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|P-82/F-82 Twin Mustang|
|Role||Long-range escort fighter and night fighter|
|Manufacturer||North American Aviation|
|First flight||15 June 1945|
|Primary user||United States Air Force|
|Developed from||North American P-51 Mustang|
|P-82/F-82 Twin Mustang|
|Role||Long-range escort fighter and night fighter|
|Manufacturer||North American Aviation|
|First flight||15 June 1945|
|Primary user||United States Air Force|
|Developed from||North American P-51 Mustang|
The North American F-82 Twin Mustang was the last American piston-engine fighter ordered into production by the United States Air Force. Based on the P-51 Mustang, the F-82 was originally designed as a long-range escort fighter in World War II; however, the war ended well before the first production units were operational.
In the postwar era, Strategic Air Command used the planes as a long-range escort fighter. Radar-equipped F-82s were used extensively by the Air Defense Command as replacements for the Northrop P-61 Black Widow as all-weather day/night interceptors. 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 Airfield by the USAF 68th Fighter Squadron.
Initially intended as a very long-range (VLR) escort fighter, the F-82 was designed to escort Boeing B-29 Superfortress bombers on missions exceeding 2,000 miles (3,200 km) from the Solomons or Philippines to Tokyo, missions beyond the range of the Lockheed P-38 Lightning and conventional P-51 Mustangs. Such missions were part of the planned U.S. invasion of the Japanese home islands, which was forestalled by the surrender of Japan days after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
In October 1943, the North American Aircraft design team began work on a fighter design that could travel over 2,000 mi (3,200 km) without refueling. It consisted of a twin-fuselage design, somewhat similar to the experimental German Messerschmitt Bf 109Z "Zwilling". Although based on the lightweight experimental XP-51F, which would later become the P-51H Mustang, it was actually an entirely new design. North American Design Chief Edgar Schmued incorporated two P-51H Mustang fuselages lengthened by the addition of a 57 in (145 cm) fuselage plug located behind the cockpit where additional fuel tanks and equipment could be installed. These were mounted to a newly designed center wing section containing the same six .50 inches (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns as a single-engine Mustang, but with more concentrated fire. The outer wings were strengthened to allow the addition of hard points for carrying additional fuel or 1,000 pounds (500 kg) of ordnance. The two vertical tails were also from the XP-51F, but incorporated large dorsal fillets for added stability in case of an engine failure. The aircraft had a conventional landing gear with both wheels retracting into bays under each fuselage center section.
The XP-82 was to be powered by two Packard-built Rolls-Royce V-1650 Merlin engines. Initially, the left engine was a V-1650-23 with a gear reduction box to allow the left propeller to turn opposite to the right propeller, which was driven by the more conventional V-1650-25. In this arrangement both propellers would turn upward as they approached the center wing, which in theory would have allowed better single-engine control. This proved not to be the case when the aircraft refused to become airborne during its first flight attempt. After a month of work North American engineers finally discovered that rotating the propellers to meet in the center on their upward turn created sufficient drag to cancel out all lift from the center wing section, one quarter of the aircraft's total wing surface area. The engines and propellers were then exchanged, with their rotation meeting on the downward turn, and the problem was fully solved. The first XP-82 prototype (44-83886) was completed on 25 May 1945, and made the type's first successful flight on 26 June 1945. This aircraft was accepted by the Army Air Forces on 30 August 1945, whose officials were so impressed by the aircraft, while still in development, that they ordered the first production P-82Bs in March 1945, fully three months before its first flight.
Prototype XP-82s, P-82Bs and P-82Es retained both fully equipped cockpits so that pilots could fly the aircraft from either position, alternating control on long flights, while later night fighter versions kept the cockpit on the left side only, placing the radar operator in the right position.
Although some P-82B airframes were completed before the end of World War II, most remained at the North American factory in California waiting for engines until 1946. As a result, none saw service during the war.
Like several versions of the P-51 Mustang, the first two prototype XP-82s as well as the next 20 P-82B models were powered by British-designed Rolls-Royce Merlin engines, built under license by Packard. These provided the fighter with excellent range and performance; however, the Army had always wanted to give the Twin Mustang a purely American and stronger engine than the foreign-designed P-51's V-1650 (built at Packard plants, dismantled after the war). In addition, the licensing costs paid to Rolls-Royce for each V-1650 were being increased by Britain after the war. It therefore negotiated in August 1945 with the Allison Division of the General Motors Corporation for a new version of the Allison V-1710-100 engine. This forced North American to switch subsequent production P-82C and later models to the lower-powered engines. It was found that Allison-powered P-82 models demonstrated a lower top speed and poorer high-altitude performance than the earlier Merlin-powered versions. The earlier P-82B models were designated as trainers, while the "C" and later models were employed as fighters, making the P-82 one of the few aircraft in U.S. military history to be faster in its trainer version than the fighter version.
