|This page is about the American twin-engine fighter P-38L-5-LO. For other versions, see P-38 (Family).|
- 1 Description
- 2 General info
- 3 Armaments
- 4 Usage in battles
- 5 History
- 6 Media
- 7 See also
- 8 External links
The P-38L-5-LO Lightning is a rank III American twin-engine fighter with a battle rating of 4.3 (AB) and 4.7 (RB/SB). It was introduced in Update 1.53 "Firestorm".
The P-38 Lightning is to be played primarily as an Air Superiority fighter. Boom & Zoom tactics are one of your greatest assets in this aircraft. By using your powerful armament, high speed, good manoeuvrability, and good climb rate, in the hands of a skilled pilot, a P-38L is one of the greatest threats to an entire team.
The P-38L is the last Lightning in the US Aviation tech tree that can be researched. This plane has some of the same defining factors of prior models of the Lightning but with greater modifications to make this variant of the P-38 among the best planes in the game. The biggest upgrade over the P-38J-15 is the presence of air brakes on the P-38L, which means you can pull out of a dive much easier than in any other prior model. In addition, you also can research the "New Boosters" module, which greatly improves your roll rate.
|Characteristics|| Max Speed
(km/h at 8,534 m)
| Max altitude
| Turn time
| Rate of climb
| Take-off run|
|Combat flaps||Take-off flaps||Landing flaps||Air brakes||Arrestor gear|
|Wings (km/h)||Gear (km/h)||Flaps (km/h)||Max Static G|
|Optimal velocities (km/h)|
|< 380||< 460||< 500||> 420|
|Optimal altitude||100% Engine power||WEP Engine power|
|5,100 m||1,415 hp||1,550 hp|
Survivability and armour
- 38 mm Bulletproof glass - Cockpit windscreen
- 6.5 mm Steel - Front cockpit armour plate
- 6.5 mm Steel - Pilot's seat
- 9.5 mm Steel - Pilot's headrest
Modifications and economy
The P-38L-5-LO is armed with:
- 1 x 20 mm AN/M2 cannon, nose-mounted (150 rpg)
- 4 x 12.7 mm M2 Browning machine guns, nose-mounted (500 rpg = 2,000 total)
The P-38L-5-LO can be outfitted with the following ordnance:
- Without load
- 2 x 500 lb AN-M64A1 bombs (1,000 lb total)
- 10 x HVAR rockets
- 4 x 12.7 mm M2 Browning machine guns (340 rpg = 1,360 total)
Usage in battles
There are a few tactics to take into consideration when using the P-38L Lightning. All of them are viable, but some of them require more attention to detail, or else you can guarantee yourself a one-way ticket back to your garage.
Air Superiority Role (Air RB)
The natural role for the P-38L is the Air Superiority role, as it is an interceptor. In air RB, it gets an interceptor airspawn, meaning you start in the air with a good amount of speed and won’t have to take off from the airfield like normal fighters. Once spawned in, start climbing with WEP at a speed of around 250 km/h. The P-38L's airspawn combined with its good climb rate means that even if you climb straight towards the enemy team, by the time you meet them, it’s highly likely you will be significantly higher than most of their fighters, both in altitude and speed. In full uptiers, this may not be the case, but you will likely still be at least at equal altitude and speed with the enemy fighters. However, you want to be higher, so in full uptiers side-climbing is recommended.
Having an altitude advantage is the ideal scenario for the P-38L, as without it, one cannot fully exploit its capabilities. Therefore, typically it doesn’t hurt to climb higher. However, one should be aware of when to keep climbing and when to engage; if your team has engaged and needs your support, you may need to choose to enter the battle without an altitude advantage or by diving far (and losing energy). Remember, altitude is not necessarily a substitute for your team.
Once you have followed the steps to climb to altitude, start scanning for priority targets to support your allies. Ideally, you will be the highest plane on the battlefield at the start of an air engagement, and your targets of priority will be enemy planes that can possibly threaten or get above you.
Because of this, energy fighting will be your main tactic. When you spot a target below you, enter a dive and make a firing pass on them. Even if you don’t manage to get a hit, this will push them down, and their dodge will cost them energy. Keep in mind that if they are below you and have less energy than you, they probably won’t catch you if they pitch up for you as long as you go up as well (provided you are positioned correctly). Due to this, if they do choose to pitch up for you, don’t commit to the head-on; at the very most, fire a short burst before quickly pulling off. At this point, start going up, making sure to dodge their bullets. They may notice you have higher energy and go back down, in which case you have another firing opportunity. If they keep going up, they will stall below you, and you will be able to pitch back down and destroy them. Be careful not to commit to a dive attack for too long, or else both you and the enemy will end up at the same dive speed, and when you pull up, the enemy (which, chances are, is a more capable dogfighter) will follow and be able to shoot you.
