Lockheed P-80A Shooting Star

Last revised July 16, 1999






The initial production version of the Shooting Star, the P-80A, was ordered on April 4, 1944, when a Letter Contract for two batches of 500 aircraft was issued. In June of 1945, 2500 additional P-80As were ordered. However, following V-J Day this second contract was cancelled in its entirety and the first contract was cut back to 917 aircraft.

The P-80A was much the same as the YP-80A which preceded it, differing only in minor details. The P-80A introduced under-fuselage dive brakes which opened forward at the wing join, and had a landing light installed behind a transparent fairing in the upper nose. The intake lip was moved slightly further aft, and the tailplane incidence was raised by 1.5 degrees.

The first 345 aircraft of this contract (serials 44-84992 to 44-85336) were designated P-80A-1-LO. Some of them were powered by the 3850 lb.s.t. General Electric J33-GE-11 turbojet, the production version of the I-40 which had powered the XP-80A and the YP-80A. Others were powered by the Allison J33-A-9, a version of the same engine built by the Allison Division of the General Motors Corporation.

The next 218 aircraft in the contract (44-85337 to 44-85941 and 45-8301 to 45-8262) were built as the P-80A-5-LO production block and differed by being equipped with the more powerful 4000 lb.s.t. Allison J33-A-17. The -5 also introduced a boundary layer control splitter plate inside the air intake. The landing light was relocated from the nose to the nosewheel landing gear strut. Later, the initial production P-80A-1-LOs were retrofitted with the uprated Allison engine during routine engine overhauls.

On January 19, 1945, North American Aviation had been awarded a contract to produce one thousand P-80As in its Dallas plant. The designation given to these license-produced Shooting Stars was P-80N. However, this contract was cancelled shortly after V-E Day, and no P-80Ns were ever completed.

The first P-80A was accepted by the AAF in February of 1945, and the last was delivered in December 1946. Early P-80As had a overall light grey finish which was used to seal all skin joints. This finish proved to be too hard to maintain in service, and was deleted in favor of a natural metal finish.

Another F-80A-1-LO (44-85042) was modified in the field as ERF-80A-1-LO to test new photographic equipment in a nose of modified contour.

One P-80A-1-LO airframe (44-85201) was modified as an unarmed photographic reconnaissance aircraft, with the guns being replaced by a set of cameras. The aircraft was redesignated XFP-80A, the F-14 designation originally planned for the reconnaissance version of the Shooting Star having been dropped. The XFP-80A differed from the original XF-14 in having a more elongated nose which hinged upward to provide better access to the cameras.

38 P-80A-5-LOs were completed during construction as FP-80A-5-LO photographic reconnaissance aircraft. Serials were 44-85383, 58385, 85399, 85425, 85433, 85439, the odd numbers in the batch of 44-85443 to 44-85491 inclusive, and the even-numbers in the batch 45-8301 to 45-8314 inclusive. Following the production of these modified recon aircraft, a new batch of aircraft (45-8364 to 45-8477) was manufactured from scratch as FP-80A-5-LO. This designation was later changed to RF-80A. Camera installation consisted of one K-17 camera and two K-22 split-vertical cameras. These all had camera noses that were generally similar to that of the XFP-80A. They were initially powered by the 3850 lb.s.t. General Electric J33-GE-11 engine.

In addition 66 production P-80A fighters were converted by Lockheed Aircraft Services, Inc as photo-reconnaissance ships. They differed from factory-built models in having a less even contour over the nose at the very front of the aircraft. They were redesignated RF-80A-15-LO. An unknown number of RF-80As were modified to RF-80A-10-LO standard with the installation of an AN/ARN-6 radio compass, JATO, plenum chamber fire warning units, modified heating, cooling, and pressurization. The -10 block aircraft were powered by J33-A-9A or -9B and J33-GE-11A or -11B engines. However, in 1953, 98 of these -10 and -15 FP-80As were re-engined with the 5400 lb.s.t. Allison J33-A-25 engine. These were redesignated RF-80A-20-LO and RF-80A-25-LO respectively.

Six RF-80A aircraft were modified to RF-80C-11-LO standard by Lockheed Air Service, Inc.  The conversion consisted of the installation of the J-33-A-35 engine, an ejection seat using an M-5 catapult and M-3 actuator, and provisions for an AN/ARC-27 command radio.  These RF-80Cs had improved camera installations in a nose of modified contour.

26 P-80A-5-LO aircraft were winterized by having the I-16 emergency fuel pump replaced by the the Pseco S-2342A pump, plus a modification to the fuel system to make it possible to use the port leading-edge tand for gasoline starting. An engine-driven fuel pump was fitted. These modified aircraft were redesignated P-80A-10-LO.

