STATUS: Retired, Out-of-Service
MANUFACTURER(S): Lockheed Corporation - USA
OPERATORS: Brazil; Chile; Columbia; Ecuador; Peru; Uruguay; Yugoslavia; United States
LENGTH: 34.42 feet (10.49 meters)
WIDTH: 38.75 feet (11.81 meters)
HEIGHT: 11.25 feet (3.43 meters)
WEIGHT (EMPTY): 8,175 pounds (3,708 kilograms)
WEIGHT (MTOW): 15,999 pounds (7,257 kilograms)
ENGINE: 1 x Allison J33-A-21 turbojet engine developing 4,500 lb of thrust.
SPEED (MAX): 577 miles-per-hour (928 kilometers-per-hour; 501 knots)
RANGE: 790 miles (1,271 kilometers; 686 nautical miles)
CEILING: 45,499 feet (13,868 meters; 8.62 miles)
RATE-OF-CLIMB: 5,000 meters (1,524 meters-per-minute)
Detailing the development and operational history of the Lockheed P-80 / F-80 Shooting Star Single-Seat Jet-Powered Fighter / Fighter-Bomber Aircraft.
Entry last updated on 6/3/2018.
Authored by Dan Alex. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com.
The Lockheed P-80/F-80 Shooting Star is undoubtedly the world's most successful first generation jet-powered fighter. Appearing by the last few months of World War 2, the Shooting Star failed to undertake a single combat sortie in the conflict but would prove her worth in the upcoming Korean War as well as in her two very important derivatives - the two-seat trainer T-33 and the F-94 Starfire all-weather interceptor - both based highly on the existing P-80/F-80 air frame. The P-80 was developed from the brilliant mind of Lockheed's Clarence "Kelly" Johnson, designer of the legendary twin-boom P-38 Lightning. Had the war in Europe progressed a few more months, the air war would have assuredly taken on a distinctly different look.
Everything changed on July 26th, 1944, when a lone British twin-engine, piston-powered De Havilland DH.98 Mosquito - on its merry way to take pictures over Munich - encountered a twin-engine German Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter (flying as part of a test squadron). The Me 262 opened fire on the unsuspecting two-man crew and - perhaps through ingrained training or pure instinct - the Mosquito banked and dodged to safety, managing to turn tail and run. This was the first meeting ever against a jet-powered foe and the fact that the Germans were able to field such a lethal implement was a new realization for the Allies. Jet power promised speed and greater flight loads that would lead directly to more potent armament options. It seemed that the Germans held the upper hand.
Had Adolf Hitler not meddled in the development of the Me 262 as a fighter (he envisioned these aircraft as fighter-bombers instead of fighters charged with defense of the Reich's airspace), manufacturing of fleets of such aircraft would have prolonged the war by a potential years let alone months. The British and Americans (and Soviets and Japanese for that matter) all had viable jet programs under development at the time. The Germans developed the rocket-propelled Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet which, despite its limited range, held some combat value in speed and firepower, particularly when it came to raking Allied bomber formations. The Heinkel He 162 Volksjager was a simplified single-seat, jet-powered fighter meant for a crop of pilots requiring little in the way of training to operate. The Horten brothers found limited trials success with the world's first stealth aircraft in the Horten Ho 229 flying wing. Such was the expediency as to which the Allies would have to react to head-off this expanding German technological front.
While the Bell P-59 Airacomet became America's first "true" jet aircraft, the system lacked in all major combat qualities and made itself an unfeasible system to field, having no more usefulness than that of a jet trainer. As it stood, the P-59 failed to keep up with even the latest piston-powered fighter mounts through the ensuing mock dogfights and was, therefore, produced in limited quantity for the USAAF (United States Army Air Forces). At any regard, the seemingly limited exploits of his P-59 paved the foundation for a revolution in American jet-powered aircraft - these new-fangled implements that were to fly without the need for propellers.
