Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center: B-29 Superfortress “Enola Gay” panorama

Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center: B-29 Superfortress “Enola Gay” panorama
Virginia Western
Image by Chris Devers
Quoting Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum | Boeing B-29 Superfortress "Enola Gay":

Boeing’s B-29 Superfortress was the most sophisticated propeller-driven bomber of World War II and the first bomber to house its crew in pressurized compartments. Although designed to fight in the European theater, the B-29 found its niche on the other side of the globe. In the Pacific, B-29s delivered a variety of aerial weapons: conventional bombs, incendiary bombs, mines, and two nuclear weapons.

On August 6, 1945, this Martin-built B-29-45-MO dropped the first atomic weapon used in combat on Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later, Bockscar (on display at the U.S. Air Force Museum near Dayton, Ohio) dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan. Enola Gay flew as the advance weather reconnaissance aircraft that day. A third B-29, The Great Artiste, flew as an observation aircraft on both missions.

Transferred from the United States Air Force.

Manufacturer:
Boeing Aircraft Co.
Martin Co., Omaha, Nebr.

Date:
1945

Country of Origin:
United States of America

Dimensions:
Overall: 900 x 3020cm, 32580kg, 4300cm (29ft 6 5/16in. x 99ft 1in., 71825.9lb., 141ft 15/16in.)

Materials:
Polished overall aluminum finish

Physical Description:
Four-engine heavy bomber with semi-monoqoque fuselage and high-aspect ratio wings. Polished aluminum finish overall, standard late-World War II Army Air Forces insignia on wings and aft fuselage and serial number on vertical fin; 509th Composite Group markings painted in black; "Enola Gay" in black, block letters on lower left nose.

Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center: B-29 Superfortress “Enola Gay” panorama

Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center: B-29 Superfortress “Enola Gay” panorama
Virginia Western
Image by Chris Devers
Quoting Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum | Lockheed P-38J-10-LO Lightning:

In the P-38 Lockheed engineer Clarence "Kelly" Johnson and his team of designers created one of the most successful twin-engine fighters ever flown by any nation. From 1942 to 1945, U. S. Army Air Forces pilots flew P-38s over Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Pacific, and from the frozen Aleutian Islands to the sun-baked deserts of North Africa. Lightning pilots in the Pacific theater downed more Japanese aircraft than pilots flying any other Allied warplane.

Maj. Richard I. Bong, America’s leading fighter ace, flew this P-38J-10-LO on April 16, 1945, at Wright Field, Ohio, to evaluate an experimental method of interconnecting the movement of the throttle and propeller control levers. However, his right engine exploded in flight before he could conduct the experiment.

Transferred from the United States Air Force.

Manufacturer:
Lockheed Aircraft Company

Date:
1943

Country of Origin:
United States of America

Dimensions:
Overall: 390 x 1170cm, 6345kg, 1580cm (12ft 9 9/16in. x 38ft 4 5/8in., 13988.2lb., 51ft 10 1/16in.)

Materials:
All-metal

Physical Description:
Twin-tail boom and twin-engine fighter; tricycle landing gear.

• • • • •

Quoting Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum | Boeing B-29 Superfortress "Enola Gay":

Boeing’s B-29 Superfortress was the most sophisticated propeller-driven bomber of World War II and the first bomber to house its crew in pressurized compartments. Although designed to fight in the European theater, the B-29 found its niche on the other side of the globe. In the Pacific, B-29s delivered a variety of aerial weapons: conventional bombs, incendiary bombs, mines, and two nuclear weapons.

On August 6, 1945, this Martin-built B-29-45-MO dropped the first atomic weapon used in combat on Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later, Bockscar (on display at the U.S. Air Force Museum near Dayton, Ohio) dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan. Enola Gay flew as the advance weather reconnaissance aircraft that day. A third B-29, The Great Artiste, flew as an observation aircraft on both missions.

Transferred from the United States Air Force.

Manufacturer:
Boeing Aircraft Co.
Martin Co., Omaha, Nebr.

Date:
1945

Country of Origin:
United States of America

Dimensions:
Overall: 900 x 3020cm, 32580kg, 4300cm (29ft 6 5/16in. x 99ft 1in., 71825.9lb., 141ft 15/16in.)

Materials:
Polished overall aluminum finish

Physical Description:
Four-engine heavy bomber with semi-monoqoque fuselage and high-aspect ratio wings. Polished aluminum finish overall, standard late-World War II Army Air Forces insignia on wings and aft fuselage and serial number on vertical fin; 509th Composite Group markings painted in black; "Enola Gay" in black, block letters on lower left nose.

Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center: B-29 Superfortress "Enola Gay" panorama

Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center: B-29 Superfortress "Enola Gay" panorama
Virginia Western
Image by Chris Devers
Quoting Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum | Boeing B-29 Superfortress "Enola Gay":

Boeing’s B-29 Superfortress was the most sophisticated propeller-driven bomber of World War II and the first bomber to house its crew in pressurized compartments. Although designed to fight in the European theater, the B-29 found its niche on the other side of the globe. In the Pacific, B-29s delivered a variety of aerial weapons: conventional bombs, incendiary bombs, mines, and two nuclear weapons.

On August 6, 1945, this Martin-built B-29-45-MO dropped the first atomic weapon used in combat on Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later, Bockscar (on display at the U.S. Air Force Museum near Dayton, Ohio) dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan. Enola Gay flew as the advance weather reconnaissance aircraft that day. A third B-29, The Great Artiste, flew as an observation aircraft on both missions.

Transferred from the United States Air Force.

Manufacturer:
Boeing Aircraft Co.
Martin Co., Omaha, Nebr.

Date:
1945

Country of Origin:
United States of America

Dimensions:
Overall: 900 x 3020cm, 32580kg, 4300cm (29ft 6 5/16in. x 99ft 1in., 71825.9lb., 141ft 15/16in.)

Materials:
Polished overall aluminum finish

Physical Description:
Four-engine heavy bomber with semi-monoqoque fuselage and high-aspect ratio wings. Polished aluminum finish overall, standard late-World War II Army Air Forces insignia on wings and aft fuselage and serial number on vertical fin; 509th Composite Group markings painted in black; "Enola Gay" in black, block letters on lower left nose.

Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center: Space exhibit panorama (hang glider, Space Shuttle Enterprise)

Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center: Space exhibit panorama (hang glider, Space Shuttle Enterprise)
Virginia Network
Image by Chris Devers
Quoting Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum | Gemini Paraglider Research Vehicle 1-A with wing:

Manufacturer:
NASA – Dryden Flight Research Center

Country of Origin:
United States of America

Dimensions:
Overall: 11 ft. 3 in. tall x 7 ft. 5 in. wide x 8 ft. deep, 485 lb. (342.9 x 226.1 x 243.8cm, 220kg)

Materials:
Tubular steel; Dacron wing; rubber wheels

From 1962 to 1964, NASA used the Paresev to develop the technology for landing the two-man Gemini capsule on land, instead of parachuting into the ocean, as had been done in Project Mercury. The astronauts would release an inflatable paraglider wing based on the work of Francis Rogallo, and maneuver to a runway or dry lake bed. Astronauts "Gus" Grissom and Neil Armstrong were among those who piloted the Paresev during several hundred flights at Edwards Air Force Base in California. The Paresev was towed by a ground vehicle or a small aircraft and released at an altitude between 5,000 and 12,000 feet. It was tested with three different wings; the 1-A is the first configuration. Before the paraglider concept could be fully developed for the Gemini program, NASA decided to stick with the proven technology of parachutes and water landing.

NASA transferred the Paresev to the Smithsonian in 1968.

Transferred from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration

• • • • •

See more photos of this, and the Wikipedia article.

Details, quoting from Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum | Space Shuttle Enterprise:

Manufacturer:
Rockwell International Corporation

Country of Origin:
United States of America

Dimensions:
Overall: 57 ft. tall x 122 ft. long x 78 ft. wing span, 150,000 lb.
(1737.36 x 3718.57 x 2377.44cm, 68039.6kg)

Materials:
Aluminum airframe and body with some fiberglass features; payload bay doors are graphite epoxy composite; thermal tiles are simulated (polyurethane foam) except for test samples of actual tiles and thermal blankets.

The first Space Shuttle orbiter, "Enterprise," is a full-scale test vehicle used for flights in the atmosphere and tests on the ground; it is not equipped for spaceflight. Although the airframe and flight control elements are like those of the Shuttles flown in space, this vehicle has no propulsion system and only simulated thermal tiles because these features were not needed for atmospheric and ground tests. "Enterprise" was rolled out at Rockwell International’s assembly facility in Palmdale, California, in 1976. In 1977, it entered service for a nine-month-long approach-and-landing test flight program. Thereafter it was used for vibration tests and fit checks at NASA centers, and it also appeared in the 1983 Paris Air Show and the 1984 World’s Fair in New Orleans. In 1985, NASA transferred "Enterprise" to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum.

Transferred from National Aeronautics and Space Administration

• • •

Quoting from Wikipedia | Space Shuttle Enterprise:

The Space Shuttle Enterprise (NASA Orbiter Vehicle Designation: OV-101) was the first Space Shuttle orbiter. It was built for NASA as part of the Space Shuttle program to perform test flights in the atmosphere. It was constructed without engines or a functional heat shield, and was therefore not capable of spaceflight.

Originally, Enterprise had been intended to be refitted for orbital flight, which would have made it the second space shuttle to fly after Columbia. However, during the construction of Columbia, details of the final design changed, particularly with regard to the weight of the fuselage and wings. Refitting Enterprise for spaceflight would have involved dismantling the orbiter and returning the sections to subcontractors across the country. As this was an expensive proposition, it was determined to be less costly to build Challenger around a body frame (STA-099) that had been created as a test article. Similarly, Enterprise was considered for refit to replace Challenger after the latter was destroyed, but Endeavour was built from structural spares instead.

