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Agamemnon22
12-31-2003, 11:17 AM
S!

It came to me that the P-61 has not been mentioned here, at least, in the time I've been on the forum. I am a 3D artist and would be willing to model one for the game in there is interest.
I have a plastic model of it for reference, plus a few schematics, etc to base the model on.

So the biggest question is:
Would you be intestested in this plan in FB?

Secondarily, I'll have to get in touch with Oleg or Gibbage to figure out if there's time to fit it into the expansion pack.

Thirdly, if anyone has any P-61 references, pics or partshttp://ubbxforums.ubi.com/infopop/emoticons/icon_wink.gif I'd appreciate if you could post them. In particular, I'd like to know if there were any delivered to USSR via Lend-Lease. I seem to recall seeing a picture of one with red stars, but that was so long ago, my memory could be playing tricks.

Lastly, the real thing had radar and there's no way, afaik, to implement radar in FB, so compromises will have to be made.

To those not familiar with the plane, it is a twin engine heavy night fighter, a crew of 3, armament of 4 forward firing 20mm cannons, and a 4 0.50-cal MG's in a dorsal turret with 360 degree sweep.

Cheers and happy new year!
Agamemnon

Agamemnon22
12-31-2003, 11:17 AM
S!

It came to me that the P-61 has not been mentioned here, at least, in the time I've been on the forum. I am a 3D artist and would be willing to model one for the game in there is interest.
I have a plastic model of it for reference, plus a few schematics, etc to base the model on.

So the biggest question is:
Would you be intestested in this plan in FB?

Secondarily, I'll have to get in touch with Oleg or Gibbage to figure out if there's time to fit it into the expansion pack.

Thirdly, if anyone has any P-61 references, pics or partshttp://ubbxforums.ubi.com/infopop/emoticons/icon_wink.gif I'd appreciate if you could post them. In particular, I'd like to know if there were any delivered to USSR via Lend-Lease. I seem to recall seeing a picture of one with red stars, but that was so long ago, my memory could be playing tricks.

Lastly, the real thing had radar and there's no way, afaik, to implement radar in FB, so compromises will have to be made.

To those not familiar with the plane, it is a twin engine heavy night fighter, a crew of 3, armament of 4 forward firing 20mm cannons, and a 4 0.50-cal MG's in a dorsal turret with 360 degree sweep.

Cheers and happy new year!
Agamemnon

noshens
12-31-2003, 11:26 AM
Hi2u

its a better idea to post this here:
http://www.netwings.org/cgi-bin/dcforum/dcboard.cgi?az=list&forum=DCForumID43&conf=DCConfID1

read rules on modeling airplane and check if nobody is doing it or if it is done already.

http://www.img.net/cliff-m/vvn/me262.jpg

necrobaron
12-31-2003, 11:31 AM
It's great for you to offer, but I'm afraid PlanEater has it reserved. He's going to start it once he completes his early P-40s....

Aardvark892
12-31-2003, 12:32 PM
I'm not sure if this is of any use, but...

http://www.maam.org/p61/p61rest3.html

Good luck!

SSgt Tim Schuster, USAF
8th MXS Inspection Section
Kunsan AB, ROK

http://www.il2skins.com
http://www.uberdemon.com
http://www.mudmovers.com
http://www.zenoswarbirdvideos.com
http://www.gibbageart.com

credit for MiG-3U skin avatar goes to wwwdubya

http://img5.photobucket.com/albums/v22/Aardvark892/PC_Stealth2.jpg

Themotorhead
12-31-2003, 12:38 PM
Agamemnon22

Do you have some samples of your work?
I'm working on a idea ..
thx.

-GOZR

Lt.Davis
12-31-2003, 12:53 PM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by yay1:
Hi2u

its a better idea to post this here:
http://www.netwings.org/cgi-bin/dcforum/dcboard.cgi?az=list&forum=DCForumID43&conf=DCConfID1

read rules on modeling airplane and check if nobody is doing it or if it is done already.

http://www.img.net/cliff-m/vvn/me262.jpg <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Ohh! Any screenshot yet... the early P-40c?? Good work!

Speed is the KEY.

Agamemnon22
12-31-2003, 01:14 PM
S!

yay1: ah thanks, that linked helped a lot.

necrobaron: dang http://ubbxforums.ubi.com/infopop/emoticons/icon_frown.gif.. well I might do a Devastator or an Oscar then, I'll get in touch with the folks at Netwings.

Aardvark: thanks!

Motorhead: certainly. www.angelfire.com/art/threeDre (http://www.angelfire.com/art/threeDre)
What's your idea?

Copperhead310th
12-31-2003, 01:29 PM
Actually Agamemnon22 why don't you try & contact PlaneEater & see if maybe the 2 of you could work on the prodject together. http://ubbxforums.ubi.com/infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif
2 guys would get it done faster than 1.
I compiled a very extensive file on the Widow for PlaneEater. So there is more than enough info to model the aircraft. I'm sure if your work is up to snuff then he would love to have help with it.

Team work on models is not unusual. Send me an email here Copperhead@Ghostskies.com
& i'll try & put you in touch with PlaneEater.

http://imageshack.us/files/380th%20siggy.jpg

Copperhead310th
12-31-2003, 01:45 PM
Also i don't know if it was lend leased to the russains....but with the new western front maps & the PTO online map this plane defanlty has a place in FB. It serverd in most all major theaters. As for making it into the expantion pack...i doubt that very much. it's already too late. it's scehduled for release Feb. 04. But ...if the expantion pack sells well world wide i'm sure that there will be more Addons in 2004. There are still a lot of planes that are late in the modeling process that are considerd KEY aircraft. Gibbage has already said that there are enough to merit another addon/expantion. As for Radar...that is Very possible. really any thing is possible in the FB engine. the same was said about aircraft carriers & oleg responed & said that it was possible if they have the time to get it in the sim. i've said this before so i'll repeate it here. we already have a working radar system in FB. it just has to be programed into the cockpit of the Bf-110's & P-61's when they are released. The mini map player icons is basically a primitive radar system. that could be used for the radar. so it's not a exrtealy difficult thing for Olegs team to do. they just have to write the codeing for it. http://ubbxforums.ubi.com/infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif

http://imageshack.us/files/380th%20siggy.jpg

p1ngu666
12-31-2003, 02:06 PM
looks good http://ubbxforums.ubi.com/infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif

essemm
12-31-2003, 02:20 PM
The P61 kicks a lot of butt. I would love to fly it!

http://server3.uploadit.org/files/141103-warloch_small.jpg

VW-IceFire
12-31-2003, 02:55 PM
Was it the P-61 or the A-20 that had the Liberator's turret installation? (or was it another plane entirely?)

There is a Liberator in the works as well...

