A P-61 has taken out a Japanese Zero and now pursues a “Betty” bomber somewhere over the Pacific. The “Black Widow” is using its full firepower of armament engaging the guns and cannons in one to two second bursts. The 20mm cannon used a mix of AP-T (armor piercing-tracer) and HE-T (high explosive with tracer) cannon shells, which was very devastating.
The Northrop P-61 Black Widow, was the first operational U.S. military aircraft designed specifically for night interception of opposing aircraft, and was the first aircraft specifically designed to use radar. The P-61 had a crew of three: pilot, gunner, and radar operator. It was armed with four 20 mm (.79 in) forward firing cannons mounted in the lower fuselage, and four .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns.
It was an all-metal, twin-engine, twin-boom design developed during WW2. The first test flight was made on 26 May 1942, with the first production aircraft rolling off the assembly line in October 1943. The last aircraft was retired from government service in 1954.
Although not produced in the large numbers of its contemporaries, the Black Widow was effectively operated as a night-fighter by USAAF squadrons in the European Theater, the Pacific Theater, the China Burma India Theater and the Mediterranean Theater during World War II. It replaced earlier British-designed night-fighter aircraft that had been updated to incorporate radar when it became available.
On the night of 14 August 1945, a P-61B of the 548th Night Fight Squadron named "Lady in the Dark" was unofficially credited with the last Allied air victory before VJ Day.
The Hurricane Chasers took MUCH inspiration and still operate today.
Radar changed all that.
I think it is unlikely that they used tracer ammo--they would have only alerted their foe if they missed. I could be wrong, but this was discovered by daytime fighter pilots--without tracer ammo, they shot down more planes.
As always thank you for sharing and the respect you've shown for those brave men and women who've served to guard the line regardless of the color of the cloth they wore.
Semper fidelis from an old Marine.
I am from the "baby boomer" generation and grew up surrounded by WW 2 family members and friends. Some of my works has been based on their experiences. Most of them have passed on but I am inspired by those that served our country.
Thank for you sharing this.
I have always been amazed at the training and the spirit of the "Greatest Generation". My dad was a flight instructor during WW2 and he said the future pilots were mostly only 19 to 21 years of ages. The training was very intense for combat pilots. They usually had over 400 hrs. of training prior to to combat.
It was considered a top secret weapon that by some estimates of shortening the war by one year.
It is a very interesting story of how it was developed and the technology that was invented in a short period of time.
I remember reading a history of aviation in which an English radio expert was wondering if one could bounce a radio signal off an airplane. "Congratulations!" I said out loud. "You just saved Britain!"
A lot on new technology in the aircraft. First flew in May, 1942. Enter the War in June '44.
i read the that the P-61 pilots favorite targets were the Japanese Betty because they would hit the exposed fuel tanks with "spectacular effects".
thanks for the feedback.
I ate up WW2 Night fighter, night bomber narrative, and often procedure was to give pilot no tracers and give defensive guns all they could use as in frighten away pursuers with big light show versus no real demonstrated accuracy in aimed defense...
It sounded unfair but a tracer was flying lead in the end and with accuracy, did its damage.
I was wanting to show the massive firepower of the Black Widow.
The .50 caliber M2 machine gun was usually loaded with 600-650 rounds with disintegrating belt. Normally the belt was loaded with one tracer cartridge (red tip bullet) for every five or six "ball" or AP cartridges (black tip bullet). This load would be a normal load for the "daylight" missions of the USAAF. Night time missions would be without tracers rounds I assume.
As for the 20mm Aircraft Automatic Gun AN-M2, there was a variety of shells depending on the missions. HE High Explosive with or without tracer composite (painted red/black shot) and "Ball" or Armor-Piercing/Tracer or without Tracer ( painted black shot). The tracer composite was located in the base of the projectile and was ignited during propellant charge explosion in the cartridge. The tracer was good for 2000 ft.
The P-38 was arm with four .50 caliber and (1) 20mm cannon. As my reference they used the .50 caliber load described above. As for the 20mm cannon they used 150-160 rounds of AP without tracers. All weapons were in the nose and usually could be fire in unison in short 1 or 2 second blasts.
All selected type ammo with belts came in wooden packing boxes marked as required by HQ.
All info based on Captain Herbert Cochran, P-38 pilot, 5th AF, 433rd FG New Guinea, two victories.
The P-61s did a commendable job in the South Pacific, but they entered the War in June 1944 and by that time they did not have many A/C targets as the 5th AF "Satan's Angels" literally destroyed most of the Japanese pilots and aircraft in August '43 - December '43.
See my conversation above with Wolf13.
Thanks for the feedback.
The P-61 sounds like the PT Boat. Not so good against destroyers that were it's original mission profile, but did huge damage against shallow draft transports that had been somewhat safe from our destroyers.
Cool, thanks for the info.
The was originally used on the P-39 Airacobra and the Russians love it.
Does inspire me to at least go to the Wings Over the Rockies A&S Museum though.