PART 12

THE TWIN MUSTANG

‘The United States Air Force was tired of paying a $6,000 royalty to Great Britain for each Merlin engine built in this country by Packard ... It was really pathetic to see a good [airplane] design simply ruined by politics and the lack of cooperation by the Allison people in building a good engine.’

Edgar O. Schmued

Nicknamed ‘Double Trouble’ and/or ‘Siamese Twin’, the North American P-82/F-82 was officially known as the Twin Mustang. This most appropriate name said it all as the F-82 was made of two Mustang fuselages joined together by a short mid-wing and mid-tail assemblies. The Twin Mustang holds the distinction as the last piston-powered propeller-driven fighter airplane ordered into production by the US Army Air Forces. It was also the only twin fuselage airplane to be procured for use by the military in the US.

The introduction into service of the Twin Mustang was too late for the Second World War, but it was widely available post-war. When it was first ordered into production, the Twin Mustang was to be a very long range (VLR) fighter. Based on Iwo Jima, it was designed to protect 20th Air Force B-29s flying from the islands of Guam, Saipan and Tinian.

The P-51D and P-51K series of fighters, fitted with two 150-US gallon jettisonable external fuel tanks, proved to be capable of flying the furthest of all Mustangs. However, as mission ranges increased, the USAAF demanded a aircraft that could go further. This requirement led to a high priority programme to find an extreme range pursuit aircraft and a number of US airframe contractors offered their respective VLR designs. NAA, under USAAF Materiel Command Secret Project MX-485, came up with the NA-120 and it was a winning design. It was designed by and its patent filed by Edgar O. Schmued on 31 March 1944 (Schmued’s three-and-a-half year patent was approved 4 June 1946). The Twin Mustang was not created by the marriage of two P-51H airplanes joined at the hip like most references indicate. It consisted of two lengthened Mustang fuselages and a modified wing based on the earlier NA-105 XP-51F ‘Lightweight Mustang’ prototype, but with a higher vertical tail and a larger area dorsal fin. It also featured ‘beefier’ landing gear legs to support its extra weight. The P-82 Twin Mustang began life as a twin-engine long-range daytime pursuit, then a VLR bomber escort, but evolved into a dedicated night-time (all weather) fighter.

The story of the P-82 began on 7 January 1944 when the USAAF ordered four XP-82 prototypes, each powered by two V-1650-23(L)/-25(R) Merlin engines under NA-120. The remaining two of the four XP-82 airplanes ordered were cancelled and, on 8 March 1944, 500 production NA-123 examples were ordered as P-82B, P-82C and P-82D airplanes. The cancelled third XP-82 was reinstated and built as the XP-82A (44-83888), powered by Allison V-1710-119 engines.

XP-82 and XP-82A

The first XP-82 (44-83886) was rolled out on 25 May 1945 and was to be flight tested out of Mines Field on 16 June 1945 by NAA test pilot Joseph E. ‘Joe’ Barton. However, NAA aeronautical engineer Marc W. Malsby, who was then assigned to the Twin Mustang programme, said that it would not fly. Malsby explained: ‘Joe Barton tried it again and again, several days in a row. He would get up to speed, pull back on the stick and the tail wheels of the twin [as he called it] would set back down on the runway. Bob Chilton also tried to make it fly but he couldn’t either. The technical staff had a meeting. Joe Barton tried it a few more times – it still didn’t fly – so Ed Virgin (Chief Engineering Test Pilot on the P-82 programme) and Joe Barton decided to come in on a Saturday when they would have the runway to themselves. After off-loading some of the fuel to achieve a faster acceleration, they charged down the runway. Joe pulled back on the stick to almost the full-back position when suddenly the airplane jumped off the ground and leaped about fifty feet into the air. Barton recovered nicely and completed a short flight without any further trouble. As it happened, the engines had been installed with the propellers rotating toward each other, and due to this direction of travel, the centre section of the wing between the fuselages had stalled. We changed the rotation of the propellers to an outward rotation – away from each other, which fully solved the takeoff problem.’ (In engineering terms this was called ‘Propellers up Flow in Centre Section’ that caused the stall. ‘Propellers down Flow in Centre Section’ corrected the issue.)