- IceFire
http://home.cogeco.ca/~cczerneda/sigs/spit-sig.jpg

Copperhead310th
01-01-2004, 04:27 PM
http://www.daveswarbirds.com/usplanes/photos/bwidow2.jpg
It must have been the A-20. The black widow used a 4 .50 cal MG top turret & 20mm cannons on the front of the AC. But for those interested here's some reading:

Northrop P-61 Black Widow Specs

http://www.daveswarbirds.com/usplanes/views/p-61.gif
Type: Fighter
Crew: 3
Armament: four 20mm cannon,
four .50 cal machine guns in optional dorsal turret

Specifications:
Length: 49' 7" (15.11 m)
Height: 14' 8" (4.47 m)
Wingspan: 66' (20.12 m)
Gross Weight: 35853 lbs (16260 kg)
Max Weight: 35855 lbs (16260 kg)

Propulsion:
No. of Engines: 2
Powerplant: Pratt & Whitney R-2800
Horsepower: 2100 hp each

Performance:
Range: 1200 miles (1932 km)
Cruise Speed: 275 mph (442 km/hr)
Max Speed: 425 mph (684 km/hr)
Ceiling: 46200 ft (14081 m)


P-61 information:
http://www.daveswarbirds.com/usplanes/photos/bwidow1.jpg
The contract for the XP-61D had a supplemental clause which called for the the development of two XP-61E aircraft. The XP-61E was to be a bomber escort version of the Black Widow. Two P-61B-10-NOs were selected for the conversion (serial numbers 42-39549 and 42-39557). Since the P-51D Mustang had proven itself to be more than adequate as a bomber escort, the XP-61E project ended up on the back burner at Northrop, and the conversion was not completed until March of 1945.

The XP-61E retained the 2250 hp R-2800-65 Double Wasps of the P-61B. However, the central fuselage nacelle was completely revised, almost nothing remaining the same. Most notable was the use of a tandem two-seat cockpit with a bubble canopy. The third seat in the rear of the night-fighter Black Widow was eliminated. The radar in the nose was removed and replaced with four 0.50-inch machine guns with 300 rpg. The four 20-mm belly cannon were retained. Additional fuel tanks were added to the crew nacelle, bringing the total internal fuel load up to 1158 gallons. A ladder was installed in the left side of the extreme aft section of the crew nacelle. The first aircraft had a bubble canopy which swung to the left when it was opened, but the canopy on the second aircraft slid to the rear when opened. The four nose machine guns in the first plane were in a box arrangement, whereas those in the second airplane were laid out in an approximately horizontal line.

The second XP-61E (42-39557) was wrecked in April 1945 when a test pilot prematurely retracted the landing gear during a high-performance takeoff. The plane settled back down onto the runway, breaking off its propeller blades and coming to a screeching halt as it slid along on its belly. The pilot walked away from the incident, but the aircraft was a total loss.

Further testing on the first XP-61E showed that it had a distinct performance advantage over the night-fighter Black Widow variants, attaining a maximum speed of 376 mph at 17,000 feet. However, the performance of the XP-61E was not as good as the latest fighters then entering service. In particular, it was not nearly as fast as the North American XP-82 Twin Mustang, which had been specifically designed for the escort role. The XP-82 had flown for the first time on April 15, 1945 and had exhibited maximum speeds of no less than 482 mph at 25,100 feet. Consequently, there was no further consideration of the XP-61E as an escort fighter.

F-15 Reporter


Northrop XP-61/YP-61 Black Widow
The Northrop P-61 Black Widow was the largest and heaviest fighter aircraft to enter service with the USAAF during the Second World War. It was also the first American aircraft specifically designed from the outset for the night fighting role. It made its operational debut in the South Pacific in the summer of 1944 and was the standard USAAF night fighter at the end of the war. Unlike other USAAF fighters such as the P-47 Thunderbolt or P-51 Mustang, the Black Widow did not chalk up a particularly impressive number of kills, because by the time of its entry into service, the Allies had already established almost overwhelming air superiority over virtually all fronts, and enemy aircraft were rather few and far between, especially at night.

The saga of the Northrop P-61 Black Widow begins back in August 1940, at the height of the Blitz on London. During this time, the US air officer in London, Lt. Gen. Delos C. Emmons, underwent a briefing in which he was brought up to date on British progress on radar (Radio Detecting and Ranging). Radar had first been developed in Britain in 1936, and British scientists and engineers were at that time working on the early versions of AI (Airborne Interception) radar sets which could be carried aboard airplanes, enabling them to detect and intercept other airplanes in flight without having to rely on ground installations.

At the same time, the British Purchasing Commission that was shopping for aircraft in the USA announced that they urgently required a night fighter that would be capable of stopping the German bombers that were attacking London by night. Such a fighter would have to be able to stay on station above London all night, which meant at least an 8-hour loiter time. In addition, the night fighter needed to have sufficient combat altitude in order to take on the bombers when they showed up.

When General Emmons returned to the USA, he reported that the British had an urgent need for night fighter aircraft, and that American industry might be able to supply that need. A preliminary specification was drawn up by the Emmons Board and was passed on to Air Technical Service Command at Wright Field in late 1940. Because of the heavy weight of the early AI radar and because of the high loiter time required, a twin-engined aircraft was envisaged.

Northrop Chief of Research Vladimir H. Pavlecka happened to be at Wright Field at that time on an unrelated project, and was told of the Army's need for night-fighters. However, he was told nothing about radar, only that there was a way to "see and distinguish other airplanes". He returned to Northrop the next day. On October 22, Jack Northrop met with Pavlecka and was given the USAAC's specification. At this time, no other company was known to be working on night fighters, although at about this time Douglas was starting work on their XA-26A night fighter and the AAC were considering the A-20B as an interim night fighter.

Northrop's proposal was a twin-engined monoplane powered by a pair of Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp air-cooled radial engines mounted in low-slung nacelles underneath the wings. The nacelles tapered back into twin tail booms which were connected to each other by a large horizontal stabilizer and elevator. The long fuselage housed a crew of three. The crew consisted of a pilot, a gunner for the nose turret, and a radar operator/rear turret gunner. Each turret housed four 0.50-inch machine guns. A tricycle landing gear was fitted. Estimated weights were 16,245 pounds empty, 22,654 pounds gross. Height was 13 feet 2 inches, length was 45 feet 6 inches, and wingspan was 66 feet. These dimensions and weights were more typical of a bomber than a fighter.

On November 14, Northrop presented this revised design to the USAAC. An additional gunner's station was fitted. Nose and tail turrets of the original version were replaced by twin 0.50-in machine guns in the belly, and four 0.50-in machine guns in a dorsal turret. The crew was now up to four--a pilot, a radar operator, and two gunners. The airborne intercept radio was moved to the nose.

The design was revised still further on November 22. The belly turret was deleted, and the crew was changed back to three--pilot, gunner, and radar operator. The pilot sat up front, and the gunner sat immediately behind and above the pilot. The gunner was to operate the turret via remote control, using a special sight attached to a swiveling chair. A "stepped-up" canopy was used to provide a clear field of view for the gunner. The rear fuselage with its clear tail cone provided the radar operator with an excellent rearward view which enabled him to act as a tail gunner if the plane happened to be attacked from astern. Optionally, the dorsal turret guns could be "locked" into the forward-pointing position, so that they could be fired by the pilot. The belly guns were deleted, and four 20-mm cannon were to be fitted in the wings. This design was formalized into Northrop Specification 8A (or NS-8A), dated December 5, 1940.

Incorporated into the night fighter design was the Zap wing and Zap flap, named after Edward Zap, a Northrop engineer. These were attempts to increase the maximum lift coefficient and to decrease the landing speed by the use of improved lateral control and lifting devices

NS-8A was submitted to Wright Field. The Army was generally pleased with the design, but they suggested some changes. A letter of quotation prepared by Northrop for two experimental prototypes was presented to Materiel Command on December 17, 1940. Northrop signed the formal contract on January 11, 1941. A contract was let on January 30, 1941 for two prototypes and two wind-tunnel models. On March 10, 1941, a contract was issued for 13 YP-61 service test aircraft, plus one engineless static test airframe.