In 1948, the 3200th Proof Test Group at Eglin AFB, Florida, fitted the 4th F-82B Twin Mustang (44-65163) with retractable pylons under the outer wings capable of mounting 10 High-Velocity Air Rockets (HVAR) each, which folded into the wing undersurface when not in use. This installation was not adopted on later models, the standard "tree" being used instead. The 13th aircraft (44-65171). was experimentally fitted with a center wing mounted pod housing an array of recon cameras, and was assigned to the 3200th Photo Test Squadron, being designated, unofficially, the RF-82B.
On 27 February 1947, P-82B 44-65168, named Betty Jo and flown by Colonel Robert E. Thacker, made history when it flew nonstop from Hawaii to New York without refueling, a distance of 5,051 mi (8,129 km) in 14 hr 32 min. It averaged 347.5 miles per hour (559.2 km/h). This flight tested the P-82's range. The aircraft carried a full internal fuel tank of 576 US gallons (2,180 l; 480 imp gal), augmented by four 310 US gal (1,173 l; 258 imp gal) tanks for a total of 1,816 US gal (6,874 l; 1,512 imp gal). Also, Colonel Thacker forgot to drop three of his external tanks when their fuel was expended, landing with them in New York.
To this day, it remains the longest nonstop flight ever made by a propeller-driven fighter, and the fastest such a distance has ever been covered in a piston-engined aircraft (the record for the longest unrefueled flight by a propeller-driven aircraft of any type is held by the Rutan Voyager). The aircraft chosen was an earlier "B" model powered by Rolls-Royce Merlin engines (see "Survivors" below).
The Twin Mustang was developed at the end of the prop-driven fighter era and at the dawn of the jet age. Its designed role as a long-range fighter escort was eliminated by the atomic bombing of Japan and the sudden end of World War II. With the rapid draw-down of the armed forces after the war, the newly established United States Air Force had little money for new prop-driven aircraft, especially since jets, such as the Messerschmitt Me 262 and other Luftwaffe fighters, had been faster than P-51 Mustangs in the skies of Germany in late 1944. The completed airframes (less engines) of the P-82 pre-production aircraft already manufactured by North American went into storage, with an uncertain future.
However, during the 1947 Soviet Aviation Day display at Tushino Airport, a surprise appearance was put in by three Boeing B-29s, followed by a fourth four-engined long-range strategic bomber. It was an example of the Tupolev Tu-4, which was a bolt-for-bolt copy of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, three examples of which were known to have been interned in the Soviet Union after having been forced to land there during bombing raids against Japan. Since the USSR was expected soon to have nuclear weapons, the appearance of the Soviet Tu-4 was a shock to U.S. military planners, since it meant that the U.S. 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 also as an all-weather air defense interceptor.
Early attempts to develop jet-powered all-weather fighters ran into a series of snags and delays. The Curtiss-Wright XF-87 Blackhawk had been ordered in December 1945, but it ran into developmental difficulties and the project was eventually totally abandoned in October 1948. The Northrop P-89 Scorpion was deemed to have greater promise, but it too ran into teething troubles and did not show promise of entering service until 1952 at the earliest. Due to the lack of any suitable jet-powered replacement, the wartime Northrop P-61 Black Widow night fighter was forced into this role, and in order to help fill in the gap until the Scorpion could be available, night fighter adaptations of the piston-engined North American P-82 Twin Mustang were developed and deployed.
On 11 June 1948, the newly formed United States Air Force eliminated the P-for-pursuit category and replaced it with F-for-fighter. Subsequently, all P-82s were re-designated F-82.
The F-82E was the first model to reach operational squadrons and its initial operational assignment was to the Strategic Air Command 27th Fighter (later Fighter-Escort) Wing at Kearney Air Force Base, Nebraska in March 1948.
During World War II, the P-51 Mustang had escorted Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and Consolidated B-24 Liberator bombers from bases in England and Southern Italy to targets throughout Nazi-occupied Europe. However, the Cold War brought on the challenge of possible B-29, Boeing B-50 or Convair B-36 bomber missions into the Soviet Union. 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-82Es.
