WITHu One of the most successful fighters of World War II was the North American-developed P-51 Mustang, of which more than 15,000 were built. Their range performance was also impressive, but with the extreme distances involved in the bombing raids on Japan with flight times of over eight hours, the pilots reached their physical limits. The US Army Air Forces therefore considered the use of two-seaters. However, these had to be able to take on the Japanese interceptors.
Double hull hunter
At the end of 1943, North American also dealt with the subject, and when General Hap Arnold visited Inglewood (Los Angeles), chief designer Edgar Schmued presented the USAAF commander in chief with the concept of a twin-hull fighter based on the P-51H. Arnold was very interested, so after the first wind tunnel tests and the construction of a mock-up on February 8, 1944, the order for the construction of four prototypes of the XP-82 model (in-house NA-120) was placed.
For relief and for emergencies
At first glance, the approach was impressively simple and easy to implement, but apart from the general shape of the Mustang fuselages and outer wings, the XP-82 ultimately had little in common with the P-51H. On the one hand, the airframe had to be recalculated for the higher take-off mass; on the other hand, the fuselage behind the cockpit was lengthened by 1.45 meters. Anyway, the rectangular wing center section between the two fuselages, in which the six machine guns were housed, and the horizontal stabilizer were new. The main landing gear also had to be redesigned. The pilot sat in the fully equipped cockpit on the left, while the copilot on the right was only intended for relief and emergencies.
The detailed design and prototype construction of the Twin Mustang took about 16 months. When the first machine with the USAAF number 44-83886 started its taxiing tests and was supposed to take off for its maiden flight, there was an unpleasant surprise. The two Packard Merlin V 1650-23 / 25 engines were installed in such a way that the two counter-rotating Aeroproducts propellers met in the middle as they moved upwards. This led to turbulence and a strong loss of lift above the wing center section, so that the XP-82 could not get off the ground.
Only after the motors had been exchanged and the propellers met in the downward movement, everything was in order again, and the test pilots Joe Barton and Edward M. Virgin took off on June 15, 1944 in Inglewood (now Los Angeles International Airport) on their maiden flight . The second XP-82 followed on August 30, just three days before Japan signed the declaration of surrender and thus the Second World War was also over in the Pacific.
Modified to the night fighter
Although the Twin Mustang achieved excellent speeds (775 km / h), very good maneuverability and a range with additional tanks of 5630 km (twice as much as the P-51H) in the flight tests, a first order placed in mid-1944 was for 500 Aircraft thus obsolete. The third and fourth prototypes for the Allison V-1710 engines were also not completed.
The USAAF initially only accepted the 20 machines of the first production version P-82B, which were already under construction (first flight on October 31, 1945). They were delivered between January and March 1946, but did not go to a task force, but were used for various experiments. Among other things, they tested a centrally mounted container that could hold eight additional 12.7 mm MGs. A reconnaissance vessel was also tested. The P-82B could also carry bombs weighing 225 kg or HVAR missiles (12.7 cm caliber) on up to six suspensions.
Meanwhile, the Twin Mustang’s suitability as a night fighter should be investigated. North American modified two P-82Bs as P-82C (USAAF identification 44-65169) and P-82D (44-65170). They took off on their first flight on March 27 and 29, 1946 respectively. The SCR-720 radar from the P-61 Black Widow and the somewhat smaller APS-4 (wavelength 3 cm) were housed in a large nacelle under the wing center section. Both machines also had a radar altimeter (APN-1) and a reverse warning device (APS-13). Furthermore, the right cockpit was provided with the appropriate instrumentation and equipment for a radar observer.
The USAAF also showed interest in the escort hunter role. The new types with jet propulsion offered high speeds, but because of their thirsty engines they had only moderate ranges, which were in no way sufficient to protect the B-50 Superfortress or B-29 on possible missions against the new enemy Soviet Union. In October 1946, North American was awarded a contract for up to 250 P-82E’s worth $ 35 million.
These corresponded largely to the P-82B, but were equipped with Allison V-1710-143 / 145 engines instead of Merlins to support the domestic industry (General Electric was a shareholder in both Allison and NAA) – especially Rolls -Royce significantly increased license fees after the war. The change not only brought less horsepower and thus lower speeds (748 km / h) and climbing performance, but also some problems because of the not particularly good reliability of the Allisons. Among other things, these tended to quickly soot the spark plugs.
