View Full Version : P38 vs P51

08-06-2007, 06:26 AM
Was the P38 viewed as a luxury by the USAAF after the introduction of the P51? I know twin engines had a great reliability bonus for Pacific and Med operations but was the P51 just more cost effective and easier to maintain?

The reason I ask is that I think the P38 was kind of shunned once the P51 arrived and post war the P82 was prefered over further developments of the P38 too.

Im not talking about combat potential just development potential vs cost and procurement

Am I way off base here?

08-06-2007, 06:29 AM
nope right on the mark. the problem was 2 fold.
1. cost p-38 $113,000 p-51 $50,000
2. upper command mind set. many of them did not believe that a twin could function properly as a fighter, even after the 38 proved them wrong

08-06-2007, 06:40 AM
But don't forget, many pilots loved the Mustang.. I think this point is overlooked when discussing mustang vs. lightning.. the fact that the Mustang was a fine airplane itself.

Perhaps the Lightning did pull the short straw in Europe, but the Mustang was at the very least a sufficient alternative.

08-06-2007, 06:45 AM
the Mustang was also an easier transition for most pilots. going from a single to a twin took some additional training with the additional $$$ and time to train

08-06-2007, 06:52 AM
Any opinions on the P38's development post 1944? I think the P51 kind of got the P38's funding cut and its future role post WW2 cast in doubt.

Im having a discussion on another board with a guy who's view point is that the P38 was not bested (politically, financially, logistically - however you want to look at it) by the P51 and that the P82 was a complete disaster. Of course post war the Jet renders all prop fighter development obsolete to one degree or another.

I am trying to limit the discussion to procurement decisions not being based solely on performance but taking things like cost effectiveness in to consideration too. His stance is that in WW2 there were no cost considerations at all for the US. But after reading some threads here and at CWOS about the P 38 a while back I know thats not the case.

Any one got any links to a source for this as its very interesting?

cost p-38 $113,000 p-51 $50,000

08-06-2007, 06:54 AM
Several other problems with the P-38 in the ETO theatre as well favoured its replacement by other types:

Lower dive restrictions than other in-theatre fighters until availability of models fitted with dive flaps;
Reliability of complex supercharger equipment and V-1710 engin in ETO conditions (the "Allsion timebomb" effect). Whether this was the fuel, the crews or some other factors such as the conditions remains a bone of contention among enthusiasts;
Cost of maintenance. The P-38 was larger, more complex and had two engines - all that means more effort to maintain in a combat theatre;
Pilot training. It took a lot more training to get the best of the P-38 compared to the P-47 or P-51.

08-06-2007, 07:00 AM
the 38 was Old tech, 1938 design. the P-82 WAS a disaster. the 38 was the only US plane that served from start to finish of WW2 and with the onset of the jet age ALL prop planes were getting phased out. with the newer designs 51, F4u-4, Skyraider, there was no reason to keep an aging, expensive to build, expensive to maintain, not easily mass produced, and difficult to train on all be it good plane in the inventory. when you could go with the 51 which could do almost everything the 38 could do at less cost. it was pure economics

08-06-2007, 07:02 AM
The P38 was not liked for all the gadgets and 'complicatedness' of flying.

Read the Joint Fighter COnference report on the comparison with other planes. The P38 comes last or nearly last in every field except for ground attack, if I remember rightly. Understandable when versus a Bearcat or any other very modern planes, but this was even vs a Seafire II (even worse than a Spitfire MkV), the oldest plane in the test.

08-06-2007, 07:12 AM
What made the P-82 such a disaster? Was it the Allison engines over the earlier production models Merlins or was it basically a flawed concept?

08-06-2007, 07:28 AM
The P-38 fizzled as a high-altitude, long-range escort fighter in the ETO, and was reassigned to the 9th (Tactical) AF as a strike fighter where it did excellent work. In the Pacific, it was the preferred fighter for its twin engines (safety) and heavy ordnance loads. By mid-1945 it was being superceded by the P-47N, in the Pacific, which had long range, huge carrying capability, and radial engine safety. The ETO escort pilots who originally flew the P-38 were happy to get the P-51.

08-06-2007, 07:30 AM
I just found the comments on the P38 from teh JFC.

Specific comments relative to the "Combat Qualities" of the P-38L

Combat Qualities - Answers included 1 from Army, 9 from Navy, 5 British and 13 Contractors

Good - 3
Fair - 0
Poor - 1
Other - 15
Blank - 9 (No comment)

Comments left by testers on sheet...

