Lockheed P-38K 'Lightning'

  Base model:P-38
  Designation System:U.S. Air Force
  Designation Period:1925-1947
  Basic role:Pursuit

  Length: 37' 10" 11.5 m
  Wingspan: 52' 0" 15.8 m
  Gross Weight: 17,700 lb 8,027 kg

  No. of Engines: 2
  Powerplant: Allison V-1710-75/77
  Horsepower (each): 1425

  Max Speed: 400 mph 644 km/h 348 kt

Known serial numbers


Recent comments by our visitors
 Steve Tisdale
 , NC
No wonder the P-38 Lightning is one of my favorite planes!It would have outperformed most anything other than a Me-262!
03/28/2008 @ 09:50 [ref: 20270]
 Steve Tisdale
 , NC
No wonder the P-38 Lightning is one of my favorite planes!It would have outperformed most anything other than a Me-262!
03/28/2008 @ 09:50 [ref: 20269]
 Tom Brown
 , OH
On the subject of cowlings, the previous post seems to be confusing the P-38K with the P-38H. When production began on the P-38J with its new chin-mounted core intercoolers, Lockheed subcontractors were initially unable to provide enough of the new components to supply both of Burbank's twin production lines. With commanders in all theaters crying for more P-38's, a hybrid model was approved for production on one of the lines. Of the dozen J model prototypes with Allison V-1710F-17 engines (LAC c/n's 1001 through 1012), one (1005) was completed with wing intercoolers and the old-style cowlings and Prestone cooler scoops. This became the H model prototype, and 600 additional H models were built from June-Dec., 1943.

Another of these J prototypes (1004) morphed into the one and only XP-38K-1-LO. Unable to get approval for a Merlin-powered P-38, Kelly Johnson's engineers set up c/n 1004 from the beginning for Allison's F-15 variant which had a gear reduction ratio of 2.36-1 (the F-17's ratio was 2-1) and Hamilton-Standard's paddle props. The K's performance was, in a word, breathtaking. At critical altitude (29,600'), it was 14mph faster than the J's 418mph. At 40,000 feet, it was 40mph faster (384mph TAS on military power, not WEP)! Sent it to Elgin Field, the P-38K was judged outstandingly superior in speed and rate of climb to the latest and greatest offerings from all of the AAF's contractors.

Unfortunately, the hydraulically controlled H-S props required a larger spinner which raised the cowl heights an inch and also modified the interface with the intercooler/oil cooler inlet. Whatever the P-38K's performance gains, the War Production Board, having already accepted the P-38H compromise, was unwilling to idle a line long enough to retool for such drastic changes. When you consider the WPB allowed Vultee to crank out 1145 absolutely worthless Vengeances from the start of 1943 until June, 1944 when the C-V Nashville plant was finally ordered to convert into the long-needed second source of P-38 production, the decision becomes an unspeakable tragedy. So, too, was the time the WPB allowed Continental to waste developing and building 23 inverted IV-1430 engines. Continental finally got around to producing 797 Americanized Merlins before the end of the war, but, like Vultee's 113 Nashville-built P-38L-5-VN's, it was but a drop into the contribution bucket compared to the time, manpower and resources they'd already wasted. Ditto for Curtiss, Brewster, General Motors and Lycoming.

For some reason tied to the fog of war, no Lockheed photograph was ever taken of the actual P-38K-1-LO. There is, however, a photograph of a paddle-bladed imposter. When the P-38E was introduced in 1941, a number were bailed to Lockheed for testing under the designation RP-38E ("R" meaning "Restricted" at that time). Several were converted to "piggyback" configuration, enabling an engineer to ride behind the pilot during buffeting tests. One of these was the first P-38E (41-1983/LAC c/n 5201) which would eventually become the proving ground for the P-38J's core intercoolers. With the wing intercoolers blocked off, 5201 had chin-mounted cored intercoolers installed. The old Prestone coolers remained, but crude, thin-gauge sheet steel cowls were formed to give the nacelles the look of a P-40E/F cross. Any picture showing a well worn P-38J with old-style Prestone coolers and "01" on the tail is actually this RP-38E was known around Lockheed as "The Mule." The P-38K was to be the Mule's next incarnation, and its battered cowling was stretched again to accomodate the F15 engine and H-S props. WIth the J model's new Prestone coolers, a fresh paint job and (finally) the correct set of tail numbers, RP-38E (41-1983) stood for the Lockheed photographer in its up-to-date paddle-bladed finery, and this is the photograph usually identified as the "P-38K-1-LO."

The "K-Mule" kept its piggyback configuration throughout, and engineers routinely rode on test flights. The AAF's plant representative was on board for one flight to maximum altitude which was conducted with manuevering flaps extended to offset Army Hot Day conditions then prevailing in the LA area. Even in this unclean form, the tired old K-Mule still topped out at over 45,000 feet!

02/03/2005 @ 11:15 [ref: 9344]
 Virgil Hilts aka Savage
 , TN
The P-38K was equipped with a pair of Allisons that were different from any other model Allison V1710. They had in excess of 1800 horsepower, not the 1400 quoted here. The propellers were Hamilton Standard High Activity Paddle propelles with hydrostatic pitch control. It also had the intercoolers and fully automatic doors for the intercoolers, oil coolers, and radiators that were developed for the P-38J. The cowls in front of the engines however were the older model cowls similar to the H model and earlier planes. These were more aerodynamic, and were easier to modify, as the cowls had to be modified for the larger propellers, the spinners, and the gear reduction units that went with them. The actual top speed of the
P-38K was in excess of 450 MPH at a critical altitude of 29,600 feet. The climb rate was in excess of 5,00 feet per minute. The prototype, fully laden to 100% combat weight, took off from a standing start and reached 20,000 feet in 4 minutes. The service ceiling was in excess of 44,000 feet. The performance of the P-38K was such that no other propeller driven fighter was an even match.
09/07/2001 @ 13:45 [ref: 3129]
 , MO
About the P38K. It was a prototype that never made it into production. It used the Hamilton "Paddle blade" Prop, different versions of the Allison V-1710, and outperformed every other fighter of the era, with a 4800 fpm ROC, 480 MPH top speed at 25k, and a better acceleration and powerloading than all other fighters. The problem of Lockheed only having a single production site for the P38 prohibited the K model making it into production because the retooling would've taken a few weeks, which the War Department could not abide. Had it made it's way into production, this fighter would've made obsolete such fighters as the P51 Mustang, the Supermarine Spitfire XIV, and most other top performing fighters at the time.
03/09/2001 @ 01:22 [ref: 1789]


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