The first Twin Mustang (44-83886) is undergoing its early assembly processes within the experimental shop at Inglewood. The airplane was finished in May 1945 and made its first flight out of Mines Field on 23 June 1945 with NAA test pilot Joe Barton at the controls. (Rockwell International Chris Wamsley)

An operational F-82B (44-65169) in its night (all weather) fighter motif as it appeared in 1949. Their black colour and red lettering made them almost invisible while they were on the prowl. (Stan Piet)

NAA staff artist Reynald Brown produced this colour phantom view of a production-type P-82 with basic armament of six .50 cal. machine guns in its wing centre section and vast array of 5-in. Holy Moses rockets attached to hangers under its wings c. 1944. (Rockwell International via Chris Wamsley)

Barton’s short flight was on 23 June and a longer test flight of nearly two hours was flown on Monday 25 June 1945. The second XP-82 (44-83887) was completed and flown two months later. After its first flight on 30 August 1945, the second XP-82 was flown northeast about 100 miles to Muroc Army Air Field (now Edwards Air Force Base) for ongoing flight test evaluations.

The one-of-a-kind Allison V-1710-119-powered XP-82A suffered from numerous propulsive system difficulties during engine run-ups on the Mines Field flight line and there is no documentation available that proves that it was flown or what became of it. This remains an aviation history mystery. The fourth XP-82 (44-83889) that had been cancelled was reborn as an XP-82A to be powered by Allison V-1710-119 engines but was cancelled before completion.

XP-82 and XP-82A Twin Mustang Specifications

Length: 39.0/39.0 ft

Height: 13.6/13.6 ft 

Wing span: 51.3/51.3 ft 

Wing area: 408/408 sq ft 

Propulsive system: XP-82 – two 1,380-hp Packard-built V-1650-23 (left) and V-1650-25 (right) engines; XP-82A – two 1,500-hp Allison V-1710-143 (left) and V-1710-144 (right) engines; second unbuilt XP-82A was to have V-1710-119(L) and V-1710-119(R) engines 

Empty weight: 13,402 lb 

Maximum take-off weight: 19,170 lb 

Maximum ordnance: none/none 

Armament: none/none 

Maximum range: 2,600 miles 

Maximum speed: 468 mph 

Combat range: 1,390 miles 

Combat ceiling: 40,000 ft

The premier XP-82 now designated XF-82 as it appeared at NACA Langley on 24 July 1948. It was assigned NACA aircraft number 114. It was presented to NACA Langley shortly after its flight test programme had ended in late 1945 and remained there until at least 1952 when it was scrapped. While with NACA, it was used in part for drop-body tests of various shapes such as missiles and rockets attached to a rack under its centre wing section. Its PQ-886 buzz number was applied in 1945 when all existing military aircraft were so adorned. Buzz numbers were applied for easy aircraft identification from the ground in case their pilots flew them in inappropriate ways such as low-level home buzzing passes which had been a real problem at the time. (NASA)

The XP-82 Twin Mustang Restoration Project is ongoing at the time of writing in a modernised Second World War hangar at the Douglas Municipal Airport in Douglas, Georgia. A team of volunteers headed by owner Tom Reilly are making good progress in a full restoration of the second of two experimental XP-82 Twin Mustangs to flying status. On 20 March 2012, this author asked Mr. Reilly for his best estimate as to when the airplane will be completed. Mr Reilly replied, ‘It’s a slow process but the airplane will be up and sitting upon its landing gear by the end of this year.’ Further information on this project can be found at www.xp-82twinmustangproject.com. (Photograph courtesy of XP-82 Twin Mustang Restoration Project)

