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Miss Virginia is coming!

Updated: Jun 23, 2023

The Lockheed P-38 Lightning was designed and produced by the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation in response to the 1937 X-608 Specification issued by U.S. Army Air Corps (USAAC) which was preceded in 1936 by a USAAC Request for Proposals for a new fighter / interceptor aircraft. The Lockheed design team was lead by soon-to-be famous Clarence L. "Kelly" Johnson - by 1943 they were known as Lockheed's "Skunk Works".

To meet proposal requirements like top speed of at least 360 mph at 20,000 feet and being able to climb that high in 6 minutes it was decided to use two Allison inline V-1710 V12 liquid-cooled engines combined with a General Electric two-stage, exhaust-driven turbo-superchargers. There were many different designs considered to accommodate two engines and finally it was decided on a twin-boom design with each boom extending aft of the engine, the pilot sitting in the enclosed cockpit in a central nacelle. P-38 had introduced many innovations like flush-riveted aluminium skin, metal control surfaces or tricycle landing gear.

XP-38 prototype was completed in December 1938 and took to the skies for the first time on 27 January 1939. Then in April that year a contract was issued for thirteen YP-38 service test aircrafts. After successful evaluation Lockheed started to manufacture next models. First in line was P-38 with no suffix letter designation, then P-38D, P-38E (first one to shoot down an enemy aircraft), next was P-38F which leads us to P-38G which is the subject of this build. There were quite a few more versions further ahead with P-38M being the final one.

339th Fighter Squadron in Solomon Islands

First U.S.'s major land offencive was seizure of the Guadalcanal island in the southern Solomons. U.S. Marines went ashore on August 7, 1942 and fought hard for the control of the island for next six months.

First P-38 aircraft arrived at Guadalcanal on November 12 1942 and belonged to 339th Fighter Squadron. Squadron itself was activated earlier that month on the island of New Caledonia, 1000 miles southeast of Guadalcanal. 339th Fighter Squadron was part of 347th Fighter Group which fought on Guadalcanal, the Solomons, New Guinea, Borneo, the Dutch East Indies and the Philippines. The group was constituted on 29 September 1942 and activated on New Caledonia on 3 October 1942. Except for the very beginning of squadron life the CO was Capt. John W. Mitchell who would soon became one of the most famous USAAF pilots of the Solomon Islands campaign. The squadron has been equipped with P-38G version of the Lockheed Lightning and their unofficial nickname was the "Sunsetters" due to many successes in destroying japanese aircrafts. The 339th FS's pilots scored a total of 102 confirmed air victories in the Solomon Islands campaign, from November 1942 through November 1943.

Operation Vengeance

On the date of 18 April !943, eighteen P-38 aircrafts from 339th Fighter Squadron conducted one of the most famous fighter aircraft missions of WW2 - killing Admiral Isuroku Yamamoto, the poker-playing, Harvard-educated naval genius who was the architect of the Pearl Harbour attack.

An attempt to down Admiral Yamamoto was only possible due to the fact that American cryptographers had broken the Japanese communication codes and intercepted a radio message that advised the Japanese units in the area that Admiral was going on an inspection trip from Rabaul to a small Ballale island just of the south coast of Bougainville. Based on information from the decoded message, American planners could deduce the time and place of interception - 09:35 on April 18th 1943. At that time P-38 was the only fighter aircraft with the range to make an approximately 1100 mile trip from the Guadalcanal to the point of interception and back. Mission was planned in excruciating detail - every minute counted. The course was plotted and timed so that interception would took place at 09:35, exactly 10 minutes (30 miles) before calculated landing of Admiral Yamamoto and his senior officers at Ballale airfield. At that time the only belly tanks available on the Guadalcanal were 165-gallon tanks, but to be able to travel such distance there was a need for 310-gallon tanks which were supplied from Port Moresby. One tank of each size was put on each plane.

Lightnings took of from Kukum Field at 07:00 in the morning flying 400 miles at 50 ft above sea level in complete radio silence to avoid being detected by enemy radar. Everything went according to the initial plan and dogfight started at 09.34 near Bougainville. Pilots spotted two Mitsubishi G4M bombers carrying Yamamoto and senior officers along with an escort of six Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighters - exactly as it was stated in the intercepted message. First Lieutenant Rex T. Barber who was piloting P-38G "White 147" / "Miss Virginia" aircraft opened fire on one of the G4M (Betty 2656 Tail 323) bombers hitting the right engine causing it to crash into the jungle. That was the plane with Admiral Yamamoto onboard - his body was found next day. Then second bomber was shot down and one Zero was probable victim of the fight as well. Americans lost one P-38.

Lockheed P-38F/G Lightning, Tamiya 1:48

Not much to write here, except for the fact that it is new tool released in 2019. Inside we can find everything we could expect from Tamiya - including lack of riveting. The quality of the mouldings and parts fitting is excellent. Model itself has quite extraordinary design in some aspects like special mountings in the structure of the model for ball shaped weight to ensure correct balans, another one is modular construction which creates kind of a internal structure which is then covered with smaller and bigger elements - this should help with keeping proper geometry during the build. There has been many great reviews since the release so if you want to get to know more about this model just google it.

After opening the box we will find: seven dark gray plastic sprues, one clear plastic sprue, decal sheet, weights to ensure correct balance, masking sheet, informative background leaflet and construction booklet.

Aftermarket wise I ended up buying quite a lot of sets:

  • Eduard 648519 P-38F/G supercharegers

  • Eduard 648520 P-38F/G landing flaps

  • Eduard 6485454 P-38G cockpit

  • Eduard 648533 P-38F/G nose gun bay

  • Eduard 491042 P-38G upgrade set

  • Eduard 648521 P-38F/G undercarriage legs

  • Eduard EX667 masks

  • Eduard 48748 P-38 upgrade set

  • Reskit RS48-0221 P-38 Lightning Type 2 wheels set

  • Yahu Models YMA4889 P-38G Lightning instrument panel

  • Quickboost QB48963 P-38 Lightning Propeller

  • HGW 248097 P-38F/G Lightning Stencils (wet transfer)

  • HGW 148562 P-38 Lighting Seatbelts

  • HGW 481032 P-38 F/H Lightning Riveting set

Some of those sets like nose gun bay, cockpit or landing flaps are certainly models in its own right so if done properly should add a lot to the final result. Since it is standard for Tamiya models to miss all the riveting I will have to fix that, though this time I decided I will use positive rivets set from HGW instead of standard tools - this will be first time me using this approach. I hope I will be pleased with the results.

P-38G "White 147"

P-38G was produced in several blocks. Miss Virginia was built by Lockheed in Burbank and delivered to USAAF as P38G-13-LO Lightning serial number 43-2264. Starting with block 10-LO the inboard wing section was further reinforced in order to help bear the weight of an underwing-mounted 2000-pound bomb or 300-gallon drop tank which was so much needed during operation Vengeance. In total Lockheed built 1082 G model aircrafts.

Painting wise it is standard two-color scheme of Olive Drab (USAAF) on the upper surfaces and Neutral Gray (USAAF) underside.

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