The P-38J and L in the European theater.

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by DSR T-888, Sep 22, 2014.

  1. DSR T-888

    DSR T-888 New Member

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    When the problems were finally fixed for the P-38, it was too late since the Mustang was already proving dominance. So my question is; how did/would the P-38J-25 and P-38L-5-LO preform against German fighters in the European theater if some of the USAAF still used the P-38 up until the end of the war.

    Thanks
    DSR_T-888

    http://www.456fis.org/THE P-38/P-38speedchart.JPG
    http://www.456fis.org/THE P-38/P-38climb.JPG
    http://www.456fis.org/THE P-38/P-38rollchart.JPG

    http://www.wwiiaircraftperformance.org/p-38/p-38-tactical-chart.jpg
     
  2. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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    #2 GregP, Sep 22, 2014
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2014
    My thoughts are that the P-38 suffered from 4 basic faults ... until they were fixed.

    1. The pilots had VERY little to no training. The P-38 required a lot of actions to get from cruise to combat ready condition. The early guys were probably shot down while trying to accomplish this task.
    2. The early Allison had an issue with the intake manifold that took some months to sorts out; the solution was simple and easy, but they had to FIND it ... and did.
    3. The issue with European fuel versus American fuel wasn't understood until we GOT some European fuel. After that, the "fix" was a simple jetting change.
    4. The "fix" for the poor cockpit heater was also simple; use an electric heater.

    The late model P-38's HAD the fixes are were dangerous opponets to any air force, Japanese or German. The cirtical mach number didn't change but WAY too much has been made of that. Had they been used as escort fighters that mach number thing would be of little import. The idea is to get the enemy fighters away from the bombers and if they dive away at high mach, the task is automatically accomplished. The enemy HAS to stay and fight at the bomber's altitude to be effective since that's where the bombers are. If they don't ... defacto mission accomplished.

    The armament was always good since it didn't have to be aimed to converge. I think thay would have dome just fine with pilot training and the bugs fixed. After the P-38J-20, they also had hydraulic aileron boost to materially increase the roll rate. That HAD to help.

    Obviously this is a "what if," but it's a good one that hasn't been largely explored. I posutlate that the late model P-38's would have been effective. As effective as the P-51's? Hard to say. They set a high mark. I think it would depend on who was using them and how they were employed. Had the same people flying the P-51's been flying the P-38's in maanner to exploit the P-38's strengths, perhaps the results would have been siimilar. The job would have gotten done.

    Thing is, P-38 fan thougn I am, I am ALSO a big P-51 fan. So I wouldn't want to deprive the world of the immortal P-51 to achieve better P-38 success. Tough "what if" to actually wish for.
     
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  3. wuzak

    wuzak Well-Known Member

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    2 3 are one and the same. The fix for the "fuel issues" was a revision to the intake manifold. A fix which was underway before the P-38 experienced the fuel problems in Europe.
     
  4. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    No more than single engine fighters, you just had to do the same thing twice (and at the same time) and this would be typical for any twin engine fighter.
     
  5. DSR T-888

    DSR T-888 New Member

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  6. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    #6 drgondog, Sep 22, 2014
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2014
    Respectfully, the compressibility issue crippled the P-38's ability to chase and close on the FW 190 and Bf 109s. The LW was aware of the weakness and a split Ess, if actuated immediately was an 'out' move. The J-25 'fix' with dive flaps didn't achieve anything but the ability to control the dive and get out of compressibility hell sooner.

    The 479th FG was last 8th AF FG to use the P-38. I have found no record of anything newer than the J-15 and don't know when the Dive Flap mod was applied in the field, but the J-25 didn't arrive into 9th AF units until September, 1944.

    From a success evaluation perspective, July marked initiation of notable air to air positive results - particularly with the 55th FG. The 479th also scored well, with very few losses in Late August through late September, 1944, keeping in mind that not only the quality of LW was down, but the mix of the powerful but less agile Sturm FW's had increased as a major victim of the improved 38J.

    The P-38J-25 and L arrived into the MTO in late Summer 1944 but the combined three fighter groups (1st, 14th and 82nd) scored far less post June 1944 than the prior 18 months.. curiously the 332nd FG scored more in the last 10 months than any of the individual MTO Lightning FG's in that period.

    Short answer - IMO No. The peak Performance level was increased with the late J but opportunity continued to elude them because a.) it was still easy to see before they could see the LW, and b.) the 109 and 190 could still out dive it to evade it.

    Additional observation - opinion based on available 8th AF combat record vs the LW.

    The P-38 was credited with 266 air/161 ground for 101 losses air to air/109 losses strafing. The Ratio of aircraft destroyed to the 390 lost due to all other operational causes other than air combat was 2.6:1 air to air ratio, and 1.1:1 for combined aircraft destroyed to P-38s lost. Period October 1943 through September, 1944.

