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Thread: P-38 vs. Me109 and FW190

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    Member Ghostdancer's Avatar
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    P-38 vs. Me109 and FW190

    I've heard different things about how the P-38 matched up to the FW190 and Me109. Some material states that the P-38 was inferior in most ways to both and others say the opposite.

    "A squadron of Spitfires sir" - Adolf Galland's reply to Hermann Goering's inquiry as to his wishes during the Battle of Britain.

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    Senior Member bobbysocks's Avatar
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    more of it depends on the pilot...... Richard Bong racked up a lot of kills in a 38 vs a zero. i would say he would have had the same success in the ETO. but you look on u-tube you will see kills both ways. i saw a show where a pilot in a grossly inferior aircraft (sby??? ) took on 2 zeros ( not by choice but desperation). he knew how to fly and the limitations of his aircraft and stuck by that and used the one and only advantage he had and knocked one off and that sent the other home. it doesnt always work that way but i would and will always give the advantage to the pilot...IF he knows the bird he is flying...what she can and cant do...
    Last edited by bobbysocks; 03-26-2010 at 03:11 AM.

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    Senior Member MikeGazdik's Avatar
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    I also think it depends greatly on the model of P-38. The earlier models that saw action in Europe, ( F,G,H models) were not nearly as good as the J or L models.

    The early models, had plenty of technical issues dealing with the extreme cold of Northern Europe, and did not have the dive flaps that were so desperately needed.

    I think the P-38 L , is one of the best fighters put in the air.

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    Member Ghostdancer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobbysocks View Post
    i saw a show where a pilot in a grossly inferior aircraft (sby??? ) took on 2 zeros ( not by choice but desperation). he knew how to fly and the limitations of his aircraft and stuck by that and used the one and only advantage he had and knocked one off and that sent the other home.

    Is this from Air Combat - where a pilot ( and not the rear gunner) in I believe a Dauntless managed to shoot down at least one Zero, and while is plane was damaged? I did see this episode.
    "A squadron of Spitfires sir" - Adolf Galland's reply to Hermann Goering's inquiry as to his wishes during the Battle of Britain.

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    A guy named Fred Arnold wrote a book called "Door Knob 52" about flying P38s in the Med during WW2. He was flying one of the earlier P38s and made ace flying it. A good book if you want to read further into it. He also did an interview that is on you tube.



    Hope it helps.

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    Senior Member davebender's Avatar
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    depends greatly on the model of P-38. The earlier models that saw action in Europe, ( F,G,H models) were not nearly as good as the J or L models.
    Late model Me-109s and Fw-190s were also improved. So it's not likely a P-38L will be encountering a Me-109E or Fw-190A3.

    1942. P-38E. vs
    Me-109F4 and early model Me-109G.
    Fw-190A3 and Fw-190A4.

    1943. P-38F /G/H. vs
    Me-109G6.
    Fw-190A5 and Fw-190A6.

    1944. P-38J and P-38L. vs.
    Late model Me-109Gs with engines producing up to 1,800 hp.
    Fw-190A8.
    Fw-190D9. Beginning September 1944.


    IMO the P-38 would have been a great aircraft if Lockheed had gotten the bugs fixed within a normal 3 or 4 year development cycle. But it didn't happen. British and German aircraft developments were typically a step ahead of P-38 development throughout the war.

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    IP/Mech THE GREAT GAZOO FLYBOYJ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by davebender View Post
    IMO the P-38 would have been a great aircraft if Lockheed had gotten the bugs fixed within a normal 3 or 4 year development cycle. But it didn't happen. British and German aircraft developments were typically a step ahead of P-38 development throughout the war.
    And what "bugs" were these? Why didn't these "bugs" hamper Pacific operations? (Aside from the heating problems). There were ETO units who perfered the P-38 over the P-51.

    The biggest "bug" that probably could be found was with early P-38s were the intercooler ducting in the wing leading edges. One bullet hole and you were loosing manifold pressue. Additionally if you overboosted the engine you could blow apart the leading edge, and that type of error is what I would call a "rookie error."

    And ask this - why didn't the AAF go with the P-38K?

    Although the P-38's performance in the ETO can be considered less than stellar, this myth about "bugs" were no different than "bugs" found in early P-47s and P-51s when they hit the tarmacs in the UK. Bottom line the ETO brass didn't like the P-38.
    Last edited by FLYBOYJ; 03-26-2010 at 10:11 AM.

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    Senior Member renrich's Avatar
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    The P38 in Europe initially had some problems, which when solved, made it a more desirable AC in the ETO. The early P38s did not have good cockpit heating. There were some engine reliability problems. The AC, in a dive, could get into compressibility and subsequent control problems. This was exacerbated over Europe because of the cold air over the continent, since the speed of sound varies according to air temperature. There were some characteristics of the P38 which could not be solved which hampered it. It had a poor initial rate of roll. It was pretty easily spotted and identified and it was a big target with a lot of vulnerable parts located all over the AC. I believe it was supposed to be difficult to bail out from without getting badly injured. With two engines, it was twice as likely to have engine problems as an AC with one engine and maintenance was intensified and fuel usage was high.

