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Lockheed L-137 (Model 8)

Strategic Long-Range Heavy Bomber Proposal

United States | 1938

"The L-137 was proposed by Lockheed prior to the American involvement in World War 2 - it was not selected for further work by the USAAC."

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 05/02/2020 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
By the time of World War 2 (1939-1945), it was clear to warplanners of the major military powers the need for strategic-level long-range bombing, aircraft that could range out over vast distances and drop considerable war loads on enemy facilities and infrastructure. In the United States, these missions were eventually carried out by the likes of the Boeing B-17 "Flying Fortress" and Consolidated B-24 "Liberator" to be joined, in time, by the Boeing B-29 "Superfortress" that helped to end the conflict in the Pacific and the war in full during 1945. However, the road to aerial dominance was not an easy one, as attested to by the many aircraft designs that appeared during the period, and a majority of proposals were destined to fall by the wayside despite their seemingly promising nature on paper. One such example became the proposed "L-137" by Lockheed.

Founded in 1926 during the Interwar period, the Lockheed concern managed to survive the Great Depression period to continue making a name for itself in the field of aviation. Its Model 14 ("Hudson") went on to find success in sales to both the American and British governments and the company struck gold with its P-38 "Lightning" single-seat, twin-engine / twin-boom heavy fighter during the wartime years.

The L-137 represented a move by the company to secure a contract against what was to become a much larger aircraft than the P-38 fighter ever was. Plans were drawn up by company engineers to satisfy a standing United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) requirement of the 1930s calling for a new strategic-level, long-range heavy bomber to feature multiple crew positions and multiple engines as well as a sizeable war load. Performance for such a type would be key particularly as America's enemies would most likely lay far away from home. The usual players threw their hats into the ring including Boeing, Consolidated, Douglas, Curtiss, Martin, and - of course - Lockheed against the requirement. Even Northrop proposed a series of heavy bomber designs centered on its focus of "flying wings".

The L-137 proposal evolved through several iterations of which one - "Model 8" - was notable for its showcasing of a wholly sleek, streamlined form. It was of largely conventional arrangement with the flight deck set over and aft of a glazed nose section and the wing mainplane members were positioned just slightly ahead of midships and mounted at the shoulder. The tail utilized a single, large-area, and rounded vertical plane with low-mounted horizontal planes for the needed control. Of twin engine design, this bomber proposal fitted the powerplants in streamlined housings under each wing mainplane member, the installations beginning noticeably ahead of the wing leading edge and terminating some distance beyond the trailing edge. A tricycle undercarriage, wholly retractable, was to be used for ground-running incorporating a nose leg and twin main legs. The main legs were mounted under the engine housings.

As drawn up, the aircraft was given a running length of 87 feet with a wing span of 122.5 feet. Take-off weight was expected to reach 75,000lb. For the power, the aircraft would rely on 2 x Pratt & Whitney R-4360 "Wasp Major" air-cooled radial piston engines developing between 2,650 and 3,500 horsepower depending on variant available if and when the bomber would have been built and put through its paces. Performance estimates by engineers included a maximum speed of 360 miles-per-hour and a service ceiling up to 37,000 feet with a combat range of 4,000 miles.

In comparison, the famous B-17G production model netted itself a maximum speed of 287 mph, a service ceiling of 35,600 feet, and a range out to 2,000 miles.

As far as its war load, the L-137 was rated to carry 4,000lb of drop ordnance through an internal arrangement (the B-17G carried a "light load" of about 4,500lb and a typical "heavy" load of around 8,000lb). As with other bombers of the period, it is acceptable to conclude that the fuselage would have been home to a network of defensive gun positions, the L-137-8 drawings indicating a tail gun position as well as a dorsal turret over and aft of the flight deck and a ventral turret near the "chin" position along the forward fuselage. An assumption can also be made for gun positions at the waist / beam area of the fuselage / empennage.

Despite its promising nature on paper, USAAF authorities who reviewed the L-137 decided against it due to "performance concerns".

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Power & Performance
Those special qualities that separate one aircraft design from another. Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for the Lockheed L-137-8 Strategic Long-Range Heavy Bomber Proposal.
2 x Pratt & Whitney R-4360 "Wasp Major" air-cooled radial piston engines developing between 2,650 and 3,500 horsepower each driving three-bladed propeller units.
360 mph
580 kph | 313 kts
Max Speed
37,073 ft
11,300 m | 7 miles
Service Ceiling
3,999 miles
6,435 km | 3,475 nm
Operational Range
1,100 ft/min
335 m/min
City-to-City Ranges
Operational range when compared to distances between major cities (in KM).
The nose-to-tail, wingtip-to-wingtip physical qualities of the Lockheed L-137-8 Strategic Long-Range Heavy Bomber Proposal.
87.0 ft
26.52 m
O/A Length
122.5 ft
(37.35 m)
O/A Width
75,001 lb
(34,020 kg)
Design Balance
The three qualities reflected below are altitude, speed, and range. The more full the box, the more balanced the design.
Available supported armament and special-mission equipment featured in the design of the Lockheed L-137 (Model 8) Strategic Long-Range Heavy Bomber Proposal .
2 x 0.30 caliber machine guns in dorsal turret.
2 x 0.30 caliber machine gun(s) in ventral turret under the nose.
1 x 0.30 caliber machine gun at left waist / beam position (assumed).
1 x 0.30 caliber machine gun at right waist / beam position (assumed).
2 x 0.30 caliber machine gun(s) at tail position.

Internally-held conventional drop bomb load of up to 4,000lb.
Notable series variants as part of the Lockheed L-137 (Model 8) family line.
L-137-8 - Base Project Designation.
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the Lockheed L-137 (Model 8). Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national aircraft listing.

Total Production: 0 Units

Contractor(s): Lockheed Corporation - USA
National flag of the United States

[ United States (cancelled) ]
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Image of the Lockheed L-137 (Model 8)
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Going Further...
The Lockheed L-137 (Model 8) Strategic Long-Range Heavy Bomber Proposal appears in the following collections:
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