As for dogfighting, it isn’t the P-38L’s strongest point. The main reason for this is that its turn time is bad. This means that when simply turning, most competing fighter aircraft will quickly get behind you. However, the P-38 does have a trick up its sleeve: combat flaps. When they are deployed, the P-38L’s bad turn rate becomes much better and competitive, and you will be able to keep up with the majority of enemy fighters. However, there is a downside: usage of these flaps also degrades the plane’s energy retention. This means that, in a prolonged turnfight, you will dump speed faster, and eventually will get out-rated (you will slow down and become a worse turner) by the opposition. It is for this reason that dogfights aren’t strongly recommended, but do know that with combat flaps, the P-38L can hold its own for a while when forced into one. This also highlights the importance of these flaps; try your best not to let speed or enemy fire blow them off, as, without them, your dogfighting performance becomes very limited.
The P-38L’s roll rate is good, thanks to the new hydraulically boosted ailerons the L model comes with. This is a departure from the below-average roll rates of the previous P-38 variants. This roll rate can be used effectively to dodge bullets or defensive fly, as well as when you are on an enemy’s tail and trying to get a good shot.
The P-38L, like all P-38s, has a rather low maximum speed (around 800 Km/h), which, when in prolonged dives, can catch a pilot off-guard. In addition, P-38s compress significantly at high speed, so simply trying to pull up at these speeds may not be enough to save you. Luckily, specifically, the P-38L variant is equipped with an airbrake. This is a rare feature amongst propeller-engined fighter aircraft. Upon deployment (you may need to set a keybind), it extends special flaps which are made to cause drag and slow down the plane. This airbrake is extremely helpful in a dangerously high-speed dive. When you see the “Reduce speed” warning, immediately throttle down and deploy the air brakes while also pulling up hard. If you do this, you probably will come out of the dive safe and unharmed. These air brakes, used to quickly bleed speed, can also be handy during landing or to slow down and make a trailing enemy overshoot.
The P-38L’s rudder, as you probably will notice, is rather poor. Due to this, despite the great nose-mounted weaponry, actually getting guns on target may be tricky, especially when behind an enemy or in a high-speed dive. Considering this, you mustn’t commit too long to trying to get a shot, as energy will be wasted and the rudder will continue to hamper you.
The P-38 is fragile, and you should do your best to make sure it doesn’t get damaged. It is a large target, so it is more easily hit than other fighters, and it has wing-mounted fuel tanks that are easy to set on fire. Speaking of fires, if your P-38L gets set on fire, there is a very high chance it isn’t going out. Diving to put it out isn’t an option, as the P-38L’s airframe won’t survive the high speed needed to put the fire out. It has a large and easily hit elevator and tail section, and the flaps are vital as well (as said earlier, they are a necessity if you want to dogfight). You get the idea. Of course, getting hit in any aircraft is less than ideal. However, the P-38 is a little more fragile than other aircraft, and more care must be taken to not get hit.
The P-38L has a great armament of 4 x 12.7 mm M2 Browning machine guns and 1 x 20 mm AN/M2 cannon. The cannon will be your main explosive firepower, and just a few hits with it will usually be enough to cripple most aircraft. The ideal belt for the AN/M2 is the “Air Targets” belt, as it has tracers and a favorable ratio of high explosive shells. The “Stealth” belt may also be chosen if you feel your aim is good enough. A small downside to it is that it only has 150 rounds of ammo, so if one isn’t ammo conservative, they will find the cannon ammo gone sooner than they think. The 4 x 12.7 mm M2 Brownings, while 2 less than the usual American WW2 six-pack, is still potent. Importantly, the Browning machine guns have a generous ammo pool, so they will be your backup weapons when the cannon ammo runs out. Most of the time, you won’t even run out of Browning ammo at all. The ideal ammo option is “Universal” as they have a good amount of incendiary and tracer rounds. The full “Tracer” belt may also be an option as well, as it is purely powerful API-T (armor-piercing incendiary tracer) rounds and provides a laser-like effect, though this may hamper your ability to see if shots are lead too far/short.