The mockup was ready for inspection in April of 1941. At that time, it was decided to move the four 20-mm cannon from the outboard portion of the wings to the belly. This was done to improve the ease of maintenance and to make the airflow over the wing smoother. The internal fuel capacity was increased from 540 gallons in two tanks to 646 gallons in four self-sealed tanks built into the wings.

In the meantime, development of the A/I radar had proceeded at a rapid pace. Radar development in the United States had been placed under the control of the National Defense Research Committee. The NDRC's Microwave Committee in turn had established the Radiation Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The Radiation Laboratory was to handle the development of the XP-61's airborne interception (AI) radar. The designation of the radar was AI-10. The AI-10 radar was given the military designation SCR-520, where SCR stood for "Signal Corp Radio" (some references have this as standing for "Searchlight Control Radar"). The Western Electric corporation was assigned the responsibility of refining the design and undertaking the mass production of the radar.

In October 1941, a pedestal-type mount for the turret guns was substituted for the General Electric ring-type mount.

A letter of intent was initiated on December 24, 1941, which called for 100 P-61 production aircraft and spares. Fifty more were ordered on January 17, 1942. The order was increased to 410 aircraft on February 12, 1942, fifty of which were to be diverted to the RAF under Lend-Lease. The RAF order was eventually cancelled.

The XP-61 flew at Northrop Field for the first time on May 26, 1942, piloted by veteran contract test pilot Vance Breese. It was powered by a pair of Pratt & Whitney R-2800-10 radials of 2000 hp each. In keeping with its nocturnal role, it was finished in black overall, befitting its popular name that was taken from the poisonous North American spider. Wingspan was 66 feet, length was 48 feet 10 inches, and height was 14 feet 2 inches. Weights were 19,245 pounds empty, 25,150 pounds gross, and 28,870 pounds maximum. The aircraft was equipped with only a mockup of the top turret, as General Electric had not yet been able to deliver the real thing because of the higher priority of other projects.

The XP-61 had a maximum speed of 370 mph at 29,900 feet, and an altitude of 20,000 feet could be attained in 9 minutes. Service ceiling was 33,100 feet, and maximum range was 1450 miles.

In mid-June 1942, a new horizontal tail was designed to complement the full-span flaps. Eventually, the Zap flaps were completely eliminated because of their high cost and complexity of manufacture, and spoilers were added to supplement the conventional ailerons. The spoilers were located in the rear one-third of the wing, and were one of the most successful innovations introduced during the entire Black Widow program. Operating in conjunction with the conventional ailerons, the spoilers provided the desired rolling moment at speeds even below the stalling speed. Although the spoilers were fully capable of providing all necessary lateral control on their own, the ailerons were nevertheless still left on the airplane if only to provide "warm fuzzies" to pilots who were used to conventional ailerons.

On May 25, 1942, an agreement was reached between Northrop and the USAAC to produce 1200 P-61s at a government facility in Denver, Colorado. By the end of July, that order had been cut down to 207 aircraft and it was decided that the Northrop facilities at Hawthorne were to be used after all.

The thirteen YP-61s were delivered during August and September of 1943. In order to reduce vibrations from firing the 0.50-inch turret machine guns, some YP-61s were fitted with only two turret guns. The assignments of the YP-61s were varied. Some stayed at Northrop for flight testing and factory training of maintenance personnel. Some went to Wright Field in Ohio for service testing. Others went to Florida where they underwent operational suitability testing.

The YP-61s initially did not have any airborne interception radar fitted, but the SCR-520, a preproduction version of the SCR-720 which was to go into the production P-61A, was installed.

P-61A Black Widow

The P-61A was the first production version of the Black Widow. The first P-61A-1-NO rolled off the production line in October 1943.

It differed from the experimental and service-test aircraft in having a stronger framework structure for the pilot's, radar observer's and gunner's canopies.Tests with the YP-61 had uncovered the fact that the greenhouse and tail cone were so weak that they could actually implode under the pressure built up during high-speed dives. This strengthening eliminated the smooth flow of the greenhouse and created a sharper and more abrupt change in angle in that area.

The welded magnesium alloy booms of the prototypes were replaced by more conventional aluminum alloy booms, since they were less expensive and easier to manufacture.

Unlike the earlier XP-61 and YP-61 aircraft which were painted flat black, the P-61A was painted standard Army olive drab overall.

Only the first thirty-seven of the 45 P-61A-1s were actually equipped with the dorsal turrets. In fact, more than half of all P-61As built actually had this turret deleted. One reason for this omission was that the General Electric remotely-controlled turret mechanism was urgently needed for the B-29 program. However, the primary reason was the occurrence of severe aerodynamic buffeting when the turret was being either elevated or rotated in azimuth during flight. Many flight-test hours were spent in trying to solve this problem, but it was never completely eliminated. In fact, this problem was often so severe that many P-61As in the field had the four 0.50-inch machine guns in the top turret permanently locked into the forward-firing position, being fired only by the pilot, with the gunner having no control at all. In many cases, the top turret was completely removed from the aircraft, and the cavity left behind by the deletion of the gun turret was filled up by an extra fuel tank and was faired over. In a few cases, the turret mechanism was completely removed from the aircraft and the four dorsal machine guns were secured in the upper portion of the turret cavity and covered by a nonstandard turret cover. Some of these modifications were made in the field, but others were made at forward depots before the aircraft were delivered to their operational squadrons.

Since the gunner of these re-equipped Black Widows now had no guns that he could fire, he was sometimes left at home when these planes went out on operational missions, and many Black Widow operational missions carried only two crew members--the pilot and the radar operator. However, on other occasions, the gunner was nevertheless included on operational missions, if only to act as another pair of eyes.

Most of the P-61A-1-NOs went to the USAAF night fighter squadrons in the Pacific. The 6th Night Fighter Squadron was the first to receive the new fighter.

The P-61 was quite docile despite its size. Full control of the aircraft could be maintained with one engine out, even when fully loaded. The plane could be slow-rolled into a dead engine, a maneuver which would ordinarily have been suicidal.

P-61A-1-NO 42-5496 was supplied to the RAF for tests. It was in British hands between March 21, 1944 and February 22, 1945. The RAF was not too enthusiastic about its performance, and never bothered to order any Black Widows for its own use, finding that the night fighter version of the de Havilland Mosquito was more than adequate for the task at hand.

The P-61A-5-NO production block introduced a change in engines. These planes were powered by a pair of 2250 hp R-2800-65 engines, replacing the 2000 hp R-2800-10s. Maximum speed was 322 mph at sea level, 355 mph at 10,000 feet, and 369 mph at 20,000 feet. Range (clean) was 415 miles at 319 mph at 20,000 feet and 1010 miles at 224 mph at 10,000 feet. Range with maximum external fuel was 1900 miles at 221 mph at 10,000 feet. An altitude of 5000 feet could be reached in 2.2 minutes, and 15,000 feet in 7.6 minutes. Service ceiling was 33,100 feet. Weights were 20,965 pounds empty, 27,600 pounds normal loaded, and 32,400 pounds maximum. Dimensions were wingspan 66 feet 0 inches, length 48 feet 11 inches, height 14 feet 2 inches, and wing area 664 square feet.

The P-61A-10-NO production block had a pair of water-injected R-2800-65 Double Wasps. This model was the first to carry the shiny-black paint job which was to be the trademark of the Black Widow. Previous production P-61As had conventional olive-drab paint jobs. 120 P-61A-10-NOs were built. 20 of these were modified prior to delivery by the addition of a pylon on the outer wing panels to carry either a pair of 265 gallon fuel tanks (later 310 gallon tanks were fitted) or a pair of 1600-pound bombs. These planes were redesignated P-61A-11.

