The Lightning was designed in 1937 as a high-altitude interceptor. The first one built made its public debut on February 11th, 1939 by flying from California to New York in seven hours. Because of its unorthodox design, the aeroplane experienced “growing pains” and it required several years to perfect it for combat. Late in 1942, it went into large-scale operations during the North African campaign where the German Luftwaffe named it “Der Gabelschwanz Teufel”–“The Forked-Tail Devil.”
Equipped with droppable fuel tanks under its wings, the P-38 was used extensively as a long-range escort fighter and saw action in practically every major combat area of the world. A very versatile aircraft, the Lightning was also used for dive bombing, level bombing, ground strafing and photo reconnaissance missions.
By the end of production in 1945, 9.923 P-38s had been built. Less than a handful is still existing.
Span: 52 ft. (15,85 m)
Length: 37 ft. 10 in. (11,60 m)
Height: 12 ft. 10 in. (4 m)
Weight: 17,500 lbs. (7,938 kg) loaded
Armament: Four .50-cal. machine guns and one 20mm cannon
Engines: Two Allison V-1710s of 1,475 hp. ea.
Maximum speed: 414 mph (665 km/h)
Cruising speed: 275 mph (440 km/h)
Range: 1,100 miles (1,760 km)
Service Ceiling: 40,000 ft. (12,190 m)