North American F-82 Twin Mustang: Aircraft profile

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The F-82 was the last propeller-driven fighter acquired in quantity by the USAF.

North American F-82 Twin Mustang: North American XF-82 (S/N 44-83887) in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)North American F-82 Twin Mustang: North American XF-82 (S/N 44-83887) in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)

It appears to be two Mustang fuselages on one wing, but in reality it was a totally new design. Its purpose was to provide a fighter carrying a pilot and co-pilot/navigator to reduce fatigue on long-range bomber escort missions. Delivery from production did not begin until early 1946, too late for World War II. After WWII, radar-equipped F-82s were used quite extensively by the Air Defense Command as replacements for the P-61 night fighter.

During the Korean Conflict, Japan-based F-82s were among the first USAF aircraft to operate over Korea. The first three North Korean airplanes destroyed by U.S. forces were shot down by all-weather F-82G interceptors on June 27, 1950.

Specifications (F-82B):

Span: 51 ft. 3 in.

Length: 38 ft. 1 in.

Height: 13 ft. 8 in.

Weight: 24,800 lbs. maximum

Armament: Six .50-cal. machine guns, 25 5-in. rockets, and 4,000 lbs. of bombs

Engines: Two Packard V-1650s of 1,380 hp each

Crew: Two

Cost: $228,000


Maximum speed: 482 mph

Cruising speed: 280 mph

Range: 2,200 mi.

Service ceiling: 39,900 ft.

Source: US Air Force

North American F-82 Twin Mustang: Front view of North American F-82C (S/N 44-65169) in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)North American F-82 Twin Mustang: Front view of North American F-82C (S/N 44-65169) in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Detailed background:


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, its postwar role changed to that of night-fighting. Radar-equipped F-82s were used quite extensively by the Air Defense Command as replacements for the P-61 Black Widow night fighter. 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.

Design and development

Initially intended as a very long-range (VLR) escort fighter, the F-82 was designed to escort B-29 bombers on missions exceeding 2,000 miles from the Solomons or Philippines to Tokyo, missions beyond the range of the P-38 and conventional P-51s. 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 miles without refueling. It consisted of a two 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 incorporating two P-51H Mustang fuselages lengthened by the addition of a 57-inch 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-caliber Browning M2 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 1000 pounds 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 standard landing gear with both wheels retracting into bays under the 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 its left propeller to turn opposite to the right engine, which was 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 Force on 30 August 1945. AAF 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 the aircraft's 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 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 licence 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.

North American F-82 Twin Mustang: DAYTON, Ohio -- North American F-82B left cockpit at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)North American F-82 Twin Mustang: DAYTON, Ohio -- North American F-82B left cockpit at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)


On 27 February 1947, a 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 miles in 14 hr 32 min (347.5mph). This flight was a test of the P-82's range. The aircraft was carrying a full internal fuel tank of 576 US gallons, and was agumented by four 310-gallon tanks for a grand total of 1,816 gallons. 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 nonstop 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).

Operational service

The Twin Mustang was developed at the end of the prop-driven fighter era and at the dawn of the Jet Age. It's 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 drawdown of the armed forces after the war, the newly-established United States Air Force had little money for new aircraft, especially jets which the Me-262 and other Luftwaffe fighters had shown far outclassed the best P-51 Mustangs over the skies of Germany in late 1945. The completed airframes (less engines) of the P-82 pre-production aircraft already manufactured by North American were in storage with an uncertain future.

However, during the 1947 Soviet Aviation Day display at Tushino Airport, a surprise appearance was put in by three four-engined long-range strategic bombers. They were early examples of the Tupolev Tu-4, which was a bolt-for-bolt copy of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, several examples of which had 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 US military planners, since it meant that the US 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 it's 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 XP-87 Blackhawk had been ordered in December of 1945, but it ran into developmental difficulties and the project was eventually totally abandoned in October of 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.

