A very interesting untold story of early jet aviation!
C. J. Wickett brought this interesting article to my attention. Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star jet fighters reached Europe as early as January of 1945!
Originally shared by Pete Panozzo
Courtesy of C. J. Wickett- thank you!
One of the untold stories of early jet aviation is about the four Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star fighters that reached Europe as early as January 1945. German jets, in particular the Messerschmitt Me 262, were shooting down Allied bombers. When the P-80s arrived, it was not yet clear how much longer the Allies’ conflict with the Third Reich would last.
Army Air Forces (AAF) boss Gen. Henry H. “Hap” Arnold probably did not intend to throw the P-80s into combat against the Luftwaffe, at least not until their numbers could be increased, but the jet-powered P-80 did play a role in the war.
Four of these early American jets, properly known as YP-80A models, went overseas – two each to England and Italy. They were fully operational. They were less successful in England than in Italy and today their contribution is hardly remembered at all.
The P-80 (later to be called the F-80) was largely the work of Lockheed engineer Clarence L. Johnson, called “Kelly” because he favored green neckties despite his Swedish ancestry. Having failed to sell a jet aircraft design in 1939, Johnson got a second chance when U.S. Army test officials at Wright Field, Ohio, contacted Lockheed on June 18, 1943. With support from Lockheed president Robert Gross and chief engineer Hall Hibbard, Johnson set forth to design a new aircraft, built around a British jet engine. The Army Air Forces were already testing the Bell XP-59A Airacomet but – influenced by reports of Germany’s Messerschmitt Me 262 – wanted a more advanced jet aircraft.