Serials of the P-61As were as follows:

42-5485/5529 Northrop P-61A-1-NO Black Widow
42-5530/5564 Northrop P-61A-5-NO Black Widow
*5559 was modified as XP-61D*
42-5565/5604 Northrop P-61A-10-NO Black Widow
*5587 was modified as XP-61D*
42-5605/5606 Northrop P-61A-11-NO Black Widow
42-5607 Northrop P-61A-10-NO Black Widow
42-5608/5614 Northrop P-61A-11-NO Black Widow
42-5615/5634 Northrop P-61A-10-NO Black Widow
42-39348/39374 Northrop P-61A-10-NO Black Widow
42-39375/39384 Northrop P-61A-11-NO Black Widow
42-39385/39386 Northrop P-61A-10-NO Black Widow
42-39387 Northrop P-61A-11-NO Black Widow
42-39388/39397 Northrop P-61A-10-NO Black Widow

P-61B Black Widow

The P-61B was the next production version of the Black Widow. It was basically similar to the P-61A version, but introduced numerous improvements and refinements that were suggested by operational experience in the field.

The P-61B version of the Black Widow introduced the improved SCR-720C A/I radar. The P-61B also had an eight-inch longer crew nacelle. The A-model's hydraulically-operated main landing-gear doors which had experienced reliability problems in the field were replaced by mechanically-operated doors. The P-61B introduced split main landing gear doors. The split main-gear doors allowed the aft three-quarters of the doors to close back down again after the gear had been extended, preventing mud, rocks and other debris from being thrown up into the wheelwells during takeoffs or landings. A main landing gear down-lock emergency release was introduced, which allowed the pilot to release the locks in an emergency even if the entire hydraulic system malfunctioned. A safety latch was added to the main gear hydraulic valve handle to eliminate the possibility of the pilot inadvertently retracting the gear while the plane was on the ground.

One way of visually telling the difference between a P-61A and a P-61B was by an readily-noticeable access panel which was added behind the radome on the P-61B.

The B-model had a bigger and better heater system for the crew, and it had automatically- operated lower engine cowl flops, oil-cooler air exit flaps, and intercooler flaps. The oil tanks were mounted inside the engine nacelles instead of inside the outer wings. A taxi lamp was added to the landing gear strut. The aileron trim tabs were deleted, and a built-in fire extinguisher system was added.

Operational crews in combat theatres as well as training squadrons in the USA determined very early on that the Black Widow pilot needed to have night-vision binoculars in order to see his target. These were introduced on the B-model. Night-vision binoculars consisted of a combination of 5.8-power night glasses and an optical gunsight. In place of the circle and the dot of light in his regular gunsight, there was a horizontal row of four illuminated dots in the gunsight of the binoculars. The pilot lined up these dots with the wing of the target aircraft he was sighting on, and if he knew the type of aircraft he was looking at, he could easily determine its range and quickly calculate a firing solution. Night binoculars were later retrofitted to many P-61A already in the field.

Starting with the P-51B-5-NO production block, the SCR-718 radio altimeter was replaced with an APN-1 low-altitude altimeter.

Starting with the P-61B-10-NO block, an APS-13 tail-warning system was added. Some P-61As and many early P-61Bs were retrofitted in the field with the APN-1 and APS-13 systems. The B-10 production block also introduced underwing pylons for four 258-gallon drop tanks or four 1600-pound bombs

The P-61B-15-NO reintroduced the dorsal turret (General Electric Type A-4), the buffeting problem caused by earlier turrets having by now been largely corrected.

The P-61B-20-NO used the General Electric Type A-7 turret with a revised fire-control system.

The Black Widow night fighter used its on-board radar only to plot intercept courses when pursuing enemy aircraft. Once having used closed with his target, the pilot of the Black Widow sighted his prey by eye and used a conventional optical gunsight to fire his guns at the enemy. Operationally-practical radar-directed airborne fire control was still many years in the future. Nevertheless, there were some experiments with the Black Widow in which automatic airborne fire control was tried out. The P-61B-25-NO was a block of seven experimental aircraft which were fitted with a Western Electric APG-1 gun-laying radar which was coupled with a General Electric remote-controlled turret system. The radar fed data into an analogue computer, which in turn directed the turret guns onto the target. One P-61B-15-NO was also modified in this fashion, and the first six P-61B-20-NO aircraft were also modified to this configuration. All of these aircraft were tested by the Air Proving Command at Elgin Field, Florida and at the night fighter training establishment at Hammer Field in California. However, I don't think that this innovation ever made it to the field.

During 1945, 16 P-61Bs were converted to P-61Gs for weather reconnaissance. All armament was deleted.

The next version of the Black Widow to enter service was the P-61C, which was a high-performance variant designed to rectify some of the combat deficiencies encountered with the A and B variants.

Most Black Widow crews were enthusiastic about their aircraft, and gave it high marks on both maneuverability and firepower. However, they almost unanimously reported that the Black Widow was just not fast enough to make it a really great night fighter. In addition, they felt that the operational ceiling could stand for some improvement. By mid-1943, even before the combat debut of the Black Widow, both the USAAF and Northrop had come to the same conclusion, and on November 11, 1943, Northrop was given the go-ahead to proceed with an improved Black Widow, the XP-61C.

The XP-61C was essentially the same Black Widow airframe but powered by turbosupercharged R-2800-73 radials offering a war emergency power of 2800 hp. Northrop engineers had initially decided not to add turbosuperchargers to earlier P-61s because they were worried that they would increase the fuel consumption and adversely affect loiter times. However, this time they decided that the performance gain that such turbosuperchargers offered more than offset any potential penalties.

The XP-61C could be readily distinguished from its A and B prede- cessors by the presence of a large tumorous-looking bulge for the turbosuperchargers underneath each engine. Paddle-bladed A.O. Smith propellers were fitted in order to take advantage of the increased engine power. Performance predictions included a maximum speed of 430 mph at 30,000 feet.

Work on the P-61C proceeded quite slowly at Northrop because of the higher priority of the XB-35 flying wing project. In fact, much of the work on the P-61C was farmed out to Goodyear, which had been a subcontractor for production of Black Widow components. It was not until early 1945 that the first production P-61C-1-NO rolled off the production lines. As promised, the performance was substantially improved in spite of a two-thousand pound increase in empty weight. Maximum speed was 430 mph at 30,000 feet, service ceiling was 41,000 feet, and an altitude of 30,000 feet could be attained in 14.6 minutes.

The P-61C was equipped with perforated fighter airbrakes located both below and above the wing surfaces. These were to provide a means of preventing the pilot from overshooting his target during an intercept. For added fuel capacity, the P-61C was equipped with four underwing pylons (two inboard of the nacelles, two outboard) which could carry four 310-gallon drop tanks.

The first P-61C aircraft was accepted by the USAAF in July of 1945. However, the war in the Pacific ended before any P-61Cs could see combat. The forty-first and last P-61C-1-NO was accepted on January 28, 1946. At least thirteen more were completed by Northrop but were scrapped before they could be delivered to the USAAF. Northrop records show an additional 400 P-61Cs with 1945 serial numbers to have been on order, with blocks 5 and 10 being at least in the planning stages.