The second of two XP-82 airplanes (44-83887) as it appeared shortly after it was completed in July 1945. Four XP-82 airplanes had been ordered at the outset but the last two (44-83888 and 44-83889) were soon cancelled. At least one of the cancelled XP-82s – number three (44-83888) – was reinstated as the XP-82A to evaluate Allison V-1710-119 engines, both having right-hand rotations. But there is no confirmation that the XP-82A was ever completed, however. There is no information to be found on the number four NA-120 (44-83889) also to be completed as an XP-82A. (Stan Piet)

This beautiful photograph illustrates the second of two experimental XP-82 Twin Mustang airplanes. Top speed of the XP-82 aircraft was 470 mph at 25,600 feet. They measure 51-ft 3-in. long with a wing span of 38-ft 1-in. Gross weight was 24,600 lb. (Stan Piet)

Two experimental XP-82 Twin Mustang airplanes were produced. Shown here is an example on 5 May 1951 running its two V-1650-23/-25 engines prior to a test flight out of the NACA-Langley Research Center in Virginia. Then designated XF-82, it has a missile or rocket mounted under its centre wing section for an aerodynamic carriage and drop-body evaluation. (NASA)

The NA-123 P-82B was the first production version of the Twin Mustang and NAA built eighteen of them. This particular P-82B (44-65179) is parked on a ramp at Muroc (later Edwards) AFB. The P-82s were primarily used as service test aircraft to prove the type before full-scale production was authorised. These were temporarily designated P-82Z. Some were brought up to operational standard and were deployed with user squadrons. (Stan Piet)

Betty Jo’ was turned over to NACA-Cleveland and was used for a number of programmes including electronic surveillance. It is shown here carrying sophisticated eavesdropping equipment underwing in 1952. During this time it was designated EF-82B with buzz number EFQ-168. It was later presented to what is now the National Museum of the United States Air Force where it resides today. (NASA)

P-82A

According to official USAF contract records, P-82A airplanes were never ordered. Yet, in many of the references this author has researched, there are numerous mentions of four P-82A airplanes on the books. As it turned out, the previously mentioned four P-82E airplanes were indeed listed as P-82A airplanes.

P-82B, P-82C and P-82D

The P-82B was built as a pursuit type while the P-82C and P-82D aircraft were completed with search radar to serve as night or all weather fighters. The initial 500 plane P-82B/C/D contract was reduced to just twenty aircraft and these became eighteen P-82Bs, a P-82C and a P-82D. While these aircraft underwent various performance evaluations, radar interception and weapons testing, the war against Germany and Japan had ended. And it was not until 12 December 1945 that the first large production order for 100 P-82E airplanes surfaced under NA-144. The P-82B was the first production version of the Twin Mustang and the first example (44-65160) made its first flight at Mines Field on 19 October 1945.

On 27-28 February 1947, USAAF Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. ‘Bob’ Thacker and his co-pilot/navigator, USAAF First Lieutenant John M. Ard, flew a P-82B-1-NA (44-65168), nicknamed ‘Betty Jo’ after Thacker’s wife, non-stop 4,968 miles from Hickam Field, Hawaii, to La Guardia Airport in New York City, New York, in fourteen hours, thirty-one minutes and fifty seconds averaging 342 mph. On take-off, the airplane had 1,816 US gallons fuel aboard: 576 gallons carried internally and 1,240 gallons externally in four 310-gallon drop tanks. It landed with only sixty gallons of fuel remaining. Oddly, either Thacker or Ard had forgotten to drop three of the four external fuel tanks and landed in New York with them still attached. These had caused drag so one can imagine an even shorter time of flight had they been jettisoned. This flight remains the longest non-stop flight by a piston-power propeller-driven military airplane. (The name ‘Betty Jo’ had been misspelled as ‘Betty Joe’, but was soon corrected at the behest of Col. Thacker.)

