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Lockheed P-38 Lightning

History of the P-38J Lightning

Production of the fastest variant of the P-38 aircraft, the P-38J high-altitude interceptor, began in 1943. The P-38J was used as a long-range escort fighter and performed many roles and tasks, such as dive-bombing, level bombing, ground strafing (the practice of attacking ground targets from low-lying aircraft) and photoreconnaissance missions during World War II. Production of these aircraft ended in 1945 after 3,000 P-38J models had been built. The P-38 enjoyed several ”firsts” in its illustrious career. It was the first fighter with speeds over 400 mph, the first fighter with tricycle landing gear, the first airplane to employ power-boosted flight controls, the first turbo-supercharged fighter to enter squadron service, the first American plane to use butt-jointed, flush-riveted, all-metal external surfaces and the first twin-engine interceptor to enter service in the Air Corps.

Lockheed P-38J-10-LO Lightning

Serial Number: 42-67638

Manufacturer: Lockheed Aircraft Corporation

Crew: One

Engines: Two Allison V-1710-89/91 inline, 12-cylinder, liquid cooled; 1,425 horsepower each

Wingspan: 52 feet

Length: 37 feet 10 inches

Height: 9 feet 10 inches

Weight: 12,780 pounds (empty); 21,000 pounds (maximum)

Speed: 414 mph at 25,000 feet

Range: 2,260 miles with drop tanks

Service Ceiling: 44,000 feet

Armament: One 20mm cannon, four .50-caliber machine guns, 4,000 pounds bombs or ten 5-inch rockets

Cost: $97,147 (average P-38 cost of unit as of 1944)

The P-38J Lightning at Hill Air Force Base

Even though the P-38 was never stationed at Hill Air Force Fase, the installation performed maintenance on this aircraft’s engines during World War II.

The aircraft on display was manufactured in 1943 and assigned to the 54th Fighter Squadron of the 343rd Fighter Group, 11th Air Force, on the island of Attu in the Aleutians. It crash-landed on February 2, 1945, on Buldir Island, where it remained until 1994 when the Aerospace Heritage Foundation of Utah recovered the aircraft. It was acquired by Hill Aerospace Museum for display in 1996 after the aircraft’s full restoration.