P-38 vs P-51: Full internal fuel dogfighting

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by gjs238, Feb 6, 2013.

  1. gjs238

    gjs238 Well-Known Member

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    Which was the better dog-fighter with a full load of internal fuel?
    I understand the P-51 had issues with the fuselage tank.
     
  2. bobbysocks

    bobbysocks Well-Known Member

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    if they didnt burn down the fuse tank the center of gravity was off and they were limited on some of the maneuvers. that is why they ran it down to 25-30 gallons right after take-off.
     
  3. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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    #3 GregP, Feb 6, 2013
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2013
    With the fuselage tank full, you could not dogfight the P-51 at all. You could run and you could hose somebody in front of you, but a rearward CG is not conducive to hard maneuvering. The P-38 had no such issues. However, they P-51's in the ETO and elsewhere that used the fuselage tank used the fuel in it first as stated above and were pretty much OK by the time they got to enemy territory.

    The P-51 would no doubt out-turn the P-38 by a margin once the CG was OK and was slightly faster, but the P-38 could easily outclimb and out accelerate the P-51. Plus it had all the armament on centerline. I'd take a P-38, the mount of our top two aces in the war ... but therre is nothing whatsoever wrong with the P-51. The Mustang shot down more enemy planes as a type than did the P-38, but both are very good.

    In the Pacific, the P-38's second engine would ease the pilot's mind somewhat about engine trouble I'm sure, but the single engine planes didn't suffer huge losses due to engine issues, so maybe its an overblown fear. I see no downside to either pick. They would, of course, be employed somewhat differently from one another. Against each other they never fought, so that is a what if that can be debated. I choose not to since it never happened and there is no definitive answer, just opinions ... and everybody has one.
     
  4. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    Fine post.
    One thing: would the P-51 really out-turn the P-38?
     
  5. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    I don't think either aircraft was particularly good for dog fighting. Neither was P-47. These aircraft need to escort bombers @ 25,000+ feet.
     
  6. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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    I have the VN diagram for a P-51 but not for a P-38, so I can't say for sure right now. I think the P-51 would out-turn the P-38 but could well be wrong since I really have only one side of the question to evaluate.

    If anyone has the VN diagram for a P-38 ... would you post it?

    Thanks!
     
  7. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    #7 drgondog, Feb 7, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 7, 2013
    The formulas for the factory manuals are the same as in the Aero books.

    From another forum

    From Report on Joint Fighter Conference NAS Patuxent River MD 16-23 October 1944 - the source for Dean's "America's One Hundred Thousad"

    Best Rudder = P-51 and P-38 tied at 6% in 6th place with twice as many favorable comments as the P-47 at 3% - (pg 318 ). This was the P-38's second Highest relative ranking in the Appemdix. Fighter exhibiting greatest All around Stability F6F 1st at 33%, P-47 4th at 11%t, F8F/P-51 tied for 5th at 6%, P-63 at 3%,P-38 1%, Best All Around Fighter Above 25K -P-47 1st at 45%, P-51 2nd at 39%, F4U-1 3rd at 7%, P-38 dead last. Best All Around Fighter below 25K - F8F 1st at 30%, P-51 second at 29%, F4U-1 at 27%, P-38 less than 2% with Mosquito, F6F, F4U-4, F2G ranked at 2% (pg 319); Worst Cockpit -P38 1st at 55% (pg 316)55%, Best All Around Visibility P-51 1st at 35%, P-47 2nd at 27%, F8F at 22%(p 317); Nicest Harmonization of Control Forces - F4U-1 1st at 26%, P-51 2nd at 20%. F6F at 14%; Best Ailerons at 100mph- F6F 1st at 36% F4U-1 2nd at 18%, P-47 4th at 6%, P-51 at 5% and P-38 at 3%; Best ailerons at 350 P-51 1st 33%, F4U-1 2nd 20%, P-38 3rd 19%, F6F 4th 9%, F8F 5th 6%, P-47 6th 4%


    The assmebled USN, USAAF, RAF and Contractor pilots weren't impressed by the P-38L-5 versus the P-51 or the Navy fighters..

    The answer regarding turning is 'it depends'. The P-38 manuever flap worked better with fowler concept than the 51 hinged flap - so advantage to P-38 at low speed/high G and high AoA... but so would a 109 with LE Slats in the hands of a pro.

    As to full fuel load, the only time a Mustang would (should) have more than 25 gallons in the fuel tank is after engine warm up, taxi, take off and climb to altitude. SOP was to burn it down before switching to externals.
     
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  8. Milosh

    Milosh Well-Known Member

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    Didn't some P-51s take off with a full load of fuel when under attack and make some 'kills' during Bodenplatte?
     
  9. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    #9 drgondog, Feb 7, 2013
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2016
    Yes, specifically J.C. Meyer. It was basically rotate, shoot, gear up and go look for the next one.

    The 190 that he shot down had a choice of shooting Meyer or the C-47 on the side of the runway - and it chose the C-47 giving Meyer time to turn slightly for an 1145 head on slight deflection shot. This was at Asch Y-29.

    Based on the narrative he probably did not have full internal tanks - the 352nd was flying CAP for 9th AF P-47s attacking near St. Vith so they also did not have drop tanks.
     
