. But heated flight suits alleviated this, and improvements like the addition of dive flaps and better controls brought it's development on par with anything flying in the final models. But they had been supplanted by the 51 and relegated to special ground attack missions and secondary fighter missions in the ETO.

The P-51 became the F-51 postwar and the P-38 was relegated to history. Ironically, the P-38 was a better ground attack aircraft and excellent dive-bomber with redundant engines that were not liquid-cooled like the P-51's, something of its Achilles heal and the 38 probably would have been a better choice than the F-51 for The Korean War. The P-38 was the first US primary fighter in the ETO/MTO and often was outnumbered by its Luftwaffe and Regia Aeronautica opposition, while suffering from its teething problems and high altitude cabin issues. Still, despite this, the overall loss numbers of P-38's in combat are only slightly worse than that of the P-51 even though the P-51 enjoyed the inverse advantage in numbers against a declining Luftwaffe...
 
We are comparing the pre war designed and produced P-38 with planes developed in 1943 that had the benefit of years of war knowledge. Comparing it to US planes of it's period would include the Brewser Buffalo (obsolete when built), the P-39 Bell Aircobra (a death trap if an enemy fighter was nearby), the P-40 (capable under certain circumstances, but inferior to the P-38) and the Grumman Wildcat. The next generation of fighters included the P-47, the P-51, the F-4U Corsair and the Grumman Hellcat. Even though the next gen fighters were superior to the P-38 under most conditions, the P-38 was the only fighter under production for the full length of the war.
Worth noting is the original P-51 with the Allison engine was a dog nobody wanted. When combined with the Rolls Royce Merlin, it was a star. If the P-38 Allisons were replaced by Merlins, no telling what it could have done.
 
We are comparing the pre war designed and produced P-38 with planes developed in 1943 that had the benefit of years of war knowledge. Comparing it to US planes of it's period would include the Brewser Buffalo (obsolete when built), the P-39 Bell Aircobra (a death trap if an enemy fighter was nearby), the P-40 (capable under certain circumstances, but inferior to the P-38) and the Grumman Wildcat. The next generation of fighters included the P-47, the P-51, the F-4U Corsair and the Grumman Hellcat. Even though the next gen fighters were superior to the P-38 under most conditions, the P-38 was the only fighter under production for the full length of the war.
Worth noting is the original P-51 with the Allison engine was a dog nobody wanted. When combined with the Rolls Royce Merlin, it was a star. If the P-38 Allisons were replaced by Merlins, no telling what it could have done.
The P-38's had Allisons with better forced induction for high altitude performance than the P-51's version. So it wouldn't have made a big difference like it did in the Mustang.
 
Yeah, I also read he had affairs with at least three German women fathering several "Nordic" children with them. He was an isolationist but did advocate a strong defense in which the US Military could seal off the Western Hemisphere from any European threat. He also believed the stereotypical Jewish cliches, but toured the concentration camps after the war and (privately) condemned Nazi persecutions of the Jews even before the war. He was a man of contradictions, and also a bit of a A-hole. But in the end I don't think he would have had any inclinations about shooting at his former Luftwaffe pals had he been allowed to serve in the USAAF. But yes, his constant apologism for Nazi outrages and policies made this impossible. But one cannot dismiss that he did contribute to the US war effort and helped Henry Ford (also a bit of a ****) transition his plants to bomber production - ones that hit Germany more than they did Japan....
Here's a pic of him getting the medal from Hermann Goering. Hard to believe Goering was a WWI fighter ace, he really let himself go as he got older, they say he weighed as much as 300 pound in his later years.
 

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...the P-39 Bell Aircobra (a death trap if an enemy fighter was nearby)...

Not true at all. The P-39 Airacobra was a failure at its intended mission as an interceptor, it was a dog at high altitude and struggled to reach even modest Japanese bombers because of the lack of supercharger that plagued early war Allison engines. However, at low and mid altitudes it could turn and burn with the Me109 and the Soviets found it perfect as a stopgap fighter under Lendlease because most of the air battles over the Soviet Union were at lower levels because of the tactical nature of the air war. Bell even created a P-63 Supercobra at the Soviet request that was comparable to most of the other fighters of the era, and a Packard engined P-39 was tested and it was on par with the P-51, but was only slightly inferior. Several Soviet aces flew the P-39 and loved it for its ruggedness and firepower...

The original Allsion driven P-51 was not "a dog nobody wanted". It had impressive low and mid altitude performance and the RAF loved it in North Africa. But it certainly wasn't going to escort bombers very far...
 
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Not true at all. The P-39 Airacobra was a failure at its intended mission as an interceptor, it was a dog at high altitude and struggled to reach even modest Japanese bombers because of the lack of supercharger that plagued early war Allison engines. However, at low and mid altitudes it could turn and burn with the Me109 and the Soviets found it perfect as a stopgap fighter under Lendlease because most of the air battles over the Soviet Union were at lower levels because of the tactical nature of the air war. Bell even created a P-63 Supercobra at the Soviet request that was comparable to most of the other fighters of the era, and a Packard engined P-39 was tested and it was on par with the P-51, but was only slightly inferior. Several Soviet aces flew the P-39 and loved it for its ruggedness and firepower...

