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North American F-82 / P-82 Twin Mustang Long-Range Escort / Ground Attack / Nightfighter Aircraft (1946)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 9/19/2013

The North American F-82 Twin Mustang mated two P-51H Mustang fighter airframes into one potent night fighter and close-support platform used in the Korean War.

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While several aviation concerns of World War 2 (1939-1945) entertained the idea of mating two fuselages of existing successful aircraft lines, only a few projects actually bore fruit - the Heinkel "Zwilling" (twin He 111) and the North American P/F-82 "Twin Mustang" come to mind. The Twin Mustang was originally brought about to fulfill the required role of long-range fighter escort for the four-engined, long-range, high-altitude Boeing B-29 "Superfortress" heavy bomber. In the end, the Twin Mustang missed out on combat actions in World War 2 altogether, was turned into a night fighter and served with distinction during the Korean War (1950-1953), netting the first air kills of the conflict.

While World War 2 had officially begun in September of 1939, the United States did not formally enter the war until late-1941 following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The nation mobilized the following year and its large war industry ramped up to meet demand. The initial primary focus was on the European Theater leaving forces in the Pacific to made due for the interim - the survival of Britain and the Soviet Union were key factors in the demise of the Axis powers in Europe. Once the situation across the Atlantic had stabilized, American attention then turned to the West and the Empire of Japan where territory now spanned across the Pacific Ocean. Each holding was essentially helped by long distances of open water which would force invaders to commit considerable naval assets and manpower in forcing Japanese defenders from their entrenched positions. Such offensives - through "Island Hopping" - would eventually claim the lives of millions of participants.

One of the unique challenges facing American warplanners was the range required to support ground, naval and aerial actions. While the Boeing B-29 was slated to bomb far-off targets (including Japan proper), it required capable fighter escorts with similar long-range qualities. Long-range qualities in aircraft required sufficient fuel stores and multiple crewmembers to share the workload. In 1943, North American Aviation started development of a possible contender for the long range escort role, taking its excellent P-51 Mustang fighter as a starting point. It was deemed that the principle qualities of the base P-51 could be largely retained though expanded upon by way of simply joining two P-51s as one. Modifications would seem relatively minor but proved rather deep to the point that the resulting product was considered an all-new aircraft. This involved the joining of the inboard wing surfaces (the main span and the tail), concentration of armament in a center section, new landing gear arrangement and altered cockpits with redundant flight controls and systems. The primary pilot would be seated in the left fuselage cockpit with the navigator/co-pilot in the right fuselage cockpit - the workload being theoretically shared between the two men. The use of two powerplants ensured a failsafe should one engine fail over the unforgiving Pacific waters. From this thinking was born the North American NA-120 proposal which was approved by the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) on January 7th, 1944, giving rise to two prototypes (s/n 44-83886 and MX-485) intended to test the viability of the project. North American workers christened their unique concept as the "Twin".

The prototypes were collectively designated as "XP-82" and the powerplant of choice became the Packard series inline piston engine, license-produced versions of the excellent British Rolls-Royce Merlin Vs. The engine proved a heady performer and, with two units coupled, offered double the power output. As each unit drove their own propeller assembly, "torque" (the natural occurring pull of the airframe in one direction caused by the spinning propeller blades) was neutralized by assigning the other propeller to spin in the opposite direction. Each engine was to drive a four-bladed propeller.


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Specifications for the
North American F-82 / P-82 Twin Mustang
Long-Range Escort / Ground Attack / Nightfighter Aircraft


Focus Model: North American F-82G Twin Mustang
Country of Origin: United States
Manufacturer: North American Aviation - USA
Initial Year of Service: 1946
Production: 273


Crew: 2


Length: 42.42ft (12.93m)
Width: 51.25ft (15.62m)
Height: 13.85ft (4.22m)
Weight (Empty): 15,997lbs (7,256kg)
Weight (MTOW): 25,951lbs (11,771kg)


Powerplant: 2 x Allison V-1710-143/145 V-12 liquid-cooled piston engines generating 1,600 horsepower.


Maximum Speed: 461mph (742kmh; 401kts)
Maximum Range: 2,239miles (3,604km)
Service Ceiling: 38,898ft (11,856m; 7.4miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 3,770 feet per minute (1,149m/min)


Hardpoints: 4
Armament Suite:
6 x 12.7mm machine guns in center wing chord

OPTIONAL:
4,000lbs of bombs
25 x 5" rockets


Variants:
NA-123 - North American Aviation Design Proposal.


XP-82 - Prototype Designation; two examples produced; fitted with Packard Merlin V-1650-23 and V-1650-25 series engines.

XP-82A - Third Experimental Prototype Designation; fitted with 2 x Allison V-1710-119 series engines; fourth prototype cancelled.

P-82B - Base Production Fighter Version; based on XP-82 prototypes; underwing bomb racks; fitted with 2 x Packard V-1650 engines of 1,380 horsepower each; 20 examples produced of the 500 originally ordered.

P-82Z - 20 P-82B models set aside for testing.

P-82C - Nightfighter; center nacelle housing SCR-720 radar system; production version designated as P-82F; P-82C designation never used in production models.

P-82D - Night fighter ; based on a modified P-82B model; APS-4 series radar system; production models became the P-82G; P-82D designation never used in production models.

P-82E - Escort All-Weather Day Fighter; fitted with counter-rotating Allison V-1710-143 and V-1710-145 liquid-cooled engines; first four reserved for testing as F-82A's; 100 examples produced.

P-82F - Production Night fighter Version of the P-82C model with SCR-720 series radar system in a central located nacelle; 100 examples produced.

P-82G - Production Nightfighter Version of the P-82D modelwith APS-4 series radar system; 50 examples produced.

F-82H - Cold Weather Model; 15 conversion models.


Operators:
United States