North American F-82 Twin Mustang
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Information on the F-82 Twin Mustang
The North American F-82 Twin Mustang was the last piston-powered fighter ordered into production by the United States Air Force. Based on the P-51 Mustang, the F-82 was originally designed as a long-range escort fighter in World War II, its postwar role changed to that of night-fighting. Radar-equipped F-82s were used quite extensively by the Air Defense Command as replacements for the P-61 night fighter. During the Korean Conflict, Japan-based F-82s were among the first USAF aircraft to operate over Korea. The first three North Korean airplanes destroyed by US forces were shot down by F-82s.
Design and development
Initially intended as a long-range escort fighter, the F-82 was designed to escort B-29 bombers on long missions over Japan during a planned U.S. invasion of the Japanese home islands that never materialized. It consisted of a two fuselage design. Although based on the P-51H Mustang, it was actually an entirely new design incorporating two lengthened P-51H Mustang fuselages mounted to a newly-designed center wing, tail and propellers, as well as having a unique four wheel landing gear. Prototype YP-82s, P-82Bs and P-82Es retained both cockpits so that both pilots could fly the aircraft, alternating control on long flights, while later night fighter versions kept the cockpit on the left side only, placing the radar operator in the right position.
Although some P-82B airframes were completed before the end of the Second World War, most remained at the North American factory in California waiting for engines until 1946. As a result, none saw service during the war.
Like the P-51 Mustang, the first two prototype YP-82s, as well as the next 20 P-82B models were powered by British designed Rolls-Royce Merlin engines. These provided the aircraft with excellent range and performance, but political pressure forced North American to switch subsequent production P-82C and later models to the inferior Allison V-1710-100 engine. Allison powered P-82 models demonstrated a lower top speed and poorer high altitude performance than the earlier Merlin powered versions. The earlier P-82B models had been designated as trainers, while the "C" and later models were employed as fighters.
The end of the Second World War brought an end to the need for a long-range bomber escort though the P-82 would continue as a replacement for the aging P-61 Black Widow night fighter. Designated the F-82G, numerous modifications had to be made to make this possible. The right side cockpit was replaced with a radar operator's position lacking flight controls. More significant was the addition of a long radar pod attached to the underside of the center wing. Resembling a sausage, and affectionately known as a "long dong," the radar unit was installed in such a manner to keep its dish in front of aircraft's propellers. It was also necessary that it be hung from the underside of the wing to prevent it from interfering with six .50 caliber machine guns buried in the center wing. Surprisingly, this unconventional arrangement did little to affect the aircraft's speed or performance. Additionally the unit could be jettisoned in an emergency, or for belly landings and was sometimes lost during high-G maneuvers.
The USAF Strategic Air Command had F-82E Twin Mustangs in service from 1950 through 1954 at Bergrstom AFB, TX as long range escort fighters for the massive Convair B-36 bomber. The "E" model was strictly a day-fighter with no radar of provision for night operations. Another unit based at McChord AFB, WA flew the "E" in the interception role. F-82s continued to fly actively until 1954, becoming Strategic Air Command's last operational piston-engined fighters.
In 1947, the designation "P" for pursuit was changed to "F" for fighter. Subsequently, all P-82's were re-designated F-82.
Though missing its opportunity to fight in WWII, the F-82G would go on to distinguish itself during the Korean War, beginning with one of the least known, and most important air combat events of the 20th century. In June 1950, U.S. forces in Seoul, South Korea were attempting to evacuate U.S. civilians, including many women and children, from the advancing North Korean Army. 682 civilians had been evacuated on the 26 June aboard the Norwegian freighter "Reinholte," then visiting Inchon Harbor and transported to Sasebo, Japan. The remaining civilians were to be evacuated the following day by an Air Force C-54. Fearing that the North Korean Air Force might try to shoot down the transport (a C-54 had been destroyed on the ground at Kimpo by North Korean fighters on June 25th) the Air Force requested air cover to protect the aircraft during takeoff. The F-80 "Shooting Star" was available, but its thirsty jet engine meant it could only remain over the airfield for a few minutes before having to return to base and no F-51 Mustangs were available.
Fortunately the 4th and 339th Fighter All Weather Squadrons F(AW)S with their F-82G's were based in Japan and Okinawa at Misawa and Yokota Airfields, and the 68th F(AW)S was based at Itazuke airfield. With Lt. Col. John F. Sharp in command a total of 27 F-82Gs out of 35 in the theater answered the call. Arriving in the early morning, the F-82s orbited Kimpo Airfield in three flights, each above the other. Suddenly, at 1150 hours, a mixed lot of five North Korean fighters (Soviet-built Yak-9s, Yak-11s and La-7s) appeared, heading for the airfield. One of the Yak-9s immediately scored several hits on 68th F(AW)S pilot Lt. Charles Moran's vertical stabilizer but quick action by Lt. Moran prevented further damage. Moments later, Lt. William G. "Skeeter" Hudson, also of the 68th F(AW)S, initiated a high-G turn to engage the Yak. Soon Lt. Hudson's F-82G was closing in on the Yak's tail. Lt. Hudson then fired a short burst at close range, scoring hits on the Yak-9 with all six of his .50 caliber machine guns. The Yak banked hard to the right, with the F-82G in close pursuit. A second burst from the F-82G scored hits on the Yak's right wing, setting the gas tank on fire and knocking off the right flap and aileron. The North Korean pilot bailed out, but his observer, who was either dead or badly wounded, remained in the doomed aircraft.