Service

Construction began on the first orbiter on June 4, 1974. Designated OV-101, it was originally planned to be named Constitution and unveiled on Constitution Day, September 17, 1976. A write-in campaign by Trekkies to President Gerald Ford asked that the orbiter be named after the Starship Enterprise, featured on the television show Star Trek. Although Ford did not mention the campaign, the president—who during World War II had served on the aircraft carrier USS Monterey (CVL-26) that served with USS Enterprise (CV-6)—said that he was "partial to the name" and overrode NASA officials.

The design of OV-101 was not the same as that planned for OV-102, the first flight model; the tail was constructed differently, and it did not have the interfaces to mount OMS pods. A large number of subsystems—ranging from main engines to radar equipment—were not installed on this vehicle, but the capacity to add them in the future was retained. Instead of a thermal protection system, its surface was primarily fiberglass.

In mid-1976, the orbiter was used for ground vibration tests, allowing engineers to compare data from an actual flight vehicle with theoretical models.

On September 17, 1976, Enterprise was rolled out of Rockwell’s plant at Palmdale, California. In recognition of its fictional namesake, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and most of the principal cast of the original series of Star Trek were on hand at the dedication ceremony.

Approach and landing tests (ALT)

Main article: Approach and Landing Tests

On January 31, 1977, it was taken by road to Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, to begin operational testing.

While at NASA Dryden, Enterprise was used by NASA for a variety of ground and flight tests intended to validate aspects of the shuttle program. The initial nine-month testing period was referred to by the acronym ALT, for "Approach and Landing Test". These tests included a maiden "flight" on February 18, 1977 atop a Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) to measure structural loads and ground handling and braking characteristics of the mated system. Ground tests of all orbiter subsystems were carried out to verify functionality prior to atmospheric flight.

The mated Enterprise/SCA combination was then subjected to five test flights with Enterprise unmanned and unactivated. The purpose of these test flights was to measure the flight characteristics of the mated combination. These tests were followed with three test flights with Enterprise manned to test the shuttle flight control systems.

Enterprise underwent five free flights where the craft separated from the SCA and was landed under astronaut control. These tests verified the flight characteristics of the orbiter design and were carried out under several aerodynamic and weight configurations. On the fifth and final glider flight, pilot-induced oscillation problems were revealed, which had to be addressed before the first orbital launch occurred.

On August 12, 1977, the space shuttle Enterprise flew on its own for the first time.

Preparation for STS-1

Following the ALT program, Enterprise was ferried among several NASA facilities to configure the craft for vibration testing. In June 1979, it was mated with an external tank and solid rocket boosters (known as a boilerplate configuration) and tested in a launch configuration at Kennedy Space Center Launch Pad 39A.

Retirement

With the completion of critical testing, Enterprise was partially disassembled to allow certain components to be reused in other shuttles, then underwent an international tour visiting France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the U.S. states of California, Alabama, and Louisiana (during the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition). It was also used to fit-check the never-used shuttle launch pad at Vandenberg AFB, California. Finally, on November 18, 1985, Enterprise was ferried to Washington, D.C., where it became property of the Smithsonian Institution.

Post-Challenger

After the Challenger disaster, NASA considered using Enterprise as a replacement. However refitting the shuttle with all of the necessary equipment needed for it to be used in space was considered, but instead it was decided to use spares constructed at the same time as Discovery and Atlantis to build Endeavour.

Post-Columbia

In 2003, after the breakup of Columbia during re-entry, the Columbia Accident Investigation Board conducted tests at Southwest Research Institute, which used an air gun to shoot foam blocks of similar size, mass and speed to that which struck Columbia at a test structure which mechanically replicated the orbiter wing leading edge. They removed a fiberglass panel from Enterprise’s wing to perform analysis of the material and attached it to the test structure, then shot a foam block at it. While the panel was not broken as a result of the test, the impact was enough to permanently deform a seal. As the reinforced carbon-carbon (RCC) panel on Columbia was 2.5 times weaker, this suggested that the RCC leading edge would have been shattered. Additional tests on the fiberglass were canceled in order not to risk damaging the test apparatus, and a panel from Discovery was tested to determine the effects of the foam on a similarly-aged RCC leading edge. On July 7, 2003, a foam impact test created a hole 41 cm by 42.5 cm (16.1 inches by 16.7 inches) in the protective RCC panel. The tests clearly demonstrated that a foam impact of the type Columbia sustained could seriously breach the protective RCC panels on the wing leading edge.

The board determined that the probable cause of the accident was that the foam impact caused a breach of a reinforced carbon-carbon panel along the leading edge of Columbia’s left wing, allowing hot gases generated during re-entry to enter the wing and cause structural collapse. This caused Columbia to spin out of control, breaking up with the loss of the entire crew.

Museum exhibit

Enterprise was stored at the Smithsonian’s hangar at Washington Dulles International Airport before it was restored and moved to the newly built Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum‘s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles International Airport, where it has been the centerpiece of the space collection. On April 12, 2011, NASA announced that Space Shuttle Discovery, the most traveled orbiter in the fleet, will be added to the collection once the Shuttle fleet is retired. When that happens, Enterprise will be moved to the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum in New York City, to a newly constructed hangar adjacent to the museum. In preparation for the anticipated relocation, engineers evaluated the vehicle in early 2010 and determined that it was safe to fly on the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft once again.

Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center: Space Shuttle Enterprise (port view panorama)

Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center: Space Shuttle Enterprise (port view panorama)
Virginia Network
Image by Chris Devers
See more photos of this, and the Wikipedia article.

Details, quoting from Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum | Space Shuttle Enterprise:

Manufacturer:
Rockwell International Corporation

Country of Origin:
United States of America

Dimensions:
Overall: 57 ft. tall x 122 ft. long x 78 ft. wing span, 150,000 lb.
(1737.36 x 3718.57 x 2377.44cm, 68039.6kg)

Materials:
Aluminum airframe and body with some fiberglass features; payload bay doors are graphite epoxy composite; thermal tiles are simulated (polyurethane foam) except for test samples of actual tiles and thermal blankets.

The first Space Shuttle orbiter, "Enterprise," is a full-scale test vehicle used for flights in the atmosphere and tests on the ground; it is not equipped for spaceflight. Although the airframe and flight control elements are like those of the Shuttles flown in space, this vehicle has no propulsion system and only simulated thermal tiles because these features were not needed for atmospheric and ground tests. "Enterprise" was rolled out at Rockwell International’s assembly facility in Palmdale, California, in 1976. In 1977, it entered service for a nine-month-long approach-and-landing test flight program. Thereafter it was used for vibration tests and fit checks at NASA centers, and it also appeared in the 1983 Paris Air Show and the 1984 World’s Fair in New Orleans. In 1985, NASA transferred "Enterprise" to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum.

Transferred from National Aeronautics and Space Administration

• • •

Quoting from Wikipedia | Space Shuttle Enterprise:

The Space Shuttle Enterprise (NASA Orbiter Vehicle Designation: OV-101) was the first Space Shuttle orbiter. It was built for NASA as part of the Space Shuttle program to perform test flights in the atmosphere. It was constructed without engines or a functional heat shield, and was therefore not capable of spaceflight.

Originally, Enterprise had been intended to be refitted for orbital flight, which would have made it the second space shuttle to fly after Columbia. However, during the construction of Columbia, details of the final design changed, particularly with regard to the weight of the fuselage and wings. Refitting Enterprise for spaceflight would have involved dismantling the orbiter and returning the sections to subcontractors across the country. As this was an expensive proposition, it was determined to be less costly to build Challenger around a body frame (STA-099) that had been created as a test article. Similarly, Enterprise was considered for refit to replace Challenger after the latter was destroyed, but Endeavour was built from structural spares instead.

Service

Construction began on the first orbiter on June 4, 1974. Designated OV-101, it was originally planned to be named Constitution and unveiled on Constitution Day, September 17, 1976. A write-in campaign by Trekkies to President Gerald Ford asked that the orbiter be named after the Starship Enterprise, featured on the television show Star Trek. Although Ford did not mention the campaign, the president—who during World War II had served on the aircraft carrier USS Monterey (CVL-26) that served with USS Enterprise (CV-6)—said that he was "partial to the name" and overrode NASA officials.

The design of OV-101 was not the same as that planned for OV-102, the first flight model; the tail was constructed differently, and it did not have the interfaces to mount OMS pods. A large number of subsystems—ranging from main engines to radar equipment—were not installed on this vehicle, but the capacity to add them in the future was retained. Instead of a thermal protection system, its surface was primarily fiberglass.

In mid-1976, the orbiter was used for ground vibration tests, allowing engineers to compare data from an actual flight vehicle with theoretical models.

On September 17, 1976, Enterprise was rolled out of Rockwell’s plant at Palmdale, California. In recognition of its fictional namesake, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and most of the principal cast of the original series of Star Trek were on hand at the dedication ceremony.

Approach and landing tests (ALT)

Main article: Approach and Landing Tests

On January 31, 1977, it was taken by road to Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, to begin operational testing.

While at NASA Dryden, Enterprise was used by NASA for a variety of ground and flight tests intended to validate aspects of the shuttle program. The initial nine-month testing period was referred to by the acronym ALT, for "Approach and Landing Test". These tests included a maiden "flight" on February 18, 1977 atop a Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) to measure structural loads and ground handling and braking characteristics of the mated system. Ground tests of all orbiter subsystems were carried out to verify functionality prior to atmospheric flight.