The relative failure of the P-59 forced the US Army to continue a pursuit of other avenues for a jet fighter aircraft capable of matching the enemy and fulfilling this need through a rather limited window of time. While Lockheed was already committed to large-scale production of its fabled P-38 Lightning series (designed and developed by the great Clarence L. "Kelly" Johnson), it showed great interest in the development of such an aircraft. However, the Army would much rather have its proven P-38s in the skies as opposed to diverting Lockheed company resources to fund and develop such an experimental endeavor. But as the P-59 reached its limited potential, the US Army refocused its attention on the Lockheed interest and the two became joined at the hip in producing America's first true jet fighter.
The new specification emerged in May of 1943 and called for a jet-powered high-altitude interceptor centered around a capable powerplant - this becoming the British de Havilland Halford H-1 Goblin engine to be developed in 180 days from reception of the official government contract. One can only imagine Johnson licking his lips at the prospect of such a challenge (his firm would be responsible for the cutting-edge SR-71, U-2 and F-117 projects some decades later). The company designation of "Project MX-409" was assigned and the government contract came on June 17th for development of the "XP-80".
An initial design was formulated and presented by Lockheed and ultimately approved for by the US Army. Work began at a frenetic pace and, amazingly, Lockheed engineers produced a working ground concept in 141 days. The engine arrived from Britain and was installed almost immediately. The design centered around a clean fuselage, tapered straight-tipped wings and a single-seat pressurized cockpit under a bubble canopy. The engine and cockpit were situated close to the center of the fuselage for a proper center of gravity. The completed prototype was trucked in pieces from Lockheed's Burbank facilities to the open air confines of Muroc Army Air Field in the Mojave Desert.
After assembly, the XP-80 was run through some basic engine exercises on the ground and it was soon found that the jet produced such suction that the intake fittings of the airframe were being pulled into the aircraft itself. After some finger-pointing between Lockheed and de Havilland (owners of the Goblin engine), Lockheed went ahead and revised the intakes to successfully counter the problem at the expense of a delay to the project.
On January 8th, 1944, the XP-80 was ready for official display in front of military and contracting officials, this taking place again at Muroc. The XP-80 powered up with a screech from her Goblin turbojet and took flight in a seemingly effortless glide. Her initial acceleration made her slower than her piston-powered counterparts but once she hit stride, the XP-80 really held her own. However, trouble soon followed for the landing gears refused to retract, forcing the aircraft back to the ground for review. With on-site repairs, the XP-80 was raised from the earth once more and produced a single-aircraft airshow for all in attendance. The future of jet-powered flight could now be realized more than ever before as the XP-80 became the first American aircraft to surpass and consistently maintain the 500 mile-per-hour mark.
The XP-80 proved highly responsive, to the point that it worried test pilot Milo Burcham to an extent, though he appreciated the type's abilities from the start. One problem of note was that the airframe lacked any sort of stall characteristics which could easily lead to the loss of control and ultimate death of the pilot. This was addressed by Kelly Johnson through the addition of a wing fillet. As it stood, the XP-80 could easily best any existing American fighter platform and then some. Unfortunately, Burcham would later be killed on October 20th, 1944, when the third evaluation YP-80A he was flying in crashed shortly after take-off, the crash blames on a total loss of fuel pressure.
The initial test flight proved so promising that the US Army jumped at the chance to further develop the Lockheed creation. A larger and faster version of the XP-80 - known internally as the "Model L-141" - was envisioned as two prototypes under the designation of "XP-80A". The XP-80A prototypes would be constructed with their full combat suite of 6 x 12.7mm M2 Browning heavy machine guns in tow so as to promote getting this fine machine into production form in the least amount of time possible. While the XP-80A contract was signed on February 10th, 1944, a quick follow-up Army contract came on February 14th, calling for thirteen preproduction aircraft. To add to the already pressure-filled timeline, a full-blown production contract for 500 P-80A fighters was handed to Lockheed thereafter. The original XP-80 was only slightly modified and continued to fly for the project in an effort to gather as much in-flight data as possible in preparation for the development of the two XP-80As.