The original Allsion driven P-51 was not "a dog nobody wanted". It had impressive low and mid altitude performance and the RAF loved it in North Africa. But it certainly wasn't going to escort bombers very far...
Respectfully, the P-39 could not survive a nanosecond when there was a Zero anywhere nearby. The US never attempted to use it in Europe. The Soviets would take anything they could get.
As to the Allison equipped P-51, it is lucky to rate a footnote in WW2 history, the Merlin equipped one is considered to be the fighter that won the war.
 
Respectfully, the P-39 could not survive a nanosecond when there was a Zero anywhere nearby. The US never attempted to use it in Europe. The Soviets would take anything they could get.
As to the Allison equipped P-51, it is lucky to rate a footnote in WW2 history, the Merlin equipped one is considered to be the fighter that won the war.

The statistics don't support that, in fact the P-39 shot down as many Zeros (probably some were Ki43 Oscars) as were lost...

Pacific[edit]​


72nd Tactical Recon Group P-39, c. 1942
The United States requisitioned 200 of the aircraft being manufactured for the UK, adopting them as P-400s (named for the advertised top speed of 400 mph (640 km/h)).[citation needed] After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the P-400 was deployed to training units, but some saw combat in the Southwest Pacific including with the Cactus Air Force in the Battle of Guadalcanal.[49] Though outclassed by Japanese fighter aircraft, it performed well in strafing and bombing runs, often proving deadly in ground attacks on Japanese forces trying to retake Henderson Field. Guns salvaged from P-39s were sometimes fitted to Navy PT boats to increase firepower. Pacific pilots often complained about problems of performance and unreliable armament, but by the end of 1942, the P-39 units of the Fifth Air Force had claimed about 80 Japanese aircraft, with a similar number of P-39s lost. Fifth and Thirteenth Air Force P-39s did not score more aerial victories in the Solomons due to the aircraft's limited range and poor high altitude performance.

Airacobras first fought Japanese Zeros on 30 April 1942 in a low level action near Lae, New Guinea. From May to August 1942 combat between Airacobras and Zeros took place on a regular basis over New Guinea. Compilation of combat reports indicates the Zero was either equal to or close to the P-39 in speed at the altitudes of the various low level encounters.
...

The P-39 simply wasn't liked by the USAAF and RAF because it wasn't a high level fighter needed in the Strategic air war of the Western Theater. If you read a bit, you'll find the fight over the East to be vastly different at lower level where airpower was used directly in support of armies on both sides as opposed to against whole economies. The Soviets may have initially "taken what they could get", but the 39 and 63 were used until the end of the war despite the fact that their were excellent MIG and La fighters by that point. The last Soviet AF plane shot down was a P-39. The Soviet kill was by, A P-39! A lowly P-39 shot down a FW190 on around 8 May 1945...
 
Respectfully, the P-39 could not survive a nanosecond when there was a Zero anywhere nearby. The US never attempted to use it in Europe. The Soviets would take anything they could get.
As to the Allison equipped P-51, it is lucky to rate a footnote in WW2 history, the Merlin equipped one is considered to be the fighter that won the war.
You aren't reading very closely. The Allison equipped P-51 was very good at what it was originally intended to do, again at low to mid altitude. It did not have the proper forced induction setup for high altitude. That's why they designed it with the Merlin in mind, from the start, for high altitude work.

And ask the Russians about the P-39. They loved it for a reason. Heck, even Chuck Yeager had some good things to say about it.

If not for the strategic air war at high altitude, the Allison powered planes would have beem much more greatly valued.

And btw, nothing early in the war was doing very well against Zekes until they figured out the strengths/weaknesses of their airplanes. If all we had were P-39s, they would have figured out very quickly how to fight effectively with them. Just like the Wildcat.
 
Technically speaking the 1942 P51 Mustang (437mph) was superior over the 1941 P38 (414mph)... whereas the 1944 Me262 (530mph) was superior over the P51 Mustang... so in my best learned opinion the best plane of WW2 was the brilliant and deadly Me262... it could pick and choose the fight... no P51 pilot wanted to dog fight an opponent that is 100mph faster armed with 4 30mm cannons...


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Not that higher speeds necessarily meant "better", you have to look at things like ceiling as well. The P-38L could reach altitude in about 7 seconds making it an excellent interceptor and had a ceiling of 15,000' whereas the 51 was capped at 13K....

But the P-38L could go faster than the commonly stated max of 414mph, in fact the max was closer to 440mph at full throttle (for limited time) and 421mph is probably the more correct realistic max speed for sustained flying...

I think the final variant of the Mustang, the P-51H-5-NA (essentially a new fighter based on the P-51D) could go up to 482mph at 7K', but was in development and never saw combat...

 
The P-38's had Allisons with better forced induction for high altitude performance than the P-51's version. So it wouldn't have made a big difference like it did in the Mustang.
Very true upon further reflection. I'm not sure Merlins could even have been retrofit into the P-38 like they were with the P-51.
 
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