IL-2 Great Battles Plane Spotlight: P-38J Lightning
Updated: Jan 16
IL-2 Great Battles is a game filled with wonderful aircraft from two of the most important eras of aviation: World War 1 and World War 2. From the humble yet powerful Albatros D.Va to Germany's wunderwaffe, the Me-262. This game is filled with legends of wartime aviation like almost no other game out there, even without considering that a new expansion is coming.
Today, we wanted to give one of these legends, the P-38J Lightning, the spotlight in the first article of our new Plane Spotlight series. We will take a look at the aircraft, some of its history and how the game represents it. Without further ado, let's jump in!
Designed by Lockheed-Martin, the P-38 is one of those aircraft that is instantly recognizable for its unique silhouette and intimidating profile that inspires both admiration and awe. It strays from more conventional aircraft design philosophies of the era by utilizing a twin boom design with the pilot located between them, "suspended" on a nacelle which also held the guns and cannon. This configuration was also used similarly on an another similarly unique-looking aircraft such as the German Fw-189 and the P-61 Black Widow, another american aircraft. Due to this wing configuration it is also equipped with a tricycle landing gear, a feature only a few aircraft of the era had but one that would become the norm with the birth of the jet.
The Lightning had many variants made throughout the war, but the one present in IL-2 Great Battles as a Collector aircraft is the late-war P-38J-25. This is, in my opinion, the pinnacle of this aircraft's design. It includes better engines with a better intercooler and, most importantly, dive recovery flaps that aided in solving the P-38's most important problem: loss of control due to compressibility.
For those who do not know, the P-38 was designed before compressibility was a known physical effect. In fact, it was one of if not the first American aircraft that suffered from this.
During testing, this aircraft demonstrated adverse effects when crossing a certain speed threshold (usually above or around Mach 0.65) which made it borderline unrecoverable during a dive. The J-25 models and some older ones (J-10 and J-20) were fitted/retro-fitted with a dive recovery system in the form of an airbrake/dive flap which eliminated much of this issue.
The Lightning is an aircraft that in its time pushed engineering to its limits and one that many pilots trusted their lifes to, becoming the one that made some of them aces over the Pacific and Europe.
THE BEAUTIFUL LINES OF THE LIGHTNING
In IL-2 Great Battles, the P-38 has been beautifully represented. Every bolt, seam and panel has been modeled to a very high degree of detail. What impressed me the most were the visible marks of wear and tear that an aircraft would have, it does not look like a factory-new aircraft. The area around the intercooler has a lot of oil as it should, and notice one more thing; the oil splatters follow the direction of the airflow. Look at the propeller's spinner and see how the oil follows the rotational direction of the prop, amazing. This is simply-put, a beautiful depiction of a spectacular aircraft.
The cockpit is equally well-made. All the gauges are there and mostly correspond with this model of P-38. My only gripe about this and all other aircraft in IL-2 Great Battles that I can not interact or click any of this gorgeous cockpit unlike how I would be able on IL-2 Cliffs of Dover/Desert Wings. I would love to click and move around all the levers and switches. The following images are a gallery, click the arrows to scroll around!
FLYING AND FIGHTING IN THE LIGHTNING
To be completely honest, I love the way it flies. I do not know what it is but it feels a bit better than some of the other aircraft in the game. It has more weight to it and it does not lack in engine power, which makes it feel a bit more like a flying battering ram. It lacks a bit of maneuverability but that is natural considering that it is heavier and larger than something like a Spitfire or a Mustang.
Another part that I really like about the Lightning is how the superchargers spool up as speed increases. This is characteristically distinctive of the Allison V-1710 engines equipped on the aircraft, which aided it in high altitude performance and endurance. Here, have a listen:
The best role that the P-38 can do is, in my opinion, that of a fighter-bomber. It can carry a lot of ordinance for a very long distance with the added bonus of being able to defend itself from enemy fighters with its four .50 caliber machine guns and its singular 20mm cannon. Do not get me wrong, this is an aircraft that can dogfight if the pilot manages its energy well, but there are better and more maneuverable fighters on the Allies' roster which are much more easier to dogfight on than the Lightning. Oh, by the way, sometimes all it takes is a single hit of your 20mm cannon to decimate the enemy aircraft. Really satisfying.
If I had to buy just one of the Collector aircraft for IL-2 Great Battles, it would be this one. It is versatile, unique and a lot of fun to fly. It has showed me that sometimes it does matter if you can dogfight on an aircraft but that you can also have fun doing boom-and-zoom attacks on enemy aircraft and ground-pounding airbases into oblivion. The Lightning will serve you well-
About the writer:
Santiago "Cubeboy" Cuberos
Longtime aviation fanatic with particular preference towards military aviation and its history. Said interests date back to the early 2000's leading into his livelong dive into civil and combat flight simulators. He has been involved in a few communities but only started being active around the mid 2010's. Joined as a Spanish to English translator in 2017, he has been active as a writer and content manager ever since. Twitter | Discord: Cubeboy #9034