Ground Attack Role
This is the role where paying attention to details is an absolute priority. This is given that the Anti-Aircraft fire is coming from actual players, and not artificial intelligence and one small mistake can send your plane down in a fireball. Nonetheless, the P-38L has all the tools necessary to be a ferocious Close Air Support aircraft. You have the option for two 500 lb bombs suspended underneath the fuselage of the plane or you can choose ten HVAR rockets. The distinguishing part of the Lightning, when used in ground attack, is that the bombs drop independently one by one, which allows for a second attack run if one needs to, allowing a chance for further kills. In addition to the options of bombs or rockets, the P-38's weaponry will punish any open-topped vehicles. The tactics for a ground attack are mainly brought out in making diving attacks in Ground RB. However, as mentioned earlier, you must pay attention to your surroundings- as you have no markers for enemy aircraft, and a loss of situational awareness will be your undoing. That being said, approach the battlefield from high altitude, or come in low and fast. When you spot an enemy vehicle, line up your attack run, then drop your bomb when you are close to the ground. Using the dive brakes is extremely recommended, as you can lose control quickly or need to pull up at a moment's notice. It is paramount you do not have an "Assault Fuse" for your bombs, as you will be caught in the blast radius. When you have completed your attack runs using bombs or rockets, try and strafe enemy positions to spot your allies and possibly eliminate enemy Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft vehicles as well. You can also act still as an Air Superiority fighter to keep your friendly ground forces in the game.
Specific enemies worth noting
At your battle rating of 4.7, you can (and will) get dragged into some 5.7 BR games. That being said, your greatest threats come from the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 A-8, given the speed and firepower it has. You also need to worry about late models of the Bf 109, such as the G-6, G-10, G-14 and the K-4 variants, which have the speed, firepower and even the manoeuvrability to tear the Lightning apart. It is plausible you will face the Fw 190 D variants, which will give you a serious run for your money, as will the Ta 152's. At 4.7, you also need to take into consideration that you will be facing Allied aircraft captured by the Germans- most notable among them are the Tempest V and the P-47 Thunderbolt. The vast majority of the German planes you will be facing have a high climb rate and are excellent energy fighters, which can leave you at a gaping deficit when facing Axis teams.
Japanese planes are notorious for their extreme turning abilities, which usually decimate Allied teams. This does not change in higher battle ratings. The most dangerous Japanese aircraft that the P-38L will face is the Mitsubishi J2M4 Raiden, which has a top speed to rival even the Mustang. In addition, the J2M4 Raiden carries an armament of four 20 mm cannons, which will tear the Lightning to bits. The A6M Zero and its derivatives are annoying enemies to face; while you are much faster than it and can easily energy trap it, they are just so manoeuvrable, and many times you will find yourself missing your shot on them despite them being energy trapped (the bad rudder doesn’t help with this). Additionally, the Zero keeps its speed rather well, so missing too many passes can put you at the same energy level as it, where it will catch and destroy you in a dogfight.
Any aircraft bearing the prefix "Yak" is going to give you issues. Most notable among all of these planes will be the Yak-3P, as the aircraft has very powerful nose-mounted weaponry and can turn exceptionally well. The Yak-9T will also give you some problems, as the Yak-9T's 37 mm cannon will turn your aircraft into pieces of flying debris with one well-placed hit. The La-7 will also be a viable threat, as it has powerful nose-mounted weaponry combined with amazing capabilities as an energy fighter. Do not head-on any variant of a Su-6 or IL-10, as their weaponry is mainly designed for busting open tanks and pillboxes. Do not tail either of those attackers for long either, due to their 20 mm defensive cannon.
The British aircraft are notorious for their turning capabilities and heavy armament at this Battle-Rating. Any late variant of the Spitfire is going to give you problems, most notable among these variants are the Spitfire F. Mk.IX, the Spitfire Mk.Vc, and the Spitfire Mk.Vc/trop. Another notable adversary is the Typhoon Mk. Ib /Late, due to its heavy armament and good turning abilities.
With all the aspects mentioned above, the P-38L-5-LO is by no means an easy plane to kill. A P-38L pilot will play this aircraft more conservatively / reserved- mostly using it in a Boom-n'-Zoom fashion. However, a P-38L is a large target, thus making it highly exposed in turn. That is the best way to secure a kill on a P-38L. Even if you only set the Lightning on fire, all the fuel tanks are either on the inside of the fuselage or in the wingtips. That being said, a P-38L pilot will only be able to put out a fire if they exceed the structural integrity of the plane.
In addition, the P-38L has a bubble canopy, which offers minimal protection from incoming fire. Getting a pilot snipe on a P-38L is not uncommon.
If a P-38L is diving on you, try to force it to over-shoot by pulling either a Corkscrew or a Split-S. If you pull a Corkscrew and the Lightning overshoots, position yourself for a well-placed burst and try to knock out the pilot. If you choose to pull a Split-S and the Lightning over-shoots, re-position yourself to energy-fight the P-38L.
The P-38L is also a very good energy fighter, thus rendering it able to make some very tight turns, but only for so long. If a Lightning manages to get behind you, try to out-manoeuvre it to then get behind or force it into a vertical scissors fight. In vertical scissors, a Lightning can only pull tight turns for so long before it bleeds too much energy- use that to your advantage.
