Effectiveness of the P-38

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In the interceptor role then maybe yes, but when someone says fighter, then that would imply tangling with single-engined fighters as well and there the P-38 would be completely out of its depth IMHO: Because even if the later models got boosted ailerons, what counts is not the top roll rate (which the boost certainly helped with) but how fast you can go to say 60 deg bank in one direction, and then rapidly roll over to reverse into a 60 deg turn in the other direction. And this goes for both offense and defense. But the moment of inertia two engines placed out on the wings gives you kills all that. Ergo the P-38 may have been a decent interceptor, but a fighter it is not.

Probably stepped on some P-38 toes right there but the fact still remains that later in WW2, much of the maneuverability research came to center on roll performance and there it was simply out of its depth.

Grabs hat, starts running! ;)
 
...Probably stepped on some P-38 toes right there but the fact still remains that later in WW2, much of the maneuverability research came to center on roll performance and there it was simply out of its depth.

Grabs hat, starts running! ;)
Ya' know, I can't think of many posts from outright fans of the Lightning. Spitfire v. Mustang v. Wurger v. Bf 109 v. Typhoon..... yeah. Does the P-38 have fans, other than aficionados of its Art Deco look?
I'm a bomber guy, myself.
 
Would it be churlish to point out that it has two engines? It therefore needs twice as many engines to make the same number of planes, you also need twice of a lot of other stuff like fuel, cooling systems gauges etc etc etc and the pilot needs more training to fly a twin in combat. However good the P-38 was and it was great in some roles, no one would ever think 10 x P-38s versus 20 x a contemporary single engined fighter was a great ida.
 
Would it be churlish to point out that it has two engines? It therefore needs twice as many engines to make the same number of planes, you also need twice of a lot of other stuff like fuel, cooling systems gauges etc etc etc and the pilot needs more training to fly a twin in combat. However good the P-38 was and it was great in some roles, no one would ever think 10 x P-38s versus 20 x a contemporary single engined fighter was a great ida.

No, I think you have a very valid point: Some time ago I saw a compilation of production costs and as I recall it the P-38 was darn close to being twice as costly as a P-51 IIRC. Can't swear to the exact numbers but they did not come cheap. Then there are the added maintenance and operational costs for a twin as well of course. OTOH, twin safety when flying long range missions over water like in the Pacific is of course a plus and given the square-cube law it's always easier to design in long range into a large plane compared to a small one.
 
However good the P-38 was and it was great in some roles, no one would ever think 10 x P-38s versus 20 x a contemporary single engined fighter was a great ida.
Depends.
Feb 1944 10 x P-38Js vs 20 P-51Bs is a very bad idea.
However, in late summer and early fall of 1942 10 x P-38Gs might very well be a better deal than 20 x P-40Ks or 20 x P-39 K/L. Or Spitfires without two stage Merlins. When did Spitfire V production stop?
 
In the interceptor role then maybe yes, but when someone says fighter, then that would imply tangling with single-engined fighters as well and there the P-38 would be completely out of its depth IMHO: Because even if the later models got boosted ailerons, what counts is not the top roll rate (which the boost certainly helped with) but how fast you can go to say 60 deg bank in one direction, and then rapidly roll over to reverse into a 60 deg turn in the other direction. And this goes for both offense and defense. But the moment of inertia two engines placed out on the wings gives you kills all that. Ergo the P-38 may have been a decent interceptor, but a fighter it is not.

Probably stepped on some P-38 toes right there but the fact still remains that later in WW2, much of the maneuverability research came to center on roll performance and there it was simply out of its depth.

Grabs hat, starts running! ;)
The P-3.8 absolutely showed it could tangle with single-seaters and win.

Didn't make a great impression as a fighter at first, but there were four problems with it when it first arrived in the ETO. Those were, in no particular order:
1) The pilots were green for combat, with no applicable training. That took a bit of time, but ALL people who fly fighters are green when they start, so it wasn't a worse situation than for green pilots flying P-40s except for the twin engine stuff. By way of example, when they first got to Europe, they'd fly into hostile areas at cruise power with the gunsights off. If they were bounced, they'd have to rapidly:
a) Throttle back to avoid overboost.
b) Increase rpm.
c) Throttle up to combat power.
d) turn on the gunsight.

By that time, they were likely already damaged or going down. The simply solution was to come into the area at max continuous and have the gunsights on, but they lost a few before figuring it out.

2) The fuel in the UK was not formulated the same as US fuel. British fuel was uo to 20% aromatics. US fuel was 2% aromatics. That took about 8 - 9 months to figure out because they could not duplicate the issue on the test stand until they got a batch of British fuel. Once the jetting was corrected and everyone was using the same fuel, the issue disappeared. never to reappear.