    By contrast the Mustang was 3329 to 324 air to air, 3192 to 569 losses strafing. 1354 Mustangs were lost to all other causes. The air to air ratio was 10.3:1 air to air ratio, and 6521 to 1923 for 3.4:1 ratio - combined aircraft destroyed to losses due to all causes.

    Last but not least - it was 2X to purchase and operate..
     
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  7. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    It has always been an interesting What If regarding the late start up of the P-38 into production and thorough test program in 1939... as much as having AAF 'see the light' in late 1940 and then accelerated the introduction of the Merlin 61 into the Mustang airframe several months earlier - even via reverse Lend Lease from RR to US as Packard was tooling up.
     
  8. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    #8 FLYBOYJ, Sep 22, 2014
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2014
    From Rau's letter;

    "As a typical case to demonstrate my point, let us assume that we have a pilot fresh out of flying school with about a total of twenty-fivehours in a P-38, starting out on a combat mission. He is on a deep ramrod, penetration and target support to maximum endurance. He is cruising along with his power set at maximum economy. He is pulling 31" Hg and 2100 RPM. He is auto lean and running on external tanks. His gun heater is off to relieve the load on his generator, which frequently gives out (under sustained heavyload). His sight is off to save burning out the bulb. His combat switch may or may not be on. Flying along in this condition, he suddenly gets "bounced",what to do flashes through his mind. He must turn, he must increase power and get rid of those external tanks and get on his main. So, he reaches down and turns two stiff, difficult gas switches {valves} to main - turns on his drop tank switches, presses his release button, puts the mixture to auto rich (two separate and clumsy operations), increases his RPM, increases his manifold pressure, turns on his gun heater switch (which he must feel for and cannot possibly see), turns on his combat switch and he is ready to fight. At this point, he has probably been shot down or he has done one of several things wrong. Most common error is to push the throttles wide open before increasing RPM. This causes detonation and subsequent engine failure. Or, he forgets to switch back to auto rich, and gets excessive cylinder head temperature with subsequent engine failure."

    I think in hindsight we could blast many holes in this!
     
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  9. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    Re #1: By late 1943, the W. Allies were using the same fuel - 100/130 grade? The different fuels were thing of 1938-41 era?

    Re #4: The fix was to equip the pilots with electricaly-heated suit, that was helped out with having both engines outfitted with generators? Only one generator per P-38 was in earlier versions. The socket rheostat were provided for the suit. The basic, hot air heating system, was also improved?
     
  10. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    #10 Shortround6, Sep 22, 2014
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2014
    There were several changes to the "100/130 grade" fuel as the years went on with different amounts of allowable lead content (not OVER 3.0cc to 4.0cc to 4.6 cc) AND different allowable percentages of certain compounds, These changes allowed much higher production of 100/130 fuel from the same tonnage of base stock oils. HOWEVER the changes were agreed to and applicable to ALL allied 100/130 fuel. There was NO British spec or American spec 100/130 fuel at this time. The Problem comes in that each refinery "could" use the amount of lead and compounds like aromatics that it needed to in order to get the current batch of fuel to meet the specification up to allowable limits. So not all batches of fuel were exactly the same.
    Allison and the other engine makers were aware of the change in the specification in the Spring of 1943 and working on solutions during the Summer/Fall which ended with the 'Madam Queen' intake manifold being fitted to ALL new Allisons (turboed or not) at the end of Nov/beginning of Dec 1943 and 'some' manifolds being sent overseas for refitting of engines in the field (or at overhaul?)
     
  11. DSR T-888

    DSR T-888 New Member

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    Very interesting FLYBOYJ, thanks for the share.
     
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  12. varsity07840

    varsity07840 Member

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    my understanding regarding the German split s evasive tactic is that the P-38's initial roll rate was pathetic, allowing the 109 or 190 to be down and away well ahead of the P-38, which could not catch up due to compressibility issues.

    Duane
     
  13. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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    #13 GregP, Sep 22, 2014
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2014
    Hi Wuzak,

    I like Drgondog's salutation, so I'll use it here. With respect, #2 and #3 are not the same. The intake manifold issue was cured with a turbulator installed inside the manifold. The manifolds that Joe has which do not HAVE the turbulator are not used for airplane engines today. The different fuels were definitely NOT the same issue ... the Allisons had to be jetted for European fuels to run right on it. Once they discovered that, the cure was a matter of finding the correct jets ... a matter of a few engine runs with different jets.

    I don't think we were running the same fuels in late 1942 to early 1943. We were running the same fuels some time AFTER we found the issue out. It isn't interesting enough for me to dig out "Vee's for Victory," but it wasn't until well into 1943, perhaps the fall, as you stated. That gave the P-51 time eough to gain a foothold in the ETO and, by the time all the fixes were in for the P-38, the P-51 was firmly entrenched. So, they reassigned the P-38 to the MTO and PTO.

