Aviation of World War II
P-82 Twin Mustang
Long-range Escort Fighter
The North American P-82 Twin Mustang fighter was the last serial piston fighter of the US Army. For the first time, requirements for the future P-82 were put forward back in 1942. This was justified by "the urgent need for a long-range fighter to escort bombers, capable of supporting the P-47 in solving this problem." The appearance of the B-29 strategic bomber in the US Air Force raised the issue of escorting them along the entire route to the target, which even the latest models of the P-51 Mustang fighter could not cope with. In addition, single-seat fighters showed that on long flights the load on the pilot became excessive - it was very difficult to spend eight hours in a cramped cockpit, flying the aircraft. Pilots, returning from such flights, sometimes simply could not get out of the cockpit. It was clearly required to introduce a second crew member for the long-range fighter. With all this in mind, North American Aviation came up with the idea of combining the fuselages of the two Mustangs with a common wing, thus obtaining a long-range two-seater fighter. Perhaps it was not without German influence - at least the first serial version of the American "twins" bore at one time the designation P-82Z, like the German He 111Z and Bf 109Z. Then, however, it was changed to a more logical one for the American system of classification of P-82V fighters. The company received the designation NA-120.
On January 7, 1944, the US Army Air Force ordered four experimental aircraft, giving them the designation XP-82. The fuselages of the new fighter outwardly resembled the P-51N, but their length was increased by 145 cm by an insert in front of the tail unit. The wing was a completely new design, which made it possible to increase the takeoff weight and increase the fuel supply in the wing tanks. The center section, which connected the two fuselages, received flaps and could carry one or two pylons. The wing consoles were reinforced and could also carry two pylons. Due to the greater inertia of the aircraft in the roll control, the aileron area was increased, the ailerons themselves became two-section, and their hinges were designed for heavy loads.
The aircraft was equipped with liquid-cooled Packard "Merlin" V-1650-23/25 engines with a capacity of 1860 hp. The main landing gear struts were attached to the front to the spar of each console. The struts were retracted to the plane's line of symmetry. Armament consisted of six 12.7-mm Browning MG 53-2 machine guns with 300 rounds of ammunition per barrel, all in the center section.
Two cabins retained control. The lanterns were drop-shaped - similar to the P-51N. The left cockpit housed the pilot and complete instrumentation for controlling the aircraft and engines. In the right cockpit there was a navigator-co-pilot with a reduced set of equipment intended only for temporary control of the aircraft.
Even at the beginning of work, given the imminent end of the war, there was little hope that Packard Motor Car Company would continue to produce Merlin engines (the production of "British" motors after the war was considered "politically" unprofitable - " American motors! "). However, by that time, the Allison V-1710 engine had reached its peak, which, already without a turbocharger, only with a two-speed supercharger, could provide acceptable altitude characteristics. Accordingly, it was decided to install V-1710-119 engines on the third and fourth prototype aircraft, and the machines were renamed XP-82A.
XP-82 # 44-83887 was flown over on April 15, 1945 by test engineer J. Burton. Another XP-82 # 44-83886 flew shortly after the first. The flight data of the P-82 was quite high and exceeded the data of the P-51 in almost all respects. Among the most advanced solutions used on the Twin Mustang were: hydraulic boosters in all control channels, thermal anti-icing system, anti-overload suits for crew members, an efficient air conditioning system in the cockpits, a low pressure oxygen system, and efficient pilot seat reservations.
Service career. The first "Twin Mustang" got into combat units in 1948. In June of the same year, the letter "P" in the designation of fighters was changed to "F", and the "Twin Mustang" was now called F-82. The F-82E entered service with the 27th Fighter Group (522th, 523rd and 524th Squadrons) as part of the Strategic Air Command. They were briefly used as escort fighters for B-29 bombers, and already in 1950 they were replaced by jet fighters.
In 1948, the F-82F and F-82G Twin Mustang night fighters began to replace the Northrop F-61 Black Vidou fighters in the combat units of the Air Defense Command. The first Air Defense Command to receive Twin Mustangs was the 325th Fighter Group (317th, 318th and 319th Squadrons) at Hamilton Field in California and McHord, Washington. Then they were received by the 51st Fighter Group (16th, 25th and 26th Squadrons) at Mitchell Air Base and the 52nd Fighter Group (2nd and 5th Squadrons) at McGuire Air Base in New Jersey. In 1949, the 347th fighter group (4th, 68th and 339th squadrons), located in Japan, received the F-82G fighters. The "Arctic" version of the F-82H fighter was received by the 449th squadron of the 501st mixed group at Ladd airbase in Alaska.
By the middle of 1949, the Twin Mustang had already become a fairly numerous type of fighter - 225 machines of the E, F and G series were in service. But it was expected that soon the Twin Mustang would be removed from service, since the F-82 was considered only as a temporary solution pending the arrival of a new generation of jet fighters.
On June 25, 1950, the war broke out on the Korean Peninsula. The Twin Mustangs, based in Japan, went into action almost immediately. At first, they were practically the only type of fighter capable of covering almost the entire area of hostilities from bases in Japan. On June 27, 1950, an F-82G from the 68th Fighter Squadron of the 347th Fighter Group under the control of pilot Lieutenant William Hudson and operator Lieutenant Carl Fraser shot down a North Korean Yak-7U (according to other sources it was a Yak-11). It was the first aerial victory in the Korean War and the first victory of the newly formed US Air Force. Later that day, an F-82G (# 46-392) under the command of Major James Little of the 339th Fighter Squadron of the same group shot down a Yak-9.
The existing Twin Mustangs were relatively intensively used in Korea until November 1951, covering bombers and storming enemy ground forces. However, the F-82, compared to its predecessor, the F-51, still played a secondary role - there were not enough spare parts, there were difficulties with servicing the machines (when the production of the F-82 ended in 1948, the American Air Force did not even think of ordering kits for them spare parts for subsequent operation). In February 1952, the F-82 was withdrawn from combat units altogether. Despite the limited participation in the Korean War, the P-82 still chalked up 20 enemy aircraft (4 shot down in the air and 16 destroyed on the ground). From the middle of 1950, instead of the F-82, the combat units began to receive F-94 jet interceptors, and the last Twin Mustang was removed from service in the middle of 1953.
The surviving F-82E # 46-262 is now on display at Lackland Air Force Base.