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Listen To A P-82 Twin Mustang Purr, A Glorious Sound Not Heard In Over 30 Years
The P-82 Twin Mustang, sometimes lovingly referred to as 'Double Trouble' and
later redesignated the F-82, was something of an odd concept, taking two P-51
Mustang fuselages and slapping them together to create a long-range escort
fighter. But that doesn't mean it wasn't beautiful and effective.
Only 272 of the aircraft were built and the last time one had flown, or even run
its engines for that matter, was in 1987. Now all that is about to change. But
before a first flight milestone is reached, thanks to master warbird restorer
Tom Reilly, we get to see and hear one of these marvelous machines awake and
humming once again, with its twin Merlin engines churning away side-by-side.
XP-82 44-83887 was a prototype for what would become known as the P/F-82. You
can read about how Tom came upon the project and went about restoring what was
seemingly unrestorable here. But suffice it to say, over the last decade the
warbird nut has made his very expensive dream nearly come true, with the
imminent goal of flying the reforged XP-82 Twin Mustang to Oshkosh this Summer.
Regardless of if this happens or not, a once seemingly mythical future where a
Twin Mustang could still be seen skirting the heavens is about to become a
The P-82 was in the works in the latter half of World War II. It was intended to
be paired with B-29s on very long-range missions—up to 2,300 miles—that were
well beyond the reach of P-38 Lightnings, but the type didn't become operational
until 1946. Still, the Twin Mustang went on to have a successful career,
protecting the homeland for Air Defense Command and being among the first
American aircraft to wade into the Korean conflict.
The Twin Mustang even holds the mantle of the type to shoot down the first three
North Korean aircraft of the war. It also proved to be a highly effective ground
attack platform, wreaking havoc on North Korean positions with its guns,
rockets, and bombs.
Not long into its seven-year operational run, some of the F-82s gained a
center-wing mounted radar and the electronics to go with it, making it the
USAF's top night interceptor and replacing the World War II vintage P-61 Black
Widow. But even with the P-82's great versatility and proven pedigree, the
arrival of the jet age would usher in its demise.
Although it borrows on the Mustang design directly, the P-82 shares few
interchangeable parts with its single-engine progenitor. Additionally, one of
its Packard-built Rolls-Royce V-1650 Merlin engines turns to the left, making
the aircraft even harder to restore and find parts for. But thanks to the hard
work and dedication of Tom Reilly and his team, the Twin Mustang is about to
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 Solomon Islands 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 after the atomic
bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the opening of Soviet attacks on
Japanese-held territory in Manchuria.
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 a 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 caliber M3 Browning machine guns as a single-engine Mustang, but with
more concentrated fire. The first XP-82 prototype (s/n 44-83886) was equipped
with a removable centerline gun pod housing eight additional .50 caliber M3
Brownings, but this did not feature on production aircraft. An even more
powerful centerline gun pod containing a 40 mm cannon was considered, but was
never built. The outer wings were reinforced to allow the addition of hard
points for carrying additional fuel or 1,000 pounds (450 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.
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