Three P-80As (44-8500, 44-85005, and 45-85235) were transferred to the US Navy for trials. They received BuNos 29667, 29668 and 29689 respectively, but apparently never got a Navy designation. 29667 was turned over to the Navy on May 17, 1945, and carried out simulated carrier landings at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, with much of the flying being done by Cmdr Najeeb Halaby. 29668 reached the Navy on Dec 18, 1945 and was fitted with a catapult bridle and arrestor hook. 29668 was used for carrier-suitability trials aboard the aircraft carrier Franklin D. Roosevelt, with Marine Corps LtCol Marion Carl carrying out several landings and takeoffs. However, the Navy never experienced any interest in acquiring a carrier-based version of the single-seat Shooting Star fighter.

One of the problems experienced by all early jet fighters was their relatively limited range and endurance as compared to conventional piston-engined fighters. One idea that was given serious thought at the time was for jet fighters to be towed like gliders behind bombers until they reached the combat zone. These fighters would then be cut free, start their engines, and engage in combat. When combat was over, the fighters would re-link to the bombers for the tow back home. In May of 1945, P-80A serial number 44-84995 was transferred to Wright Field for use in testing of the feasibility of this idea. An attachment bar for the cable tow was installed in the nose of the P-80A. It could be engaged or released by the pilot. The cable not only provided a tow, it also provided electrical power to the P-80A. Several tests were carried out in which the aircraft was towed behind a Boeing B-29A-10-BN (42-93921). On September 23, 1947, LtCol Pat Fleming took off and attempted to link up in midair to the B-29 tow cable. After several attempts were frustrated by air turbulence from the B-29, he finally succeeded in linking up to the end of the tow cable. He was towed through the air for 10 minutes. When it came time to unhook, the tow bar stubbornly refused to release. Fleming finally maneuvered underneath the B-29, where the bomber's bow wave snapped the attachment point backwards, blocking his forward view. Fleming managed to land safely, but the program was immediately terminated as being impractical. 44-84995 was eventually repaired and restored to standard P-80A configuration and returned to active service.

P-80A-1-LO 44-85044 was tested with a modified rotating nose housing four machine guns which could be elevated up to an angle of 90 degrees. The idea was for the P-80 to be able to approach an enemy bomber from below and be able to fire on it without being in danger of return fire. However, when these guns were fired, the P-80A bucked and trembled and the accuracy of fire left much to be desired, and the idea was abandoned. It was later fitted with a second cockpit in the nose in which the pilot lay prone. The regular cockpit was occupied by a safety pilot who made takeoffs and landings, navigated, and handled flaps and speed brakes. However, the prone pilot was situated so far forward that he experienced vertigo during maneuvers. The idea was abandoned as being impractical.

P-80A-1-LO 44-85116 was fitted with jettisonable racks for 5-inch HVAR rockets in place of the wingtip tanks. Later, it was fitted with a rocket launcher gun in a modified nose. The nose incorporated louvres to exhaust the gases produced by the firing rockets.

P-80A 44-85354 was experimentally fitted with four 20-mm cannon in place of the standard six machine guns. However, this cannon armament was never adopted as standard.

P-80A 44-85214 was fitted with a 30-inch diameter Marquardt C30-10B ramjet on each wingtip. 44-85042 used a pair of 20-inch Marquardt C20-85D ramjets. The ramjets were first used in flight on March 12, 1947 and on June 17, 1948 44-85214 flew briefly on ramjet power alone. About a hundred sorties were made at Muroc, mainly by Lockheed test pilot Herman R. "Fish" Salmon. The ramjet program was discontinued when it became apparent that the ramjet consumed fuel at a much too rapid rate to make it a practical means of aircraft propulsion.

In June of 1948, the P-80A and FP-80A were redesignated F-80A and RF-80A respectively.

After the end of the Korean War, 129 F-80As were partially brought up to F-80C standards by Lockheed Air Service, Inc. These were redesignated F-80C-11-LO and RF-80C-11-LO respectively, and were issued to ANG and USAF reserve units. These RF-80Cs had improved camera installations in a nose of modified contour. The conversion consisted of the installation of the J33-A-35 engine, the installation of an ejector seat using an M-5 catapult and M-3 actuator, and provision for an AN/ARC-27 command radio.

Specification of the P-80A:

Engine: One General Electric J33-GE-11 or Allison J33-A-9 turbojet, rated at 3850 lb.s.t. Later production blocks powered by 4000 lb.s.t. Allison J33-A-17. Dimensions: wingspan 38 feet 10 1/2 inches (without wingtip tanks), length 34 feet 6 inches, height 11 feet 4 inches, and wing area 237.6 square feet Weights were 7920 pounds empty, 11,700 pounds gross, and 14,000 pounds maximum takeoff. Fuel load: 425 US gallons normal, 885 US gallons maximum. Performance: Maximum speed was 558 mph at sea level and 492 mph at 40,000 feet. Initial climb rate was 4580 feet/minute, and an altitude of 20,000 feet could be attained in 5.5 minutes. Service ceiling was 45,000 feet. Normal range was 780 miles, and maximum range was 1440 miles. Armament: Six 0.50-inch machine guns.