Allis-Chalmers had been tabbed to license-produce the de Havilland Halford Goblin turbojet engine but some drawbacks in setting up the localized state-side production facility forced the project to look elsewhere for a solution. As a result, the unproven - yet technically superior - General Electric I-40 was selected with the promise that it could output its billed 4,000lbs of thrust - a vast upgrade over the relatively primitive British offering. Not to completely remove the P-80 origin from its British roots, the I-40 was in fact a further development of the British-designed Frank Whittle W.1 engine. The I-40 eventually emerged under the new designation of J33 and began the series of a long line of successful General Electric "J" military jet engines whose pedigree continues even today.
The two XP-80As (labeled as "Grey Ghost" and "Silver Ghost" and painted as such) were available by the summer of 1944. These developments were essentially all-new aircraft when compared to the original prototype. The cockpit and engine were fitted into a longer fuselage and set further apart from one another creating an all-new center of gravity. Being larger than their predecessor, these XP-80As incorporated greater operating weights and loads while adding more surface area. These changes meant that the XP-80As would be in development, evaluation and testing for some time longer for any issues apparent in the original XP-80 prototype would now be magnified in the XP-80As. Grey Ghost was eventually lost to accident when its tail completely ripped apart from the fuselage, the pilot barely ejecting to safety but not without broken vertebrae.
Testing progressed and delays mounted as the new realm of jet-powered flight proved the ultimate headache for Lockheed engineers. Kelly Johnson had figured out that mounting external wingtip fuel tanks instead of utilizing the traditional middle underwing positions actually helped to eliminate critical drag (It should be noted that this one seemingly miniscule design decision became the rule in most of the early jet developments of the Cold War, particularly in America). While most other defects were eventually ironed out, some were temporary fixes to help speed things along. Testing against contemporary piston-engined fighters the revised XP-80A yielded uncompromising results and its future legacy in American military aviation was assured.
The thirteen YP-80A service test models were completed and delivered to the USAAF beginning on September 13th, 1944. The second such service test aircraft was fitted with camera equipment in the nose assembly and designated as the XF-14, intended as a photo-reconnaissance prototype. The first production Shooting Star was finally delivered to the USAAF in February 1945.
The Honeymoon is Over
With all the excitement and speed of developing the P-80 program, its true test came in the hands of operational squadrons charged with flying and training on the aircraft. No sooner had the program gone live were there accidents due to structural failures, engine issues or general pilot errors at the controls. The Japanese Empire had fallen by now, effectively ending World War 2, and the once wide-open future of the P-80 was now at some level of doubt with these compounding accidents. One accident of note killed American war ace Richard Bong - raising many-a-suspect-eye towards the P-80 and grounding the entire fleet until the program (and accident) could be reviewed and explained. Like other aircraft in the post-war world, the P-80 also had huge contracts (some 2,631 examples) curtailed and inevitably cancelled.
Sensing the need for some positive publicity, Lockheed used a Shooting Star - initially a vanilla P-80A (44-85213) then the modified P-80R (44-85200) to compete in a new airspeed record then held by the British Gloster Meteor at 606 miles per hour and then re-established at 616 miles per hour some time later. Modifications to the P-80R included a reworked Allison J33-A-21 engine of 5,079lbs thrust with alcohol-water injection, removal of armament for more fuel, revised intakes and removal of all drag-producing external elements. While a first attempt by 44-85213 for the record failed to even surpass 600 miles per hour, a second run by the modified P-80R netted a new record of 623.8 miles per hour - putting America at the forefront of jet aircraft development for good. The P-80R lives on today as part of the USAF Museum's Research and Development Gallery.
Several YP-80As eventually found their way to bases in Britain and Italy for evaluation and demonstration in the closing months of World War 2 (some 45 production forms would actually become available to the USAAF by this time, but, like the British, the Americans were against committing their new technology to war), though none took on any combat sorties. Production of A-models did not begin until December additionally missing out on actions in the Pacific Theater. The first P-80A operator became the 412th Fighter Group out of March Field in November of 1945.
In September of 1947, the USAAF (United States Army Air Force) was officially split into two definitive forces - the US Army and the US Air Force. As such, all "pursuit" aircraft of the former USAAF had their designations changed to "fighter" under the USAF banner - so the P-80 now became the F-80 from 1948 onwards.