The F-82E had a range of over 1,400 mi (2,300 km), 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 feet (12,200 m), 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 McChord AFB, Washington, in June, where its squadrons stood on alert on a secondary air defense mission due to heightened tensions over the Berlin Airlift. It was also believed that the 27th would launch an escort mission, presumably to the Soviet Union, if conflict broke out in Europe. From McChord, the group flew its Twin Mustangs on weather reconnaissance missions over the northwest Pacific, but problems were encountered with their fuel tanks. Decommissioned F-61 Black Widow external tanks were found at Hamilton AFB, California, which could be modified for the F-82; fitted on the pylons of the Twin Mustang, these solved the problem. With a reduction in tension, the 27th returned to its home base in Nebraska during September, where the unit settled down to transition flying with their aircraft.
Four F-82s were deployed from McChord to Alaska, where the pilots provided transition training to the 449th Fighter (All Weather) Squadron, which used Twin Mustangs in the air defense mission. They remained in Alaska for about 45 days, returning to rejoin the rest of the group at the beginning of November 1948.
In January 1949, Eighth Air Force planned a large celebration at Carswell AFB. All of its assigned units were to participate in a coordinated flyover. Most of SAC's bombers were to participate, along with SAC's only "Long Range" fighter group, the 27th. The weather in Nebraska in January that year was especially horrible, with most airports in the Midwest weathered in on the day of the display. At Kearney AFB, the base was socked-in by a blizzard. Nevertheless, the crews had an early-morning mission briefing, and the aircraft in the hangars were pre-flighted and prepared for the flyover mission. Paths were cut though the snow for the aircraft to taxi and somehow the F-82s got airborne, with the 27th's Twin Mustangs joining up with SAC bombers over Oklahoma on schedule. The flyover by the Twin Mustangs was a tremendous success, with SAC leadership being amazed that the F-82 was truly an "all weather" aircraft and the 27th being able to carry out their mission despite the weather.
In early 1949, the 27th began carrying out long-range escort profile missions. Flights to Puerto Rico, Mexico, the Bahamas and nonstop to Washington D.C were carried out. For President Truman's 1949 inauguration, the 27th FEW launched 48 aircraft to fly in review, along with several other fighter units, in formation down Pennsylvania Avenue. Another flyover of the newly dedicated Idlewild Airport in New York City soon followed, with the aircraft flying non-stop from Kearney AFB.
In March 1949, Kearney AFB was closed, primarily for budgetary reasons, and the 27th FEW was reassigned to Bergstrom AFB, Texas. Other long-range missions were flown cross-country, and simulated "dogfights" with Lockheed F-80 Shooting Star units were carried out. The 27th FEW began transitioning to the Republic F-84 Thunderjet beginning in March 1950, and the F-82Es were largely declared surplus, with the last Twin Mustangs being phased out by September. A few were sent to Far East Air Forces for combat in Korea and a few were sent to Alaska to fly bomber escort missions over the Arctic from Ladd AFB until 1953. The majority were sent to reclamation and were gone by 1952.
With the appearance of the MiG-15 over the skies of North Korea in late 1950, the B-29, as well as all of the propeller-driven bombers in the USAF inventory, were simply rendered obsolete as strategic offensive weapons. The straight-winged F-84Gs used in Korea as bomber escorts were ineffective against the MiG, and it took the swept-wing North American F-86 Sabre to clear the skies. It was clear that it would take a new generation of swept-wing jet bombers, able to fly higher and faster, to effectively defeat the defense of the jet propelled MiG-15 or subsequent Soviet-designed interceptors. Also, the era of large groups of bombers flying in formations to a strategic target ended after the Korean War. Strategic bombing evolved into a one-plane, one target affair, with the jet-equipped and nuclear-armed Boeing B-52 Stratofortress flying higher and faster than most enemy interceptors. The escort fighter concept became redundant, and by 1957 SAC had inactivated the last of its strategic fighter escort wings.
The appearance of the Soviet Tupolev Tu-4 'Bull' copy of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress in 1947 posed a new threat to postwar USAAF planners, and largely as a result of its appearance and the beginnings of the Cold War in 1948, led to the establishment of Air Defense Command (ADC) as part of the postwar United States Air Force.
In 1947, the embryonic ADC was not particularly effective. During a number of simulated raids on the United States carried out by Strategic Air Command during the period 1947–1949, defending F-51 Mustangs and F-47 Thunderbolts, being used as interceptors, repeatedly failed to find the incoming bombers, even when they knew they were on their way, and seldom got themselves into position to shoot them down. Furthermore, when they did so, the bombers (usually B-29 Superfortresses) had already made their runs over the intended targets of New York City, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago and St. Louis.