- Bad visibility to sides down. Would rather have F4U or F6F for Pacific

- I would not consider this a modern fighting aircraft. Poor coordination of control forces and effectiveness, combined with very weak directional stability make it a poor gun platform, and its manueverability rating is so low as to preclude its use in modern combat

- As a fighter bomber - good; for fighter sweep-just fair; as escort - poor - 1.

Good due to 1) Twin engine reliability; 2) altitude performance; 3) good accelerated stall; 4) versatility; 5) dive recovery flaps which make prolonged zero lift possible.

- Apart from very queer aelerons, the aircraft is quite pleasant to fly, and would probably make a very good strike fighter. There is, however, an objectionable wobble in bumpy air.

- An excellent escort fighter.

- Speed should be sufficient for most present day Jap fighters. View is poor

- too many struts in the way. Rudder makes aircraft very hard to manuever on first flight

- Too complicated and full of gadgets - would make unserviceability rate very high

- Query on maintenance and operational problems with liquid cooled engines in hot climates

- Too much mechanical equipment for one man to operate in combat

- Record speaks for itself.

08-06-2007, 07:36 AM
Thanks for the input guys very informative stuff.
I started another post regarding the Hellcat's continued development vs Bearcat's impending service delivery here:


Would appreciate if anyone has more thoughts on that topic too.

08-06-2007, 07:45 AM
I should just note that the conference was very harsh on every aircraft in the conference, so P38 fans dont be too worried by the comments.

Remember that a large part of the testers were contracters with a definite agenda. The Mosquito got equally harsh comments.

08-06-2007, 08:17 AM
Here's some more numbers from the JFC that were posted on ww2aircraft.net. It surprises me that the P51 was ranked as a better fighter/bomber and strafer than the P38. Maybe has something to do with the 38 being a bigger target?

Aircraft included: FM-2, F6F-5, F7F-1, XF8F-1, F4U-1C, XF4U-4, FG-1, P-38L, P-47D, P-47M, P-51D, YP-59A, P-61, P-63, Firefly, Seafire, Mosquito, Zeke 52

Best All-Around Fighter Below 25,000ft (89% return of questionnaires)

F8F - 30%
P-51 - 29%
F4U-1 - 27%
F7F - 6%
F6F - 2&
Mosquito - 2%
F4U-4 - 2%
F2G - 2%

Best All-Around Fighter Above 25,000ft (82% return of questionnaires)

P-47 - 45%
P-51 - 39%
F4U-1 - 7%
F6F - 3%
F4U-4 - 3%
Seafire - 2%
P-38 - 1%

Best Fighter-Bomber (72% return of questionnaires)

F4U-1 - 32%
P-47 - 19%
Mosquito - 14%
F6F - 12%
F7F - 11%
P-51 - 7%
P-38 - 5%

Best Strafer (75% return of questionnaires)

P-47 - 41%
F4U-1 - 18%
F7F - 17%
P-51 - 9%
F6F - 7%
P-38 - 3%
F8F - 2%
P-63 - 2%
F2G - 2%

link: http://www.ww2aircraft.net/forum/aviation/report-joint-...conference-3466.html (http://www.ww2aircraft.net/forum/aviation/report-joint-fighter-conference-3466.html)

08-06-2007, 08:55 AM
Originally posted by mynameisroland:

Any one got any links to a source for this as its very interesting?

<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content"> cost p-38 $113,000 p-51 $50,000 </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

Here is a link to the cost of US aircraft. Note that it changes from year to year.


08-06-2007, 11:53 AM
cuda and roland, right on the mark

the fact that by this time frame is was clear to US/allies that they now carried the momentum in thier favor, and that barring catastrophe, the war was all but won

had it not been so clear, the 38s would have been held onto longer

the 51 was cheap, relatively easy to train on, could be turned out in large numbers, had the range and payload to be completely adequate to carry out several roles under most conditions

had the 51 magically taken the P 47s place in 42/43 (but with only the same range as the 47 for sake of argument), somehow, i seriously doubt it would have been able to take and dish the same damage from/to the LW than did the Jug

tyhe JFC tests are not a great indication of the 38s abilites and he same an be said, to a slightly lesser degree, of all the other types tested

the hi-time spit pilot wont be favorable to the 38, as he doesnt know how to fly the 38 to its potential
a high time 38 pilot on the other hand, will be able to get more out of the spit more easily...