A Strategic Air Command, 8th Air Force, 27th Fighter Escort Wing F-82E (46-332), shares the flight line with numerous other F-82E aircraft at Kearney AFB, Nebraska, c. late 1948. NAA built 100 NA-144 F-82E airplanes and this is the seventy-seventh example produced. The 27FEW had three squadrons at this time: the 522nd, 523rd and 524th Fighter Escort Squadrons. (USAF)

For a short period, the P-82B-1-NA airplanes were designated P-82Z (the suffix Z meaning obsolete) and for the most part were used for service testing. However, in late 1948, one F-82B-1-NA (44-65172) was extensively modified to serve as a long-range photographic reconnaissance airplane designated RF-82B. It was first flown on 15 November 1948. This photo-recce modification was successful but no such modifications to other Twin Mustangs were forthcoming.

Only one P-82C (44-65169) was produced, a modified P-82B (the 10th production example) rather than a complete new build. It was classified as a night fighter (all weather fighter) and came equipped with the US Radiation Laboratory-Bell Telephone Laboratories developed SCR-720 airborne interception radar system in a large bulbous housing below the centre wing panel that protruded several feet ahead of it. The one-of-a-kind P-82C made its first flight out of Mines Field on 27 March 1946.

Flying for the first time on 29 March, the only P-82D was also classified as an all weather fighter, but was fitted with the lightweight Westinghouse AN/APS-4 airborne interception radar system in a similar centre wing-mounted pod. It was created from the 11th production P-82B (44-65170).

P-82E, P-82F, P-82G and P-82H

The P-82E variant was built with Allison V-1710-143 (left) and V-1710-145 (right) engines with auxiliary stage superchargers which gave these engines 1,600 hp at take-off with water injection. The first P-82E (46-255) made its first flight on 17 February 1947 from Mines Field to Muroc AAF.

The V-1710-143/-145 Allison engines were troublesome from the start and suffered from spark plug fouling due to leaky oil rings (they had to be changed after every flight), backfiring at all power settings, oil leakage, roughness and surging. This was considered so bad that the first four P-82E airplanes were set aside for further service testing and were re-designated P-82As.

One attempt at curing these difficulties was the application of twin exhaust outlets for each one of the twelve exhaust ports. This created twenty-four exhaust outlets, twelve on either side of the engine rather than six. Thus, some Es and all of the Fs, Gs and Hs had 12 exhaust ports instead of six on either bank of their Allison V-1710 engines. Not only was the Allison V-1710 engine proving unsatisfactory, its manufacturer was lagging behind with its deliveries to the Twin Mustang programme. Since NAA needed more space for other production programmes at its Inglewood facility, it decided to lease the old Consolidated Vultee plant in Downey some fifteen miles due east in late 1947 to store the unassembled P-82 airframes while it awaited engine deliveries. Once the V-1710s started to come in, the aircraft were completed and flown out on their acceptance and delivery fights from Vultee Field next to the assembly facility which NAA eventually procured for its own use.

The first P-82G (46-355), using the same propulsive system as the P-82F, flew from Vultee Field in Downey, California, to Muroc AAF during its maiden flight on 8 December 1947 before the P-82F. Strangely, the premier P-82F (46-405) made its first flight three months after the P-82G on 11 March 1948. It landed at Muroc after its first flight. It used the V-1710-143(L)/V-1710-145(R) propulsive system. Like all pursuit airplanes in service at the time, the P-82 was re-designated F-82 on 11 June 1948 when the Department of Defense changed the P for Pursuit prefix to F for Fighter.

Once the US Army Air Forces became the US Air Force on 18 September 1947, a number of new commands were formed to which operational P-82s were assigned. These included the Alaska Air Command, Air Defense Command and the Strategic Air Command.

Fourteen F-82H airplanes were created from the last nine production F-82Fs (46-496 to 46-504) and another five production F-82Gs (46-384 to 46-388). The first F-82H Twin Mustang made its first flight from Vultee Field on 15 February 1949. The F-82H aircraft were all specially outfitted for cold weather operations at Ladd Air Force Base in Alaska with the 449th Fighter (All Weather) Squadron of the Alaskan Air Command. These were equipped with the SCR-720 search radar (same as the G and some earlier variants), type F-1 autopilot, RC-193 radar beacon, radar altimeters and AN/ARA-8 homing receiver.

