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"APACHE" | AH-64A Peten
P-38L-5-LO Lightning
General characteristics
1 personCrew
8.50 tTake-off weight
3.58 kg/sBurst mass
Flight characteristics
12192 mCeiling
Allison V-1710-113Engine
waterCooling system
Speed of destruction
790 km/hStructural
289 km/hGear
Offensive armament
20 mm AN/M2 cannonWeapon 1
150 roundsAmmunition
600 shots/minFire rate
4 x 12.7 mm M2 Browning machine gunWeapon 2
2000 roundsAmmunition
750 shots/minFire rate
Suspended armament
2 x 500 lb AN-M64A1 bombSetup 1
10 x HVAR rocketsSetup 2
4 x 12.7 mm M2 Browning machine gun (secondary)Setup 3
71000 Rp icon.pngResearch
260000 Sl icon.pngPurchase
Sl icon.png17000 / 23017/12000 / 16247/3010 / 4075Repair
74000 Sl icon.pngCrew training
260000 Sl icon.pngExperts
1200 Ge icon.pngAces
178 % Rp icon.pngReward for battle
450 % Sl icon.png410 % Sl icon.png110 % Sl icon.png
This page is about the American twin-engine fighter P-38L-5-LO. For other uses, see P-38 (Family).


GarageImage P-38L-5-LO.jpg

The P-38L-5-LO Lightning is a rank IV American twin-engine fighter with a battle rating of 4.7 (AB/RB) and 4.0 (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 maneuverability 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 is able to 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 have the ability to research the "New Boosters" module, which greatly improves your roll-rate.

General info

Flight Performance

Max Speed
(km/h at 8,534 m)
Max altitude
Turn time
Rate of climb
Take-off run
660 647 12,192 23.4 23.9 13.4 15.6 332
Max Speed
(km/h at 8,534 m)
Max altitude (meters) Turn time (seconds) Rate of climb
Take-off run (meters)
 ?  ? 12,192  ??.?  ??.?  ?.?  ?.? 332


Combat flap Take-off flap Landing flap Air brakes Arrestor gear
Wing-break speed
Gear limit
Combat flap
Max Static G
+ -
790 289 534 ~9 ~5
Optimal velocities
< 490 < 460 < 500 > 240
Compressor (RB/SB)
Setting 1
Optimal altitude 100% Engine power WEP Engine power
7,500 m 2,540 hp 2,845 hp

Survivability and armour

  • 38 mm Bulletproof glass - Cockpit windscreen
  • 6.5 mm Steel - Front cockpit armor plate
  • 6.5 mm Steel - Pilot's seat
  • 9.5 mm Steel - Pilot's headrest


Offensive armament

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)

Suspended armament

The P-38L-5-LO can be outfitted with the following ordinance:

  • Without load
  • 2 x 500 lb AN-M64A1 bombs (1,000 lb total)
  • 10 x 127 mm HVAR rockets
  • 4 x 12.7 mm M2 Browning machine guns, suspended (340 rpg = 1360 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 Roles

The natural role for the P-38 is the Air Superiority role. When playing in this role, it is important to note that because the P-38L is classified as a "Heavy Fighter" but not an "Interceptor," you will often need to side-climb at the start of a match from the air field. Once you get to an optimal altitude of roughly 4,500 meters (14,760 feet) it is paramount you keep your speed up to avoid getting jumped on by some of the better climbing aircraft. When climbing, it is best you keep your speed somewhere in the neighborhood of roughly 210 MPH (337 KPH), to keep your energy up as well. It doesn't hurt if you climb higher, just be sure to keep your energy and speed constant. Once you have followed the steps to climb to altitude, start scanning for easier targets to support your allies. When you spot an enemy lower in altitude than you, dive down on them and line up your shots carefully- the 20 mm cannon has a good quantity of ammo, but it goes quickly in higher BR battles. Once you have lined-up your shots (preferably around 700-600 meters away,) fire a quick burst, then climb away to avoid a counter attack. This is where the dive-brakes come in great use, as they can keep your aircraft stable when in a dive and prevents the air frame from disintegrating in a dive. The P-38's nose-mounted weaponry will act as a buzz-saw on enemy planes, providing extremely accurate fire. Once you destroy your adversary, start scanning for new targets and eliminate those of the next highest value. Just remember to keep your speed, energy and altitude high enough. The recommended ammunition type for this role is the "Universal" ammunition for the .50 cals and the "Air Target" rounds for the 20 mm cannon.