In 1948, a detachment of P-80s were sent to Europe. This was in response to aggressive piston-engined Soviet Yakovlev Yak-3 and Lavochkin La-5FN fighters causing heightened tensions with the Allied airlift supply lanes to and from Berlin.
The P-80 was perhaps the most beautiful of the first generation jets, complimented by her smooth lines and sleek appearance. The fuselage was a streamlined affair, beginning with the conical nose assembly and leading out to the simplistic-looking engine exhaust port. While other early jet-powered aircraft fitted their jet powerplants on external nacelles under the wings, the P-80 made use of an internalized system with easy maintenance access accomplished via a two-piece fuselage that could separated near the engine. While sporting only a single engine, two semi-elliptical intake openings were fitted to either side of the fuselage just forward of the cockpit. The intakes produced the generally "wide" appearance of the aircraft when viewed from a high or underside angle. The intakes were integrated in a fashion so as not to disrupt air flow in the slightest and culminated perfectly into the wingroots. Channels carved into the forward fuselage sides encouraged air into the intake ducts.
The laminar-flow wings took on an elliptical shape all their own with both the leading and trailing edges tapered into a curved wingtip to which wingtip fuel tanks were assigned for improved range. Wings were straight, low-mounted monoplane assemblies fitted just aft of the cockpit, affording good forward and side vision. The inclusion of a two-piece bubble canopy provided the pilot with unparalleled 360-degree views out of his cockpit. His vision was only obstructed by light framing along the forward portion of the windscreen and by the large-area wings to his sides.
The empennage proved conventional and was dominated by a single vertical stabilizer protruding from the fuselage spine and sitting atop the engine exhaust port. A pair of horizontal planes were fitted at the base of the vertical stabilizer though mounted high on the tapering fuselage top. The engine exhaust port extended a short distance beyond the whole of the tail assembly.
The P-80 made use of a tricycle undercarriage consisting of a pair of single-wheeled main landing gear legs and a single-wheeled nose landing gear leg. All three legs were short and provided for a low profile when the aircraft was at rest. The nose leg retracted rearwards under the cockpit floor while the main legs retracted inwards towards the centerline fuselage. With the landing gears fully retracted, the P-80 completed its streamlined look of which very few of the early jets could match.
Lockheed P-80 / F-80 Shooting Star (Cont'd)
Single-Seat Jet-Powered Fighter / Fighter-Bomber Aircraft
It's All in the Arms
Standard armament for the P-80 revolved around a battery of 6 x .50 caliber M2 Browning machine guns, all mounted for concentrated fire in the lower nose assembly (in much the same way the P-38 Lightning made use of such armament though in an upper fuselage fitting). This provided the P-80 with a familiar American punch that was in line with such aerial steeds as the P-51 Mustang, P-47 Thunderbolt and the F6F Hellcat. Machine guns were king in the American aircraft inventory, with seldom a few mounts utilized the killing power of cannons unlike the German, Japanese and British fighters of the time. Concentrating the armament to the nose also lightened and simplified the construction of the P-80's wings to an extent. 12.7mm ammunition was limited to 300 rounds per gun.
While her fighter roots were clearly in check with her machine gun armament, the P-80 eventually developed into a more special combat platform making use of conventional drop bombs or HVAR explosive air-launched rockets. Two hardpoints were fitted, one to a wing underside, that would allow for use of traditional drop ordnance (2 x 1,000lb bombs). Special launch rails could be fitted to address the fitting of 8 x 2.75-inch HVAR unguided air-to-surface rockets for use against ground targets. Beyond that, the P-80 was a limited airframe in terms of its munitions-carrying capabilities.
It becomes easy to forget the breadth of P-80/F-80 development throughout her limited career. The Shooting Star appeared in three major successive combat versions as the A-, B- and C-model series. The T-33 was a major off-shoot of the Shooting Star airframe relegated to training while the F-94 Starfire proved a capable all-weather interceptor.