3) The early Allison intake manifolds were too smooth and the fuel and air separated in them, causing detonation. First, the issue had to be identified and them a solution developed. The solution was to install turbulators inside the manifolds to keep the fuel and air from separating. That took maybe 6 months to implement in the field because they had to identify the issue, develop a solution on the test stand, test it in an airplane, manufacture the new manifolds, ship them to Europe, and change the manifolds in the field.

4) The P-38 flew high in Europe and the early models had a wildly insufficient heater. The tubing run was too long from the engine to the cockpit and the air got cold. The eventual solution was to install an electric heater.

After these four things were fixed, the P-38 was fine but, by that time, the P-51 was in Europe and there was no point supplying two logistics chains, so the bulk of the P-38s went to the MTO, and Pacific areas. It didn't have much trouble fighting whatever it encountered once the issues above were corrected. The only real weakness was a low critical Mach number, and that was not enough of a hindrance to make it a bad fighter.

How bad could it have been?

It was the mount of our two top-scoring aces and 3 of the top 10.

Think hard before calling a bad one.
 
After these four things were fixed, the P-38 was fine but, by that time, the P-51 was in Europe and there was no point supplying two logistics chains, so the bulk of the P-38s went to the MTO, and Pacific areas
To put this in context/timeline.

By the time the P-51 was in Europe the P-38 had been fighting in NA for just about 1 year, In Alaska for 15 months and in the Solomon Islands for about 14 moths, granted in small numbers. P-38s had been in NW Europe for a few weeks in 1942 before going to NA. P-38s were fighting over Sicily and Italy for about 4-5 months before the P-51 shows up in Europe.
A lot of this fighting was done before all of the issues had been worked out.
Counting Nov 1943 as P-51s showing up in Europe.

Before the P-51 showed up the P-38s main rival was the P-47 so perhaps comparing the cost of those two planes should be looked at ;)
 
("one" = fighter)
Care to elaborate?
A P38 and Spit 14 had a low level fight in front of a crowd of spectators, the fight was called off when the P38 was forced into the ground almost crashing when the pilot lost control, the Spit just flew around it in circles. The report is on here somewhere.
 
That happens when someone unfamiliar with an aircraft tries to "fight" it against an aircraft flown by someone familiar with his mount.

Actually, that was the case in almost all foreign fighter versus our fighter flyoffs. We took someone unfamiliar with the foreign fighter and flew it against one of ours flown by one of our pilots who knew it well. The result was usually good for propaganda purposes, as it was intended.

They always concluded, "ours is better!." What WERE they going to say? "O shit!" That wouldn't be good for morale, for sure.

I'm not suggesting an early P-38 could take a Spitfire, but almost flying it into the ground say a large amount about the pilot's familiarity with the P-38 ... not very!

Spitfire didn't do very well in Australia over Darwin, either versus Zeros. That didn't mean Spitfires were bad fighters. It meant the Spitfire pilots were unfamiliar with their Japanese opponents, their mounts, and their tactics.

Cheers.
 
I'm not suggesting an early P-38 could take a Spitfire, but almost flying it into the ground say a large amount about the pilot's familiarity with the P-38 ... not very!
The pilot was cutting the throttle of the inner engine to sharpen his turn, it almost went into a flat spin so the fight was called off.
Spitfire didn't do very well in Australia over Darwin, either versus Zeros. That didn't mean Spitfires were bad fighters. It meant the Spitfire pilots were unfamiliar with their Japanese opponents, their mounts, and their tactics.
Everything was against it so not a fair comparison.
 
Ya' know, I can't think of many posts from outright fans of the Lightning. Spitfire v. Mustang v. Wurger v. Bf 109 v. Typhoon..... yeah. Does the P-38 have fans, other than aficionados of its Art Deco look?

Well, I'm a huge fan -- mostly for its art deco look, though. I even prefer the early cowling look...
 

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Depends.
Feb 1944 10 x P-38Js vs 20 P-51Bs is a very bad idea.
However, in late summer and early fall of 1942 10 x P-38Gs might very well be a better deal than 20 x P-40Ks or 20 x P-39 K/L. Or Spitfires without two stage Merlins. When did Spitfire V production stop?
The last Spitfire Vc were delivered from Castle Bromwich in Aug 1943.

Spitfire IX production began June 1942 (earliest aircraft were conversions of Vc airframes by Supermarine & Rolls Royce before Supermarine production got underway). CBAF began the switchover to Mark IX production from Feb/March 1943 with a number of Vc airframes built in the changeover period converted to Mark IX at MUs.
Spitfire VII production began Aug 1942
Spitfire VIII production began in Nov 1942.
 
The P-3.8 absolutely showed it could tangle with single-seaters and win.