The mated Enterprise/SCA combination was then subjected to five test flights with Enterprise unmanned and unactivated. The purpose of these test flights was to measure the flight characteristics of the mated combination. These tests were followed with three test flights with Enterprise manned to test the shuttle flight control systems.

Enterprise underwent five free flights where the craft separated from the SCA and was landed under astronaut control. These tests verified the flight characteristics of the orbiter design and were carried out under several aerodynamic and weight configurations. On the fifth and final glider flight, pilot-induced oscillation problems were revealed, which had to be addressed before the first orbital launch occurred.

On August 12, 1977, the space shuttle Enterprise flew on its own for the first time.

Preparation for STS-1

Following the ALT program, Enterprise was ferried among several NASA facilities to configure the craft for vibration testing. In June 1979, it was mated with an external tank and solid rocket boosters (known as a boilerplate configuration) and tested in a launch configuration at Kennedy Space Center Launch Pad 39A.

Retirement

With the completion of critical testing, Enterprise was partially disassembled to allow certain components to be reused in other shuttles, then underwent an international tour visiting France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the U.S. states of California, Alabama, and Louisiana (during the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition). It was also used to fit-check the never-used shuttle launch pad at Vandenberg AFB, California. Finally, on November 18, 1985, Enterprise was ferried to Washington, D.C., where it became property of the Smithsonian Institution.

Post-Challenger

After the Challenger disaster, NASA considered using Enterprise as a replacement. However refitting the shuttle with all of the necessary equipment needed for it to be used in space was considered, but instead it was decided to use spares constructed at the same time as Discovery and Atlantis to build Endeavour.

Post-Columbia

In 2003, after the breakup of Columbia during re-entry, the Columbia Accident Investigation Board conducted tests at Southwest Research Institute, which used an air gun to shoot foam blocks of similar size, mass and speed to that which struck Columbia at a test structure which mechanically replicated the orbiter wing leading edge. They removed a fiberglass panel from Enterprise’s wing to perform analysis of the material and attached it to the test structure, then shot a foam block at it. While the panel was not broken as a result of the test, the impact was enough to permanently deform a seal. As the reinforced carbon-carbon (RCC) panel on Columbia was 2.5 times weaker, this suggested that the RCC leading edge would have been shattered. Additional tests on the fiberglass were canceled in order not to risk damaging the test apparatus, and a panel from Discovery was tested to determine the effects of the foam on a similarly-aged RCC leading edge. On July 7, 2003, a foam impact test created a hole 41 cm by 42.5 cm (16.1 inches by 16.7 inches) in the protective RCC panel. The tests clearly demonstrated that a foam impact of the type Columbia sustained could seriously breach the protective RCC panels on the wing leading edge.

The board determined that the probable cause of the accident was that the foam impact caused a breach of a reinforced carbon-carbon panel along the leading edge of Columbia’s left wing, allowing hot gases generated during re-entry to enter the wing and cause structural collapse. This caused Columbia to spin out of control, breaking up with the loss of the entire crew.

Museum exhibit

Enterprise was stored at the Smithsonian’s hangar at Washington Dulles International Airport before it was restored and moved to the newly built Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum‘s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles International Airport, where it has been the centerpiece of the space collection. On April 12, 2011, NASA announced that Space Shuttle Discovery, the most traveled orbiter in the fleet, will be added to the collection once the Shuttle fleet is retired. When that happens, Enterprise will be moved to the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum in New York City, to a newly constructed hangar adjacent to the museum. In preparation for the anticipated relocation, engineers evaluated the vehicle in early 2010 and determined that it was safe to fly on the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft once again.

Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center: B-29 Superfortress “Enola Gay” panorama

Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center: B-29 Superfortress “Enola Gay” panorama
Virginia Western
Image by Chris Devers
See more photos of this, and the Wikipedia article.

Details, quoting from Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum | Lockheed P-38J-10-LO Lightning

In the P-38 Lockheed engineer Clarence "Kelly" Johnson and his team of designers created one of the most successful twin-engine fighters ever flown by any nation. From 1942 to 1945, U. S. Army Air Forces pilots flew P-38s over Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Pacific, and from the frozen Aleutian Islands to the sun-baked deserts of North Africa. Lightning pilots in the Pacific theater downed more Japanese aircraft than pilots flying any other Allied warplane.

Maj. Richard I. Bong, America’s leading fighter ace, flew this P-38J-10-LO on April 16, 1945, at Wright Field, Ohio, to evaluate an experimental method of interconnecting the movement of the throttle and propeller control levers. However, his right engine exploded in flight before he could conduct the experiment.

Transferred from the United States Air Force.

Manufacturer:
Lockheed Aircraft Company

Date:
1943

Country of Origin:
United States of America

Dimensions:
Overall: 390 x 1170cm, 6345kg, 1580cm (12ft 9 9/16in. x 38ft 4 5/8in., 13988.2lb., 51ft 10 1/16in.)

Materials:
All-metal

Physical Description:
Twin-tail boom and twin-engine fighter; tricycle landing gear.

Long Description:
From 1942 to 1945, the thunder of P-38 Lightnings was heard around the world. U. S. Army pilots flew the P-38 over Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Pacific; from the frozen Aleutian Islands to the sun-baked deserts of North Africa. Measured by success in combat, Lockheed engineer Clarence "Kelly" Johnson and a team of designers created the most successful twin-engine fighter ever flown by any nation. In the Pacific Theater, Lightning pilots downed more Japanese aircraft than pilots flying any other Army Air Forces warplane.

Johnson and his team conceived this twin-engine, single-pilot fighter airplane in 1936 and the Army Air Corps authorized the firm to build it in June 1937. Lockheed finished constructing the prototype XP-38 and delivered it to the Air Corps on New Year’s Day, 1939. Air Corps test pilot and P-38 project officer, Lt. Benjamin S. Kelsey, first flew the aircraft on January 27. Losing this prototype in a crash at Mitchel Field, New York, with Kelsey at the controls, did not deter the Air Corps from ordering 13 YP-38s for service testing on April 27. Kelsey survived the crash and remained an important part of the Lightning program. Before the airplane could be declared ready for combat, Lockheed had to block the effects of high-speed aerodynamic compressibility and tail buffeting, and solve other problems discovered during the service tests.

The most vexing difficulty was the loss of control in a dive caused by aerodynamic compressibility. During late spring 1941, Air Corps Major Signa A. Gilke encountered serious trouble while diving his Lightning at high-speed from an altitude of 9,120 m (30,000 ft). When he reached an indicated airspeed of about 515 kph (320 mph), the airplane’s tail began to shake violently and the nose dropped until the dive was almost vertical. Signa recovered and landed safely and the tail buffet problem was soon resolved after Lockheed installed new fillets to improve airflow where the cockpit gondola joined the wing center section. Seventeen months passed before engineers began to determine what caused the Lightning’s nose to drop. They tested a scale model P-38 in the Ames Laboratory wind tunnel operated by the NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) and found that shock waves formed when airflow over the wing leading edges reached transonic speeds. The nose drop and loss of control was never fully remedied but Lockheed installed dive recovery flaps under each wing in 1944. These devices slowed the P-38 enough to allow the pilot to maintain control when diving at high-speed.

Just as the development of the North American P-51 Mustang, Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, and the Vought F4U Corsair (see NASM collection for these aircraft) pushed the limits of aircraft performance into unexplored territory, so too did P-38 development. The type of aircraft envisioned by the Lockheed design team and Air Corps strategists in 1937 did not appear until June 1944. This protracted shakedown period mirrors the tribulations suffered by Vought in sorting out the many technical problems that kept F4U Corsairs off U. S. Navy carrier decks until the end of 1944.

Lockheed’s efforts to trouble-shoot various problems with the design also delayed high-rate, mass production. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, the company had delivered only 69 Lightnings to the Army. Production steadily increased and at its peak in 1944, 22 sub-contractors built various Lightning components and shipped them to Burbank, California, for final assembly. Consolidated-Vultee (Convair) subcontracted to build the wing center section and the firm later became prime manufacturer for 2,000 P-38Ls but that company’s Nashville plant completed only 113 examples of this Lightning model before war’s end. Lockheed and Convair finished 10,038 P-38 aircraft including 500 photo-reconnaissance models. They built more L models, 3,923, than any other version.

To ease control and improve stability, particularly at low speeds, Lockheed equipped all Lightnings, except a batch ordered by Britain, with propellers that counter-rotated. The propeller to the pilot’s left turned counter-clockwise and the propeller to his right turned clockwise, so that one propeller countered the torque and airflow effects generated by the other. The airplane also performed well at high speeds and the definitive P-38L model could make better than 676 kph (420 mph) between 7,600 and 9,120 m (25,000 and 30,000 ft). The design was versatile enough to carry various combinations of bombs, air-to-ground rockets, and external fuel tanks. The multi-engine configuration reduced the Lightning loss-rate to anti-aircraft gunfire during ground attack missions. Single-engine airplanes equipped with power plants cooled by pressurized liquid, such as the North American P-51 Mustang (see NASM collection), were particularly vulnerable. Even a small nick in one coolant line could cause the engine to seize in a matter of minutes.

The first P-38s to reach the Pacific combat theater arrived on April 4, 1942, when a version of the Lightning that carried reconnaissance cameras (designated the F-4), joined the 8th Photographic Squadron based in Australia. This unit launched the first P-38 combat missions over New Guinea and New Britain during April. By May 29, the first 25 P-38s had arrived in Anchorage, Alaska. On August 9, pilots of the 343rd Fighter Group, Eleventh Air Force, flying the P-38E, shot down a pair of Japanese flying boats.