Heads-up for German, Soviet and Italian players: while you may have strong nose-mounted weaponry to attack the Lightning in a head-on engagement, the P-38L will make you pay dearly. The "Air Targets" ammunition for the AN/M2 20 mm cannons makes the Lightning an even deadlier foe- especially if you are flying a Yak. If you find yourself facing a Lightning in a head-on engagement, fire a quick burst, then quickly dive to avoid being hit by incoming enemy return fire.
It is ill-advised to try and out-dive a P-38L. This is directly resulting from the P-38L having a set of dive brakes that will easily allow the pilot to reduce their speed if they are approaching the speed at that the plane disintegrates. Of all the defensive actions you take, do not try to out-dive this plane.
Manual Engine Control
Auto control available
Auto control available
Auto control available
|Separate|| Not controllable
Pros and cons
- One of the few propeller fighters which have air brakes, which when deployed quickly bleeds speed by creating drag; additionally, this solves the P-38's high-speed dive recovery problem
- Great energy retention
- Hydraulically boosted ailerons result in a good roll rate, especially compared to previous P-38 variants
- Combat flaps boost turn rate drastically for short durations
- Very responsive controls, even at lower speeds
- Option for airspawn in RB or attackers' spawn point for AB, both giving you a significant energy advantage upon spawning
- Accurate and powerful armament of 4 x 12.7 mm Browning MGs and 1 x 20 mm AN/M2 cannon (great for long-range shooting as it is nose-mounted)
- Large amount of ammo for the 12.7 mm guns and adequate amount of ammo for the 20 mm cannon
- Can mount two gun pods each containing 2 x 12.7 mm MGs for increased firepower at a small performance hit
- Twin engines mean you can continue flying if one gets disabled
- Tricycle landing gear means you can’t flip over when landing
- Good all-around cockpit visibly
- Works well with MEC
- High tendency to catch fire due to vulnerable fuel tanks inside wings. Additionally, fires cannot be put out, as the P-38’s airframe cannot survive the dive speed required to extinguish fires
- Poor rudder makes aiming the guns tricky
- Poor turn rate without the use of combat flaps (which bleed speed when used)
- Locks up at high speeds (above 700 km/h or 435 mph)
- Large target for a fighter
- Gun pods are mounted on the outboard wing sections, resulting in a significant convergence issue for them
The concept of the plane was made in February 1937 when the US Army Air Corps made a requirement for a plane that had twin-engine and can act as a high-altitude interceptor that can hold a large amount of armament and ammunition. The term "interceptor" was used for the aircraft by the requirement authors, 1st Lt Benjamin S. Kelsey and Gordon P. Saville, to bypass the Air Corps' strict requirements on aircraft designs at the time. The specifications laid by this new requirements also called for a maximum speed of 360 mph (580 km/h) and able to climb to 20,000 ft altitude in six minutes, making it the toughest specifications at the time. Design proposals were made for the specifications, one of which would become the Bell P-39 Airacobra, but it was the Lockheed design team headed by Hall Hibbard and Clarence "Kelly" Johnson that made the final product. They made many designs with a twin-engine configuration. The prototypes made for the design used a twin-boom design to hold all the components of the aircraft. Various armaments were tested on the aircraft, from different machine gun combinations and autocannons. It was finally settled to four M2 .50 cal machine guns and one Hispano 20 mm autocannon. The aircraft armament configurations, all at the nose of the aircraft, was very unusual for American aircraft design, as most of their designs and those of their foreign contemporaries had the armament mounted on the wings angled forward. Because of this mounting, the aircraft is able to fire at a longer distance accurately than wing-mounts.
The P-38 performed very well in the Pacific and European theatres during World War II. They were used in roles such as Bombers Escorts, Escort V.I.P's, Performing reconnaissance over enemy locations, Combat Air Patrols, Ground Attack, Search and Rescue and other important and critical roles.
- Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
- Official data sheet - more details about the performance
- AAF Manual 51-127-1 - Pilot Training Manual for the Lightning P-38
|Fighters||XP-38G · P-38E · P-38G-1 · P-38J-15 · Bong's P-38J-15 · P-38K · P-38L-5-LO · YP-38|
|Bombers||B-34 · PV-2D|
|Jet Fighters||F-80A-5 · F-80C-10|
|F-104A · F-104C|
|Export / License||A-29 · ▄Hudson Mk V|
|␗F-104A · ▀F-104G · ␗F-104G · ▅F-104J · ▄F-104S|
|See Also||Mitsubishi Heavy Industries · Fiat Aviation|
|USA twin-engine fighters|
|P-38||XP-38G · P-38E · P-38G-1 · P-38J-15 · Bong's P-38J-15 · P-38L-5-LO · P-38K · YP-38|
|P-61||P-61A-11 · P-61C-1|
|F7F||F7F-1 · F7F-3|
|Other||XF5F · XP-50 · F-82E|