    Hi Bill, With respect back at you, the P-38 does NOT continue to dive after starting one. I've seen WAY too many P-38 8,000 foot dives to believe that one. Ask Steve Hinton who flies one. The answer is simple to me, don't dive away with the Germans until problems set in ... stay around and fight. We probably will never see this one from the same perspective, Bill, but since it's a "what if," there is no real-world data to corroborate either theory; late model P-38's didn't mix it up in the ETO much. The P-38 needed to get pretty fast to hit critical Mach, so the P-38 pilots, like the Luftwaffe, KNEW when they were approaching the limit or SHOULD have. Your theory (diving with the Luftwaffe fighters) is no doubt correct for the guys who were flying P-51's, and they did quite well at it. Had they been flying P-38's I doubt the same tactics would have been employed. It's OK and not worth much discussion since it's a "what if" anyway. I don't feel like even starting a mild disagreement over the point ... I just feel that, if the situation had occurred, they would have found a way to stay around and fight just as the P-47 guys used different tactics from the P-51 guys. As long as the Germans were diving away from bomber attack, the escort job was done anyway.

    Since it IS a "what if," I'd like to have seen a P-38 with 2 - 3% thinner wing and 2-stage Merlins in it, coupled with a serious program to shed weight. But, it never happened, so is a pipe dream. I can draw one, but that won't make it magically appear ...
     
  14. BiffF15

    BiffF15 Well-Known Member

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    The P-38K would have been an interesting variant...

    Cheers,
    Biff
     
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  15. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    Greg - If you put a P-38 in a terminal dive from 20 or 30K, it's going to go like a bat out of hell until it self destructs (or pop the dive brakes). With that said I know that Steve would never press the museum's bird in such a manner. I worked with guys during the 1980s who flew the P-38, they all had the same comments about it's diving tendencies and many green AND experienced pilots were killed diving the P-38. Ken Sparks, one of the premiere P-38 drivers in the PTO early in the war killed himself off the California Coast diving a P-38, this after he had a tour and 11 kills under his belt.
     
  16. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    That would be the fastest way to get yourself killed...

    P-38s relied on their speed and firepower to score against opponents. They were not agile in the sense of engaging in a turning fight against Axis fighters.
     
  17. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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    Let's say we disagree without any sarcasm intended.

    The P-38 was not a consumate dogfighter one on one but, in the hands of a decent pilot with a flight of three other P-38's around him, it beat the crap out of Zeros that could fly rings around it on paper on an individual basis. The take-away is that proper tactics favoring a plane's strengths overcome maneuverability. Either that or the Zero really wasn't all that maneuverable ... naaaahhh ... it WAS and it didn't help at all. The P-38 was the mount of our top two aces. Put them in the ETO and they'd STILL be aces, unless you think the Japanese pilots who got the better of PTO Spitfires on a regular basis, were less skilled than the Germans by a mile.

    I don't think so. The Japanese got the best from their aircraft and were overmatched against the P-38, as a whole, when the P-38's were flown by the people who were flying them in the PTO. If pilots unfamilair with the P-38 were flying them in the PTO, the situation might well have been different. It wasn't. They WERE familiar with their mounts.

    That says to me that the plane was solid when flown by solid pilots with experience in type. The same can be said for ANY decent warplane. The Bf 109 was a tough opponent when flown by a Bf 109 expert, whenever and wherever encountered, until the end of the war ... unless he was desperately short of fuel. Even Erich Hartmann got shot down in a Bf 109 when he ran out of fuel ... it says nothing about the plane or pilot as fighters other than lack of an engine makes it a glider despite any pilot skill.

    I'd take an experienced P-38 squadron any day for a mission inside the range of the aircraft, just as I'd take ANY plane flown by people experienced in type and inside the attack range.
     
  18. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    The P-38 was not a turning fighter, simple as that...even the Me262 shot them down.
     
  19. timmy

    timmy Member

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    The question that we never really got answered

    Can a Good TWIN ENGINE fighter match a Good SINGLE ENGINE fighter ??????

    The closest we got was the P-38L. Sadly we never got to see it against quality opposition
    No doubt it was devastating when it had a clear performance advantage against its opposition (A6M)
    But how would it go against a Dora with the same performance numbers? With the boosted ailerons
    could the P38 now dogfight? Or is it a case with physics that something so large and has such a large
    target area is always going to be more venerable against single engine fighters?

    Just another point. I'm sure I read somewhere that the late model P38 had a range as far as 2500 miles
    Is this true? If so why didn't they use it to escort the long range B29's
     
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  20. Conslaw

    Conslaw Member

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    The late-model P-38s, with combat flaps were quite maneuverable, especially when the pilot used differential thrust on the two engines. The P-38 was at a disadvantage when trying to follow a single engine plane turning with the torque of its engine, but by using differential power, this disadvantage was largely countered, and turning in opposite direction of the single-engined plane's torque, the Lightning had the advantage. The -J and -L had boosted ailerons, and this was more important the faster the speed of the fight. The P-38 offered the top pilots plenty of tools to work with. Unfortunately the workload was too heavy for low-hour pilots to fully master.
     
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