Back in the United States, Army Air Forces leaders tried to control a rumor that Lightnings killed their own pilots. On August 10, 1942, Col. Arthur I. Ennis, Chief of U. S. Army Air Forces Public Relations in Washington, told a fellow officer "… Here’s what the 4th Fighter [training] Command is up against… common rumor out there that the whole West Coast was filled with headless bodies of men who jumped out of P-38s and had their heads cut off by the propellers." Novice Lightning pilots unfamiliar with the correct bailout procedures actually had more to fear from the twin-boom tail, if an emergency dictated taking to the parachute but properly executed, Lightning bailouts were as safe as parachuting from any other high-performance fighter of the day. Misinformation and wild speculation about many new aircraft was rampant during the early War period.

Along with U. S. Navy Grumman F4F Wildcats (see NASM collection) and Curtiss P-40 Warhawks (see NASM collection), Lightnings were the first American fighter airplanes capable of consistently defeating Japanese fighter aircraft. On November 18, men of the 339th Fighter Squadron became the first Lightning pilots to attack Japanese fighters. Flying from Henderson Field on Guadalcanal, they claimed three during a mission to escort Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bombers (see NASM collection).

On April 18, 1943, fourteen P-38 pilots from the 70th and the 339th Fighter Squadrons, 347th Fighter Group, accomplished one of the most important Lightning missions of the war. American ULTRA cryptanalysts had decoded Japanese messages that revealed the timetable for a visit to the front by the commander of the Imperial Japanese Navy, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto. This charismatic leader had crafted the plan to attack Pearl Harbor and Allied strategists believed his loss would severely cripple Japanese morale. The P-38 pilots flew 700 km (435 miles) at heights from 3-15 m (10-50 feet) above the ocean to avoid detection. Over the coast of Bougainville, they intercepted a formation of two Mitsubishi G4M BETTY bombers (see NASM collection) carrying the Admiral and his staff, and six Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighters (see NASM collection) providing escort. The Lightning pilots downed both bombers but lost Lt. Ray Hine to a Zero.

In Europe, the first Americans to down a Luftwaffe aircraft were Lt. Elza E. Shahan flying a 27th Fighter Squadron P-38E, and Lt. J. K. Shaffer flying a Curtiss P-40 (see NASM collection) in the 33rd Fighter Squadron. The two flyers shared the destruction of a Focke-Wulf Fw 200C-3 Condor maritime strike aircraft over Iceland on August 14, 1942. Later that month, the 1st fighter group accepted Lightnings and began combat operations from bases in England but this unit soon moved to fight in North Africa. More than a year passed before the P-38 reappeared over Western Europe. While the Lightning was absent, U. S. Army Air Forces strategists had relearned a painful lesson: unescorted bombers cannot operate successfully in the face of determined opposition from enemy fighters. When P-38s returned to England, the primary mission had become long-range bomber escort at ranges of about 805 kms (500 miles) and at altitudes above 6,080 m (20,000 ft).

On October 15, 1943, P-38H pilots in the 55th Fighter Group flew their first combat mission over Europe at a time when the need for long-range escorts was acute. Just the day before, German fighter pilots had destroyed 60 of 291 Eighth Air Force B-17 Flying Fortresses (see NASM collection) during a mission to bomb five ball-bearing plants at Schweinfurt, Germany. No air force could sustain a loss-rate of nearly 20 percent for more than a few missions but these targets lay well beyond the range of available escort fighters (Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, see NASM collection). American war planners hoped the long-range capabilities of the P-38 Lightning could halt this deadly trend, but the very high and very cold environment peculiar to the European air war caused severe power plant and cockpit heating difficulties for the Lightning pilots. The long-range escort problem was not completely solved until the North American P-51 Mustang (see NASM collection) began to arrive in large numbers early in 1944.

Poor cockpit heating in the H and J model Lightnings made flying and fighting at altitudes that frequently approached 12,320 m (40,000 ft) nearly impossible. This was a fundamental design flaw that Kelly Johnson and his team never anticipated when they designed the airplane six years earlier. In his seminal work on the Allison V-1710 engine, Daniel Whitney analyzed in detail other factors that made the P-38 a disappointing airplane in combat over Western Europe.

• Many new and inexperienced pilots arrived in England during December 1943, along with the new J model P-38 Lightning.

• J model rated at 1,600 horsepower vs. 1,425 for earlier H model Lightnings. This power setting required better maintenance between flights. It appears this work was not done in many cases.

• During stateside training, Lightning pilots were taught to fly at high rpm settings and low engine manifold pressure during cruise flight. This was very hard on the engines, and not in keeping with technical directives issued by Allison and Lockheed.

• The quality of fuel in England may have been poor, TEL (tetraethyl lead) fuel additive appeared to condense inside engine induction manifolds, causing detonation (destructive explosion of fuel mixture rather than controlled burning).

• Improved turbo supercharger intercoolers appeared on the J model P-38. These devices greatly reduced manifold temperatures but this encouraged TEL condensation in manifolds during cruise flight and increased spark plug fouling.

Using water injection to minimize detonation might have reduced these engine problems. Both the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt and the North American P-51 Mustang (see NASM collection) were fitted with water injection systems but not the P-38. Lightning pilots continued to fly, despite these handicaps.

During November 1942, two all-Lightning fighter groups, the 1st and the 14th, began operating in North Africa. In the Mediterranean Theater, P-38 pilots flew more sorties than Allied pilots flying any other type of fighter. They claimed 608 enemy a/c destroyed in the air, 123 probably destroyed and 343 damaged, against the loss of 131 Lightnings.

In the war against Japan, the P-38 truly excelled. Combat rarely occurred above 6,080 m (20,000 ft) and the engine and cockpit comfort problems common in Europe never plagued pilots in the Pacific Theater. The Lightning’s excellent range was used to full advantage above the vast expanses of water. In early 1945, Lightning pilots of the 12th Fighter Squadron, 18th Fighter Group, flew a mission that lasted 10 ½ hours and covered more than 3,220 km (2,000 miles). In August, P-38 pilots established the world’s long-distance record for a World War II combat fighter when they flew from the Philippines to the Netherlands East Indies, a distance of 3,703 km (2,300 miles). During early 1944, Lightning pilots in the 475th Fighter Group began the ‘race of aces.’ By March, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas J. Lynch had scored 21 victories before he fell to antiaircraft gunfire while strafing enemy ships. Major Thomas B. McGuire downed 38 Japanese aircraft before he was killed when his P-38 crashed at low altitude in early January 1945. Major Richard I. Bong became America’s highest scoring fighter ace (40 victories) but died in the crash of a Lockheed P-80 (see NASM collection) on August 6, 1945.

Museum records show that Lockheed assigned the construction number 422-2273 to the National Air and Space Museum’s P-38. The Army Air Forces accepted this Lightning as a P-38J-l0-LO on November 6, 1943, and the service identified the airplane with the serial number 42-67762. Recent investigations conducted by a team of specialists at the Paul E. Garber Facility, and Herb Brownstein, a volunteer in the Aeronautics Division at the National Air and Space Museum, have revealed many hitherto unknown aspects to the history of this aircraft.

Brownstein examined NASM files and documents at the National Archives. He discovered that a few days after the Army Air Forces (AAF) accepted this airplane, the Engineering Division at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio, granted Lockheed permission to convert this P-38 into a two-seat trainer. The firm added a seat behind the pilot to accommodate an instructor who would train civilian pilots in instrument flying techniques. Once trained, these test pilots evaluated new Lightnings fresh off the assembly line.

In a teletype sent by the Engineering Division on March 2, 1944, Brownstein also discovered that this P-38 was released to Colonel Benjamin S. Kelsey from March 3 to April 10, 1944, to conduct special tests. This action was confirmed the following day in a cable from the War Department. This same pilot, then a Lieutenant, flew the XP-38 across the United States in 1939 and survived the crash that destroyed this Lightning at Mitchel Field, New York. In early 1944, Kelsey was assigned to the Eighth Air Force in England and he apparently traveled to the Lockheed factory at Burbank to pick up the P-38. Further information about these tests and Kelsey’s involvement remain an intriguing question.

One of Brownstein’s most important discoveries was a small file rich with information about the NASM Lightning. This file contained a cryptic reference to a "Major Bong" who flew the NASM P-38 on April 16, 1945, at Wright Field. Bong had planned to fly for an hour to evaluate an experimental method of interconnecting the movement of the throttle and propeller control levers. His flight ended after twenty-minutes when "the right engine blew up before I had a chance [to conduct the test]." The curator at the Richard I. Bong Heritage Center confirmed that America’s highest scoring ace made this flight in the NASM P-38 Lightning.

Working in Building 10 at the Paul E. Garber Facility, Rob Mawhinney, Dave Wilson, Wil Lee, Bob Weihrauch, Jim Purton, and Heather Hutton spent several months during the spring and summer of 2001 carefully disassembling, inspecting, and cleaning the NASM Lightning. They found every hardware modification consistent with a model J-25 airplane, not the model J-10 painted in the data block beneath the artifact’s left nose. This fact dovetails perfectly with knowledge uncovered by Brownstein. On April 10, the Engineering Division again cabled Lockheed asking the company to prepare 42-67762 for transfer to Wright Field "in standard configuration." The standard P-38 configuration at that time was the P-38J-25. The work took several weeks and the fighter does not appear on Wright Field records until May 15, 1944. On June 9, the Flight Test Section at Wright Field released the fighter for flight trials aimed at collecting pilot comments on how the airplane handled.

