The Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star was the first jet aircraft of the United States, which was used in combat.
History and Development[edit | edit source]
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.