On 27 June 1950, an F-82G (46-383) (‘Bucket of Bolts’) flown by First Lt. William ‘Skeeter’ Hudson and accompanied by his radar operator, Lt. Carl Fraser of the 347th Fighter (All Weather) Group, 68th Fighter (All Weather) Squadron, based at Itazuke Air Base in Japan, intercepted and shot down a North Korean Yakovlev Yak-11. This went down as the first aerial victory of the Korean War by either side. But on the same day, another F-82G (46-382 or 46-601; this remains unclear) flown by Major James Little of the 339th Fighter (All Weather) Squadron, 347th Fighter (All Weather) Group, claimed a North Korean Lavochkin La-7. Also, a third victory was claimed by F-82G pilot First Lt. Charles Moran from the 68th F (AW) S: another La-7. Whether Hudson, Little or Moran was first to get a kill that day remains to be seen. Nevertheless, these were the first aerial kills recorded in the Korean War and the only F-82 kills recorded during the conflict.

During the Korean War, some F-82Hs assigned to the 449th F (AW) S were temporarily based at Marks Field near Nome, Alaska. From there they flew two-ship patrols over the Bering Strait to photograph military activities and installations just across the strait over eastern Russia. Since these aircraft were not equipped with photographic reconnaissance cameras, their crews were obligated to fly at low level (10-15,000 feet) and photograph their surroundings with 80-mm Hasselblad HK7 hand-held cameras with 250-mm telephoto lenses. The last operational F-82H, assigned to the 449th F (AW) S, was retired from service in June 1953.

F-82E/F/G/H Twin Mustang Specifications

Length: 39.11/42.2/42.2 ft/42.2 ft 

Height: 13.10/13.10/13.10 ft/13.10 ft 

Wing span: 51.2/51.6/51.6 ft/51.6 ft 

Wing area: 417/417/417/417 sq ft 

Propulsive system: two Allison V-1710-143 (left) and V-1710-145 (right)/same/same/same 

Empty weight: 14,914/16,309/15,997/16,060 lb 

Maximum take-off weight: 24,864/26,208/25,891/28,300 lb 

Maximum ordnance: 4,000/4,000/4,000/4,000 lb (four 1,000 lb bombs or two 2,000-lb bombs, or twenty-five five-in.-diameter HVAR rockets 

Armament: six .50 calibre Browning M2 Heavy Machine Guns in centre wing section; some used the improved M3 machine gun 

Maximum speed: 460/455/455/455 mph 

Combat range: 2,500/2,210/2,238/2,430 miles 

Combat ceiling: 38,400/36,800/37,200/37,500 ft

Combat Action in the Korean War

With the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950, the F-82 was pressed into operational combat duty. On 24-25 June 1950, 68th Fighter (All Weather) Squadron F-82 aircrews at Itazuke Air Base, Japan, were notified at 04:00 hours that Headquarters Far East Air Forces had received a report that North Korea had crossed the 38th Parallel. Their mission was to fly to the area and report back on any activity seen on the main roads and railways.

When the alert aircraft reached the area, it was overcast with cloud tops at about 8,000 feet. Using their airborne search radar, the Twin Mustangs flew through the clouds and broke out at about 2,000 feet, heading for Kimpo Airfield near Seoul. The pilots observed huge convoys of North Korean trucks and other vehicles, including fifty-eight tanks which had crossed into South Korea. Climbing into the clouds, the crews returned to Itazuke AB where they were debriefed by a US Army colonel from General Douglas 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 launched a full-scale invasion of South Korea. FEAF’s first priority, however, was to evacuate US citizens. On the morning of 26 June, the Norwegian freighter Reinholt was sent to Inchon Harbour 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 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 hours when a pair of Soviet-built aircraft (the exact aircraft type has yet to be determined) came out of the clouds. The F-82 pilots were prohibited against aggressive action; however, their gun switches were activated when the enemy leader tightened his turn and peeled towards 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. The North Korean leader fired out of effective range and his bullets fell short. 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 did not 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 transported to Sasebo, Japan.