The first P-82E flew on April 17, 1947 with George Welch in the cockpit, but the engine problems and the resulting additional attempts led to delays and considerable increases in costs. North American had to store finished aircraft at Convair in Downey, California until enough usable V-1710s were available. Deliveries to the 27th Fighter-Escort Group (522nd, 523rd, 524th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron) stationed at Robins AFB in Georgia did not begin until May 1948. In the meantime, the USAAF had become an independent US Air Force. It changed its type designation in June 1948: The P-82E became the F-82E (F for Fighter, P for Pursuit).
In total, the USAF finally took over 100 F-82E by December 1948, but these quickly turned out to be transitional models and their retirement was completed in the fall of 1950. The engines and other useful spare parts were then used for the night fighter versions of the Twin Mustang, which the American Air Force had also decided to procure in autumn 1946.
Shot down over Korea
Despite the tests with the P-82C and P-82D, their development took a little longer. The P-82F with the APG-28 radar (improved APG-4) flew in March 1948, while the G-model with the SCR-720C18 radar had already completed its maiden flight in February. 100 F-models and 50 of the G-version were ordered, although a total of 14 of the aircraft had been modified for use in Alaska before delivery to the H-model. They received special de-icing systems for wings and tail units as well as propeller de-icing. Deliveries of the USAF’s last propeller fighter ended in March 1949.
Invasion of South Korea
Fighter All Weather Groups were equipped with F-82F and G in McChord AFB (Washington), Mitchel AFB (New York) or Hamilton Field (California), among others. The H models went to the 449th F (AW) S at Ladd AFB in Alaska. Twin Mustangs were also stationed in Japan. When the communist invasion of South Korea began on June 25, 1950, three F-82G-armed squadrons of the 347th Fighter (AW) Group were operational: the 4th in Naha AB, Okinawa, the 68th in Itazuke AB, Kyushu, and the 339th in Yokota AB near Tokyo. Their respective strengths were twelve to fourteen aircraft. The main task of the 68th and 339th Squadrons during the first days of the Korean War was the airspace protection over Kimpo Airfield near Seoul and the port of Incheon, where numerous civilians were quickly evacuated by air and sea.
North Korean piston engine fighter
In the afternoon of June 27, 1950, an F-82G (FQ-383) of the 68th Fighter Squadron shot down a North Korean Yak-11 piston engine fighter. The from the pilot Lt. William G. Hudson and his radar observer Lt. Carl Fraser’s existing crew achieved the first of a total of 853 American aerial victories during the Korean War. That same afternoon, an F-82G from the 68th FS under Lt. Charles B. Moran exited a Jak-7 and an F-82G of the 339th FS under Major James W. Little from a Jak-7. Although both squadrons continued to be used, the Twin Mustangs were increasingly replaced by the F-80 Shooting Star and the F-86 Saber. Only at the NACA were some F-82 still used as test vehicles.
Only three Twin Mustangs survived the scrapping. An XP-82 (44-83887) was recently made airworthy. Another P-82B (44-65168) named “Betty Joe” is now in the US Air Force Museum in Dayton. This was due to their long-distance record flight on 27./28. February 1947 known. Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Thacker and Lt. John M. Ard as co-pilot flew the 8088 km from Hickam AFB in Hawaii to LaGuardia Field in New York in 14 hours and 31 minutes. This was the greatest distance that a piston engine fighter has ever traveled in non-stop flight.
North American P-82E Twin Mustang
Use: Fighter plane
Engines: 2 x Allison V-1710-143 / 145
Power: 2 x 1600 PS
Span: 15,62 m
Long: 12,16 m
Height: 4,21 m
Wing area: 37,9 m2
Learning Mass: 6765 kg
max. Starting mass: 11 280 kg
Top speed: 748 km / h
Steigrate: 20,4 m/s
Service ceiling: 11 705 m
Range with additional tanks: 3500 km
Armament: 6 x 12.7 mm MG with 400 rounds each
External load: 4 x 450 kg bombs or 25 HVAR missiles