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Northop P61-B "Black Widow"

Discussion in 'Aircraft' started by Gebirgsjaeger, Aug 15, 2010.

  1. Gebirgsjaeger

    Gebirgsjaeger Ace

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    Hello all,

    i am very interested in the Northop P61. It is a great aircraft and a good nightfighter. What i want to know is, is there anyone who has some reports of pilots experiences with this aircraft? Technical data´s are to find at the Internet and some pics too but no reports. And if anyone has detailed informations to their 20mm cannons, please let me know

    Any help is welcome.

    Thank you in advance

    Ulrich
     
  2. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    Ulrich, I don't know if this will help, but read through this article. There are a few mentions of pilot exploits in the P-61. Army Air Forces in World War II
     
  3. Gebirgsjaeger

    Gebirgsjaeger Ace

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    Hi Lou,

    thanks for the interesting read! I am looking more for flight experiences in that sort: How was it to fly, had it some problems( technically or so).

    Best Regards

    Ulrich
     
  4. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    it was an ok nf depending on the theater probably most successfull in the PTO. There is still some controversy today about it's acceptance and useage in Europe due to the fact the later marks of Mosquito NF were already in play and at the disposal of US forces if needed and in my thought a much better A/C than the Widow except for night ground attack where the Widow excelled over all other Allied night ground attack units

    Ulrich I was a member of the US NF association for some years till it's disbandonment and have interviewed several notables of the P-61 squadrons was fortunate enough to interview at length the CO of the 425th nfs Gilly Lewis and had two members of the 425th nfs live in my are till death and moving away ended that.

    so yes I have quite a bit of information's plus some will go into my NF book in about 5 years.so with that would like certain and specific information especially about the crate, crews and the ETO which I can provide ?
     
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  5. Gebirgsjaeger

    Gebirgsjaeger Ace

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    Hi Erich,

    that sounds great. I PM you.

    Regards

    Ulrich
     
  6. Gebirgsjaeger

    Gebirgsjaeger Ace

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    Erich,

    as far as i know it had four 20mm cannons and four .50 cal MG´s in a turret. Is it right that later versions had removed the turret and what sense had this? The turret is good for a nearly 360° defense why should some took this away, for lower weight?

    Regards

    Ulrich
     
  7. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    one of the reasons I term the Widow just OK is the size and bulk of the A/c, it was not as nimble as one would think and was broad and heavy perfect for an immense array of arms, bombs, rockets and naphalm, the first fighter of the US forces to use an upper power turret of 4-.50 cal mgs standard on the Widows in the PTO, and most frequently removed from the squadrons in the ETO who tired to par one on one with the LW's Ju 88G-6 and Bf 110G-4 night fighters. The lower four 20mm were sufficient to carve anything up when needed the upper mg turret was a weight expense the ETO members have stated when used would throw off the aerodynamics of the a/c and thus to the radar operator could sit above the pilot while in the case of the squadrons in the Pacific a 2-3 man crew was often carried.

    I do know the several ETO crews of the 414th nfs kept the upper turret in place.
     
  8. Gebirgsjaeger

    Gebirgsjaeger Ace

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    Erich, thanks for explanation! Good opponents the Widow and the Ju88G-6! Was the radar of the widow more trustworthy than the Lichtenstein SN2?

    Regards

    Ulrich
     
  9. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    interesting question and a good one to ask. ACtually one would think top of the line aerial dish enclosed within a plexigalls nose cap would be fantastic and it was in the case of the aerodynamics performed over the antlers of the FuG 220d set unless using the horizontal Morgernstern display. the Widos AI was found to be lacking and in nearly all operations for both the 422nd and 425th nfs at least 1/4r of the Widows on patrol would have AI failure. the most Widows put up on a single night ran roughly 10 so note even full sized LW staffel of 15 a/c, granted eue to mechanical failures of some sort the LW would possibly put up 12 not counting the Staffel Stab of another 1 to 3 aircraft.
     
  10. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    Ulrich you may or may not be aware that the P-61A got it's start in the ETO on the mainland-England taking out V-1's as they flew over during July/August of 44. Divers as they were called.
     
  11. Gebirgsjaeger

    Gebirgsjaeger Ace

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    Erich,

    i wasn´t aware that she started in ETO, i thought it was in PT! You wrote that it was taking out V-1´s. The high speed must have been over the JU 88 and the Heinkel He 219. How about the maneuverability? The JU seem to be not a "lightfoot" for the reason that she was made to be a bomber.

    Regards

    Ulrich
     
  12. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    just speaking of the ETO only Ulrich. July 4, 1944 was the first mission of the 422nd nfs under Lt. Col. O.B. Johnson.
    5 Widows each had two missions apeice seeking out LW night craft over Cherborg/LeHavre.

    4 more missions were completed with 0 results before the first Anti-Diver patrols were committed on the 14th of July 1944 again with 5 Widows flying again 2 missions each.

    The 422nd nfs claims a total of 5 V-1's for the month of July 1944 before it resets it schedule to operate on Defensive patrols as of August 3/4, 1944 when it committed a total of 9 Widows with the CO flying # 58 which found one contact then lost it. none of the other P-61's made contact with LW A/C. this evening was the first official operation actually Operation # 1 in their history while the Anti-Diver patrols took on their own separate patrol operations which was # 1 - 15.
     