Note- At your battle rating of 4.7, it is ill-advised to attack your opponents head-on- especially if it is an Fw 190, or any plane bearing the prefix "Yak." That being said, getting behind your opponents is the best course of action. This is not to say a successful head-on attack cannot be done. If you have no alternatives but to attack head-on, fire a quick burst, then quickly hit the deck. The nose-mounted weaponry in this scenario is your greatest asset, and the astonishingly good roll-rate of the P-38 can help avoid any incoming enemy fire.

It is not advised that you spend too much time in a turning engagement with this plane. While the P-38L has a phenomenal roll-rate and very powerful Allison engines, prolonged turning will bleed your energy and eliminate your greatest advantage- speed. In addition, you are a rather large target, and getting caught in a turning engagement will only render you a highly exposed target to other enemy planes.

Ground Attack Roles

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 an 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 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 "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 for 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

German Aircraft

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 manoeuverability 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 Aircraft

Japanese planes are notorious for their extreme turning abilities, which usually decimates Allied teams. This does not change in the higher battle ratings. The most dangerous Japanese aircraft that the P-38L-5LO Lightning 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. Another dangerous opponent for the P-38L is the A7M1 and the A7M2 Reppu, which also have powerful armaments and a tighter turn radius than a Zero.

Russian Aircraft

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 an 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.

British Aircraft

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 a 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 wing-tips. 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 totally 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-maneuver it to then get behind or force it into a vertical scissors fight. In a 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, Russian 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 from 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 that the plane disintegrates. Of all the defensive actions you take, do not try to out-dive this plane.

Manual Engine Control

MEC elements
Mixer Pitch Radiator Supercharger Turbocharger
Oil Water Type
Controllable Not controllable Not controllable Not controllable Separate Not controllable Not controllable


Tier Flight performance Survivability Weaponry
I Fuselage Repair Radiator Offensive 12 mm DGP-1
II New Boosters Compressor Airframe New 12 mm MGs FMBC mk.1
III Wings Repair Engine Offensive 20 mm
IV G-Suit Engine Injection Cover New 20 mm Cannons CTRC mk.3

Pros and cons


  • Accurate armament of 4 x 12.7mm Browning MG's and 1 x 20mm AN/M2 cannon (great for long range shooting as its nose-mounted)
  • Dive flaps to solve the P-38's high speed dive recovery problem
  • Dive flaps boosts turn rate drastically for short durations
  • Hydraulically boosted ailerons result in a higher roll rate
  • Twin engines mean you can continue flying if one is damaged
  • Good all around cockpit visibly
  • When spaded can out-manoeuvre even Yak's and Spitfires
  • Good energy retention
  • Well armoured for a head-on, although caution is still needed
  • Being a heavy fighter it can choose to spawn in attackers' spawn point for AB only
  • Works well with MEC
  • Can carry a variety of ground attack ordnance (either bombs or rockets)
  • Good high altitude performance
  • Adequate ammo for 20 mm cannons
  • Very responsive controls even at lower speeds
  • One of the few fighter aircraft with air brakes
  • The 20 mm cannon has access to "Air Target" ammunition, which will punish enemy planes
  • Can mount 2 x 2 12.7 mm gunpods for increased firepower at a slight performance hit


  • High tendency to catch fire due to easy to hit fuel tanks inside wings, which means you cannot put out a fire without destroying the airframe
  • Tendency to lock up at high speeds (700 kph+ or 435 mph+)
  • Very poor turn rate without flaps
  • Is not very durable
  • Nose mounted armament, precision is required
  • .50 cal MGs are the early version with no all tracer belts
  • Large target as its a twin-engine fighter aircraft
  • Gunpods are mounted on the outboard wing sections, resulting in significant convergence


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.

Combat usage

The P-38 performed very well in the Pacific and European theater's 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.


Excellent additions to the article would be video guides, screenshots from the game, and photos.

See also

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era

External links

Paste links to sources and external resources, such as:

  • topic on the official game forum;
  • encyclopedia page on the aircraft;
  • other literature.

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-1 · P-61C-1
F7F  F7F-1 · F7F-3
Other  XF5F · XP-50 · F-82E