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    Banned vanir's Avatar
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    Well there are significant differences between the ETO and PTO generally speaking. Excluding the MTO, combat altitude in the ETO was typically 5000 metres. In the PTO it was typically 3000 metres. Compressability issues are worse at high altitude and the P-38 is best used in a fast diving attack, always possible due to its great alt performance; then speed away and come around for another pass.

    But in earlier models there was a cockpit heating problem, and the lack of airbraking compounded its inherently high compressability problems. Also there was no power assist controls on early models, was there? From the J they introduced electrically boosted elevators and some sort of spoilers?

    Anyway the other thing then was of course a sortie cruise altitude is going to be much higher in the ETO than the PTO. In 1943 the high alt issues of the P-38 and in fact sustained high altitude operation of any aircraft was still a work in progress. Sure a Spit could zoom to 40,000 but it's just silly to think everyone was roaming about up there all day, it's really high for that time, like astronaut high. Even the mighty Thunderbolt had issues with its turbo at those heights (overspeeding iirc).
    So considering you really want to dive on an enemy in a P-38, ca.1943 it's a bit dicey using one as the standard front line type where the enemy is routinely engaged at 5-7000m, that means what, you're cruising for a power on dive at 8500m?
    Much safer in the PTO where you're cruising for a combat dive at more like 4500-5000m.

    But, word has it in the PTO one of the primary reasons for the popularity of the P-38 was that its great speed performance, reasonable manoeuvrability as a single seater and wonderful range, was also supported by the simple RTB reliability of twin engines. When you're doing 1500km sorties over water with maybe one or two reachable airfields on the entire mission, and plenty of chances for a navigational error, the P-38 gave a certain extra confidence about making it home alive irrespective of how the sortie itself went in terms of combat.
    Not quite so much of an issue in the ETO, but certainly not a bad bonus to have if can afford it. One notation I've been reminded of by an ex-P-38 pilot in the ETO was that the return rate of sorties flown was better for that type than the Mustang or any other fighter used, pro rata in the ETO. More came back home versus those sent out than any other fighter in the ETO.

    In any case it seems the Thunderbolt and Mustang were genuinely preferred by pilots in the ETO, whilst the Lightning and Thunderbolt (particularly after the P-47N hit the scene) were preferred in the PTO. But I suppose when it comes down to it you fly what you're given.

    In this sense I support FlyboyJ's sentiment that the brass were the deciding factor.

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    IP/Mech THE GREAT GAZOO FLYBOYJ's Avatar
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    Both P-47 and P-51 experienced compressibility problems. The P-38 had a lower critical mach number so it encountered it quicker. Roll and climb rates were corrected on later models and again the P-38K would have addressed almost all the performance problems coming out of the ETO. It was a complicated aircraft, cost twice as much to operate and maintain and wasn't liked by "single engine" pilots.

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    Banned vanir's Avatar
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    It used like a "steering wheel" bomber style to fly didn't it? I'd certainly feel more comfortable, more nimble in a traditional, single engine, column equipped fighter.

    But still I'm thinking the brass may have had the typical combat height discrepency between ETO and PTO at heart when making this decision, in light of the inherently lower critical mach of the Lightning. What was it, 0.7 compared to say 0.8?
    Doesn't seem like much but at ca.7500m compared to ca.5000m there's a difference worth considering from a strict engineer's advisory.
    I mean, the brass work on advisory counsel?

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    Senior Member davebender's Avatar
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    Why didn't these "bugs" hamper Pacific operations?

    I expect they did. However you don't need an Uber fighter to defeat the relatively low performance A6M (Zero IJN fighter) and Ki-43 (Oscar IJA fighter).

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    [QUOTE=vanir;651750]It used like a "steering wheel" bomber style to fly didn't it? I'd certainly feel more comfortable, more nimble in a traditional, single engine, column equipped fighter.

    [QUOTE]

    You get used to it. Flown Yoke, Stick and now am using a Side Stick. It really doesn't matter after the first hour, you forget about it.

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    IP/Mech THE GREAT GAZOO FLYBOYJ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by davebender View Post
    I expect they did. However you don't need an Uber fighter to defeat the relatively low performance A6M (Zero IJN fighter) and Ki-43 (Oscar IJA fighter).
    Proof? In books like "Peter 38" and "Wings of Fire" nothing is never mentioned about P-38 ops being hampered because of maintence or design problems, in fact I believe it had a high MC rate, something like 90% or better.

    If they did I see their problems no better or worse than any other new fighter of the period.

    Keep in mind that the Oscar, although lightly armed was probably one of the most maneuverable fighters of WW2 under 300 mph.
    Last edited by FLYBOYJ; 03-26-2010 at 11:43 AM.

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    IP/Mech THE GREAT GAZOO FLYBOYJ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vanir View Post
    It used like a "steering wheel" bomber style to fly didn't it? I'd certainly feel more comfortable, more nimble in a traditional, single engine, column equipped fighter.
    Actually it was more or less a desgin standard to equip multi engine aircraft with a yoke in lieu of a stick. both have advantages and disadvantages. I was at a Lockheed Management Club meeting back in the early 80s, Kelly Johnson was the guest speaker. he said that if he had more time and was able to convince some folks at Wright Patterson, he would have designed the P-38 with a stick.

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