  13. Gebirgsjaeger

    Gebirgsjaeger Ace

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    Ok Erich, lets stay at the ETO. So after reading your post the Widows had seen action only in small number at first. Can you explain the Anti-diver patrols to me please? Where were their operational area? And had the NF squadrons seen more Widows in action? Good in that times he Luftwaffe wasn´t at its best time and had only a few operations but didn´t make it sense to fly with the British bombers into the Reich and destroy the German NF near their bases? 5 V-1´s in July 44, not bad! Where were the 442nd and the 425th NFS stationed?

    Regards

    Ulrich
     
  14. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    chase began in England for both nfs units over the ocean and would follow the V-1's in flight if possible and destroy them over land or ocean.

    example : Operation # 6: pilot T. Spelis flying # 40 dove down on a V-1 from 1000 feet above at 340mph. shot down V-1 with 420 rounds of 20mm and received damage to the left and right ailerons as he flew through the wreckage. Four P-61's on Anti-Diver patrols on 20 July 1944.
    The 422nd nfs moves to A-15: Maupertus, France on July 25, 1944 and on the 26th performs an Anti-Diver patrol for operation # 12.

    the 425th nfs claims a total of 4 V-1's from the 31st of July 1944 to 9th of August in 10 operations. From August 12-26th 1944 the NF unit moves to Vannes Airfield which was a total wreck and had to be reconstructed for the Widows.

    US intruder operations were only at their very onset in the infancy program in the ETO. the US squadrons in the MTO were using the Beaufighter and Mosquito for most of their term in the war only very late did 1-2 receive the Widow.
     
  15. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    Yes, the SCR 720 is far, far better than a SN 2, Neptun or, other German AI radar. Reasons for this include:

    The SCR 720 operates at 10 cm wavelength versus the roughly 50 cm to 75 cm wavelenghts of German sets. This gives it far better range and bearing accuracy all other things being equal (which they are not).

    The German use of simple dipole antennas gives no side and back lobe supression. This means the German radars are far more susceptable to jamming.

    The German sets use A scope technology for range and bearing data. The SCR 720 is a PPI set.

    The SCR 720 can conically scan in track mode giving it the ability to single out a target in clutter. As an anti-chaff feature the PPI has a long fade time so the target can be seen to move on the scope relative to chaff something the German sets lack.

    The SCR 720 is trainable in both azmuth and elevation to allow tracking a single target and to allow scanning a larger section of the sky ahead of the aircraft.

    The SCR 720 has a longer maximum range and shorter minimum range.

    Another oddity was that in the Ju 88 and He 219 at least the radar operator sat backwards to the pilot. This meant his display showed things in reverse to their true position. That is, right was left on the display. This adds an unnecessary potential problem to directing the pilot onto a target.

    That SN 2 was adopted at all had more to do with Allied jamming and attempts to get around it than with it being a good AI set.

    One interesting point on the P-61 was that it was equipped with large and effective air brakes. These were installed so the aircraft could rapidly decelerate after closing on a target at high speed. One problem WW 2 nightfighters often had was that their closing rate on a target was very high. That is the fighter was going fast and the target was moving slow. Because optical spotting was still needed for the actual attack, this could result in the nightfighter not spotting the target until it was on top of it and then it would overshoot rather than get a firing pass. The speed brakes allowed the P-61 to quickly decelerate in such a situation and then match the target's speed for a firing run.
     
  16. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    all true except for the final production Berlin 240A-1 A-I

    even with speed brakes and the ETO crews seemed to not have had them as they repeatedly overshot their targets time and again.........more on that as I will share the accounts later.
     
  17. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    But, given that something like ten Berlin sets were produced at the end of 1944 and in early 1945 and only a few of those fitted to aircraft, it is sour grapes at best. Even then, the Berlin AI was only roughly equal to very early production SCR 720 sets and lacked the refinements of the 720B and C sets.
     
  18. Gebirgsjaeger

    Gebirgsjaeger Ace

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    T.A.Gardner,

    thank you for the explanation! Yes thats true the SN-2 wasn´t a good operating system and it had to many problems including the different seating positions. A friend of mine is an excellent pilot and we flewn somedays an OP outwards Europe during nighttime and i tried to estimate the distance from us to an aircraft in front and a bit right to us. It was totally wrong, it is extremly hard to adjust distance when the target is moving at an other speedlevel like you´re doing that! You need a lot of experiences to do this job well. Also a bad point was the error of an Luftwaffenpilot who landed with his JU88 G-1 in Woodbridge and made a free house delivering of Know-How to the RAF.

    Regards

    Ulrich
     
  19. Gebirgsjaeger

    Gebirgsjaeger Ace

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    Here for a better understanding for others. The Radars of the Luftwaffe and the one from the Widow.

    Regards

    Ulrich
     

    Attached Files:

  20. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    Say there Ulrich, if you haven't found his posts already in the Honor and Valor section, our own FighterPilot was a P-61 pilot. He transferred from P-38s to the "Black Widow" late in the war, and flew them in Korea as well.

    Here is a link to his posts, he has posted only occasionally of late, many due to health issues I suppose. I recall he ended up fighting MRSA after a joint operation last year, don't recall if it was a knee or a hip, or just what. Anyway....

    Goto:

    http://www.ww2f.com/search.php?searchid=387055
     

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