The Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star was the first jet aircraft of the United States, which was used in combat.
History and DevelopmentEdit
Development of the single engine aircraft began in 1943, based on the British H-1-B-jet engine. The P-80 had an all-metal fuselage design. The first prototype was flown under the callsign XP-80 on 8th January 1944, with a Halford H1 engine (later called the “Goblin”), which was removed from a de Havilland Vampire and sent to the USA, because the first engine was destroyed in an accident. The new aircraft was able to reach a speed of 808 km/h. Because de Havilland was unable to built enough engines for operational P-80 Shooting Stars, the company Allis-Chalmers started building them under license, but this didn't work out. Lockheed then built the Whittle I-40 under license. However, because the new engine was larger than the H-1 engine, the fuselage of the P-80 had be enlarged as well.
The second prototype was first flown in 10th June 1944 and reached a top speed of 903 km/h. On 20th October 1944 Lockheed chief test pilot Milo Burcham died on a test flight for the second prototype.
Until the end of World War II 45 aircraft were built, only four P-80 fighters reached Europe. Two of them were sent to Great Britain, and two others to Italy. The two British aircraft were quickly destroyed; one exploded in flight and the other one made a crash landing because of an engine problem. None of the P-80's were used operationally until the end of the war.
After World War II, production was continued. 1732 P-80A, B and C were built until the production was stopped in the year 1950. A modified P-80B, called XP-80R reached a new speed record with 1003.59 km/h. The last variant was the P-80C. Production for it started in 1948 and 670 units were built. Since June 1948 it wa called the F-80C. The first time a Shooting Star was used in combat was during the Korean War. The F-80C was the main variant used during the time.
On 8th November 1950, the first victory in a dogfight between jet aircraft, (an F-80C, flown by Russell J. Brown) shot down a North Korean MiG-15. However, the F-80C aircraft were inferior to the MiG-15. Because of this, the F-86 Sabre replaced the Shooting Star, and the F-80 was used as a ground attack aircraft. After the armistice in 1953 the F-80 was only used as a reconnaissance aircraft until it went out of service, but some of them were also exported into South American countries.