P-38 Lightning

previous arrowprevious arrow
next arrownext arrow



FREE Admission & Parking

P-38 Lightning

The P-38 Lightning was one of the most versatile warplanes in service during World War II. Although originally designed as an interceptor, it was also utilized for air-to-air, reconnaissance, interdiction, and close air support. The P-38’s distinctive twin boom quickly identified the swift fighter on the battlefront and helped earn the respect and fear of its adversaries, who nicknamed the aircraft “Fork Tailed Devil.” First flown in 1939, the Lightning shares with the venerable B-17 Bomber the record for length of continuous war service, having served from the start to the finish of World War II. During its impressive span of wartime service, the Lightning underwent continual improvements in airspeed, rate of climb, ceiling, range, and firepower to keep abreast of increasing combat requirements. In its 16th and final upgrade, the P-38 mounted ten 5′ high-velocity rockets, making its ordnance payload greater than that of an early heavy bomber. The P-38 had a 20mm cannon capable of smashing the heaviest enemy tank and carried more weight in fuel than the weight of a typical Japanese fighter. The P-38 was the first to break the 400-mile-an-hour barrier, as well as encounter the phenomenon of compressibility as the speed of sound was approached. In 1942, P-38s equipped with special oxygen equipment and auxiliary fuel tanks made the first transatlantic ferry flight by fighter aircraft.


Wing Span: 52′
Length: 37′ 10″
Height: 9′ 10″
Empty Weight: 11,880 lbs.
Max Weight: 14,424 lbs.
Armament: One 20mm cannon and four .50 cal. machine guns
Useful Load: 2,655 lbs.
Powerplant: Two 1,150 HP Allison V-1710-27 (29) liquid-cooled engines
Max Speed: 390 mph
Service Ceiling: 39,000 ft.
Range: 400 miles
Crew: One
Click here to return to our Air Park page.