Wright Field’s Aeromedical Laboratory was the next organization involved with this P-38. That unit installed a kit on July 26 that probably measured the force required to move the control wheel left and right to actuate the power-boosted ailerons installed in all Lightnings beginning with version J-25. From August 12-16, the Power Plant Laboratory carried out tests to measure the hydraulic pump temperatures on this Lightning. Then beginning September 16 and lasting about ten days, the Bombing Branch, Armament Laboratory, tested type R-3 fragmentation bomb racks. The work appears to have ended early in December. On June 20, 1945, the AAF Aircraft Distribution Office asked that the Air Technical Service Command transfer the Lightning from Wright Field to Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma, a temporary holding area for Air Force museum aircraft. The P-38 arrived at the Oklahoma City Air Depot on June 27, 1945, and mechanics prepared the fighter for flyable storage.

Airplane Flight Reports for this Lightning also describe the following activities and movements:

6-21-45 Wright Field, Ohio, 5.15 hours of flying.
6-22-45Wright Field, Ohio, .35 minutes of flying by Lt. Col. Wendel [?] J. Kelley and P. Shannon.
6-25-45Altus, Oklahoma, .55 hours flown, pilot P. Shannon.
6-27-45Altus, Oklahoma, #2 engine changed, 1.05 hours flown by Air Corps F/O Ralph F. Coady.
10-5-45 OCATSC-GCAAF (Garden City Army Air Field, Garden City, Kansas), guns removed and ballast added.
10-8-45Adams Field, Little Rock, Arkansas.
10-9-45Nashville, Tennessee,
5-28-46Freeman Field, Indiana, maintenance check by Air Corps Capt. H. M. Chadhowere [sp]?
7-24-46Freeman Field, Indiana, 1 hour local flight by 1st Lt. Charles C. Heckel.
7-31-46 Freeman Field, Indiana, 4120th AAF Base Unit, ferry flight to Orchard Place [Illinois] by 1st Lt. Charles C. Heckel.

On August 5, 1946, the AAF moved the aircraft to another storage site at the former Consolidated B-24 bomber assembly plant at Park Ridge, Illinois. A short time later, the AAF transferred custody of the Lightning and more than sixty other World War II-era airplanes to the Smithsonian National Air Museum. During the early 1950s, the Air Force moved these airplanes from Park Ridge to the Smithsonian storage site at Suitland, Maryland.

• • •

Quoting from Wikipedia | Lockheed P-38 Lightning:

The Lockheed P-38 Lightning was a World War II American fighter aircraft built by Lockheed. Developed to a United States Army Air Corps requirement, the P-38 had distinctive twin booms and a single, central nacelle containing the cockpit and armament. Named "fork-tailed devil" by the Luftwaffe and "two planes, one pilot" by the Japanese, the P-38 was used in a number of roles, including dive bombing, level bombing, ground-attack, photo reconnaissance missions, and extensively as a long-range escort fighter when equipped with drop tanks under its wings.

The P-38 was used most successfully in the Pacific Theater of Operations and the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations as the mount of America’s top aces, Richard Bong (40 victories) and Thomas McGuire (38 victories). In the South West Pacific theater, the P-38 was the primary long-range fighter of United States Army Air Forces until the appearance of large numbers of P-51D Mustangs toward the end of the war. The P-38 was unusually quiet for a fighter, the exhaust muffled by the turbo-superchargers. It was extremely forgiving, and could be mishandled in many ways, but the rate of roll was too slow for it to excel as a dogfighter. The P-38 was the only American fighter aircraft in production throughout American involvement in the war, from Pearl Harbor to Victory over Japan Day.

Variants: Lightning in maturity: P-38J

The P-38J was introduced in August 1943. The turbo-supercharger intercooler system on previous variants had been housed in the leading edges of the wings and had proven vulnerable to combat damage and could burst if the wrong series of controls were mistakenly activated. In the P-38J model, the streamlined engine nacelles of previous Lightnings were changed to fit the intercooler radiator between the oil coolers, forming a "chin" that visually distinguished the J model from its predecessors. While the P-38J used the same V-1710-89/91 engines as the H model, the new core-type intercooler more efficiently lowered intake manifold temperatures and permitted a substantial increase in rated power. The leading edge of the outer wing was fitted with 55 gal (208 l) fuel tanks, filling the space formerly occupied by intercooler tunnels, but these were omitted on early P-38J blocks due to limited availability.

The final 210 J models, designated P-38J-25-LO, alleviated the compressibility problem through the addition of a set of electrically-actuated dive recovery flaps just outboard of the engines on the bottom centerline of the wings. With these improvements, a USAAF pilot reported a dive speed of almost 600 mph (970 km/h), although the indicated air speed was later corrected for compressibility error, and the actual dive speed was lower. Lockheed manufactured over 200 retrofit modification kits to be installed on P-38J-10-LO and J-20-LO already in Europe, but the USAAF C-54 carrying them was shot down by an RAF pilot who mistook the Douglas transport for a German Focke-Wulf Condor. Unfortunately the loss of the kits came during Lockheed test pilot Tony LeVier‘s four-month morale-boosting tour of P-38 bases. Flying a new Lightning named "Snafuperman" modified to full P-38J-25-LO specs at Lockheed’s modification center near Belfast, LeVier captured the pilots’ full attention by routinely performing maneuvers during March 1944 that common Eighth Air Force wisdom held to be suicidal. It proved too little too late because the decision had already been made to re-equip with Mustangs.

The P-38J-25-LO production block also introduced hydraulically-boosted ailerons, one of the first times such a system was fitted to a fighter. This significantly improved the Lightning’s rate of roll and reduced control forces for the pilot. This production block and the following P-38L model are considered the definitive Lightnings, and Lockheed ramped up production, working with subcontractors across the country to produce hundreds of Lightnings each month.

Noted P-38 pilots

Richard Bong and Thomas McGuire

The American ace of aces and his closest competitor both flew Lightnings as they tallied 40 and 38 victories respectively. Majors Richard I. "Dick" Bong and Thomas J. "Tommy" McGuire of the USAAF competed for the top position. Both men were awarded the Medal of Honor.

McGuire was killed in air combat in January 1945 over the Philippines, after racking up 38 confirmed kills, making him the second-ranking American ace. Bong was rotated back to the United States as America’s ace of aces, after making 40 kills, becoming a test pilot. He was killed on 6 August 1945, the day the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan, when his P-80 Shooting Star jet fighter flamed out on takeoff.

Charles Lindbergh

The famed aviator Charles Lindbergh toured the South Pacific as a civilian contractor for United Aircraft Corporation, comparing and evaluating performance of single- and twin-engined fighters for Vought. He worked to improve range and load limits of the F4U Corsair, flying both routine and combat strafing missions in Corsairs alongside Marine pilots. In Hollandia, he attached himself to the 475th FG flying P-38s so that he could investigate the twin-engine fighter. Though new to the machine, he was instrumental in extending the range of the P-38 through improved throttle settings, or engine-leaning techniques, notably by reducing engine speed to 1,600 rpm, setting the carburetors for auto-lean and flying at 185 mph (298 km/h) indicated airspeed which reduced fuel consumption to 70 gal/h, about 2.6 mpg. This combination of settings had been considered dangerous; it was thought it would upset the fuel mixture and cause an explosion. Everywhere Lindbergh went in the South Pacific, he was accorded the normal preferential treatment of a visiting colonel, though he had resigned his Air Corps Reserve colonel’s commission three years before. While with the 475th, he held training classes and took part in a number of Army Air Corps combat missions. On 28 July 1944, Lindbergh shot down a Mitsubishi Ki-51 "Sonia" flown expertly by the veteran commander of 73rd Independent Flying Chutai, Imperial Japanese Army Captain Saburo Shimada. In an extended, twisting dogfight in which many of the participants ran out of ammunition, Shimada turned his aircraft directly toward Lindbergh who was just approaching the combat area. Lindbergh fired in a defensive reaction brought on by Shimada’s apparent head-on ramming attack. Hit by cannon and machine gun fire, the "Sonia’s" propeller visibly slowed, but Shimada held his course. Lindbergh pulled up at the last moment to avoid collision as the damaged "Sonia" went into a steep dive, hit the ocean and sank. Lindbergh’s wingman, ace Joseph E. "Fishkiller" Miller, Jr., had also scored hits on the "Sonia" after it had begun its fatal dive, but Miller was certain the kill credit was Lindbergh’s. The unofficial kill was not entered in the 475th’s war record. On 12 August 1944 Lindbergh left Hollandia to return to the United States.

Charles MacDonald

The seventh-ranking American ace, Charles H. MacDonald, flew a Lightning against the Japanese, scoring 27 kills in his famous aircraft, the Putt Putt Maru.

Robin Olds

Main article: Robin Olds

Robin Olds was the last P-38 ace in the Eighth Air Force and the last in the ETO. Flying a P-38J, he downed five German fighters on two separate missions over France and Germany. He subsequently transitioned to P-51s to make seven more kills. After World War II, he flew F-4 Phantom IIs in Vietnam, ending his career as brigadier general with 16 kills.