both pilots will tend to notice things that lack fro mwhat they are used to
eagle sqd pilots hated goign from spits to jugs

had they been asked for thier eval of the jug in the early days, it would have scored low..VERY low

but after they got used to the jugs, they loved em, and im sure test results THEN would have been very favorable

its all relative http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif

there was a fighter competition in yurp late or post way, that held the yak3 as the best overall fighter and it had some real top-end competition

any of these competitions, of course, all ignore one HUGe factor that cannot be simulated/excercised:
had "bring you back home in one piece" been a category, the P 38 and P 47 would win very fighter comp hands down

08-06-2007, 12:18 PM
Few in Europe liked the P-38 very much because it had such a crummy heater, and no engine right in front of the Pilot to keep him warm.

Twin Mustang was originally supposed to be a long range fighter escort for B-29's IIRC.

Twin Mustang 'failed' due to the same reason as the original F-15 (not the jet! Go look up what the original F-15 was.) failure. The war ended.
And when the next war came along everyone wanted a shiney new jet.

08-06-2007, 12:26 PM
ive known of the reporter for a long time (since the 70s after i got that awesome monogram (sure its MG) 1:48 P61

ive always felt the F 15 could have been such a great corporate/private/sport plane...capacity to haul the brood somewhere down south + baggage for vacation, in quite an exhilarating ride..fast, powerful, cool, and what a view!

edit: Waldo, wasnt there a reporter that was kept at NR as a hack for a few years? or am i thinking of a NACA met flight?

08-06-2007, 12:46 PM
Besides being old technology and having the heater, compressibility and cockpit ergonomics issues, there is also the matter of the Lightning's basic design not being optimized for mass production.

This was what led to its eventual eclipse by the Mustang and too a lesser extent, the P-47. It was too hard to build in sufficient numbers during the 1942-1944 time period. Everybody wanted P-38s, but they weren't being produced or improved/upgraded quickly enough. Had Lockheed and to a lesser extent, Allison, worked the bugs out of Lightning production the long range Merlin Mustang might never have been necessary.

The P-38 was originally intended to be built almost by hand for a contract that was not envisaged to extend beyond building 150 aircraft. The fact that it was the ONLY USAAF fighter in production that had anything remotely like modern performance by 1942 standards was what led to its wider use than as the originally intended coastal interceptor. It was simply the only thing we had on hand that could compete with the Axis' fighter designs in 1942.



08-06-2007, 12:51 PM
Originally posted by Megile:
But don't forget, many pilots loved the Mustang.. I think this point is overlooked when discussing mustang vs. lightning.. the fact that the Mustang was a fine airplane itself.

Perhaps the Lightning did pull the short straw in Europe, but the Mustang was at the very least a sufficient alternative.

I'd guess that the P-51 was the superior alternative for fighting Axis fighters with their high dive and roll rates. The P-51 had higher top speeds, higher dive speeds, higher cruise speeds, and general superior high speed control.

08-06-2007, 07:23 PM
I don't think this has been mentioned... most of the bad rap around the P-38 and its poor altitude performance in the ETO is related to the F, G, and H models. Lots of times in literature you'll read about this plane vs. that plane but often the actual model/engine etc is mentioned.

Anyways, the issue was that the early model (F, G, and H) had insufficient cooling as it was located on the leading edge of the wings and above altitudes of 27,000 ft the plane was limited to something like 1100 hp/engine (I'm going by memory so this may be wrong). Point is that if a pilot tried to pull full manifold pressure there was serious risk of blowing the engine due to the cooling issue.

The J and L models (new cooling system) fixed all this however by that time the Mustang was well on its way and provided a better alternative. This added to the other things that folks commented about regarding cost, maintenance and training hours.

An additional issue that hasn't been mentioned is that Lighting productivity did not meet demand until 1944. Many units in New Guinea transitioned to P-47's due to a lack of Lightnings. All these things conspired to doom the J and L model to the 9th Airforce ground pounding in 44 and beyond. It is somewhat legend, but I think I believe that with the airbrakes, cooling, boosted allison engines, differential engine power and power boosted ailerons there was really no plane over Europe that could shake a Lightning.... we'll never know for sure because the air superiority role was taken away at the end of the war when the Lighting reached its zenith.

Another little factoid...the Lighting was tested with Merlin engines and the US army chose not to shut down prodution to switch over the manufacturing lines even though performance was improved...Imagine what the plane could have been!!!