1942 and on: RAF fields 'proper' P-38s - consequences?

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by tomo pauk, Aug 22, 2012.

  1. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    I'm sure people in the forum are aware about the unhappy story about P-38s that were to be received by RAF (non-turbo, same rotation 1040 HP V-1710s). Long story short, the plane was under performer for 1942, and only few were produced.
    So what could be the plausible consequences (strategic, tactical, technical), with RAF fielding P-38s like ones USAAF was fielding, from P-38F on, in good numbers, form early 1942 on?
     
  2. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    The results could have been significant - though not game changing. P-38's were impressive in the role of both pathfinders and light-fast bombers. P-38's with turbos and 'handed' engines would have provided an option to the Mosquito - with a crew of one. The RAF would have 'wrung out' many of the issues the P-38 had before the USAAF arrived and deployed. In RAF hands the P-38 would have probably operated at low to medium altitudes which in itself would have relieved many of the comfort issues with the plane.

    MM
     
  3. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    I had been told that one of the reasons why the RAF "really" initially purchased these aircraft (with Lend Lease Money) was to bridge a gap in the production line and it was they who came up with the "Lightning" name. The turbo chargers used on the P-38 were actually "furnished" by the US Government as well as some other equipment that would not have been part of the procurement deal. After the initial 3 were delivered, (Model P-332s) the remaining aircraft went to a Dallas mod center and later used as trainers. This story was told to me about 30 years ago by some old timers who were working on the P-38 production line, hard to say if this was a myth or a real undocumented fact.

    I don't know if they could really have served a purpose for the RAF except as a trainer or a low altitude recon aircraft. They possibly could have been used over the UK as an interceptor for harrassing bombers, but as stated their performance was dismal. They did not have counter-rotating propellers either.
     
  4. wuzak

    wuzak Well-Known Member

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    Do you think that a P-38 pilot may be a bit overwhelmed by the amount of work he has to do by himself? Navigating at night, for example.

    Where do you stick Oboe and its electronics? In pathfinder Mosquitos that equipment was in the nose, in the bomb aimer's position. I suppose that could be done for the Lightning, but then you have no guns (so equal to the Mossie in those terms). What about H2S? Can a pilot fly an aircraft with his head buried in a radar scope?

    Then there is the matter of target marking. Amongst others the RAF used 500lb and 1000lb Target Indicators - basically the same size as their equivalent MC bombs. On the Lightning these have to be carried externally, which restricts performance and range.

    I can't see the Lightning providing a viable alternative to the Mosquito for pathfinding.

    It could be used as a night fighter, but not radar equipped. It could be used for short cross channel raids as a light bomber, with Spitfires as escorts.
     
  5. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    FYI - unless you're relying on electronic equipment, navigating at night (even during WW2) is no easier (or difficult) in a multi engine aircraft than a single engine aircraft - sometimes it's actually easier.
     
  6. wuzak

    wuzak Well-Known Member

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    Said nothing about twin engined aircraft vs single engined aircraft. In any case the comparison was between the Lightning and teh Mosquito, which was also a twin - but had two crew.

    For the Lightning to be useful as a pathfinder it would need to use electronic equipment in order to accurately find the target and mark it. In WW2 RAF that meant Gee-H, Oboe and H2S, predominately the latter two. Can a single pilot operate that equipment and fly the plane?
     
  7. R Pope

    R Pope Member

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    "If " the Brits had lots of P-38's, they might have hung Merlins on them!
     
  8. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    #8 FLYBOYJ, Aug 23, 2012
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2012
    Regardless. A crew of two would take some work load off a pilot but regardless of the aircraft, my point, night navigation under VFR conditions is not that difficult. A navigator helps but nothing a pilot flying solo in a twin engine aircraft couldn't do by himself.
     
  9. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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    The story about the turbos being government-furnished equipment is true. The British planes would have been OK with handed engines, but they didn't handle very well on same-turning engines.

    It took the USAAC about a year to find out the European fuel was a different mix and get the carburetion correct, and it took about 6 - 7 months to figure out the intake manifold issues. Once they did that, the performance of the Allisons was just fine, and the Merlins would not have changed much since the Allisons were right at home at high altitude when equipped with turbochargers and carbureted correctly. Once they were "fixed," most Lightnings were transferred to the PTO rather rapidly since there was simply no point in having both the Lightnuing and the P-51 in the same theater. Why have two sets of mechanics when one set will do?

    I believe that if the British had ordered standard Lightnings of the J and H varieties, they would have been quite significant. I have never really thought the F model was combat ready. I can tell you this, changing the engines on Glacier Girl (a P-38F) is a nightmare compared with changing the engines on the Planes of Fame P-38J. You almost have to disassemble the F model to get the engine out. Let's just say it ain't all that easy on the J model, but the F model makes the same work on the J look easy by comparison.

    The low critical Mach number was fixable, but maybe not at the time. With what we know NOW, it could have been fixed easy enough but, in WWII, maybe it was just a limitation you'd have to live with for awhile, maybe the whole war. Still, the "fixes," including the dive flaps, WERE a partial solution that made reaching or exceeding the critical Mach nnumber a survivable event.
     
  10. wuzak

    wuzak Well-Known Member

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    If it wasn't such a problem the RAF wouldn't have needed pathfinders in the first place.
     
  11. wuzak

    wuzak Well-Known Member

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    The engines were probably GFE too.
     
  12. Wildcat

    Wildcat Well-Known Member

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    An Air Force that really would have benifited with the P-38 was the RAAF in the PTO.
     
  13. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    Valid point Joe but we're talking about RAF use of the P-38...that means flying over the UK and Europe...at night. VFR not so much, methinks! :)
     
  14. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    People, how come we discuss usage of the day fighter for night duties? Replacement for Mosquito?? C'mon.
     
  15. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    The only reason why pathfinders were needed is because the RAF was expected to go out at night in all conditions and find their targets. On a moonlit night you can see terrain and ground features quite well, this is from actual flying experience and I'm sure other civilian and former military pilots on this forum will agree with me. It's when target areas become obscured either by weather or defensive measures where pathfinders become necessary, aside from marking the target.
     
  16. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    #16 FLYBOYJ, Aug 23, 2012
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2012
    They were and that's another reason why the "Merlin Myth" was so difficult to really confirm, but that's another story.
    Agree!!!
    You're probably right, especially in the winter months but it was still done by other aircraft.
    The only thing that makes the Mosquito a "night fighter" was it's radar equipment. Aside from things like flame arrestors and minor cockpit mods, true WW2 night fighters were based on the installation of radar. After WW2 when this equipment became "standard" notice how the "night fighter" term went into the sunset.
     
  17. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    #17 michaelmaltby, Aug 23, 2012
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2012
    Also ... all Navigators are not equal .... using the most talented as Pathfinders was intelligent. Didn't the USAAF use lead Bombardiers in daylight Ops even with the Norden ....?
     
  18. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    Yep - and later in the war I believe bombadier positions were manned by NCOs who just released the bombs on the lead's command - these guys were known as "togglers."
     
  19. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    I think the P-332s would have been a great home defense fighter and multi engine trainer for the RAF, nothing much more.
     
  20. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    Doh :)

    A day fighter, turboed, with handed (= opposite rotation) engines, P-38 (F,G,H) for the RAF (okay, and RAAF, RNZAF, RCAF) units - how about that? As already stated in the 1st post...
     
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