North American F-82 Twin Mustang: North American F-82B. (U.S. Air Force photo)North American F-82 Twin Mustang: North American F-82B. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Strategic Air Command

Strategic Air Command 8th Air Force North American F-82E "Twin Mustangs" of the 27th Fighter Wing on the flight line of Kearney Air Force Base, Nebraska, 1948. Serials 46-322 and 46-332 are identifiable. Note buzz number near tail.

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 Parch 1948.

During World War II, the P-51 Mustang had escorted B-17 Flying Fortress and 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, B-50 or 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 over 1,400 miles, 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, where it could stay close to the bombers it was designed to protect. The first production F-82Es reached the 27th in the spring of 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 tanks were found at Hamilton AFB, California that could be modified for the F-82 which were fitted on the pylons of the Twin Mustang that solved the problem. With a reduction in tensions, 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 to Alaska from McChord 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" figher group, the 27th. The weather in Nebraska in January that year was especially horrible, with most airports in the Midwest weathered in the day of the display. At Kearney AFB, the base was socked-in with a blizzard. Nevertheless, the crews had a early morning mission briefing and the aircraft in the hangars were preflighted 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 other 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 and "all weather" aircraft and the 27th being able to carry out their mission despite the weather.

In the spring of 1949, the 27th began carrying out long range escort profile missions. Flights to Puetro 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 over fighter units in formation down Pennsylvania Avenue. Another flyover over the newly-dedicated Idlewild Airport in New York City soon followed, with the aircraft fying non-stop from Kearney AFB.

In March 1949, Kearney AFB was closed primarily for budgetary reasons and the 27th FEW was reassigned to Bergsrtom AFB, Texas. Other long-range missions were flown cross-country and simulated "dogfights" with P-80) aircraft profile">F-80 Shooting Star units were carried out. The 27th FEW began transitioning to the F-84 Thunderstreak 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.

Air Defense Command

The appearance of the Soviet Tupolev Tu-4 "Bull" copy of the 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 positions to shoot them down. Furthermore, when they did, 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 US interceptors yet developed, so the Black Widow was transitioned into the ADC interceptor mission. The F-61s available, however were largely war-weary and the nightfighter F-82C/D models were modified into an all-weather interceptor to replace it.

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 caliber 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 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 fifteen 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 F-94 Starfire, the last being with the 318th FIS at McChord in late 1951. Some were sent to Alaska where they were modified into the F-82H configuration, most, however, were sent to reclamation.

Far East Air Forces

In the years following World War II, the Northrup 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 planes 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 aircaft. 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 F(AW)S 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 it was overcast with cloud tops at about 8,000 ft. Using their airborne search radar, the Twin Mustangs flew through the clouds and broke out at about 2,000 ft., 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 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 13:00 when a pair of two 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 the gun switches were activated when the leader tightened up his turn and peeled off at the F-82s with his wingman 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 didn't, 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 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 were at Yokota AB which 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 and 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 P-80) aircraft profile">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 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 Korea, making the 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 C-54 Skymaster transports flying in and out of Kimpo Airfield safely 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 June 25th) 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 Lt. Col. 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 lot of five North Korean fighters (Soviet-built Yak-9s, Yak-11s and La-7s) appeared, heading for the airfield. One of the Yak-9s 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. Soon Hudson was closing in on the Yak's tail. He then fired a short burst at close range, scoring hits with his six .50 caliber 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 the pilot. Moments later, Lt. Moran shot down an La-7 over the airfield, while a few miles away, Maj. 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 five North Korean fighters, 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" (s/n 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.

The F-82 pilots, in the following weeks, 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 due to 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 14 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 5 hours per sortie, with the 339th flying similar numbers of missions.

