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Lockheed XP-49 High-Altitude Fighter (1942)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 8/25/2015

Intended as a successor to the classic Lockheed P-38 Lightning of World War 2, the Lockheed XP-49 proposal failed in most respects.

Picture of Lockheed XP-49
The XP-49 was a development of the Lockheed Corporation and a possible replacement for its successful line of P-38 Lightning aircraft. The XP-49 was to be a high-altitude performer with the capabilities of a well-designed fighter stemming from a fine pedigree in the Lightning series itself.

The United States Army was increasingly concerned with ballooning costs of Lockheed's latest P-38 model and put forth a new developmental contract to survey similarly performing aircraft from a variety of contractors. After review of several of the proposed entries, the Army settled on the new Lockheed design, itself intended to replace the still active P-38 series. This Model 522 aircraft designation was then changed to the developmental platform marked as XP-49.

The XP-49 was very similar in visual appearance to the P-38. The twin-boom design was found to be quite an effective performer for the P-38 series since its introduction and the XP-49 would follow suit. Despite these similarities, the XP-49 was, in fact, an entirely new design and engineering feat put about by Lockheed. The system was also to be featured with Pratt & Whitney's ultra-new X-1800 engines capable of an impressive 2,300 horsepower which would have propelled the XP-49 to speeds nearing 500 miles per hour.

The single prototype was completed and first flown in November of 1942, sans all guns to promote expediency in the development of the general airframe. The weapon systems were to be comprised of twin 20mm cannons and 4 x .50 caliber heavy machine guns - quite the potent combination considering the P-38 was armed with just a single 20mm cannon and 4 x .50 caliber gun array. Initially a single seat fighter, an observation seating area was later added aft. A cancellation was then put forth on any further development of the Pratt & Whitney engines in favor of the Continental brand powerplants designated as XI-1430, dropping the promoted top speed of the XP-49 by a massive 75 miles per hour. The XP-49's days were numbered from then on.

The system led a very brief testing life before running into further powerplant issues with its new Continentals leading to their cancellation. An unplanned crash landing also took place during testing when a landing gear failed to extend - such was the life of the XP-49. With the cancellation of the powerplants, the US Army looked to other avenues as the war progressed, effectively leaving the XP-49 project dead on the runway.

In its final vision of glory, the remaining XP-49 airframe was subjected to brutish testing by being dropped at heights against a concrete flooring. These tests were conducted to see the extent of damage caused by G-forces on the fuselage. The XP-49 remains were later paraded in limited display and ultimately cannibalized and scrapped.

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Specifications for the
Lockheed XP-49
High-Altitude Fighter

Focus Model: Lockheed XP-49
Country of Origin: United States
Manufacturer: Lockheed Corporation - USA
Initial Year of Service: 1942
Production Total: 1

Crew: 1

Length: 40.03 ft (12.2 m)
Width: 52.00 ft (15.85 m)
Height: 9.91ft (3.02 m)
Weight (Empty): 15,399 lb (6,985 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 18,823 lb (8,538 kg)

Powerplant: 2 x Continental XI-1430-1 engines developing 1,600 horsepower each.

Maximum Speed: 405 mph (651 kmh; 352 kts)
Maximum Range: 680 miles (1,094 km)
Service Ceiling: 30,000 ft (9,144 m; 5.7 miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 3,500 feet-per-minute (1,067 m/min)

Hardpoints: 0
Armament Suite:
2 x 20mm cannons
4 x 12.7mm machine guns

Model 522 - Proposal Designation based on the Lockheed P-38 Lightning airframe.

XP-49 - Developmental Series Designation

United States