Clay Tice

A P-38 piloted by Clay Tice was the first American aircraft to land in Japan after VJ-Day, when he and his wingman set down on Nitagahara because his wingman was low on fuel.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Noted aviation pioneer and writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry vanished in a F-5B-1-LO, 42-68223, c/n 2734, of Groupe de Chasse II/33, out of Borgo-Porreta, Bastia, Corsica, a reconnaissance variant of the P-38, while on a flight over the Mediterranean, from Corsica to mainland France, on 31 July 1944. His health, both physical and mental (he was said to be intermittently subject to depression), had been deteriorating and there had been talk of taking him off flight status. There have been suggestions (although no proof to date) that this was a suicide rather than an aircraft failure or combat loss. In 2000, a French scuba diver found the wreckage of a Lightning in the Mediterranean off the coast of Marseille, and it was confirmed in April 2004 as Saint-Exupéry’s F-5B. No evidence of air combat was found. In March 2008, a former Luftwaffe pilot, Horst Rippert from Jagdgruppe 200, claimed to have shot down Saint-Exupéry.

Adrian Warburton

The RAF’s legendary photo-recon "ace", Wing Commander Adrian Warburton DSO DFC, was the pilot of a Lockheed P-38 borrowed from the USAAF that took off on 12 April 1944 to photograph targets in Germany. W/C Warburton failed to arrive at the rendezvous point and was never seen again. In 2003, his remains were recovered in Germany from his wrecked USAAF P-38 Lightning.

• • • • •

Quoting Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum | Boeing B-29 Superfortress "Enola Gay":

Boeing’s B-29 Superfortress was the most sophisticated propeller-driven bomber of World War II and the first bomber to house its crew in pressurized compartments. Although designed to fight in the European theater, the B-29 found its niche on the other side of the globe. In the Pacific, B-29s delivered a variety of aerial weapons: conventional bombs, incendiary bombs, mines, and two nuclear weapons.

On August 6, 1945, this Martin-built B-29-45-MO dropped the first atomic weapon used in combat on Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later, Bockscar (on display at the U.S. Air Force Museum near Dayton, Ohio) dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan. Enola Gay flew as the advance weather reconnaissance aircraft that day. A third B-29, The Great Artiste, flew as an observation aircraft on both missions.

Transferred from the United States Air Force.

Manufacturer:
Boeing Aircraft Co.
Martin Co., Omaha, Nebr.

Date:
1945

Country of Origin:
United States of America

Dimensions:
Overall: 900 x 3020cm, 32580kg, 4300cm (29ft 6 5/16in. x 99ft 1in., 71825.9lb., 141ft 15/16in.)

Materials:
Polished overall aluminum finish

Physical Description:
Four-engine heavy bomber with semi-monoqoque fuselage and high-aspect ratio wings. Polished aluminum finish overall, standard late-World War II Army Air Forces insignia on wings and aft fuselage and serial number on vertical fin; 509th Composite Group markings painted in black; "Enola Gay" in black, block letters on lower left nose.

Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center: main hall panorama (P-40 et al)

Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center: main hall panorama (P-40 et al)
Virginia Union University
Image by Chris Devers
See more photos of this, and the Wikipedia article.

Details, quoting from Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum | Curtiss P-40E Warhawk (Kittyhawk IA):

Whether known as the Warhawk, Tomahawk, or Kittyhawk, the Curtiss P-40 proved to be a successful, versatile fighter during the first half of World War II. The shark-mouthed Tomahawks that Gen. Claire Chennault’s "Flying Tigers" flew in China against the Japanese remain among the most popular airplanes of the war. P-40E pilot Lt. Boyd D. Wagner became the first American ace of World War II when he shot down six Japanese aircraft in the Philippines in mid-December 1941.

Curtiss-Wright built this airplane as Model 87-A3 and delivered it to Canada as a Kittyhawk I in 1941. It served until 1946 in No. 111 Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force. U.S. Air Force personnel at Andrews Air Force Base restored it in 1975 to represent an aircraft of the 75th Fighter Squadron, 23rd Fighter Group, 14th Air Force.

Donated by the Exchange Club in Memory of Kellis Forbes.

Manufacturer:
Curtiss Aircraft Company

Date:
1939

Country of Origin:
United States of America

Dimensions:
Overall: 330 x 970cm, 2686kg, 1140cm (10ft 9 15/16in. x 31ft 9 7/8in., 5921.6lb., 37ft 4 13/16in.)

Materials:
All-metal, semi-monocoque

Physical Description:
Single engine, single seat, fighter aircraft.

Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center: B-29 Superfortress “Enola Gay” panorama

Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center: B-29 Superfortress “Enola Gay” panorama
Virginia Union University
Image by Chris Devers
Quoting Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum | Lockheed P-38J-10-LO Lightning :

In the P-38 Lockheed engineer Clarence "Kelly" Johnson and his team of designers created one of the most successful twin-engine fighters ever flown by any nation. From 1942 to 1945, U. S. Army Air Forces pilots flew P-38s over Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Pacific, and from the frozen Aleutian Islands to the sun-baked deserts of North Africa. Lightning pilots in the Pacific theater downed more Japanese aircraft than pilots flying any other Allied warplane.

Maj. Richard I. Bong, America’s leading fighter ace, flew this P-38J-10-LO on April 16, 1945, at Wright Field, Ohio, to evaluate an experimental method of interconnecting the movement of the throttle and propeller control levers. However, his right engine exploded in flight before he could conduct the experiment.

Transferred from the United States Air Force.

Manufacturer:
Lockheed Aircraft Company

Date:
1943

Country of Origin:
United States of America

Dimensions:
Overall: 390 x 1170cm, 6345kg, 1580cm (12ft 9 9/16in. x 38ft 4 5/8in., 13988.2lb., 51ft 10 1/16in.)

Materials:
All-metal

Physical Description:
Twin-tail boom and twin-engine fighter; tricycle landing gear.

• • • • •

Quoting Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum | Boeing B-29 Superfortress "Enola Gay":

Boeing’s B-29 Superfortress was the most sophisticated propeller-driven bomber of World War II and the first bomber to house its crew in pressurized compartments. Although designed to fight in the European theater, the B-29 found its niche on the other side of the globe. In the Pacific, B-29s delivered a variety of aerial weapons: conventional bombs, incendiary bombs, mines, and two nuclear weapons.

On August 6, 1945, this Martin-built B-29-45-MO dropped the first atomic weapon used in combat on Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later, Bockscar (on display at the U.S. Air Force Museum near Dayton, Ohio) dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan. Enola Gay flew as the advance weather reconnaissance aircraft that day. A third B-29, The Great Artiste, flew as an observation aircraft on both missions.

Transferred from the United States Air Force.

Manufacturer:
Boeing Aircraft Co.
Martin Co., Omaha, Nebr.

Date:
1945

Country of Origin:
United States of America

Dimensions:
Overall: 900 x 3020cm, 32580kg, 4300cm (29ft 6 5/16in. x 99ft 1in., 71825.9lb., 141ft 15/16in.)

Materials:
Polished overall aluminum finish

Physical Description:
Four-engine heavy bomber with semi-monoqoque fuselage and high-aspect ratio wings. Polished aluminum finish overall, standard late-World War II Army Air Forces insignia on wings and aft fuselage and serial number on vertical fin; 509th Composite Group markings painted in black; "Enola Gay" in black, block letters on lower left nose.

Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center: Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird port panorama (Bowlus 1-S-2100 Senior Albatross “Falcon” overhead)

Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center: Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird port panorama (Bowlus 1-S-2100 Senior Albatross “Falcon” overhead)
Virginia Union University
Image by Chris Devers
See more photos of this, and the Wikipedia article.

Details, quoting from Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum | Bowlus 1-S-2100 Senior Albatross "Falcon"

Hawley Bowlus developed the Senior Albatross series from a design he called the Bowlus Super Sailplane. In Germany, designers and pilots led the world in the building and flying of high-performance gliders, and Bowlus was strongly influenced by their work. He and German glider pioneer, Martin Schempp, taught courses in aircraft design and construction at the Curtiss-Wright Technical Institute in Glendale, California. The two instructors led a group of students that built the Super Sailplane in 1932. The Super’ served as a prototype for the Senior Albatross.

In May 1934, Warren E. Eaton acquired the Senior Albatross now preserved at NASM from Hawley Bowlus. Eaton joined the U. S. Army Air Service and flew SPAD XIII fighters (see NASM collection) in the 103rd Aero Squadron, 3rd Pursuit Group, at Issoudon, France, from August 27, 1918, to the Armistice. He was credited with downing one enemy aircraft in aerial combat. After the war, Eaton founded the Soaring Society of America and became that organization’s first president.

Gift of Mrs. Genevieve J. Eaton.

Manufacturer:
Bowlus-Dupont Sailplane Company

Date:
1933

Country of Origin:
United States of America

Dimensions:
Wingspan: 18.8 m (61 ft 9 in)
Length: 7.2 m (23 ft 7 in)
Height: 1.6 m (5 ft 4 in)
Weight: Empty, 153 kg (340 lb) Gross, 236 kg (520 lb)

Materials:
Originally skinned with mahogany and covered with lightweight cotton "glider cloth," then covered with a shellac-based varnish. In 2000, restorers removed original fabric and shellac coating, recovered with Grade A cotton fabric followed by several coats of nitrate dope, then lemon shellac, finishing with several coats of Johnson Wax.

Physical Description:
Monoplane glider with strut-braced, gull-type wing mounted high on monocoque fuselage; wooden construction with steel and aluminum fittings and controls; fuselage and wing leading edge covered with mahogany plywood. Fuselage skin applied over laminated Spruce bulkheads. Landing gear consists of single-wheel and …. [size?] tire mounted beneath forward fuselage, spring-steel tail skid beneath rudder.

Cockpit covered with hood made from laminated Spruce bulkheads and covered with Mahogany plywood. Circular openings cut into hood on either side of pilot’s head. Instrumentation: altimeter, airspeed, variometer plus a bank-and-turn indicator powered by low-speed venturi tube installed on retractable mount beneath right wingroot.