North American F-82 Twin Mustang: Aft view of North American F-82E. (U.S. Air Force photo)North American F-82 Twin Mustang: Aft view of North American F-82E. (U.S. Air Force photo)

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 them into day fighters. In the ground support role, the F-82s could reach any part of the Korean battlefield with a total ordinance load of over 4,000 pounds. Each of the six .50 caliber machine guns carried 400 rounds each. 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 due 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, 7 personnel carriers were destroyed and a large number of enemy troops had been 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 they had been given no training for. 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, 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 ordinance. 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 predawn 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 were 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 began flying 2-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 due to the Chinese onslaught. It was a nightmare as the Chinese were pouring south, and it appeared that the situation was becoming like it was the previous June. On 26 January, the armed recon 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-equippped 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 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

* 46-357 (6160th ABW, 68th FIS) MIA May 28, 1951 20 mi N of 38th parallel.

* 46-364 (6160th ABW, 68th FIS) destroyed on ground at Suwon, Korea Jun 29, 1950 by enemy aircraft.

* 46-373 (6160th ABW, 68th FIS) crashed 5 my NW of Brady AB, Japan Feb 12, 1951.

* 46-375 (6160th ABW, 67th FIS) crashed Dec 16, 1950.

* 46-378 (6160th ABW, 68th FIS) shot down by AAA Jul 3, 1951.

* 46-391 (51st FIG, 4th FS) in midair collision with F-80C 49-704 between Fukuoka and Ashiya AB, Japan Sep 29, 1950.

* 46-394 (6160th ABW, 68th FIS) MIA Mar 14, 1951.

* 46-399 (6160th ABW, 68th FIS) MIA Jan 27, 1951.

* 46-400 (6160th ABW, 68th FIS) crashed near K-14 Dec 7, 1950.

* 46-402 (51st FIG, 68th FIS) MIA Jul 6, 1950.

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. Alaskan Air Command

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 their 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 to incomig aircraft. Contact, however there was very seldom with only a few instances of eye-to-eye contact with Soviet planes. 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, F-82s from the 449th made a brief but memorable appearance in the movie "Top of the World." (1955) when they were flying escort duty for SAC B-36 Peacemaker bombers near Barter Island, in the Beaufort Sea near the most northern tip of Alaska, about 1,000 miles south of the North Pole.

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, dropping 500 pound bombs and firing 5" rockets at the ice. This allowed the rivers to keep flowing and not get clogged up.

Beginning in the Spring of 1950, Strategic Air Command began replacing their F-82E bomber escorts and throughout the year, several were transferred to the 449th in Alaska. During 1951 and 1952 F-82F's 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. In addition, F-82Gs from Far East Air Force were sent to Alaska as jets took over combat duties over the skies of Korea. However, it was found that 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 had caused many of them to be difficult to maintain.

By 1952, attrition had claimed many of the original F-82H's which were assigned to the squadron, and the 449th had a mixture of E, F, G and H model F-82s, and 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 ususally could repair the plane well enough to get airborne and head straight back to Ladd AFB.

Attrition and a lack of spare parts led to the withdrawal of the F-82 from the USAF inventory. By the spring of 1953 the number of aircraft available had dwindled to a handful, with 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. 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 in November 1953, for reclamation. Retirement

North American F-82 Twin Mustang: North American F-82B in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)North American F-82 Twin Mustang: North American F-82B in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)

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 F-84 Thunderstreak for bomber escort duties beginning in 1950. Some were sent to Korea for combat, others were sent to Alaska, but most were declared surplus and were being sent to storage and ultimately reclamation in 1951. Air Defense Command's F-82Fs began to be replaced by F-94 Starfires in 1950, and by early 1951, with most being sent to the smelters, alouth a few Twin-Mustangs remaining in ADC towing aerial targets. In the Pacific, the F-82G's in combat were also replaced by the F-94 in late 1951 and early 1952, with the survivors being sent to Alaska after being modified to the F-82H configuration in Japan for cold-weather use.