Most pilots who flew the P-61C felt that the increase in weight made the aircraft a lot less maneuverable than the A or B versions. The service life of the P-61C was quite brief, since it was being quickly outclassed by jet aircraft. Most were used for test and research purposes. By the end of March 1949, most P-61Cs had been scrapped. Two went onto the civilian market and two others went to museums.

P-61C-1-NO serial number 43-8352 is currently on display at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Museum in Dayton, Ohio. It is, however, marked as P-61B-1-NO serial number 42-39468.

The Smithsonian Institution's P-61C-1-NO (43-8330) is reportedly in storage at the Silver Hill facility in Suitland, Maryland, awaiting much-needed restoration work. I was at Silver Hill in November of 1992, and I didn't see it there at that time. However, there were only a few buildings that I was allowed to enter, and there are a lot of really intriguing buildings that I did not get a chance to see. Perhaps the Smithsonian's Black Widow is in one of them.

Serial numbers of the P-61Cs were as follows:

43-8321/8361
Northrop P-61C-1-NO Black Widow
Modification of 8338 as XP-61F canceled.
43-8362/8437 Northrop P-61C Black Widow - contract canceled
45-001/400 Northrop P-61C Black Widow - contract canceled

XP-61D Black Widow
As you may recall, work on the XP-61C had initially proceeded quite slowly at Northrop because of the greater priority of the XB-35 flying wing bomber. Consequently, most of the work on the XP-61C was contracted out to Goodyear Aircraft of Akron, Ohio. Goodyear was a natural choice for this work, since the company was already doing some subassembly work for Northrop on the Black Widow.

It was initially planned that Pratt & Whitney R-2800-77 engines with General Electric CH-5 turbosuperchargers were to power the XP-61C. However, because of the demands of higher-priority projects for this engine, the R-2800-14W was substituted. In reality, there were few differences between these engines. In mid-Feruary 1944, arrangements were made to divert a P-61A-5-NO (serial number 42-5559) to the XP-61C project. As a safety measure, Northrop suggested that a second Black Widow be converted as well, and since the P-61A production line was on Block 10 at that time, a P-61A-10-NO (serial number 42-5587) was taken off the production line for conversion to XP-61C standards.

By late April 1944, the engines had been changed yet again, to the R-2800-57. On April 27, Wright Field ordered that the designations of these two experimental aircraft be changed to XP-61D so that they would not be confused with the production C models. The XP-61D was to be modified to carry four wing pylons (two inboard and two outboard of the engine booms)

Technical difficulties and labor problems at Goodyear delayed the XP-61D all throughout mid-1944, and it was not until November 1944 that the first flight took place. By this time, the engines were a pair of R-2800-77 turbosupercharged radials, rated at a war emergency power of 2800 hp. The flight test program for the two XP-61Ds was completed by the fall of 1945. Maximum speed was 430 mph at 30,000 feet, and an altitude of 30,000 feet could be attained in 13.5 minutes. Service ceiling was 43,000 feet. Weights were 23,305 pounds empty, 29,850 pounds gross, and 39,715 pounds maximum.

By this time, the basically similar P-61C had already entered production, and consequently the XP-61D had a very low priority. The end of the war in the Pacific caused the priority of the XP-61D project to drop to zero. The first XP-61D was scrapped on September 11, 1945, and the second one in April 1946.

XP-61E Black Widow
The contract for the XP-61D had a supplemental clause which called for the the development of two XP-61E aircraft. The XP-61E was to be a bomber escort version of the Black Widow. Two P-61B-10-NOs were selected for the conversion (serial numbers 42-39549 and 42-39557). Since the P-51D Mustang had proven itself to be more than adequate as a bomber escort, the XP-61E project ended up on the back burner at Northrop, and the conversion was not completed until March of 1945.

The XP-61E retained the 2250 hp R-2800-65 Double Wasps of the P-61B. However, the central fuselage nacelle was completely revised, almost nothing remaining the same. Most notable was the use of a tandem two-seat cockpit with a bubble canopy. The third seat in the rear of the night-fighter Black Widow was eliminated. The radar in the nose was removed and replaced with four 0.50-inch machine guns with 300 rpg. The four 20-mm belly cannon were retained. Additional fuel tanks were added to the crew nacelle, bringing the total internal fuel load up to 1158 gallons. A ladder was installed in the left side of the extreme aft section of the crew nacelle. The first aircraft had a bubble canopy which swung to the left when it was opened, but the canopy on the second aircraft slid to the rear when opened. The four nose machine guns in the first plane were in a box arrangement, whereas those in the second airplane were laid out in an approximately horizontal line.

The second XP-61E (42-39557) was wrecked in April 1945 when a test pilot prematurely retracted the landing gear during a high-performance takeoff. The plane settled back down onto the runway, breaking off its propeller blades and coming to a screeching halt as it slid along on its belly. The pilot walked away from the incident, but the aircraft was a total loss.

Further testing on the first XP-61E showed that it had a distinct performance advantage over the night-fighter Black Widow variants, attaining a maximum speed of 376 mph at 17,000 feet. However, the performance of the XP-61E was not as good as the latest fighters then entering service. In particular, it was not nearly as fast as the North American XP-82 Twin Mustang, which had been specifically designed for the escort role. The XP-82 had flown for the first time on April 15, 1945 and had exhibited maximum speeds of no less than 482 mph at 25,100 feet. Consequently, there was no further consideration of the XP-61E as an escort fighter.

F-15 Reporter
The loss of Army interest in the XP-61E escort fighter was not to be the end of the line for the Black Widow. In the summer of 1945, the surviving XP-61E was modified as an unarmed photographic reconnaissance aircraft. All the guns were removed, and a new nose was fitted, capable of holding an assortment of aerial cameras. The aircraft was redesignated XF-15 (in the pre-1948 F-for photo recon series, not to be confused with the post-1948 F-for-fighter series). It flew for the first time on July 3, 1945.

Even before the first flight of the XF-15, the USAAF had shown enough interest in the recon version of the Black Widow that in June of 1945 they ordered 175 production F-15As. These were given the popular name *Reporter*.

A P-61C-1-NO (serial number 42-8335) was also modified to XF-15 standards. Apart from the turbosupercharged R-2800-C engine, it was identical to the XF-15. The modified P-61C flew for the first time on October 17, 1945.

The nose for the F-15A-1-NO Reporter was subcontracted to the Hughes Tool Company of Culver City, California. The F-15A was basically the P-61C with the new bubble-canopy fuselage and the camera-carrying nose. The fighter brakes on the wing were eliminated.

The first production F-15A-1-NO was accepted in September 1946. However, the contract was abruptly canceled in 1947, possibly because the performance of the Reporter was rapidly being overshadowed by jets. Only 36 F-15As were accepted before the contract was cancelled. The last F-15A was accepted by the USAAF in April of 1947. The last F-15 to be produced (serial number 45-59335) was produced as an F-15A-5-NO, which differed from the Block-1 version mainly in having a new internal camera installation in the nose. It seems that this change had been contemplated for the last 20 F-15s as well, since some records indicate that these were all eventually redesignated as F-15A-5-NO.

The pilot was seated in the front, with the reconnaissance operator in the back. The backseat occupant controlled the cameras and navigated the aircraft. However, the rear seat of the F-15A was fitted with a set of rudimentary flying controls, which made it possible for the reconnaissance operator to relieve the pilot if needed. Both crew members were rated pilots and both were trained in the reconnaissance task, so they usually alternated position on each flight.