Areas aft of wing spar and all control surfaces covered with glider cloth. Cloth is doped directly onto ribs and plywood skin without stitching for smooth finish. Constant-chord wing from fuselage to mid-span, tapered profile from mid-span to wingtip; constant-chord,
split-trailing edge flaps and high-aspect ratio ailerons. A Gö 549 airfoil is used at the wing root, becoming symmetrical at the tip.

All-flying elevator mounted on duraluminum torque-tube, rudder hinged to box-beam post, both surfaces built up from Spruce and covered with glider cloth.

Long Description:
Long before he designed and built the Bowlus-DuPont "Falcon," William Hawley Bowlus had contributed to aviation history. In 1926, T. Claude Ryan hired him as factory manager at the Ryan Airlines, Inc., plant at San Diego, California. Late in February 1927, Bowlus and twenty Ryan workmen, supervised by chief engineer Donald A. Hall and Charles A. Lindbergh, built a long-range monoplane based on the Ryan M-2. Lindbergh christened the modified M-2 the "Spirit of St. Louis." It is said that Bowlus suggested several design features that Lindbergh approved and incorporated in the finished airplane. Bowlus renewed his friendship with Lindbergh late in 1929. He taught the ocean flyer and his wife, Anne Morrow, to fly sailplanes and in January 1930, both Charles and Anne completed their first solo glider flights.

Hawley Bowlus developed the Senior Albatross series from a design that he called the Bowlus Super Sailplane. In Germany, designers and pilots led the world in building and flying high-performance gliders and Bowlus was strongly influenced by their work. He and German glider pioneer, Martin Schempp, taught courses in aircraft design and construction at the Curtiss-Wright Technical Institute in Glendale, California. The two instructors led a group of students who built the Super Sailplane in 1932. The Super Sailplane served as a prototype for the Senior Albatross. The wing of the Super was nearly a copy of the German "Wein" sailplane designed and flown with great success in 1930 and 1931 by Robert Kronfeld. Both gliders employed the same Goettingen 549 wing airfoil and even the tips of the control surfaces curved to almost identical contours. When Bowlus built the Senior Albatross series, the cockpit enclosure closely resembled another record-setting and influential German sailplane, the "Fafnir," designed by Alexander Lippisch specifically for pilot Gunther Groenhoff.

Richard C. du Pont was also an important character in the history of the Senior Albatross. By the time he finished high school, this heir to the Delaware-based chemical empire could fly gliders with some skill. During his first year at the University of Virginia, he founded a campus soaring club. His passion for motorless flight drew him farther away from traditional academics and in 1932, he transferred to the Curtiss-Wright Technical Institute. Du Pont was probably among the students who built the Super Albatross.

In 1933, du Pont teamed with Hawley Bowlus and the two men set up shop in San Fernando, California, to build gliders. Bowlus furnished the design expertise and performed much of the construction. Du Pont supplied enthusiasm, labor, and financing. The Bowlus-DuPont Sailplane Company became an official entity in 1934 not in California, but in Delaware. The firm folded in September 1936 but during its short corporate life, the small factory built four examples of the Senior Albatross but no two were constructed exactly alike. All four sailplanes did have ‘gull’ wings (each wing was bent down slightly at about mid-span) and this feature differentiates these airplanes from the prototype Super Sailplane. Bowlus fitted two with wing flaps, rather than spoilers, for better speed and altitude control during landing. Mahogany plywood skinned one and spruce plywood covered the other three aircraft. Bowlus sold each of these handcrafted airplanes for ,500.

In 1935, Hawley Bowlus began work on a two-seat Senior Albatross built from aluminum but other distractions delayed completion until 1940. In 1939, Ernest Langley and Jim Gough built another Senior Albatross at the Bowlus ranch in California.

Performance calculations revealed a best glide ratio of 23:1 when flying at 64.4 kph (40 mph). If it became necessary, the pilot of a Senior Albatross could push his mount well over 161 kph (100 mph) as long as he never exceeded a speed of 241.5 kph (150 mph). With an accomplished pilot at the controls, the Senior Albatross could fly better than any American airplane without a motor and they were very pleasing to look at too. A quotation from the July 1934 issue of "Aviation," a popular periodical, sums up one writer’s impressions of the Bowlus-Du Pont Senior Albatross:

"Few flying machines have ever exhibited such an extraordinary combination of workmanship, finish, and aerodynamic refinement, so that it seems quite safe to say that the new ships represent the ultimate in soaring design practice in the United States, if not the world."

The pilots who flew the Senior Albatross nearly dominated American competitive soaring. In 1933, Richard du Pont flew the first Senior Albatross at the fourth U. S. National Soaring Championships held at Elmira, New York. On September 21, du Pont set the American sailplane distance record by flying 196 km (121.6 miles). On June 25, 1934, he flew to within 3.2 km (2 miles) of New York City and established a new world distance record of 254 km (158 miles). On June 30, 1934, du Pont set the U. S. altitude record for sailplanes by climbing to 1,892 m (6,223 ft). The following year, Lewin Barringer soared his Senior Albatross parallel to the ridges of the Allegheny Mountains for 250.3 km (155.5 miles).

In May 1934, Warren E. Eaton acquired from Hawley Bowlus the Senior Albatross that is now preserved at NASM. Eaton was already a veteran aviator. He had joined the U. S. Army Air Service and flew SPAD XIII fighters (see NASM collection) in the 103rd Aero Squadron, 3rd Pursuit Group, at Issoudon, France, from August 27, 1918, until Armistice Day, November 11. He was credited with downing one enemy aircraft in aerial combat. After the war, Eaton founded the Soaring Society of America and became that organization’s first president.

Eaton had commissioned Bowlus to build this glider after he saw Richard C. du Pont fly the second Senior Albatross at the U. S. Nationals the year before. Eaton’s ordered flaps for his aircraft and it was the only Senior Albatross skinned with mahogany plywood. He christened it "Falcon" and it bore the federal aircraft registration number G13763. Several gold decals edged in black also appeared at various locations on the fuselage. "Warren E. Eaton" and "Falcon" appeared on both sides of the nose. A stylized albatross and the company motto "On the Wings of an Albatross" were applied to the vertical fin above the words "Bowlus-Du Pont Sailplane Company."

Eaton first flew the glider at San Diego. In June, he brought it to the national contest at Harris Hill, New York. At Big Meadows, Virginia, Eaton set the American soaring altitude record, 2,765 m (9,094 ft), during September 1934. Three months later, Eaton died in Florida flying a Franklin p glider.

In 1935, Warren Eaton’s widow, Genevieve, donated the "Falcon" to the Smithsonian Institution. It arrived in Washington on May 28 and a few days later, museum personnel suspended the glider from the ceiling of the West Hall of the Arts and Industries Building where it remained on display for many years.

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See more photos of this, and the Wikipedia article.

Details, quoting from Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum | Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird:

No reconnaissance aircraft in history has operated globally in more hostile airspace or with such complete impunity than the SR-71, the world’s fastest jet-propelled aircraft. The Blackbird’s performance and operational achievements placed it at the pinnacle of aviation technology developments during the Cold War.

This Blackbird accrued about 2,800 hours of flight time during 24 years of active service with the U.S. Air Force. On its last flight, March 6, 1990, Lt. Col. Ed Yielding and Lt. Col. Joseph Vida set a speed record by flying from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., in 1 hour, 4 minutes, and 20 seconds, averaging 3,418 kilometers (2,124 miles) per hour. At the flight’s conclusion, they landed at Washington-Dulles International Airport and turned the airplane over to the Smithsonian.

Transferred from the United States Air Force.

Manufacturer:
Lockheed Aircraft Corporation

Designer:
Clarence L. "Kelly" Johnson

Date:
1964

Country of Origin:
United States of America

Dimensions:
Overall: 18ft 5 15/16in. x 55ft 7in. x 107ft 5in., 169998.5lb. (5.638m x 16.942m x 32.741m, 77110.8kg)
Other: 18ft 5 15/16in. x 107ft 5in. x 55ft 7in. (5.638m x 32.741m x 16.942m)

Materials:
Titanium

Physical Description:
Twin-engine, two-seat, supersonic strategic reconnaissance aircraft; airframe constructed largley of titanium and its alloys; vertical tail fins are constructed of a composite (laminated plastic-type material) to reduce radar cross-section; Pratt and Whitney J58 (JT11D-20B) turbojet engines feature large inlet shock cones.

Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center: main hall panorama (P-40 et al)

Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center: main hall panorama (P-40 et al)
Virginia Union University
Image by Chris Devers
See more photos of this, and the Wikipedia article.

Details, quoting from Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum | Curtiss P-40E Warhawk (Kittyhawk IA):

Whether known as the Warhawk, Tomahawk, or Kittyhawk, the Curtiss P-40 proved to be a successful, versatile fighter during the first half of World War II. The shark-mouthed Tomahawks that Gen. Claire Chennault’s "Flying Tigers" flew in China against the Japanese remain among the most popular airplanes of the war. P-40E pilot Lt. Boyd D. Wagner became the first American ace of World War II when he shot down six Japanese aircraft in the Philippines in mid-December 1941.

Curtiss-Wright built this airplane as Model 87-A3 and delivered it to Canada as a Kittyhawk I in 1941. It served until 1946 in No. 111 Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force. U.S. Air Force personnel at Andrews Air Force Base restored it in 1975 to represent an aircraft of the 75th Fighter Squadron, 23rd Fighter Group, 14th Air Force.