The XP-80 was the base prototype, appearing in a singly-constructed form. Performance specs centered around a top speed of 502 miles per hour with a service ceiling equaling 41,800 feet. Rate-of-climb was 3,000 feet-per-minute and made possible by a single de Havilland H-1B of 2,460lbs of thrust. The prototype was nicknamed "Lulu Belle" and survived to become a museum showpiece.
The XP-80A was built in two models and became the second prototype in the series, essentially a larger and heavier form of the original XP-80. These featured prominently in the development of the YP-80A and production P-80A models.
YP-80A were thirteen pre-production aircraft (also known as "service test" aircraft). The XF-14 was a prototype developed from a YP-80A that was used as the basis for the future photo-reconnaissance Shooting Star to come. This particular X-plane was lost to accident when it collided with a chase-plane North American B-25 Mitchell on December 6th, 1944, killing test pilot Ernie Claypool. The F-14A designation was used on some converted P-80A models as photo-reconnaissance platforms which were then re-designated to FP-80A under the US Air Force.
The YP-80A yielded performance specifications of a 553 miles per hour top speed, 410 miles per hour cruising speed, a 48,500 foot ceiling, a 5,000 feet-per-minute climb rate and a range of up to 560 miles from its General Electric J33 engine of 4,000lbs thrust.
The P-80A became the first production Shooting Star, delivered in 344-strong 1-LO and 180-strong 5-LO production blocks. These differed from earlier Shooting Stars in that they were equipped with the identifiable 225 gallon fuel tanks along the wingtips and brought about the familiar all-metal finish. P-80As were eventually re-designated as F-80A under the newly-minted USAF. All A-models were powered by either the Allison J33-9 or J33-11 series engines (Allison took over production of the General Electric turbojets). The XFP-80A was a single modified P-80A fitted with camera equipment in a hinged nose-cone assembly. The ERF-80A was a single A-model with a redesigned nose.
The A-model sported a top speed of 558 miles per hour with a cruising speed of 410 miles per hour. Service ceiling was approximated at 45,000 feet with a 4,580 feet per minute rate-of-climb. Range was 540 miles from its Allison J33-A-11 engine of 4,000lbs thrust. The last P-80A was manufacturer in December of 1946 until being replaced by the much improved P-80B model.
The EF-80 was a P-80A airframe set aside and used to trial the validity of a prone-pilot position. Prone pilot positions were tested by a variety of nations throughout World War 2, conceivably to see if the stresses incurred on the human body during high-speed flight or dives could be alleviated to an extent by transferring the normal seated pilot posture to that of one laying face down. None excelled past the theoretical or practice stages to be included in production aircraft models.
The FP-80A was the production designation handed down to photo-reconnaissance P-80As. Some 152 15-LO block Shooting Stars were delivered and redesignated to RF-80A under the new USAF.
The XP-80B was an improved P-80A and fitted a revised form of the General Electric J33 engine. Only a single XP-80B was constructed and led up to the production of improved P-80Bs.
The P-80B was a heavier follow-up version to the P-80A but also wielding more power from her engine. B-models were also the first Shooting Stars to make use of a life-saving ejection seat to which the A-models had retrofitted to their airframes. B-models were produced to the tune of 209 1-LO and 31 5-LO production blocks and were redesignated as F-80Bs under the USAF. Performance for the P-80B included a top speed of 577 miles per hour with a ceiling up to 45,400 feet. Range was 1,270 miles without drop tanks. Empty weight was listed at 8,176lbs while a maximum take-off weight of 16,000lbs was possible. Power was provided for by a single Allison J33-A-21 turbojet engine.
The P-80C became the ultimate Shooting Star fighter model with production encompassing 162 1-LO, 75 5-LO and 561 10-LO production blocks. Like those before her, the C-model followed suit and was redesignated as the F-80C while 128 original A-models were brought up to the F-80C-11-LO standard. C-models featured the J33-A-35 series engine as well as the ejection seat found on B-models and retrofitted onto A-models. The P-80C became the USAFs first fighter aircraft to feature an effective explosive canopy jettison process no longer relying on the actions of a frantic pilot to initiate. Wingtip tanks of 260-gallons were also part of the standardization and made for the definitive Shooting Star.