Of the 36 F-15As produced, nine were allocated to the Air Materiel Command in the Continental US, and the remainder were issued to just one squadron, the 8th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron attached to the 35th Fighter Group in Japan. These aircraft served in the American occupation of Japan, and several of them participated in the Post-Hostilities Mapping Program, in which extensive photographs were taken of beaches, villages, road networks, and cultural centers. Included in this job was the mapping of the Korean Peninsula, which proved invaluable when the Korean War broke out in 1950. A few also served in the Philippines and Celebes. Included in their mission was the mapping of the route of the Bataan Death March for war crimes prosecutions.

Spare parts became a problem for the F-15s in the late 1940s, and both damaged and flyable Reporters were cannibalized to keep the rest of them flying. In August, 1948, the separate F-category for reconnaissance aircraft was eliminated, and the P-for-pursuit category was replaced by F-for-fighter. Surviving Black Widows were redesignated F-61, and the surviving Reporters were redesignated RF-61C (since they were basically modified P-61Cs). On April 1, 1949, the only outfit still using RF-61Cs (the 82nd Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron) was deactivated, and all surviving RF-61Cs were reassigned to the 35th Maintenance Squadron at Johnson AFB for disposal. Some were disposed of as surplus on the commercial market, but others were scrapped.

Northrop XF2T-1 for US Navy

As early as the summer of 1942, the US Navy had exhibited an interest in the P-61 Black Widow. They needed a night fighter which could operate from land bases at far-flung locations throughout the Pacific. However, the USAAF had the priority on deliveries of Black Widows, and the Navy would have to wait until mid-1944 until their request was finally honored. At that time, the Navy was finally given the go-ahead to acquire its own Black Widows. The naval P-61s were to be issued to Marine Corps night-fighter units then operating a mixed bag of Lockheed PV-1 Venturas, Vought F4U Corsairs, and Grumman F6F Hellcats.

However, on July 10, 1944, the Navy changed its mind and decided to opt instead for the Grumman F7F Tigercat as its primary night fighter. The Navy cancelled its request for Black Widows. Nevertheless, the Navy did acquire a dozen ex-USAAF P-61B-10s, 15s and 20s for use as crew trainers until their Tigercats could be made available in quantity. The naval Black Widows were given the naval designation F2T-1 and were assigned the Bureau of Aeronautics serial numbers 52750 through 52761. However, the F2T-1s did not enter service with the Navy until September of 1945, by which time the war in the Pacific was over.

The naval F2T-1s served with shore-based training units for only a brief time, and the survivors were eventually transferred to support units. The last two F2T-1s were stricken off Navy rolls in August of 1947.

Wartime Service of Northrop P-61 Black Widow

Pacific Theatre
The first operational use of the P-61 Black Widow was in the Pacific theatre. The 418th, 419th and 421st Night Fighter Squadrons shipped out to the Southwest Pacific Area late in 1943. The first operational mission by Black Widow took place out of Saipan on June 24, 1944, and the first kill was made on June 30, when a Black Widow piloted by 6th Night Fighter Squadron members 2nd Lt. Dale F. Haversom and radar operator Raymond P. Mooney shot down a Betty. The Black Widows flew numerous missions against Japanese night intruders, which were a real nuisance to American forces and which up to this time had been virtually immune from interception. On typical missions, the Black Widow would be directed to the vicinity of its target by ground based radar. The onboard A/I radar under the control of the radar operator would then be used to direct the pilot to close with and intercept the the enemy. As soon as the Black Widow had gotten close enough to its target to make a visual identification, the guns would be aimed and fired by the pilot or by the gunner. The appearance of the Black Widow in the night skies over the Pacific was a rude and unpleasant surprise for these night raiders.

One of the primary missions of the Black Widow squadrons was the protection of B-29 bases on Saipan against night attacks, and these aircraft flew combat air patrols and interception missions. They also aided in the rescue of many crippled and lost B-29s trying to return from raids on Japan.

Black Widows were also based in New Guinea and later in the Philippines. In the Philippines, Black Widows flew night intruder missions against Japanese airfields and ground installations. The Black Widow also participated in the invasion of Iwo Jima and Okinawa.


China-Burma-India Theatre
The Black Widow also served in the China-Burma-India theatre. The first Black Widow kill in that theater took place on October 30, 1944, when a Kunming-based Black Widow flown by Capt. Robert R. Scott and Charles W. Phillips of the 426th Night Fighter Squadron shot down a Japanese twin-engined aircraft. The initial mission of the China-based Black Widows was to destroy Japanese night intruders, but as enemy nighttime flying ceased, the Black Widows went over to night intruder missions, attacking Japanese ground installations in China and Burma.

European Theatre
The first P-61 arrived in Europe on May 23, 1944. The Black Widows were initially based in England, and their first assignment was to chase night-flying V-1 "buzz bombs". The Black Widows would be vectored to intercept approaching V-1s by ground control. Since the V-1 was a little faster than the P-61, the Black Widow had to approach the V-1 from behind and go into a slight dive in order to catch up with it. The first Black Widow V-1 "kill" took place on July 16, 1944, credited to pilot Herman Ernst and radar operator Edward Kopsel of the 422nd Night Fighter Squadron. One of the greatest dangers involved in killing V-1s was the possibility of getting too close to the flying bomb when one fired at it, running the risk of damage to your own plane if the bomb exploded when hit.

After D-Day, many Black Widows moved to France. Although several interceptions of night-flying German aircraft were made, most Black Widow missions were night intruder missions against trains, armor, and other ground targets

Black Widow Wartime Units

Wartime units using the P-61 included:



6th Night Fighter Squadron, Seventh Air Force. Received Black Widows in May 1944. Served in Guadalcanal, New Guinea, Saipan, Iwo Jima. Inactivated February 1947 and reactivated as 339th All Weather Squadron.


414th Night Fighter Squadron, Twelfth Air Force. Received Black Widows in December 1944. Served in Algeria, Sardinia, Corsica, Italy, plus detachment to Belgium. Inactivated August 1947 and reformed as 319th All Weather Squadron.


415th Night Fighter Squadron, Twelfth Air Force. Received Black Widow in March 1945. Served in Italy, Corsica, France, Germany. Inactived September 1947.


416th Night Fighter Squadron, Twelfth Air Force. Received Black Widow in June 1945. Served in Italy, Corsica, France, Germany. Inactived November 1946 and redesignated 2nd Fighter Squadron (All Weather).


417th Night Fighter Squadron, Twelfth Air Force. Received Black Widow in April/May 1945. Served in Italy, Corsica, France, Germany. Inactived November 1946.


418th Night Fighter Squadron, Fifth Air Force. Received Black Widow in September 1944. Served in New Guinea, Philippines. Inactivated February 1947 but reactivated August 1948 as 4th All Weather Squadron.


419th Night Fighter Squadron, Thirteenth Air Force. Received Black Widow in May 1944. Served in New Guinea, Philippines. Inactivated February 1947.


421st Night Fighter Squadron, Fifth Air Force. Received Black Widow June 1944. Served in New Guinea, Philippines. Inactivated February 1947. Reactivated august 1948 as 68th All Weather Squadron.


422nd Night Fighter Squadron, Ninth Air Force. Received Black Widow May 1944. Served in England, France, Belgium, Germany. Inactivated September 1945.


425th Night Fighter Squadron, Ninth Air Force. Served in England, France, and Germany. Inactivated August 1947.


426th Night Fighter Squadron, Fourteenth Air Force. Received Black Widow September 1944. Served in India, China to protect B-29 bases from attack. Inactivated November 1945.