Parachuting down to Kimpo Airfield, the North Korean pilot was immediately surrounded by South Korean soldiers. Surprisingly, he pulled out a pistol and began firing at them. The South Korean soldiers returned fire and the pilot was immediately killed. Moments later, Lt. Moran shot down an La-7 over the airfield, while a few miles away, Maj. James W. Little, commanding officer of the 339th F(AW)S, shot down another La-7. The C-54 was able to escape safely. Of five North Korean fighters sent to destroy it, only two returned to their base. In the process, Lt. William G. "Skeeter" Hudson, with his radar operator Lt. Carl Fraiser had scored the first aerial "kill" of the Korean War.
It is generally believed that the aircraft they flew that day was an F-82G named "Bucket of Bolts" (s/n 46-383), as their usual aircraft was down for repairs. "Bucket of Bolts" would survive the Korean War and eventually be reassigned to escourt duty in Alaska. It is believed to have been scrapped at Ladd AFB, Alaska in 1954.
It is impossible to know exactly what impact the shooting down of a C-54 containing dozens of American women and children would have had on U.S. policy at the beginning of the Korean War, but this much is certain. As U.S. forces were being driven south and overrun by advancing North Korean soldiers, President Harry S. Truman was facing increasing pressure both from his military advisers, as well as members of his own cabinet to strike back decisively, including pressure from Gen. Douglas MacArthur and Curtis LeMay to authorize the use of nuclear weapons. Such actions could easily have drawn the Soviet Union into the conflict. The presence of the F-82 over the battlefield on the morning of 27 June 1950 may very well have prevented the rapid escalation of the Korean War into a global conflict.
1951 was the last full year of F-82 operations in Korea, as they were gradually replaced by the jet-powered F-94 Starfire. Twin Mustangs destroyed 20 enemy aircraft, four in the air and 16 on the ground during the conflict.
By summer 1953, the last surviving Korean War veteran F-82s were being flown to Tachikawa, Japan to be upgraded to F-82L models with the addition of cold weather equipment and additional de-icers. Many of these planes would end up operating with Strategic Air Command from airfields in Alaska where they would serve as escorts for the massive Convair B-36 bombers during long flights over the Arctic, finally fulfilling their original mission as a bomber escort. The F-82 did not disappear from USAF inventory until 1954, when a lack of parts and high airtime made them impossible to keep flying. Many were ultimately scrapped in Alaska.
On 27 February 1947, a P-82B (44-65168) named "Betty Jo" would also make history when it flew non-stop from Hawaii to New York without refueling, a distance of 5,051 miles. To this day, it remains the longest non-stop flight ever made by a propeller-driven fighter, and the fastest such a distance has ever been covered in a piston-engined aircraft. It should be noted that the aircraft chosen was the earlier "B" model powered by a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine.
"Betty Jo" is currently on display at The National Museum of the United States Air Force, in Dayton, Ohio in their Cold War gallery.
Three other F-82s are known to exist. F-82E (46-262) has been a "gate guard" for many years outside Lackland AFB in Texas as part of the USAF History and Traditions Museum in San Antonio, Texas while a second F-82B that had been on display next to it, was acquired by the former Confederate Air Force in 1966 and was operated for many years by its Midland, Texas squadron. That F-82B stalled and crashed in Harlingen, Texas in 1987. The aircraft was restorable but its unique props and landing gear were destroyed in the crash and replacement parts could not be obtained. In 2002, it was included with the CAF's crashed P-38 in a trade for a flyable P-38. The Air Force has stepped in and is demanding the F-82 be returned since it was only loaned to the CAF, conditional that they keep it. The matter is still being debated. A single fuselage of the second YP-82 was located for many years on the farm of Walter Soplata in Newbury, Ohio. It was sold several years ago and its current whereabouts are unknown.
P-82B: Fighter version.
P-82C: Night fighter version.
P-82D: Night fighter version
P-82E: Escort fighter version.
P-82F: Night fighter version.
P-82G: Night fighter version.
F-82H: Winterised or cold weather version.
Source: This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "F-82 Twin Mustang".
Length: 42 ft 9 in (12.93 m)
Wingspan: 51 ft 3 in (15.62 m)
Height: 13 ft 10 in (4.22 m)
Wing area: 408 ft? (37.90 m?)
Empty weight: 15,997 lb (7,271 kg)
Max takeoff weight: 25,591 lb (11,632 kg)
Powerplant: 2? Allison V-1710-143/145 V-12 liquid-cooled engines, 1,600 hp (1,193 kW each) each
Maximum speed: 461 mph at 21,000 ft (742 km/h at 6,400 m)
Range: 2,250 miles (3,605 km)
Service ceiling: 38,900 ft (11,855 m)
* 6x .50 Browning M2 machine guns
* 4,000 lb (1907 kg) of bombs