It was found that the RADAR-equipped wartime Northrop P-61 Black Widow night fighter was effective in locating and attacking the incoming SAC bombers, and also had the range to attack the bombers far from their intended targets. In the late 1940s, there were no suitable jet U.S. interceptors yet developed, so the P-61 was transitioned into the ADC interceptor mission. The F-61s available, however, were largely war-weary and the night fighter F-82C/D models were modified into an all-weather interceptor to replace them.
The production interceptor versions of the Twin Mustang were designated the F-82F and F-82G; the distinguishing feature between the F and G models was largely the nacelle beneath the center-wing that housed radar equipment (F-82F's AN/APG-28 and F-82G's SCR-720C18). In addition, the interceptor version required numerous modifications. The right side cockpit was replaced with a radar operator's position without flight controls. A long radar pod, resembling a sausage and irreverently known as a "long dong", was attached to the underside of the center wing, below the six .50 inch machine guns and with its dish in front of the propellers to prevent signal interference. This unconventional arrangement was found not to affect the aircraft's performance seriously. Additionally the unit could be jettisoned in an emergency, or for belly landings – it was sometimes even lost during high-G maneuvers. F-82F models were designated for ADC units in the United States, while the F-82G models were deployed to Far East Air Forces for air defense of Japan and Okinawa. No F-82s were deployed to Europe.
The first F-82F models began to reach operational ADC squadrons in September 1948. By the end of September, ADC had 29 F-82Fs. By the middle of 1949 the F-82 was replacing Black Widows in service with Air Defense Command along the west coast at Hamilton AFB, California (317th FIS) and McChord AFB, Washington (318th FIS, 319th FIS). East coast defense was the mission of the Twin Mustangs assigned to McGuire AFB, New Jersey (2d FIS, 5th FIS).
In addition to the forces in the Continental United States, the Caribbean Air Command 319th FIS at France Field in the Panama Canal Zone received 15 F-82Fs in December 1948 to replace their Black Widows for the defense of the Panama Canal. The Twin Mustangs remained in Panama only briefly, being reassigned to McChord AFB in May 1949.
The Twin Mustang was phased out of ADC during 1950–1951 by the Lockheed F-94 Starfire, the last being with the 318th FIS at McChord AFB in late 1951. Some were sent to Alaska, where they were modified into the F-82H configuration; most, however, were sent to reclamation.
In the years following World War II, the Northrop P-61 Black Widow was the Far East Air Forces (FEAF) primary air defense interceptor. However, a chronic lack of spare parts and constant maintenance made it difficult to keep the war-weary aircraft in the air. Until an all-weather jet interceptor was available, the F-82G Twin Mustang was seen as the interim solution. The last operational P-61s were sent by the 68th and 339th Fighter (All Weather) Squadrons to the reclamation yard at Tachikawa Air Base in February 1950, with Twin Mustangs arriving as replacement aircraft.
In Far East Air Forces, there were three squadrons operating the Twin Mustang, consisting of 45 aircraft. The 4th Fighter (All Weather) Squadron was attached to the 51st Fighter-Interceptor Wing at Naha Air Base, Okinawa, with the mission of providing air defense within the Twentieth Air Force's area of responsibility during hours of darkness and inclement weather. The 68th F(AW)S area would cover southern Japan from their base at Itazuke and the 8th Fighter Bomber Wing, with the 339th F(AW)S covering Tokyo and northern Japan from Johnson Air Base. FEAF had about 40 Twin Mustangs assigned to the command.
With the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950, the F-82 was pressed into operational combat duty. On the night of 24/25 June 1950, 68th Fighter Squadron F-82 aircrews standing alert at Itazuke AB were notified at 0400 that FEAF had received a report that North Korea had crossed the 38th Parallel and their mission was to fly to the area and report back on any activity seen on the main roads and railroads. When the alert aircraft reached the area the weather was overcast, with cloud tops at about 8,000 feet (2,400 m). Using their airborne search radar, the Twin Mustangs flew through the clouds and broke out at about 2,000 feet (610 m), heading for Kimpo Airfield near Seoul. The pilots observed huge convoys of North Korean trucks and other vehicles, including 58 tanks, which had crossed into South Korea. Heading back into the clouds and turning back to Japan, the crews returned to Itazuke AB, where they were debriefed by a U.S. Army colonel from General Douglas MacArthur's staff. This reconnaissance flight was later recorded as the first combat mission flown in the Korean War.
