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Lockheed XP-58 Chain Lightning

United States (1944)
Picture of Lockheed XP-58 Chain Lightning High-Altitude Interceptor / Close Air Support Aircraft
Picture of Lockheed XP-58 Chain Lightning High-Altitude Interceptor / Close Air Support Aircraft

The Lockheed XP-58 Chain Lightning product was yet another failed attempt to improve the war-winning P-38 Lightning design - only one prototype was completed.


Detailing the development and operational history of the Lockheed XP-58 Chain Lightning High-Altitude Interceptor / Close Air Support Aircraft.  Entry last updated on 5/11/2016. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com

The XP-58 "Chain Lightning" was initially envisioned as a larger version of the successful Lockheed P-38 Lightning twin-boom design capable of downing hordes of enemy bomber formations in single burst shots. The fear covering portions of the country during the Second World War envisioned these hordes of long-range bombers laying waste to American cities. As such, this high-altitude "bomber killer" was designed. The result, however, was far from that as developmental problems and an unpredictable Army brass eventually did the project in.

The XP-58 was designed as a two-man twin-boom design with powerful armament and even more powerful engines. The system would have the pilot at front, operating the aircraft and firing an impressive array of 4 x 37mm cannons which were originally just a twin set of .50 caliber machine guns. Later designs actually took into account the mounting of a massive 75mm cannon it place of the quad cannon mounting. At rear, the gunner would sit and operate two rear-facing .50 caliber heavy machine guns installed in the booms to ward off any rear-approaching enemy fighters. Engine power would be supplied from untested powerplants as developed by the Continental company. After much going back an forth on specifications and capabilities between the Army and Continental, the powerplant development was already in jeopardy. Even when a Pratt & Whitney powerplant was selected to replace the Continental design, Pratt & Whitney resources were allocated to pressing radial designs elsewhere leaving Lockheed to fit the Wright R-2160 Tornado radials into their airframe.

Though a much powerful engine, the Tornado forces Lockheed engineers to rework virtually every internal system of the XP-58, delaying the project even further but alas the US Army was happy with the Wright engine capabilities.

With the added power, the Army and Lockheed now both began salivating at the added armament capabilities afforded to the ever-increasing power of the XP-58. As such, the original twin .50 calibers mounted in the nose gave way to the aforementioned 4 x 37mm cannon array. Further twin .50 caliber machine gun mounts could be added in a top and bottom turret assembly increasing the forward firing damage ten-fold. The system was becoming quite capable in downing a bomber or fighter in a single shot!

As with any high-altitude aircraft, the issue of cabin pressurization was addressed. Couple the weight of such a system with the weight of the added cannon armament and new engines and the XP-58 weight began to soar to new heights (no pun intended).

When it appeared that the hordes of enemy bomber formations infiltrating the American skies would never materialize, the US Army came back to Lockheed and ordered a reclassification of the XP-58 Chain Lightning as a close-support strike aircraft. The 37mm cannons would neatly fit this bill except that the aircraft's size had ballooned considerably, making it an enticing low-flying target. The complex substructures were also noted as being quite fragile, meaning the slightest damage from small arms fire or flak could easily spell doom for the craft and its pilot.

As such, the XP-58 was once again redesignated as a bomber-killer. Further developmental and production delays doomed the Tornado powerplants and Allison V-3420 (twin V-1710s joined) liquid-cooled radials were fitted instead. Flying on D-Day itself, the XP-58 Chain Lightning made its maiden voyage over California. By all reports, the system proved quite stable in handling. Nonetheless, the complicated internal workings, delayed production and development and the propensity of the turbosuperchargers to catch fire did the massive program in. After barely 20 such flights, the XP-58 was dead.

Any available statistics for the Lockheed XP-58 Chain Lightning High-Altitude Interceptor / Close Air Support Aircraft are showcased in the areas immediately below. Categories include basic specifications covering country-of-origin, operational status, manufacture(s) and total quantitative production. Other qualities showcased are related to structural values (namely dimensions), installed power and standard day performance figures, installed or proposed armament and mission equipment (if any), global users (from A-to-Z) and series model variants (if any).






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 Rating
Hi: 500mph
Lo: 250mph
    This entry's maximum listed speed (435mph).

    Graph average of 375 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
NYC
 
  LON
LON
 
  PAR
PAR
 
  BER
BER
 
  MOS
MOS
 
  TOK
TOK
 
  SYD
SYD
 
  LAX
LAX
 
  NYC
Graph showcases the Lockheed XP-58 Chain Lightning's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
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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 Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units
1
1


  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

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


Altitude Visualization
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  Compare this entry against other aircraft using our Comparison Tool  
National Flag Graphic
Origin: United States
Year: 1944
Type: High-Altitude Interceptor / Close Air Support Aircraft
Manufacturer(s): Lockheed Corporation - USA
Production: 1
Global Operators:
United States (cancelled)
Historical 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 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 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
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.
Measurements and Weights icon
Structural - Crew, Dimensions, and Weights:
Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Lockheed XP-58 Chain Lightning model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.

Operational
CREW


Personnel
2


Dimension
LENGTH


Feet
49.31 ft


Meters
15.03 m


Dimension
WIDTH


Feet
70.01 ft


Meters
21.34 m


Dimension
HEIGHT


Feet
13.78 ft


Meters
4.2 m


Weight
EMPTY


Pounds
31,625 lb


Kilograms
14,345 kg


Weight
LOADED


Pounds
39,189 lb


Kilograms
17,776 kg

Engine icon
Installed Power - Standard Day Performance:
2 x Allison V-3420 inline piston engines developing 3,000 horsepower each.

Performance
SPEED


Miles-per-Hour
435 mph


Kilometers-per-Hour
700 kph


Knots
378 kts


Performance
RANGE


Miles
1,400 mi


Kilometers
2,253 km


Nautical Miles
1,217 nm


Performance
CEILING


Feet
40,000 ft


Meters
12,192 m


Miles
7.58 mi


Performance
CLIMB RATE


Feet-per-Minute
2,660 ft/min


Meters-per-Minute
811 m/min

Supported Weapon Systems:

Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun
Graphical image of an aircraft heavy machine gun
Graphical image of an aircrat automatic cannon
Armament - Hardpoints (0):

PROPOSED:
2 x 12.7mm machine guns in nose
2 x 12.7mm rear-facing machine guns in tail booms

LATER (Armament Trials):

4 x 37mm cannon
2 x 12.7mm machine guns mounted in top fuselage pod turret system.
2 x 12.7mm machine guns mounted in bottom fuselage pod turret system.

Under Consideration:

1 x 75mm cannon mounted in nose in place of existing 37mm cannon mounts.
Variants: Series Model Variants
• XP-58 - Developmental Series Designation