I think the P-38 checks a lot of boxes: Speed? Very good. Including at high altitude. Climb? Absolutely. At least when some fuel has burned off. Turn rate? Quite good, especially with the Fowler-flaps dropped to manoverability setting. Armament? While not that many on paper, they are concentrated in the nose so pretty much devastating. Range? Very good, especially compared to many single-engined fighters. Dive? Not so much: The Mach tuck problems were never really sorted out and the dive brake solution was more of a crutch if anything. So not a very good feature to have given the German's favourite tactic of the split-S followed by a dive.

But then comes the big Achilles heel: Two heavy engines out in the wings. In addition, main fuel tanks in the inner wings. Added to that fuel tanks far out in the outer wings. Sum all of that together and you have a horrendous moment of inertia to overcome when you want to roll it. Compare that to a typical German single with armament in the nose or even synchronized cannons close to the fuselage centerline. Fuel tank under, or L-shaped by the pilot in the centerline. All of which summed together means low moment of inertia and that changing direction by rolling in one direction and reversing into another is easy peasy in the typical German single.

Even Spitfire pilots complained about the Fw-190's rolling and that "turning does not win battles". Now imagine sitting in a P-38 trying to stay on the tail of a Bf-109 or Fw-190 rolling left and right in front of you? This is when that moment of inertia is going to come back and bite you, boosted ailerons or not.

Francis Dean's excellent book America's 100 thousand has a nice section about the P-38 under the chapter "Maneuvering" on page 160 with some pilot's quotes as well which says pretty much the same thing: The P-38's roll acceleration was abysmal.

So I'm certainly with you on the P-38 being a great interceptor, but on the question if it also was a great fighter able to dogfight a single I have to respectfully disagree. ;)
 
The trouble with the P-38 is it was initially conceived as an interceptor, used as a long range fighter and then switched to the fighter bomber role in the ETO...
All its imperfections, coupled with the pilots inexperience notwithstanding, it could fly at heights inconceivable for the P-39 and P-40, farther than both and the P-47, at a time when the Merlin P-51 was yet to be.
By the Way, in the rough climates of PTO or Aleutians, it did not met the troubles it had in the ETO.
By the way, my father was almost strafed by a P-38 in 1944...
 
The P-38 was almost everything the USAAF units fighting the Japanese wanted, it had a real speed and altitude advantage over its opponents for much of the war, twin engine safety, the ability to carry a large amount of external fuel giving it a large combat radius, it could enter combat with full internal tanks, as operations were usually at medium altitude its problems with low temperatures and dive speed limit were usually irrelevant and no one was going to try and turn with Japanese fighters.

Against the axis in Europe the performance advantages went away and more operations were done in lower temperatures and higher altitudes, the Germans also preferred to fight in the vertical than horizontal, the range was still there and there is no doubt the presence of P-38s cut bomber losses.

Combat sorties:
8th AF in 1944,
P-38 241 MIA and 77 Category E claiming 238 enemy aircraft destroyed, 30 probable, 103 damaged.
P-47 396 MIA and 172 Category E claiming 1,147 enemy aircraft destroyed, 94 probable, 427 damaged.
P-51 964 MIA and 285 Category E claiming 2,630 enemy aircraft destroyed, 123 probable, 560 damaged.

15th AF for war,
P-38 514 losses claiming 608 enemy aircraft destroyed, 123 probable, 343 damaged.
P-51 410 losses claiming 976 enemy aircraft destroyed, 88 probable, 247 damaged.
Of the known losses 131 P-38 and 51 P-51 to enemy aircraft, 62 P-38 and 116 P-51 lost to unknown causes.

Not really comparable as the 9th Air Force did few air superiority missions,
P-38 317 missing and 77 Category E claiming 266 enemy aircraft destroyed, 32,928 credit sorties
P-47 1,208 missing and 249 Category E claiming 1,127.5 enemy aircraft destroyed, 197,191 credit sorties
P-51 253 missing and 19 Category E claiming 750 enemy aircraft destroyed, 24,505 credit sorties

ETO P-38 groups operational 1 in Oct 43, 2 end Dec 43, 3 in Jan 44, 4 in Apr 44, 7 in May 44, 4 end July 44, 3 in Sep 44, 2 in Feb 45, 1 in Mar 45.

MTO 3 P-38 groups from early 1943

USAAF statistical digest P-38 strengths
end December 1943, ETO 381, MTO 216, versus Japan 356
end May 1944, ETO 673, MTO 377, versus Japan 502
End December 1944 ETO 257, MTO 318, versus Japan 681
End April 1945, ETO 244, MTO 335, versus Japan 927, peaked at 1,557 end July 1945.

Average cost, 1943 P-38 $105,567, P-47 $104,258, P-51 $58,824, 1944 P-38 $97,147, P-47 $85,578, P-51 $51,572

Spitfire V production end, Supermarine November 1942, Castle Bromwich August 1943, Westland October 1943.
Start of production Spitfire VII September 1942, VIII November 1942, IX June 1942 at Supermarine, February 1943 at Castle Bromwich, XII October 1942, XIV October 1943.
 

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