With this information, along with other intelligence reports available to them, FEAF confirmed that the Korean People's Army had, indeed, launched a full-scale invasion of South Korea. FEAF's first priority, however, was to evacuate United States citizens. On the morning of 26 June, the nearby Norwegian freighter Reinholte was sent to Inchon harbor to evacuate non-military personnel from Seoul, which lay directly in the invasion route. A flight of Twin Mustangs from the 68th F(AW)S were dispatched to the area, arriving at dawn to provide air protection for the evacuation. Two of the F-82s were dispatched to fly over the road from Seoul, while others flew Top Cover over the Inchon docks. The patrol went without incident until about 1300, when a pair of Soviet-built aircraft (the exact aircraft type has never been determined) came out of the clouds. Orders given to the F-82 pilots prohibited any aggressive action; however, gun switches were activated when the enemy leader tightened up his turn and peeled off at the F-82s with his wing man in close tail. The F-82s dropped their external tanks, turned on combat power and started a climbing turn towards the North Korean aircraft. For some reason, the North Korean leader fired while too far away, with his bullets falling short of the Twin Mustangs. The F-82s pulled up into the clouds and above the overcast, putting them in a position to return fire if the North Koreans followed them. However, they did not, and no further contact was made for the rest of the day. The evacuation at Inchon was successfully carried out with a total of 682 civilians being transported to Sasebo, Japan.
Once the bulk of civilians had been evacuated out of South Korea by ship, the priority of FEAF changed to a military nature. The 339th F(AW)S received orders from Fifth Air Force to move all available aircraft, along with crews and equipment, to Itazuke Air Base to assist the 68th in providing air cover for the evacuation of Seoul. However, the 339th's complement of aircraft were scattered over several bases at the time. Seven F-82s at Yokota AB were flyable and two were in the hangar undergoing maintenance for major repairs. Four other F-82s were at Misawa AB on TDY. The three at Yokota were dispatched immediately to Itazuke, as well as the four at Misawa, making a total of seven combat ready F-82Gs present for duty on 27 June. The 68th F(AW)S had a total of twelve operational F-82Gs. This, combined with what the 339th could contribute, was insufficient to meet the combat needs thrust upon FEAF. The F-80 Shooting Star was available, but its thirsty jet engine meant it could only remain over the airfield for a few minutes before having to return to base and it could not reach the forward combat area from Japan. No USAF P-51 Mustangs were available, and the British Commonwealth had not yet made a decision to commit to combat in Korea, making the presence of Australian Mustangs in Japan academic at this critical situation. FEAF ordered Twentieth Air Force to send eight F-82s from its 4th F(AW)S from Okinawa to Itazuke, making a total of 27 F-82s available for combat duty. This was commendable, considering that on 31 May 1950 a total of 32 F-82s existed within FEAF. With these combined squadrons, the 347th Provisional Fighter Group (AW) was formed.
Before dawn on 27 June, the 347th Provisional Group was up in the air over Korea, with a mission to provide cover for the Douglas C-54 Skymaster transports flying in and out of Kimpo Airfield as they moved the last civilians out. Fearing that the North Korean Air Force might try to shoot down the transport (a C-54 had been destroyed on the ground at Kimpo by North Korean fighters on 25 June), the Air Force requested air cover to protect the aircraft during takeoff. Fortunately, 339th Fighter All Weather Squadron (F(AW)S) with their F-82Gs were based at Yokota AB and the 68th F(AW)S was based at Itazuke AB Japan. With Lieutenant Colonel John F. Sharp in command, 27 F-82Gs of the 35 in Japan answered the call. Arriving in the early morning, they orbited Kimpo Airfield in three flights, each above the other. Suddenly, at 1150 hours, a mixed group of five North Korean fighters (Soviet-built Yak-9s, Yak-11s and La-7s) appeared, heading for the airfield. One of the Yak-11s immediately scored several hits on 68th F(AW)S pilot Lt. Charles Moran's vertical stabilizer. Moments later, Lt. William G. "Skeeter" Hudson, also of the 68th F(AW)S, initiated a high-G turn to engage the Yak, and soon was closing in on the Yak's tail. He then fired a short burst at close range, scoring hits with his six .50 inch machine guns. The Yak banked hard to the right, with the F-82G in close pursuit. A second burst hit the Yak's right wing, setting the gas tank on fire and knocking off the right flap and aileron. The North Korean pilot bailed out, but his observer, who was either dead or badly wounded, remained in the doomed aircraft. Parachuting down to Kimpo Airfield, the North Korean pilot was immediately surrounded by South Korean soldiers. Surprisingly, he pulled out a pistol and began firing at them. The South Korean soldiers returned fire, killing him. Moments later, Lt. Moran shot down an La-7 over the airfield, while a few miles away, Major James W. Little, commanding officer of the 339th F(AW)S, shot down another La-7. The C-54 was able to escape safely. Of the five North Korean aircraft dispatched, only two returned to their base. In the process, Lt. William G. "Skeeter" Hudson, with his radar operator Lt. Carl Fraiser, had scored the first aerial "kill" of the Korean War.