Performance specs for the P-80C/F-80C centered around a top speed of 600 miles per hour with a cruise speed listed at 410 miles per hour. Range was limited out to 1,200 miles while a service ceiling of 46,000 feet was made possible through a rate-of-climb equaling 4,580 feet per minute. The C-model could reach 20,000 feet in about 5.5 minutes. Power was supplied through a single Allison J33-A-35 centrifugal compressor turbojet engine developing approximately 5,400lbf of thrust. Empty weight was 8,420lbs while loaded weight commonly reached 12,650lbs and a maximum take-off weight of 16,856lbs was listed.
The C-model was branched off into a more-capable RF-80C photo-reconnaissance platform. Existing F-80A, F-80C and RF-80A models were also converted as such.
As other airframes have before it, underutilized F-80 s were relegated to the drone director/target drone roles. These F-80A models came under the designation of DF-80A to signify their new inglorious roles. Target drones came under the designations QF-80A, QF-80C and QF-80F.
The TP-80C became the first prototype trainer to be based on the F-80 airframe. The TF-80C became the official prototype designation used in the development of the T-33 Shooting Star. This new form held a two-seat cockpit with seating arranged in tandem in a longer fuselage. The T-33 went on to prolong the operational usefulness of the Shooting Star line and saw production numbers hit 6,557 with license work handled in Japan and Canada. Lockheed produced 5,691 T-33s from 1949 through 1959 to which some 30 countries eventually utilized the type - giving many a pilot their first taste of high-speed flight. It is not uncommon to still see the trainer form in use today while many have fallen into the hands of private collectors insuring the legacy of the Shooting Star for a while longer.
The F-94 Starfire was an all-weather interceptor based on the Shooting Star airframe and emerged in three major variants. Two C-model Shooting Stars served as the developmental airframes for the type.
The US Navy and USMC made use of the 50 F-80Cs as the TO-1 jet trainer beginning in 1949. These were solely utilized for training purposes despite them technically not being the two-seat T-33 Shooting Star derivative. The USN went on to field several forms of the T-33 as target drones and drone directors as well as land-based jet trainers.
The Little-Known P-80N and P-80Z
The designation of P-80N was a short-lived name convention intended for P-80As produced by North American. As the war drew to a close in Europe, it was expected that Allied forces would need large supplies of P-80A jet fighters to put the rest of the Japanese Empire down for good. As such, North American was tabbed to assist in the production of identical A-models but the use of the Atomic Bomb - and subsequent Japanese surrender - cancelled this venture.
The P-80Z was a post-war proposal that would have spawned a more combat-worthy aircraft that was inherently better than the original P-80A. This heavier machine would have sported longer range and would have been made up of an initial order of 240 production examples. After some thought, the P-80Z was re-imagined into the P-80B and the Z-model legacy was all but over.
The Shooting Star led a healthy - albeit limited - operational life in multiple national air forces, most of them concentrated in Latin American and South America. Operators included Brazil who utilized 33 C-models from 1958 through 1973. Chile made good on 30 C-models from 1958 through 1974 while Columbia's 16 C-models soldiers on from 1958 into 1966. Ecuador and Peru both received 16 C-models and began use of the type from 1957 and 1958 respectively and phased them out by 1965 and 1973 respectively. Uruguay operated 17 C-models into 1971. Yugoslavia became another P-80 operator for a time.
Shooting Stars Over Korea
Despite their World War 2 origins, P-80s were in force by the time of the Korean War and fielded in their F-80B, F-80C fighter and RF-80 photo-reconnaissance models. A-models were held in reserve (state-side) to help out in the training of a new generation of jet fighter pilots. In fact, P-80s made up a major part of the USAF fighter force in the region and were pressed into service almost immediately, fairing quite well in early action against the slower Ilyushin IL-10 heavy fighters.
