F-82 Twin Mustang
Lockheed's magnificent P-38 Lightning was one of the most recognizable fighter planes in World War II. Few twin-engine fighters during that period were agile enough to survive for long in combat, but the Lightning fought successfully in all fronts, and its high speed, long range and heavy firepower proved to be especially lethal against Japanese forces in the Pacific. Its unusual twin-engine, twin-boom configuration continues to make it a favorite today among modelers and airplane buffs worldwide.
The immense distances between islands in the Pacific Theater required a fighter type that could fly for hours between islands, yet have its pilot fresh for combat at any time. North American's solution was its XP-82 Twin Mustang, essentially two modified P-51H fuselages combined in a twin-boom configuration, carrying two pilots to share the tasks of flying and fighting.
North American developed its unique F-82 Twin Mustang during the latter portion of World War II so that two pilots could fly long distances between Pacific islands. One of the pilots could be rested and ready for combat when they arrived. Although the Twin Mustang appears to be just two P-51H fighters bonded together on a single wing-span, it was actually an entirely new design. Each of the fuselages was powered by a Packard V-1710 piston engine. The F-82E models were upgraded with Allison liquid-cooled V-1710 piston engines. The Twin Mustang was the final propeller-driven aircraft purchased by the Air Force.
The prototype Twin Mustang first flew in July 1945, but production models were not ready in time for World War II. Although the Twin Mustang arrived too late for World War II, it joined the Air Force as the F-82 escort fighter and night fighter, and went on to a successful combat career in the Korean War. The vehicle had a brief, but successful career in the post-war years and in the Korean War as an escort and night fighter. They provided the first aerial victory of the war and shot down over twenty enemy aircraft before being phased out by 1953.
NACA Lewis possessed three F-82s in the post-War years. The laboratory acquired the first in 1947 for use as a test bed for ramjet engines. The aircraft was damaged in a runway incident in December 1949 and soon transferred. The second arrived in January 1950 and flew high-altitude icing studies. The third, known as Betty Joe, was acquired in September 1950 to carry on the ramjet studies started by the initial F-82.
On February 28, 1947 Betty Joe set a world record for fighters as it flew 4968 miles non-stop from Honolulu to New York City. At Lewis various ramjets or missiles were mounted below the wingspan between the two fuselages for flight testing. It was transferred after suffering wing damage in June 1957 and is currently on display at the USAF Museum in Dayton, Ohio.
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