Considering these crews had not been extensively trained in air-to-air gunnery, they came out of combat looking very good. It is generally believed that the aircraft Hudson and Fraiser flew that day was an F-82G named "Bucket of Bolts" (46-383), as their usual aircraft was down for repairs. "Bucket of Bolts" would survive the Korean War and eventually be reassigned to escort duty in Alaska. It is believed to have been scrapped at Ladd AFB, Alaska in 1953.
In the following weeks, the F-82 pilots would exceed all expectations in aerial combat. On 28 June, orders came down for all F-82s to be used in heavy ground support against any North Korean activity found between the front lines and the 38th Parallel. Every F-82 which could be made ready for flight was pressed into combat service. Although Fifth Air Force needed every available aircraft to slow down the North Korean invasion force, it was hard to justify the release of all F-82s from their defensive responsibilities for the many key bases in Japan. It was decided to release all F-82s for combat except for a flight which was deployed from the 4th F(AW)S in Okinawa to Japan and a full squadron of F-80s for air defense. On 30 June, FEAF requested HQ USAF for an additional 21 F-82 aircraft, which was denied. In addition, the projected level of support which could be provided at the level of combat usage FEAF was experiencing was no more than 60 days due to a shortage of parts. 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 fourteen F-82Hs in Alaska.
This was a heavy blow to FEAF planners, as they wanted to use the F-82 for escorting B-26 Invaders deep into North Korea and for searching out ground targets along the Han River. Making do with what they had was the order of the day, and maintenance crews were cannibalizing everything in sight in order to keep the maximum number of F-82s airborne. During the period 26–30 June, the 68th squadron flew 35 combat sorties, averaging five hours per sortie, with the 339th flying similar numbers of missions.
During those early days, the stress and strain of combat put on the crews was intense. However, by early July the chances of F-82s engaging in air-to-air combat was significantly reduced, as the F-80 Shooting Stars had effectively stopped North Korea's air force from coming below the 38th parallel. The F-82s began flying strike and escort missions, along with night intruder sorties. Several F-82s took hits in their radar radomes, which were difficult to replace, and the radomes were removed, turning the aircraft into day fighters. In the ground support role, the F-82s could reach any part of the Korean battlefield with a total ordnance load of over 4,000 lb (1,800 kg). Each of the six .50 inch machine guns carried 400 rounds. This firepower was well-used against numerous ground targets. The escort missions flown with the B-26s took F-82s deep into North Korea. Flying with external fuel tanks, it was necessary on many occasions for the Twin Mustangs to drop tanks, owing to the risk of fire or explosion if enemy fire hit one of the empty tanks. On 10 July, F-82s from the 4th and 68th squadrons participated in one of the biggest strikes of the war against ground targets. Joined by B-26s and F-80s, the aircraft hit massive amounts of North Korean road traffic. An estimated 117 trucks, 38 tanks and seven personnel carriers were destroyed, along with a large number of enemy troops killed when the B-26s destroyed a bridge at Pyongtaek, causing a massive jam.
On 5 July, the 339th Squadron was pulled out of combat and returned to Johnson AB. Shortly afterwords, the 4th Squadron returned to Okinawa, with the 347th Provisional Group being inactivated and control of the 68th Squadron being turned over to the 8th Fighter Group. The 339th had been in combat a total of ten days (26 June–5 July), flying a total of 44 combat sorties for which they had been given no training. The 68th Squadron was left to carry on the battle. Throughout July and August 1950, F-82s from the 68th Squadron attacked enemy trains, vehicles, and numerous buildings, and constantly strafed North Korean troops on the roads. On the night of 27 August, an element of F-82s was patrolling over South Korea over a thick overcast when they received an urgent request for air support from some hard-pressed ground troops. Darkness was approaching when they reached the area and found UN ground troops pinned down by a concentration of mortars. The F-82 pilots made several passes to get set up with the ground controller, and as soon as the enemy target was pinpointed, the heavily armed aircraft commenced an attack that would last 45 minutes and use up all their ordnance. When the aircraft pulled up for the last time, the mortar positions were silent and ground forces later showed over 300 enemy dead.
