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Lockheed XP-49

High-Altitude Fighter Prototype


Intended as a successor to the classic Lockheed P-38 Lightning twin-boom fighter of World War 2, the XP-49 proposal failed in most respects forcing the Army to look elsewhere.

Detailing the development and operational history of the Lockheed XP-49 High-Altitude Fighter Prototype.  Entry last updated on 5/11/2016. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©
The XP-49 was a development of the Lockheed Corporation during World War 2 (1939-1945) as a possible successor to the classic P-38 "Lightning" twin boom fighter of 1941. The XP-49 was to be a high-altitude performer with the established capabilities of the original. The project came about due to growing concern on the part of the U.S. Army in the rising costs of the most recent P-38 production model. After review of several proposed entries from various manufacturers, the Army settled on the new Lockheed design - the Model 522.

The XP-49 was visually similar in most respects to the P-38. The twin-boom design was found to be effective even for a fighter as in the P.38 and the XP-49 would follow suit. Beyond sharing this key physical characteristic, the XP-49 was of an new design. The aircraft was to feature a pair of Pratt & Whitney's new "X-1800" engine capable of an impressive 2,300 horsepower, offering the XP-49 airframe a maximum speed reaching nearing 500 miles per hour.

The single prototype was completed and first flown in November of 1942, sans all of its proposed armament to expedite development. The proposed weapons suite centered on 2 x 20mm cannons supported by 4 x 0.50 caliber Browning heavy machine guns - an improvement over the P.38's single 20mm cannon and 4 x .50 caliber gun array. As in the P-38, the XP-49 carried its armament concentrated at the nose section, ahead of the pilot's position.

While the XP-49 was being drawn up as a single-seat fighter, a second cockpit was added for an observer behind the pilot for flight testing.

New engines - the Continental XI-1430 - were then selected to succeed the intended (and now cancelled) Pratt & Whitney engines. This led to a reduction in estimated speed by as much as 75 miles per hour. The shift added to the project's woes which was beginning to lose steam as the war continued to turn to the favor of the Allies and the current stock of Army fighters were more than up to the task.

As such, the XP-49 led a very brief test life before running into further engine issues. As with the Pratt & Whitney engines, the developmental Continental engines were also cancelled. A crash landing during a flight test also took place when a landing gear failed to lower - such were the signs against the XP-49. With the cancellation of both intended engines, U.S. Army authorities eventually looked elsewhere, effectively leaving the XP-49 project dead on arrival.

In its final "moment of glory", the XP-49 airframe was subjected to brutish force-testing by being dropped at heights against a concrete floor. The tests were conducted to see the extent of damage caused by G-forces upon a modern aircraft fuselage. The XP-49 remains were later on display before being cannibalized and, ultimately, scrapped.


YEAR: 1942
MANUFACTURER(S): Lockheed Corporation - USA
LENGTH: 40.03 ft (12.2 m)
WIDTH: 52.00 ft (15.85 m)
HEIGHT: 9.91 ft (3.02 m)
EMPTY WEIGHT: 15,399 lb (6,985 kg)
MTOW: 18,827 lb (8,540 kg)
POWER: EARLY: 2 x Pratt & Whitney X-1800 inline piston engines developing 2,300 horsepower; LATE: 2 x Continental XI-1430-1 inline piston engines developing 1,600 horsepower each.
SPEED: 404 mph (650 kph; 351 kts)
CEILING: 30,003 feet (9,145 m; 5.68 miles)
RANGE: 680 miles (1,095 km; 591 nm)
RATE-OF-CLIMB: 3,500 ft/min (1,067 m/min)
OPERATORS: United States (cancelled)

STANDARD (proposed):
2 x 20mm cannons in the nose
4 x 12.7mm machine guns in the nose
Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun
Graphical image of an aircraft heavy machine gun
Graphical image of an aircrat automatic cannon
Variants / Models

• XP-49 - Series Designation; single airframe completed and later scrapped.
• Model 522 - Model designation

Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

Image of collection of graph types

Relative Maximum Speed
Hi: 500mph
Lo: 250mph
This entry's maximum listed speed (404mph).

Graph average of 375 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
Graph showcases the Lockheed XP-49's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production (1)
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units

  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.

Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Supported Roles
Ground Attack
Aerial Tanker
A2A=Air-to-Air; UAV=Unmanned; CAS=Close Support; ASW=Anti-Submarine; AEW=Airborne Early Warning; MEDEVAC=Medical Evac; EW=Electronic Warfare; SAR=Search-Rescue
Commitments / Honors
Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for pioneering aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon representing modern aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur War
Military lapel ribbon for experimental x-plane aircraft
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.

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