Ultimately, to a lack of spare parts many of the remaining Twin Mustangs which broke down were cannibalized to keep the other aircraft flying. Eventually all were withdrawn from service when the lack of parts made it impossible to keep the aging airframes flying. The last remaining F-82s were ultimately scrapped at Ladd AFB, Alaska. By June 1953 no F-82s appeared on Air Force, Air National Guard or Air Reserve Forces rolls with some being turned over to museums as static displays.

After the end of their USAF service, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) acquired four surplus F-82s for research work.

* 44-83886 (c/n 120-43742) (XP-82) (NACA-14) was operated by NACA from 6 June 1948 to 5 October 1955. This aircraft was ultimately sent to salvage at Langley AFB, Virginia.

* 44-83887 (c/n 120-43743) (XP-82) was operated from October 1947 to July 1950. Used for ram jet tests, it was damaged during July 1950. The damaged plane was sold to Walter Soplata and placed on his farm. In March 2008 it was sold to Tom Reilly and moved to his restoration facility in Douglas, Georgia.

* 44-6168 (c/n 123-43754) (F-82B) (NACA-132) was operated from September 1950 to June 1957: This was the Betty Jo distance record holder aircraft and it was used for ram jet tests. Was turned over to the USAF Museum.

* 46-255 (c/n 144-38141) (F-82E) (NACA-133) Used for high altitude icing tests beginning in January 1950, redesignated EF-82E. Sold to Walter Soplata for $1600 in March 1954. Resold in 1987 to Polar Aviation Museum. Now being restored to flying condition.


Five F-82s are known to still exist.

* F-82B "Betty Jo" (44-65168) is currently on display at The National Museum of the United States Air Force, in Dayton, Ohio in its Cold War gallery. The aircraft is displayed in the markings of its historic Hawaii to New York flight in 1947, along with clothing and artifacts used in that record-breaking flight. "Betty Jo" was delivered to the Museum in 1957.

* F-82E (46-262) has been a "gate guard" for many years outside Lackland AFB in Texas as part of the USAF History and Traditions Museum in San Antonio, Texas.

* A second F-82B (44-65162) that had been on display next to it, was acquired by the former Commemorative Air Force in 1966 and was operated for many years by its Midland, Texas squadron. That F-82B stalled while landing in Harlingen, Texas in 1987. The aircraft was restorable but its unique props and landing gear were destroyed in the crash and replacement parts could not be obtained. In 2002, the CAF included it with a crashed P-38 in a trade for a flyable P-38. The USAF stepped in and demanded the F-82 be returned since it was only loaned to the CAF on the condition that the CAF keep it. The court initially sided with the USAF, but the decision is currently awaiting appeal. This aircraft is now located in California where recent efforts have been made to restore it to flying condition.

* A single fuselage and parts of the second XP-82 (44-83887) were located for many years on the farm of Walter Soplata in Newbury, Ohio. this aircraft was sold in March, 2008 to aircraft restorer Tom Reilly. On April 7th, 2008 the almost-complete left fuselage with original markings still visible was delivered to Reilly's restoration facility in Douglas, GA along with various surviving components from Soplata's farm. Reilly plans to use the left fuselage to reverse-engineer a matching right airframe, and hopes to eventually restore the aircraft to flying condition. This is by far the most ambitious F-82 restoration project in progress. With the problems encountered by the CAF over a period of 20 years in locating just a set of props and landing gear to return their aircraft back to the air, one can see the enorminity of Tom Reilly's task.

* F-82E (46-256), an intact airframe also formerly located at the Walter Soplata farm, has been sold and moved to C&P Aviation in Anoka, MN, where it is currently undergoing restoration to flying status.



Basic Development design. The NA-123 design was presented by North American Aircraft to the USAAF in February 1944. The design for the new aircraft was for a long range fighter to penetrate deep into enemy territory. Its immediate role would be to escort the B-29 Superfortress bombers used in the Pacific Theater of Operations against Japan. The USAAF endorsed it at once. A letter contract to construct and test four experimental XP-82 aircraft (P-82 designation) gave way in the same month to an order for 500 production models.