Serial numbers of Lockheed P-80A Shooting Star:

44-84992/85336	Lockheed P-80A-1-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1015/1359
44-85337/85382	Lockheed P-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1360/1405
44-85383	Lockheed FP-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1406
44-85384	Lockheed P-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1407.  Upgraded to F-80C-11-LO
44-85385	Lockheed FP-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1408
44-85386/85398	Lockheed P-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1409/1421
44-85399	Lockheed FP-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1422
44-85400/85424	Lockheed P-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1423/1447
44-85425	Lockheed FP-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1448
44-85426/85432	Lockheed P-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1449/1455
44-85433	Lockheed FP-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1456
44-85434/85438	Lockheed P-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1457/1461
44-85439	Lockheed FP-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1462
44-85440/85442	Lockheed P-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1463/1465
44-85443	Lockheed FP-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1466
44-85444	Lockheed P-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1467
44-85445	Lockheed FP-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1468
44-85446	Lockheed P-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1469
			modified as F-80C-11-LO
44-85447	Lockheed FP-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1470
44-85448	Lockheed P-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1471.  
44-85449	Lockheed FP-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1472
44-85450	Lockheed P-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1473.  
44-85451	Lockheed FP-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1474
44-85452	Lockheed P-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1475
44-85453	Lockheed FP-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1476
44-85454	Lockheed P-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1477
44-85455	Lockheed FP-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1478
44-85456	Lockheed P-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1479.  Modified as F-80C-11-LO
44-85457	Lockheed FP-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1480
44-85458	Lockheed P-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1481
44-85459	Lockheed FP-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1482
44-85460	Lockheed P-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1483
44-85461	Lockheed FP-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1484
44-85462	Lockheed P-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1485
44-85463	Lockheed FP-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1486
44-85464	Lockheed P-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1487.  Modified as RF-80A-15-LO
44-85465	Lockheed FP-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1488
44-85466	Lockheed P-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1489.. Modified as RF-80A-15-LO
44-85467	Lockheed FP-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1490
44-85468	Lockheed P-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1491.  Modified as F-80C-11-LO
44-85469	Lockheed FP-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1492
44-85470	Lockheed P-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1493
44-85471	Lockheed FP-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1494
44-85472	Lockheed P-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1495
44-85473	Lockheed FP-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1496
44-85474	Lockheed P-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1497
44-85475	Lockheed FP-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1498
44-85476	Lockheed P-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1499.  
44-85477	Lockheed FP-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1500
44-85478	Lockheed P-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1501
44-85479	Lockheed FP-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1502
44-85480	Lockheed P-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1503.  
44-85481	Lockheed FP-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1504
44-85482	Lockheed P-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1505.  
44-85483	Lockheed FP-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1506
44-85484	Lockheed P-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1507
44-85485	Lockheed FP-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1508
44-85486	Lockheed P-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1509.  Modified as F-80C-11-LO
44-85487	Lockheed FP-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1510
44-85488	Lockheed P-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1511
44-85489	Lockheed FP-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1512
44-85490	Lockheed P-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1513.  
44-85491	Lockheed FP-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1514
45-8301		Lockheed P-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1515
45-8302		Lockheed FP-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1516
45-8303		Lockheed P-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1517
45-8304		Lockheed FP-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1518
45-8305		Lockheed P-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1519.  
45-8306		Lockheed FP-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1520
45-8307		Lockheed P-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1521
45-8308		Lockheed FP-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1522
45-8309		Lockheed P-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1523
45-8310		Lockheed FP-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1524
45-8311		Lockheed P-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1525
45-8312		Lockheed FP-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1526
45-8313		Lockheed P-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1527
45-8314		Lockheed FP-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1528
45-8315/8363	Lockheed P-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1529/1577
45-8364/8477	Lockheed FP-80A-5-LO Shooting Star
			c/n 080-1578/1691

Sources:

  1. War Planes of the Second World War, Fighters, Volume Four, William Green, Doubleday, 1964.

  2. The American Fighter, Enzo Anguluci and Peter Bowers, Orion Books, 1987.

  3. United States Military Aircraft since 1909, Gordon Swanborough and Peter M. Bowers, Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989.

  4. Fighters of the United States Air Force, Robert F. Dorr and David Donald, Temple Press Aerospace, 1990.

  5. American Combat Planes, Ray Wagner, Third Enlarged Edition, Doubleday, 1982.

  6. Lockheed Aircraft since 1913, Rene J. Francillon, Naval Institute Press, 1987.

  7. Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star Variant Briefing, Robert F. Dorr, Wings of Fame, Volume 11, 1998.