Donated by the Exchange Club in Memory of Kellis Forbes.

Manufacturer:
Curtiss Aircraft Company

Date:
1939

Country of Origin:
United States of America

Dimensions:
Overall: 330 x 970cm, 2686kg, 1140cm (10ft 9 15/16in. x 31ft 9 7/8in., 5921.6lb., 37ft 4 13/16in.)

Materials:
All-metal, semi-monocoque

Physical Description:
Single engine, single seat, fighter aircraft.

Long Description:
Whether it was the Tomahawk, Warhawk, or Kittyhawk, the Curtiss P-40 was a successful and versatile fighter aircraft during the first half of World War II. The shark-mouthed Tomahawks that General Claire Chennault led against the Japanese remain among the most popular airplanes of the war. In the Phillipines, Lt. Boyd D. Wagner became the first American ace of World War II while flying a P-40E when he shot down six Japanese aircraft during mid-December 1941. P-40s were first-line Army Air Corps fighters at the start of the war but they soon gave way to more advanced designs such as the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt and the Lockheed P-38 Lightning (see NASM collection for both aircraft). The P-40 is not ranked among the best overall fighters of the war but it was a rugged, effective design available in large numbers early in the war when America and her allies urgently required them. The P-40 remained in production from 1939 to the end of 1944 and a total of 13, 737 were built.

Design engineer Dr. Donovan R. Berlin layed the foundation for the P-40 in 1935 when he designed the agile, but lightly-armed, P-36 fighter equipped with a radial, air-cooled engine. The Curtiss-Wright Corporation won a production contract for 210 P-36 airplanes in 1937-the largest Army airplane contract awarded since World War I. Worldwide, fighter aircraft designs matured rapidly during the late 1930s and it was soon obvious that the P-36 was no match for newer European designs. High altitude performance in particular became a priceless commodity. Berlin attempted to improve the P-36 by redesigning it in to accommodate a turbo-supercharged Allison V-1710-11 inline, liquid-cooled engine. The new aircraft was designated the XP-37 but proved unpopular with pilots. The turbo-supercharger was not reliable and Berlin had placed the cockpit too far back on the fuselage, restricting the view to the front of the fighter. Nonetheless, when the engine was not giving trouble, the more-streamlined XP-37 was much faster than the P-36.

Curtiss tried again in 1938. Berlin had modified another P-36 with a new Allison V-1710-19 engine. It was designated the XP-40 and first flew on October 14, 1938. The XP-40 looked promising and Curtiss offered it to Army Air Corps leaders who evaluated the airplane at Wright Field, Ohio, in 1939, along with several other fighter proposals. The P-40 won the competition, after some modifications, and Curtiss received an order for 540. At this time, the armament package consisted of two .50 caliber machine guns in the fuselage and four .30 caliber machine guns in the wings.

After production began in March 1940, France ordered 140 P-40s but the British took delivery of these airplanes when Paris surrendered. The British named the aircraft Tomahawks but found they performed poorly in high-altitude combat over northern Europe and relegated them to low-altitude operations in North Africa. The Russians bought more than 2,000 P-40s but details of their operational history remain obscure.

When the United States declared war, P-40s equipped many of the Army Air Corps’s front line fighter units. The plucky fighter eventually saw combat in almost every theater of operations being the most effective in the China-Burma-India (CBI) Theater. Of all the CBI groups that gained the most notoriety of the entire war, and remains to this day synonymous with the P-40, is the American Volunteer Group (AVG) or the Flying Tigers. The unit was organized after the Chinese gave former U. S. Army Air Corps Captain Claire Lee Chennault almost 9 million dollars in 1940 to buy aircraft and recruit pilots to fly against the Japanese. Chennault’s most important support within the Chinese government came from Madam Chiang Kai-shek, a Lt. Colonel in the Chinese Air Force and for a time, the service’s overall commander.

The money from China diverted an order placed by the British Royal Air Force for 100 Curtiss-Wright P-40B Tomahawks but buying airplanes was only one important step in creating a fighting air unit. Trained pilots were needed, and quickly, as tensions across the Pacific escalated. On April 15, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt quietly signed an Executive Order permitting Chennault to recruit directly from the ranks of American military reserve pilots. Within a few months, 350 flyers joined from pursuit (fighter), bomber, and patrol squadrons. In all, about half the pilots in the Flying Tigers came from the U. S. Navy and Marine Corps while the Army Air Corps supplied one-third. Factory test pilots at Bell, Consolidated, and other companies, and commercial airline pilots, filled the remaining slots.

The Flying Tigers flew their first mission on December 20. The unit’s name was derived from the ferocious fangs and teeth painted on the nose of AVG P-40s at either side of the distinctive, large radiator air intake. The idea is said to originate from pictures in a magazine that showed Royal Air Force Tomahawks of No. 112 Squadron, operating in the western desert of North Africa, adorned with fangs and teeth painted around their air intakes. The Flying Tigers were the first real opposition the Japanese military encountered. In less than 7 months of action, AVG pilots destroyed about 115 Japanese aircraft and lost only 11 planes in air-to-air combat. The AVG disbanded on July 4, 1942, and its assets, including a few pilots, became a part of the U. S. Army Air Forces (AAF) 23rd Fighter Group in the newly activated 14th Air Force. Chennault, now a Brigadier General, assumed command of the 14th AF and by war’s end, the 23rd was one of the highest-scoring Army fighter groups.

As wartime experience in the P-40 mounted, Curtiss made many modifications. Engineers added armor plate, better self-sealing fuel tanks, and more powerful engines. They modified the cockpit to improve visibility and changed the armament package to six, wing-mounted, .50 caliber machine guns. The P-40E Kittyhawk was the first model with this gun package and it entered service in time to serve in the AVG. The last model produced in quantity was the P-40N, the lightest P-40 built in quantity, and much faster than previous models. Curtiss built a single P-40Q. It was the fastest P-40 to fly (679 kph/422 mph) but it could not match the performance of the P-47 Thunderbolt and the P-51 Mustang so Curtiss ended development of the P-40 series with this model. In addition to the AAF, many Allied nations bought and flew P-40s including England, France, China, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, and Turkey.

The Smithsonian P-40E did not serve in the U. S. military. Curtiss-Wright built it in Buffalo, New York, as Model 87-A3 and delivered it to Canada as a Kittyhawk IA on March 11, 1941. It served in No. 111 Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). When the Japanese navy moved to attack Midway, they sent a diversionary battle group to menace the Aleutian Islands. Canada moved No. 111 Squadron to Alaska to help defend the region. After the Japanese threat diminished, the unit returned to Canada and eventually transferred to England without its P-40s. The RCAF declared the NASM Kittyhawk IA surplus on July 27, 1946, and the aircraft eventually returned to the United States. It had several owners before ending up with the Explorer Scouts youth group in Meridian, Mississippi. During the early 1960s, the Smithsonian began searching for a P-40 with a documented history of service in the AVG but found none. In 1964, the Exchange Club in Meridian donated the Kittyhawk IA to the National Aeronautical Collection, in memory of Mr. Kellis Forbes, a local man devoted to Boys Club activities. A U. S. Air Force Reserve crew airlifted the fighter to Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, on March 13, 1964. Andrews personnel restored the airplane in 1975 and painted it to represent an aircraft of the 75th Fighter Squadron, 23rd Fighter Group, 14th Air Force.

• • •

Quoting from Wikipedia | Curtiss P-40 Warhawk:

The Curtiss P-40 Warhawk was an American single-engine, single-seat, all-metal fighter and ground attack aircraft that first flew in 1938. It was used by the air forces of 28 nations, including those of most Allied powers during World War II, and remained in front line service until the end of the war. It was the third most-produced American fighter, after the P-51 and P-47; by November 1944, when production of the P-40 ceased, 13,738 had been built, all at Curtiss-Wright Corporation‘s main production facility at Buffalo, New York.

The P-40 design was a modification of the previous Curtiss P-36; this reduced development time and enabled a rapid entry into production and operational service.

Warhawk was the name the United States Army Air Corps adopted for all models, making it the official name in the United States for all P-40s. The British Commonwealth and Soviet air forces used the name Tomahawk for models equivalent to the P-40B and P-40C, and the name Kittyhawk for models equivalent to the P-40D and all later variants.

The P-40’s lack of a two-stage supercharger made it inferior to Luftwaffe fighters such as the Messerschmitt Bf 109 or the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 in high-altitude combat and it was rarely used in operations in Northwest Europe. Between 1941 and 1944, however, the P-40 played a critical role with Allied air forces in three major theaters: North Africa, the Southwest Pacific and China. It also had a significant role in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, Alaska and Italy. The P-40’s performance at high altitudes was not as critical in those theaters, where it served as an air superiority fighter, bomber escort and fighter bomber.

P-40s first saw combat with the British Commonwealth squadrons of the Desert Air Force (DAF) in the Middle East and North African campaigns, during June 1941. The Royal Air Force‘s No. 112 Squadron was among the first to operate Tomahawks, in North Africa, and the unit was the first to feature the "shark mouth" logo, copying similar markings on some Luftwaffe Messerschmitt Bf 110 twin-engine fighters. [N 1]

Although it gained a post-war reputation as a mediocre design, suitable only for close air support, more recent research including scrutiny of the records of individual Allied squadrons indicates that the P-40 performed surprisingly well as an air superiority fighter, at times suffering severe losses, but also taking a very heavy toll on enemy aircraft. The P-40 offered the additional advantage of low cost, which kept it in production as a ground-attack fighter long after it was obsolete in the air superiority role.

As of 2008, 19 P-40s were airworthy.