XP-82 / XP-82A

Prototype. The USAAF accepted the first XP-82 in August 1945 and a second one in September. Both were equipped with Packard Merlin V-1650-23 and -25 engines. The third experimental aircraft, designated XP-82A, had two Allison V-1710-119 engines. It was accepted in October 1945. There is no evidence that the XP-82A was ever actually flown, due to problems with the Allison engines. The fourth XP-82A prototype (44-83889) was cancelled.


Planned production version. With the end of World War II, production plans were cut back significantly. Against the 500 P-82Bs initially planned, overall procurement was finalized on 7 December 1945 at 270 P-82s. Included were 20 P-82Bs already on firm order and later allocated to testing as P-82Z. The USAAF accepted all P-82Zs in fiscal year 1947. Two aircraft were accepted in January 1946, four in February 1947, and 13 in March 1947. By December 1949, no P-82Bs (by then redesignated F-82Bs) remained in the Air Force inventory. These P-82Bs were basically similar to the XP-82, but differed in having provisions for underwing racks.


Night fighter version. A P-82B, (44-65169) modified in late 1946, for testing as a night interceptor. The P-82C featured a new nacelle (under the center wing section) housing an SCR-720 radar. The SCR-720 was the same radar installation which was carried aboard the Northrop P-61 Black Widow, a considerably larger aircraft which had clearance problems with the engine propellers. The right-hand cockpit became the radar operator's position. The production version was designated P-82F.


Night fighter version. Another P-82B (44-65170) modified with a different radar, the APS-4. The APS-4 was a much smaller set than the SCR-720, and operated in the three cm waveband. As like the P-82C, the right-hand cockpit became the radar operator's position. The production version was designated P-82G.


Escort fighter version. The F-82E followed the F-82B, which it so closely resembled. They were equipped with two counter-rotating Allison liquid-cooled engines, V-1710-143 and V-1710-145. The first four F-82Es were redesignated as F-82As and were allocated for engine testing. After production delays by engine problems and additional testing, F-82Es entered operational service in May 1948. The Air Force accepted 72 F-82Es in fiscal year 1948 (between January and June 1948), and 24 in fiscal year 1949 (22 in July 1948, one in October, and one in December).


Night fighter versions. A nacelle beneath the center-wing that housed radar equipment (F-82F's ANIAPG28 and F-82G's SCR-720C18); automatic pilot; and a radar operator replacing the second pilot. When winterization was added to the F or G, it became an F-82H. Entered operational service in September 1948. One F-82G was accepted in fiscal year 1948 (February 1948), all other F-82s (F, G, and H models) in fiscal year 1949. The last F-82G and six winterized F-82Hs were received in March 1949.

Production totals

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, ten 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.

Specifications (F-82G)

Data from

General characteristics

* Crew: 2

* Length: 42 ft 9 in (12.93 m)

* Wingspan: 51 ft 3 in (15.62 m)

* Height: 13 ft 10 in (4.22 m)

* Wing area: 408 ft² (37.90 m²)

* Empty weight: 15,997 lb (7,271 kg)

* Max takeoff weight: 25,591 lb (11,632 kg)

* Powerplant: 2× Allison V-1710-143/145 liquid-cooled V12 engines, 1,380 hp takeoff (kW each) each


* Maximum speed: 400 knots (460 mph, 740 km/h) at 21,000 ft (6,400 m)

* Range: 1,950 nm (2,250 mi, 3,605 km)

* Service ceiling 38,900 ft (11,855 m)


* Guns: 6× .50 in (12.7 mm) Browning M2 machine guns

* Rockets: 25× 5 in (127 mm) rockets

* Bombs: 4,000 lb (1,800 kg)

More photos: North American F-82 Twin Mustang photo gallery

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