With the arrival of the technologically-advanced Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 jet-powered fighters, the days of the Shooting Star as a dogfighter were all but over. The MiG-15 made use of a small airframe coupled to a relatively powerful internal engine while offering low maintenance requirements. Maneuverability was key for the nimble little machine as was its use of swept-back wing technology garnered from captured German World War 2 research into such types. The MiG-15 excelled at turning and acceleration as well as high-altitude combat and armament. MiG-15 armament centered around a pair of cannons, sporting a slower rate-of-fire and less ammunition when compared to the P-80, but nonetheless proving more destructive.
The straight-winged F-80s could do little in head-to-head fights with such a foe, particularly when those at the controls of the MiG-15 were seasoned Soviet pilots. Despite this, the first historically-recorded jet-versus-jet duel took place on November 8th, 1950, and resulted in an American F-80 - piloted by Lieutenant Russell J. Brown - laying claim to a North Korean MiG-15. The battle included a total of four MIG-15s against F-80Cs of the 51st Fighter-Interceptor Wing. After five of his six machine guns jammed, Brown still laid the MiG-15 in his crosshairs to waste, leading to a mid-air explosion. Such ended the first jet-versus-jet duel.
The much needed arrival of the North American F-86 Sabres (as well as unheralded contributions from the swept-wing Republic F-84) soon leveled the playing field for the NATO contingent over the Korean Peninsula. Though the Sabre still maintained a healthy collection of 6 x 12.7mm machine guns in the nose, it provided for better speed and swept-wing performance that allowed it to dive and roll better than the MiG-15. Accuracy of the Sabre gun system proved well-ahead of that as found on the Soviet design. As the Sabre became available in greater numbers, the roles of the existing F-80s soon turned to that of ground attack and training of a new generation of jet pilots.
The switch to the low-level ground attack role took a toll on the F-80s for it was a role they were simply never designed to take. Its pressurized cockpit was somewhat useless and low-level strikes opened the complex machine up to ground fire. Dedicated ground attack systems were usually built for such adversity through additional armor plating for increased survivability. Not so for the F-80. At least 113 F-80s were lost to ground fire while only 14 F-80s were lost to direct aircraft-to-aircraft confrontation, with F-80s taking some 17 enemy fighters down in turn and destroying a further 24 on the ground. In all, some 277 F-80s were lost in the conflict, representing nearly a third of all operational Shooting Stars for the USAF - hardly war-winning numbers but realizing she undertook a role out of her original scope, it becomes understandable. This aircraft was designed to counter German developments such as the Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe appearing a half decade earlier.
The F-80C made up ten total United States Air Force squadrons in the Korean War. The RF-80 photo-reconnaissance Shooting Stars became the longest-serving F-80 types in the theater as the base F-80s were gradually dropped from frontline action. Many of the former P-80 squadrons converted to the prop-driven North American P-51 Mustangs (these mounts still holding some ground attack value in the war), swept-wing Republic F-84 Thunderjets and aforementioned F-86 Sabres. F-80 squadrons over Korea were made up of the 35th, 36th and 80th FBS of the 8th FBW, the 7th, 8th and 9th FBS of the 49th FBG, the 16th and 25th FIS of the 51st FIW and the 39th and 40th FIS of the 35th FIG. RF-80s flew as part of the 8th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron (later becoming the 15th TRS).
In essence, the P-80 Shooting Star served to take the direct place of Lockheed's premier wartime product, the P-38 Lightning. The aircraft served during those critical early years of the Cold War and, despite its developmental setbacks, managed to take on more in roles it was never envisioned for. While the P-80 itself never materialized into any lucrative overseas orders, the T-33 exploded onto the world stage. Including the F-80, T-33 and F-94, the Shooting Star made up 9,127 production examples. The T-33 alone became one of the most successful trainers of all time. The original XP-80 Shooting Star prototype - the "Lulu Belle" - was restored and put on display at the National Air and Space Museum.
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General Assessment (BETA)
Rating: 72 (of 100)
The rating is an internal assessment derived from forty factors pertaining to this entry.
Relative Maximum Speed Rating
This entry's maximum listed speed (577mph).
Graph average of 562.5 miles-per-hour.
Graph showcases the Lockheed F-80C Shooting Star's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
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
* Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.
** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.