By: Norm Goyer
During the closing days of World War II, it was evident to the Army Air Force Generals that a long range fighter bomber was needed in order to reach further targets or to escort large bombers whose range far outdistanced the current crop of fighters. This realization probably grew from the planning stages for dropping the “bomb” on far away Japanese cities. The aircraft which came to mind was the outstanding service record of the North American P-51 Mustang. Would two Mustangs bolted together be twice as good as two single Mustangs. Even if it was only 1.5 times better than a solo Mustang, it could do the job. Thus the Twin Mustang or P-82 was born. Within a few short months the Air Force changed designation and the P-82 became the F-82. Pursuits were obsolete, fighters were more appropriate. however, the war ended well before the first production units were operational, so its postwar role changed to that of night-fighting.
The most significant event which triggered the brass to order a production run of the F-82 was the introduction by Russia of an exact copy of the Boeing B-50 which Russia demonstrated at an International Aviation Demonstration in 1947. Why would the Soviets start building their version of a B-50 designed by Boeing as a specific long range bomber capable of carrying atom bombs? Did it mean that Russia had also manufactured their own version of the atomic bomb? The USA could not ignore this event. Our Air Force needed a long range bomber escort immediately. The F-82 was ordered into production as the USSR was indeed expected soon to have nuclear weapons, The introduction of the Soviet Tu-4 (B-50) was a shock to US military planners, since it meant that the US mainland might soon be vulnerable to nuclear attack from the air.
Until jet interceptors could be developed and put into service, the Twin Mustangs already built, were seen as an interim solution to SAC’s fighter escort mission for its strategic bomber force and could also serve as an all-weather air defense interceptor. Radar-equipped F-82s were used extensively by the Air Defense Command as replacements for the Northrop P-61 Black Widow night fighter. During the Korean War, Japan-based F-82s were among the first USAF aircraft to operate over Korea. The first three North Korean aircraft destroyed by U.S. forces were shot down by F-82s, the first being a North-Korean Yak-11 downed over Gimpo by the USAF 68th Fighter Squadron. The illustrious career of the Twin Mustang, the last piston powered fighter ever ordered by the Air Force, was starting to gather momentum.
The Twin Mustang was also pressed into service as a long range bomber escort with the Strategic Air Command. Check out the movie Strategic Air Command with Jimmy Stewart, outstanding aerial footage of the long range bombers during actual missions along with scenes shot just for the movie. You’ll enjoy this one. The sheer size of the Soviet Union dictated that a bombing mission would be a 12-hour affair, there and back, from bases in Europe or Alaska, most of it over Soviet territory. Also the weather, which was bad enough in Western Europe, would make bombing missions impossible over the Soviet Union between October and May. With no long-range jet fighters yet available to perform escort missions for the strategic bomber force, the mission of the 27th FEW was to fly these long-range missions with their F-82E Twin Mustangs. These aircraft had a range over 1,400 mi, which meant that with external fuel tanks it could fly from London to Moscow, loiter for 30 minutes over the target, and return, the only American fighter which could do so. It also had an operational ceiling of 40,000 ft, where it could stay close to the bombers it was designed to protect. The first production F-82Es reached the 27th in early 1948, and almost immediately the group was deployed to McCord AFB, Washington, in June where its squadrons stood on alert on a secondary air defense mission due to heightened tensions over the Berlin Airlift. Meanwhile the F-82s were becoming almost indispensible in Korea but the heavy flying schedule had taken its toll on the airplanes. The fact was that when F-82 production ended in April 1948, no provision had been made for an adequate supply of spare parts, as the aircraft was not expected to remain in operational service once jet-powered aircraft were available. Further, the Air Force simply did not have that many F-82s in the first place (182 total operational aircraft), and did not want to weaken the F-82 units committed to the Pacific Northwest or Atlantic coast, or to draw from the 14 F-82Hs in Alaska. Fortunately the new jet fighters finally arriving in Korea had brought the war to a close. The last need for the F-82 Mustang was over. This “make do” airplane really performed well and did get the job done.
Specifications for F-82-G
- Crew: 2
- Length: 42 ft 9 in
- Wingspan: 51 ft 3 in
- Height: 13 ft 10 in
- Wing area: 408 ft²
- Empty weight: 15,997 lb
- Max. takeoff weight: 25,591 lb
- Engines: Allison V-1710-143/145 counter-rotating liquid-cooled V12 engines, 1,380 hp takeoff each
- Maximum speed: 482 mph (400 kn,) at 21,000 ft
- Range: 2,350 mi, 1,950 nmi,
- Service ceiling: 38,900 ft