Beginning in October 1950, F-82s would start flying weather reconnaissance pre-dawn missions over North Korea. At the same time, the squadron would also be responsible for keeping at least three aircraft on alert on airfields in the Seoul area (K-13 (Suwon) and K-14 (Kimpo)) during the hours of darkness and bad weather. This would become the main mission for the F-82s for the balance of 1950, as the F-51s, F-80s and F-84s took on most of the combat ground attack missions which the F-82s had been pressed into at the beginning of the war. With the entry of the Chinese Communist forces into the war, the situation on the ground began to deteriorate rapidly. By late December, the 68th had begun flying two-aircraft missions during daylight and single-aircraft missions at night from Kimpo AB. On 7 January, FEAF ordered the 68th to start flying armed reconnaissance missions to check roads over southern North Korea as UN forces were rapidly withdrawing south before the Chinese onslaught. This was a nightmare as the Chinese were pouring south, and it appeared that the situation was becoming as it had been the previous June. On 26 January, the armed reconnaissance missions were discontinued and the F-82s were placed on continuous combat air patrols over Kandong Airfield near Pyongyang and over both of Pyongyang's main airfields, (K-23, Pyongyang and K-24, Pyongyang East) to monitor enemy air activity. This was essential as any Chinese aircraft operating out of these bases would be in easy range of the UN front lines. The 68th's efforts claimed 35 trucks destroyed, with damage to many others.
As 1951 progressed, the F-82s of the 68th Squadron continued its mission of air defense over Seoul and flying weather reconnaissance flights; however, its combat duties became more and more limited. The end of the line was rapidly approaching for the F-82 in Korea. By the end of August 1951, there were only eight operational F-82s with the 68th, and the F-94 Starfire was arriving in Japan, taking over missions previously flown by the Twin Mustangs. In March 1952, the Starfire-equipped 319th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron arrived from Moses Lake AFB Washington and took up residence at K-13. On 28 March 1952, the last F-82G was sent for cold-weather modification, and then deployed to Alaska. By mid-April 1952, the F-82s in Okinawa were also sent to Japan for modification and were also sent to Alaska. All-weather responsibilities in FEAF were now in the hands of the F-94 and the jet era.
F-82G operational losses during the Korean War
1951 was the last full year of F-82 operations in Korea, as they were gradually replaced by the jet-powered F-94 Starfire. Twin Mustangs destroyed 20 enemy aircraft, four in the air and 16 on the ground during the conflict.
Modified F-82F/Gs for cold weather were designated as F-82H. Six were assigned initially to the 449th F(AW)S at Adak Island in December 1948 to replace their P-61 Black Widows in the Alaska Air Defense mission. The Twin Mustang was well-suited for the air defense mission in Alaska due to its long-range flying ability. In March 1949, the squadron was reassigned to Ladd AFB, near Fairbanks, where an additional eight (14 total) arrived.
In Alaska, the squadron would constantly patrol over wide areas of Alaska as the Soviets flying from airfields in Siberia would constantly test the air defenses. Beginning in August 1950, the 449th began receiving the F-94 Starfire jet interceptor, and the F-82s were assigned to a separate detachment within the squadron. With the outbreak of the Korean War, tensions were high in Alaska, as it was feared that it would become a "back door" to Soviet aircraft striking North America. The Soviets were constantly testing the Alaskan air defenses, with the F-94s responding when radar stations alerted them to incoming aircraft. Intercepts were rare, with only a few instances of eye-to-eye contact with Soviet aircraft. The slower F-82s had a longer range than the F-94s, and the Twin Mustangs constantly patrolled over many Alaskan villages and towns. Periodically, the F-82s were used for long-range visual reconnaissance near several known rough airstrips on the Chukchi Peninsula that the Soviets had used during World War II as landing fields for lend-lease aircraft and checking for any activity. In addition, flights around the Nome area and along the western Alaskan coastline were made. Squadron records show the Twin Mustangs were flown over some of the most remote areas of the Territory, along what today is known as the "North Slope" and over very rugged interior regions.
The Twin Mustangs in Alaska operated further north than any other USAF aircraft at the time. In April 1952, they were flying escort duty for SAC B-36 Peacemaker bombers near Barter Island in the Beaufort Sea, near the most northerly tip of Alaska, about 1,000 mi (1,600 km) south of the North Pole. The F-82H made a brief but memorable appearance in the movie "Top of the World" (1955).
Another mission of the 449th was to act as a simulated invasion force during U.S. Army combat maneuvers during the summer months. Army ground units in Alaska were very limited in their movements due to the geography of the land. Most movements were up and down roads and paths and railroad rights-of-way. The F-82s would fly low along the terrain then pop up and initiate simulated strafing runs against them, causing the troops to take cover by hitting the muddy tundra. On occasions, the Twin Mustangs would also drop tear gas canisters, simulating gas attacks on the units.