427th Night Fighter Squadron. Served briefly in Italy then moved to India, Burma, China. Received Black Widow in August 1944. Inactivated October 1945.


547th Night Fighter Squadron, Fifth Air Force. Activated March 1944 with P-61. Served in New Guinea, Philippines, Ie Shima, Japan. Inactivated February 1946.


548th Night Fighter Squadron, Seventh Air Force. Activated April 1944 with P-61. Served in Saipan, Iwo Jima, Ie Shima. Inactivated December 1945. Reactivated in 1969 as the 548th Combat Training Squadron. Still in service.


549th Night Fighter Squadron, Seventh Air Force. Activated May 1944 with P-61. Served on Saipan, Iwo Jima. Inactivated February 1946.


550th Night Fighter Squadron. Activated June 1944. Received first Black Widows January 1945. Served in New Guinea, Philippines. Inactivated January 1946.

Postwar Service of Northrop P-61 Black Widow

This story of the P-61 Black Widow concludes with an account of its post-war service as experimental and test aircraft. A description is also given of some P-61s that survive today in museums.

The useful life of the Black Widow was extended for a few years into the immediate postwar period due to the USAAF's problems in developing a useful jet-powered night/all-weather fighter. The Curtiss P-87 had initially been scheduled as the jet-powered replacement for the Black Widow, but the failure of the XP-87 project forced the Black Widow to have to soldier on for another few years. Replacement of the Black Widow by F-82F Twin Mustangs night fighters began in early 1948. By early 1950, most Black Widows were out of operational service. The last operational Black Widow left Japan in May 1950, missing the Korean War by only a month.

The following is a listing of USAAF/USAF units which operated the P-61/F-61 in the immediate post-war years.



2nd Fighter Squadron (All-Weather). Formed from equipment and personnel of 416th Night Fighter Squadron in November 1946 in Germany. Moved back to USA June 1947. Transitioned to F-82 Twin Mustang in 1948.


4th All Weather Squadron. Formed from equipment and personnel of 418th Night Fighter Squadron in August 1948 in Okinawa. Exchanged its P-61s for F-82Gs in 1948.


5th Fighter Squadron (All-Weather). Formed in Germany from equipment and personnel of 417th Night Fighter Squadron in November 1946 and made part of 52nd Fighter Group. Returned to US in June 1948, and transitioned to F-82 later that year.


68th All Weather Squadron. Formed in Japan from equipment and personnel of 421st Night Fighter Squadron in August 1948 and almost immediately transitioned to F-82.


317th Fighter Squadron. Operated with P-47s and P-51s in MTO and ETO, deactivating in October 1945 and reforming as an all-weather fighter squadron in May 1947. Received P-61s at end of 1947. Transitioned to F-82 at end of 1948.


319th All Weather Squadron. Formed in September 1947 in Panama from personnel and equipment of 414th Night Fighter Squadron. Transitioned to F-82 by the time it returned to the USA in May 1949.


339th All Weather Squadron. Formed from personnel and equipment of 6th Night Fighter Squadron in Japan February 1947. Transitioned to F-82 shortly thereafter.
P-61B-1-NO serial number 42-39458 was operated by the Navy at the Patuxent River test facility in Maryland in a number of tests. P-61A-10-NO serial number 42-39395 was subjected by the Navy to a series of test catapult launches to qualify the aircraft for shipboard launches, but so far as I am aware the Black Widow was never flown from an aircraft carrier.

Shortly after the war, the Navy borrowed two P-61Cs (43-8336 and 43-8347) from the USAAF and used them for air-launches of the experimental Martin PTV-N-2U Gorgon IV ramjet-powered missile. The first Gorgon launch took place on November 14, 1947. In the role as mother ship, the Black Widow would carry a Gorgon under each wing. During launch, the P-61C would go into a slight dive in order to reach the speed necessary for ramjet operation to be initiated. These two naval Black Widows were returned to the USAF in 1948, and were transferred to the boneyards shortly afterwards.

A Black Widow participated in early American ejector seat experiments performed shortly after the war. The Germans had pioneered the development of ejector seats early in the war, the first-ever emergency use of an ejector seat having been made on January 14, 1942 by a Luftwaffe test pilot when he escaped from a disabled Heinkel He 280 V1. American interest in ejector seats during the war was largely a side-effect of the developmental work done on pusher aircraft such as the Vultee XP-54, with the goal being giving the pilot at least some slim chance of clearing the tail assembly and the propeller of the aircraft in the case of an emergency escape. However, not very much progress had been made, since pusher aircraft development had never really gotten past the drawing board or the initial prototype stage. However, the development of high-speed jet-powered aircraft made the development of practical ejector seats mandatory. Initially, an ejector seat was "borrowed" from a captured German Heinkel He 162 and was installed in a Lockheed P-80 in August of 1945. However, it was decided that the single-seat P-80 would not be suitable for these tests, and it was decided to switch to a three-seat Black Widow. A P-61B-5-NO (serial number 42-39489) was modified for the tests, the ejector seat being fitted in the forward gunner's compartment. The aircraft was redesignated XP-61B for these tests (there having been no XP-61B prototype for the initial P-61B series). A dummy was used in the initial ejection tests, but on April 17, 1946 a brave volunteer by the name of Sgt. Lawrence Lambert was successfully ejected from the P-61B at a speed of 302 mph at 7800 feet. With the concept having been proven feasible, newer jet-powered aircraft were brought into the program, and the XP-61B was reconverted back to standard P-61B configuration.

Nine P-61Cs participated in tests designed to measure the hazards of thunderstorms. This was very dangerous work, as thunderstorms were very poorly understood in those days (and still are today) and aircraft unlucky enough or unwise enough to fly into them often did not come out again in one piece. These tests were carried out initially by Army pilots. Later, some F-15 Reporters also joined the project. Trans World Airlines also got involved in the project and professors and staff at the University of Chicago participated in the analysis of the data.

The last USAF F/RF-61C finally left USAAF service in 1952. Surviving aircraft were offered to civilian governmental agencies or declared surplus and offered for sale on the commercial market.

An RF-61C (ex-F-15A, serial number 45-59300) was used by NACA at Moffett Field in California to carry recoverable aerodynamic test bodies to high altitude, then drop them. This program was used to test some early swept-wing designs. This program was later joined by F-61C serial number 43-8330 which was borrowed from the Smithsonian Institution. These drops were carried out over Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert in California. F-61B-15-NO serial number 42-39754 was used by NACA's Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory in Cleveland, Ohio for tests of airfoil-type ramjets. F-61C 43-8357 was used at Ames as a source for spare parts for other F/RF-61 aircraft. After the tests were completed, the F-61C 43-8330 was returned to the Smithsonian Institution.

In 1955, the NACA RF-61C and F-61C aircraft were finally declared surplus and were disposed of on the commercial market. In April 1955, Steward-Davis, Inc of Gardenia, California purchased the RF-61C 45-59300 and the "spare parts" F-61C 43-8357. The RF-61C was assigned the civilian registration N5093V, and the F-61C was given the number N5094V. The F-61C was rebuilt as a high-altitude mapping plane, and was offered on the commercial market. However, it attracted no customers and was finally scrapped in 1957. The RF-61C was sold to Compania Mexicana Aerofoto S. A. of Mexico, and was assigned the Mexican registration XB-FUJ. It was bought by Aero Enterprises, Inc of California and returned to the USA in 1964. It now carried the civilian registration number N9768Z. The fuselage tank and turbosupercharger intercoolers were removed, and the plane was fitted with a 1600-gallon chemical tank for fire-fighting. At the end of 1964, the plane was purchased by Cal-Nat, which operated the plane as a forest-fire fighter. In March of 1968, the plane was bought by TBM, Inc., an aerial firefighting company located in California (the name of the company standing for the TBM Avenger, which was the company's primary equipment). It was destroyed in a takeoff accident on September 16, 1968.

