5 Problems The P-38 Lightning Faced

5 Problems The P-38 Lightning Faced | World War Wings Videos

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1. Engine Reliability

The early models of the P-38 suffered from engine reliability issues, particularly with the Allison V-1710 engines.

Oil coolers would congeal the oil to sludge, radiators would lower the engine’s temperatures below the optimal range, and intercoolers would chill the fuel/air mixture too much.


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2. Poor Dive Performance

The P-38 suffered from poor diving performance, particularly at high speeds. The Lightning had a high-speed airflow over the wing root thanks to its unusual shape.

This problem would only present itself when a P-38 would dive from higher altitudes starting from 25,000 feet. Problems with the aircraft’s controls were observed during this time which gave Axis pilots plenty of advantage in fights.


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3. Outdated Propellers

Typically, when a plane gets a new and improved engine, a new propeller is expected to be installed. This didn’t happen to the P-38, even after increasing its power output by 40%.

New propellers were installed in later versions (P-38K), but only two of those were made. Not changing the propellers meant not being able to fully accommodate the power output given by the new engine.

4. Slower Roll Rate

The P-38 faced a notable drawback – its relatively sluggish roll rate compared to its counterparts.

However, this limitation was effectively addressed in 1944 with the introduction of upgraded hydraulically boosted ailerons in the J models.

These significantly enhanced the aircraft’s roll rate, bringing it on par with the maneuverability of German fighters.


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5. High Cost

The US could purchase two Mustangs for the cost of one Lightning.

With how capable the Mustang was, this basically meant you’d be getting two planes that consumed half the fuel, flew as far as the P-38, while also being better at air-to-air combat.

We saw the rise of the P-51s in the later parts of the war due to their effectiveness and cost efficiency.

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