The 449th would also assist the local government by bombing ice jams on the Tanana, Kuskokwim and Yukon Rivers. This helped avert disastrous floods in the region, by dropping 500 lb (230 kg) bombs and firing 5 in (127 mm) rockets at the ice, thus allowing the rivers to keep flowing and not get clogged up.
Beginning in spring 1950, Strategic Air Command began replacing their F-82E bomber escorts and throughout the year, several were transferred to the 449th in Alaska. In February 1951, the Air Force ordered Alaskan Air Command that all the remaining F-82s in the Air Force inventory would all be transferred to Alaska. The Twin Mustangs would be used to support Army units in air-to-ground operations, and to use the F-94 Starfires for interceptor duty.
During 1951 and 1952, F-82Fs from the Air Defense Command 52d Fighter Group at McGuire AFB and 325th Fighter Group at McChord AFB were winterized and flown to Ladd AFB as replacements when those units transitioned to the F-94.
F-82Gs from Far East Air Force were also sent to Alaska, as jets took over combat duties over the skies of Korea. The FEAF F-82s, however, arrived in a badly corroded condition. Also, many of these aircraft which were sent to the 449th had high time on their airframes from long bomber escort and air defense flights, as well as the stress from combat duty in Korea causing many of them to be difficult to maintain. After four months at the 39th Air Depot Wing at Elmendorf, most were scrapped.
All in all, this provided AAC with a total of 36 various E, F, G and H model F-82s. By 1952, attrition had claimed many of the Twin Mustangs which were assigned to the squadron. The occasional long-range reconnaissance flight over the Bering Sea was still flown, given that the range of the Twin Mustang was much greater than that of the F-94. The right seat of the aircraft was usually occupied by an experienced flight mechanic. With the long patrol flights with high-hour aircraft, pilots began having more and more mechanical problems that forced them to land on crude flight strips. The mechanic usually could repair the aircraft well enough to get airborne and head straight back to Ladd AFB.
The Twin Mustang had a very short operational life. About two years after its introduction to SAC, the F-82E was phased out of service in favor of the jet-powered Republic F-84E Thunderjet for bomber escort duties beginning in February 1950; the F-82Es were declared surplus by the end of the summer. Some were modified into F-82Gs and sent to Korea for combat as replacement aircraft, others were converted to F-82Hs and sent to Alaska, but most were sent to storage at Robins AFB, Georgia and ultimately reclamation.
In the Pacific, the F-82Gs flown in combat over Korea were replaced by the Lockheed F-94A Starfire starting in April 1951 with the last being sent to the Tachikawa Air Depot in early 1952. There, they were either scrapped or sent to Alaska after being modified to the F-82H configuration in Japan for cold-weather use. Air Defense Command's F-82Fs began to be replaced by F-94As in June 1951, with most being declared excess by the end of the year and were sent to storage and ultimately reclamation at McChord AFB, Washington, although a few Twin Mustangs remained in ADC service towing aerial targets.
In Alaska, attrition and a lack of spare parts led to the withdrawal of the F-82 from the USAF inventory. Initially, 16 of the 36 aircraft became hangar queens and were the main source for spare parts to keep the others operational. By the spring of 1953, the number of aircraft available had dwindled to a handful, with two or three operational aircraft kept flying by cannibalizing others which were incapable of being repaired. Each aircraft were flown about 48 hours per month until it was impossible to keep them in the air on a reliable basis
Ultimately, all were withdrawn from service when the lack of replacement parts made it impossible to keep the aging airframes flying. The last remaining F-82Hs were ultimately surplused and sent to Elmendorf AFB, Alaska for disposal in June 1953. The last Twin Mustang that remained in the operational inventory (46–377) was originally configured as an F-82G model that had served with two different squadrons in Okinawa and Japan. It was flown to Ladd AFB in 1952 and modified as a winterized F-82H. It was sent to Elmendorf AFB, being officially retired on 12 November 1953.
Some of the planes in storage at Robins and McChord were turned over to museums as static displays. Also after the end of their USAF service, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) acquired four surplus F-82s for research work.
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Five F-82s are known to still exist.
The Air Force accepted a total of 272 F-82s (including 22 prototype, test and early production aircraft). All examples were redesignated as F-82 in 1948. Specifically, the F-82 program consisted of two XF-82s, one XF-82A, 10 F-82Bs (known for a while as P-82Zs and all allocated to testing), four F-82As, 96 F-82Es, 91 F-82Fs, 45 F-82Gs and 14 F-82Hs. All models and variants of the P-82 were produced at North American's Inglewood, California manufacturing plant.
Data from GlobalSecurity.org
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