The P-38F saw two significant changes made to the Lightning. First, it was given more powerful engines – Allison V-1710-49/ -53s capable of providing 1,325 hp. These helped Lockheed maintain the performance of the Lightning despite a gradual increase in weight since the original aircraft. Second, the P-38F was given pylons between the engines and the pilot pod. These pylons could carry either a 1,000lb or a fuel drop tank.
These tanks came in a variety of sizes. The standard American tanks contained 75 gallons. Kelly Johnson designed tanks that could carry either 150 of 165 gallons (dependant on the source). However these tanks were often not available in the field – P-38s based in Britain used the 75 gallon drop tanks from late in 1943 and 107 gallon drop tanks in February 1944. With these larger tanks the P-38 was able to escort American bombers as far as Berlin.
Manoeuvrability was improved by the addition of “combat flaps”. This was a mechanism that allowed the pilot to deploy their flaps at an angle of up to 8 degrees, improving lift and manoeuvrability.
The P-38F entered service in February 1942. 527 were built, including 20 F-4A-1 photo-reconnaissance aircraft. The P-38F was involved in the first movement of American aircraft to Britain, under the name Operation Bolero. In June 1942 the 1st Fighter Group flew its P-38Fs across the Atlantic in four steps, using bases on Greenland and Iceland. The longest step was from Goose Bay in Canada, to a base known as Bluie West 8, on the west coast of Greenland, and was 1002 miles long. This was the first time that the aircraft of an active fighter unit had been transferred across a major ocean under their own power and demonstrated the impressive range of the P-38F.
Engine: Allison V-1710-49 and -53
Horsepower: 1,325 hp
Max Speed: 395mph at 25,000ft
Cruising Speed: 305 mph
Rate of Climb: 8.8 minutes to reach 20,000 feet
Ceiling: 39,000 feet
Maximum Range: 1,925 miles
Span: 52 feet
Length: 37 feet 10 inches
Armament: One 20mm cannon and four .50in machine guns