A few other Black Widows also ended up in the civilian market. P-61B-1-NO serial number 42-39419 had been bailed to Northrop during most of its military career. Northrop bought the plane from the government at the end of the war, and the civilian registration number NX30020 was assigned to it. It was used as an executive transport, as a flight-test chase plane, and for tests with advanced navigational equipment. Later it was purchased by the Jack Ammann Photogrammetric Engineers, a photo-mapping company based in Texas. In 1963, it was sold to an aerial tanker company and used for fighting forest fires. However, it crashed while fighting a fire on August 23, 1963, killing its pilot.

YP-61 serial number 41-18888 was purchased by Pratt & Whitney in 1946. The civilian serial number was N60358, and it was used as a flying testbed for advanced propellers. However, it was damaged during a taxiing accident in 1956, and was deemed unsuitable for repair. It was subsequently scrapped.

Northrop Aeronautical Institute (an aviation educational institution, a part of Northrop Aircraft Co.) purchased a surplus P-61C-1-NO (serial number 43-8349) in late 1947. It was operated in the airframe and engine maintenance training program of the school. In 1963, Northrop sold the school, and many of its planes were offered for sale. The Bob Bean Aircraft company thought that they could make the P-61C airworthy, and obtained the civilian registration number N4905V for the craft. However, upon closer examination they found that the Black Widow was so full of corrosion that it was not worth fixing. N4905V was scrapped in 1955.

I am aware of only four surviving P-61 Black Widows, all of them in museums.



P-61C-1-NO serial number 43-8352 is currently on display at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Museum in Dayton, Ohio. It is marked as P-61B-1-NO serial number 42-39468 of the 550th NFS "Moonlight Serendade". It had originally been donated to the Boy Scouts of Urbania, Ohio in 1954 and was sold to Earl Reinert of Illinois in 1958, who never collected it. It was passed along to the USAFM later that year.


The Smithsonian Institution's P-61C (43-8330) is reportedly in storage at the Silver Hill facility in Suitland, Maryland, awaiting much-needed restoration work. I was at Silver Hill in November of 1992, and I didn't see it there at that time. However, there were only a couple of buildings that I was allowed to enter, and there are a lot of really intriguing buildings that I did not get a chance to see. Perhaps the Smithsonian's Black Widow is in one of them.


There is a P-61A on display at the Beijing Institute of Aeronautical Engineering in Beijing, China. I am unaware of its serial number. The story of how it got there is sort of interesting. It seems that the 427th Night Fighter Squadron based in China during the war was in preparation for the return home after the end of hostilities. Just as they were were about to leave, some Communist troops came onto the field and ordered the Americans to get out immediately, but to leave their aircraft behind. The Beijing Institute Black Widow may be one of the three P-61Cs seized at that time. It is reported that the Chinese will sell the plane for 2 million dollars, but the wing spar is reportedly so corroded that the aircraft would collapse if moved. There may be other Black Widows in other locations in China.


On January 10, 1945, P-61B 42-39445 crashed near the top of Mount Cyclops in New Guinea during a training flight. The four people aboard survived with only minor injuries, but the wrecked aircraft remained where it hit for over 40 years. In 1991, a team from the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum of Reading, Pennsylvania dismantled the wreck and shipped it back to the USA for restoration and eventual flying status as N550NF.
http://imageshack.us/files/380th%20siggy.jpg

[This message was edited by Copperhead310th on Thu January 01 2004 at 04:00 PM.]

PE_Sushi
01-02-2004, 05:18 AM
If the black widow isn't available, maybe you could consider modeling the Pe-2 cockpit, this plane was also one of major twin engine a/c of WWII, and Oleg said that relevant info would be transmitted to the modeller willing to make this mighty bird flyable http://ubbxforums.ubi.com/infopop/emoticons/icon_wink.gif

Kriebelerelf
01-02-2004, 09:21 AM
Why don't you take a look at this page

http://www.military.cz/usa/air/war/fighter/p61/p61_en.htm

Agamemnon22
01-02-2004, 10:12 AM
S!

Thanks everybody. Links bookmarked, Copperhead's post cut and saved. I emailed Gibbage, haven't heard back yet, certainly if the P-61 is unavailable (and Gib thinks I'm worthy) I'll model something else. Keeping that Pe-2 in mind http://ubbxforums.ubi.com/infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif

PlaneEater
01-02-2004, 09:32 PM
Agamemnon: I'd recommend the Pe-2 cockpit, actually. At this point, the P-61 is reserved by 1C:Maddox and Luthier.

Lasst das Hollentor offen,
Es FRIERT HIER OBEN!

HellToupee
01-02-2004, 09:51 PM
"The RAF was not too enthusiastic about its performance, and never bothered to order any Black Widows for its own use, finding that the night fighter version of the de Havilland Mosquito was more than adequate for the task at hand."

I wants a mosquito :P, being mostly wood, wood dosnt show on radar, guy here in NZ is building a mosquito from scratch by hand using the same techniques tehy used back in ww2 to make the wood strong as any metals used in other ac, hes got the body mostly done then hes going to do the wings.

http://lamppost.mine.nu/ahclan/files/sigs/spitwhiners1.jpg

PE_Sushi
01-03-2004, 06:31 AM
sorry I havn't info about P61 status.

Sure the PE-2 pit would be valuable for gameplay : 1 flyable twin engined VVS light/med bomber, and it would be the first and probably last time ever we can fly that plane in a sim

Agamemnon22
01-03-2004, 10:24 AM
Looks like you get your wish Sushi. The P-61 is taken, so instead I'll make a cockpit for the Pe-2 as soon as Gib OK's my abilities.

Meanwhile, if anyone has references on Pe-2 cockpits, throw them my way http://ubbxforums.ubi.com/infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif

Copperhead310th
01-03-2004, 02:10 PM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by PlaneEater:
Agamemnon: I'd recommend the Pe-2 cockpit, actually. At this point, the P-61 is reserved by 1C:Maddox and Luthier.

Lasst das Hollentor offen,
Es FRIERT HIER OBEN!<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>\


Umm since when? nobody tells me squat any morehttp://ubbxforums.ubi.com/infopop/emoticons/icon_frown.gif
4 days of research down the crapper.

http://imageshack.us/files/380th%20siggy.jpg

PE_Sushi
01-03-2004, 04:26 PM
Agamemnon : may your name be blessed for centuries to come ! The PE-2 was a very important bomber during all WWII, widely used on the whole east front, more than 10.000 were built! Its great speed and correct maneuverability gave him a good survivability.It could carry a 1.5 tons bombload at very high speed and acted as both pure ground attack a-c or dive bomber. I believe the large and high-forward position of cockpit must give a good visibility for pilot. You can imagine the addition to IL-2 gameplay that we can expect from such a versatility. So thank you !

cooperhead : I'm surprised also, as il2database didn't reported that

[This message was edited by PE_Sushi on Sat January 03 2004 at 03:38 PM.]

SeaFireLIV
01-03-2004, 04:31 PM
There was a P-61?

Damn. IL2/FB and the Forum community is the only sim which has taught me more about aircraft in WWII than all the history lessons I could`ve ever taken!!