Lockheed F-5 Photo Lightning

The F-5 Photo Lightnings were based on the P-38G and later models. It was the most numerous version of the Photo Lightning, and one of the most important PR aircraft of the Second World War. It could carry a wide variety of cameras, with some aircraft carrying up to six cameras.


The F-5A was based on the P-38G. A total of 180 were built, in three production blocks, each based on the equivalent P-38G block (20 F-5A-1s, 20 F-5A-3s and 140 F-5A-10s). The F-5A carried a combination of vertical and oblique cameras.


200 F-5B-1-LOs were ordered at same time as the P-38J, using the camera nose from the F-5A.


From the F-5C-1 onwards, the majority of F-5 Photo Lightnings were conversions rather than purpose built. 128 F-5C-1s were converted from the P-38J-5.


A single F-5A-10 was converted into the XF-5D prototype. This involved fitting a navigator’s position in a modified nose, with a glazed tip and roof. The XF-5D carried a single camera and two .50in machine guns. 


Lockheed F-5G Lightning
Lockheed F-5G Lightning

The 100 F-5E-2s were converted from P-38J-15s in the field. They had larger camera windows than earlier F-5s, surrounded by a teardrop shaped fairing.


105 F-5E-3s were converted from P-38J-25s.


508 F-5E-4s were converted from P-38Ls.

F-5F and F-5F-3

Both of these models were modified P-38L-5-LOs.


The F-5G features a redesigned camera nose. It had five camera windows – one forward camera on the tip of the nose, a rectangular window and an octagonal window under the nose for vertical cameras and a window on each side of the nose for oblique cameras. Sixty three F-5Gs were converted from the P-38L-5.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (pending), Lockheed F-5 Photo Lightning, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_F-5_lightning.html

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