  10. davparlr

    davparlr Well-Known Member

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    Some of the P-51s like those at Asch were on combat patrol standby. I think it is highly unlikely that they had the extended range tanks full. Others, I don't know.
     
  11. cherry blossom

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    #11 cherry blossom, Feb 8, 2013
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2013
    I am very hesitant in telling this as I may have been the victim of a tall story but ....

    My relative Jim Rattray commanded a squadron of RAF Mustangs just after the end of the war in Europe and he told me that an aircraft had taken off for combat practise with the fuselage tank inadvertently filled. Another Mustang made a pass at this aircraft which turned into the attack. The attacking aircraft could not follow the very tight turn and broke off. The Mustang with the filled tank continued to turn and then broke up with the wings folding at the centre section so that the pilot fell out of aircraft, having lost consciousness due to the high G. Somehow, his parachute opened and he apparently survived.

    When I was told this in about 1960-5, my young mind believed it completely. However, writing now, I feel very suspicious but unfortunately, I cannot ask Jim.
     
  12. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    It is entirely possible. If the 51 with a full load of fuel in a high G turn 'departed' and snap rolled with a full load of fuel he could have a.) snapped the fuselage aft of the wing or b) lost one, then the other wing - all due to exceeding the ultimate load limit for the heavily loaded fighter.

    It is Not likely that the turn itself caused the failure but it is possible. Far more likely would be a sudden violent stall and subsequent snap roll into an inverted spin. Somewhere between the stall and inverted spin is probably where the airplane failed in wing or epennage.
     
  13. davparlr

    davparlr Well-Known Member

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    Heavy loaded fighters need to be flown as bombers. Even the F-4, when it came out, was notorious for departure when maneuvering with certain loads, IIRC.
     
  14. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    The P38 was never designed for dog fighting. It was an interceptor. Of course it would be at a disadvantage in that type of fight against a single engine fighter.

    As for the general dislike of the P38 by the pilots at that conference; I wonder what their feelings would be if they were over the vast stretches of the Pacific in a single engine fighter, and they heard their engine start to cut out. Every single one of them would praise the P38 for being THE best fighter we had in the PTO.
     
  15. MikeGazdik

    MikeGazdik Member

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    #15 MikeGazdik, Feb 8, 2013
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2013
    This is just my opinion, and how my knowledge has evolved over many years. Many things which I had firm believe in has changed over the few years I have been on this forum, learning.

    Somewhere back in time, if you cared to search, you would see on some thread about 'best fighter" or something. I said I would take a P-38L on against all comers. Knowledge has changed my opinion. I still love the plane, but my opinions have changed. I know prior to learning so much here, my opinion on how awesome the P-38 was borne of reading about its exploits against Japanese aircraft. I now know the Lightning held a huge speed and power advantage over those aircraft which gave it the advantage.

    As much as I love the old Lockheed, I feel now that I would not want to face a P-51, or several other top tier WWII single engine fighters in a one on one situation.

    That doesn't mean if I play arm-chair General I wouldn't want a boat-load of them in my air force, because I would. They are a fantastic weapon capable of many missions.

    But it is still the sexiest thing with wings ever to take to the sky!!
     
  16. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    Mike - you know that I like the Mustang for a variety of reasons. Having said that the P-38L was a very good fighter with a lot of performance features that a good pilot could use to defeat any contemporary fighter depending on the tactical position and skill of the pilot. Ditto for the F4U, P-47, Bf 109, Fw 190, Spit, Ki 84, Yak 3, etc etc. The general theory of "he who has altitude and sees the other guy first" is a high probability winner.
     
  17. Tante Ju

    Tante Ju Banned

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    Is there turn time available for these two fighters perhaps available?
     
  18. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    Interesting question. The Soviets seemed most interested in obtaining actual minimum turn times and had access to P-51B's in very limited quantity. AFAIK they never had either a P-38L or P-38J-25 to perform tests on.

    Even doing the calcs for the P-38 with manuevering flaps to raise the CL in high G turns is suspect because the Fowler Flaps also had high drag values as a function of deployment - I haven't seen those values in a reliable format.

    Calculations for both are feasible with a range of error based on difficulty in plugging combination of increased Profile drag due to high Angle of Attack as well as carefully looking at prop efficiencies at high power/low speed profiles.

    Modern computer modelling is very sophisticated and should be capable of doing such calculations but I haven't seen any results.
     
  19. davparlr

    davparlr Well-Known Member

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    I am sure that most of those pilots were single engine drivers and the large and admittedly more complex twin engine aircraft would require more training to be able to get the best out of it.
     
  20. Tante Ju

    Tante Ju Banned

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    I find it amusing because US report are generally the most through... and almost everyone produced some sort of estimate or measurements of the turn time of fighters. So, I find it difficult to believe that the USAAF never had an interest for such solid turn time figures, and would put up with with 'well we flew his pursuit plane against that pursuit plane, and pilots say the latter was a bit better in turns.'

    Surely such figures must exist somewhere.. the Soviets did some tests with Allison Mustang (23 secs) and an early P-47D (26 secs), which does not seem unreasonable, but there is alway a way of error with foreign planes tested... also it difficult to extrapolate turn times from that to the Merlin Mustang, which was different in too many ways.
     
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