Once the bulk of civilians had been evacuated by ship, the priority of FEAF changed to a military nature. The 339th F (AW) S received orders from HQ Fifth Air Force to move all available aircraft, along with crews and equipment, 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. Seven F-82s were at Yokota AB and two were in a hangar undergoing maintenance for major repairs. Four F-82s were at Misawa AB on TDY. The three at Yokota were dispatched immediately to Itazuke and as 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 F-80 Shooting Star was available, but its thirsty jet engine restricted its operational endurance to remain over the airfield for a few minutes before returning to base. Also, the F-80 did not possess the range to reach the forward combat area from Japan. No USAF P-51 Mustangs were available and Great Britain had yet to make a decision to commit to the war, making the Australian Mustangs in Japan of primary importance.

Headquarters FEAF ordered Twentieth Air Force to send eight F-82s from its 4th F (AW) S from Okinawa to Itazuke, making a total of twenty-seven F-82s available for combat duty. This was commendable, considering that on 31 May 1950, a total of thirty-two F-82s existed within FEAF. With these combined squadrons, the 347th Provisional Fighter Group (All Weather) was formed.

Before dawn on 27 June, the 347th PFG (AW) was in the air over Korea with a mission to provide cover for Douglas C-54 Skymaster transports flying in and out of Kimpo Airfield as they moved the last civilians out. Fearing that the North Korean Air Force might attempt to shoot down the transports (a C-54 had been destroyed on the ground at Kimpo by North Korean fighters on 25 June), the Air Force requested air cover to protect the aircraft during take-off. Fortunately, 339th Fighter (All Weather) Squadron with their F-82Gs was based at Yokota, Japan, and the 68th F (AW) S at Itazuke AB. With Lieutenant Colonel John F. Sharp in command, 27 F-82Gs answered the call. Arriving in the early morning, they orbited Kimpo Airfield in three flights, each above the other. Suddenly, at 11:50 hours, five North Korean fighters (Soviet-built Yak-9s, Yak-11s and La-7s) appeared, heading for the airfield. One of the Yak-11s scored several hits on 68th F (AW) S pilot Lt. Charles Moran’s vertical stabiliser. 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 calibre 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 fuel tank on fire and knocking off the right flap and aileron. The North Korean pilot baled 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, considering his hopeless situation, he pulled out a pistol and fired 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, Major 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 the five North Korean aircraft dispatched, only two returned to their base.

Considering these crews had not been extensively trained in air-to-air gunnery, they did exceptionally well. It is generally believed that the aircraft Hudson and co-pilot Fraiser flew that day was an F-82G named ‘Bucket of Bolts’ (USAF serial number 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 that ‘Bucket of Bolts’ was scrapped at Ladd AFB, Alaska, in 1953.)

In the following weeks, the F-82G pilots would exceed all expectations. On 28 June, orders came down for all F-82s to be used in heavy ground support against North Korean activity found between the front lines and the 38th Parallel. Every F-82 that could be made ready for flight was pressed into combat service. Although the Fifth Air Force needed every available aircraft to repulse the North Korean invasion, it was difficult to justify the release of all F-82s from their defensive responsibilities. It was decided to release all F-82s for combat except for a flight that was deployed from the 4th F (AW) S in Okinawa to Japan and a full squadron of F-80s for air defence. On 30 June, FEAF requested HQ USAF for an additional twenty-one 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 sixty 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 fighters were available. Further, the Air Force lacked a sufficient number of F-82s (182 total operational aircraft out of 260 built) and did not want to weaken the F-82 units committed to the Pacific Northwest or Atlantic coast, or to draw from the fourteen cold-weather F-82Hs based 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 cannibalising everything in sight in order to keep the maximum number of F-82s airborne. During 26-30 June, the 68th squadron flew thirty-five combat sorties averaging five hours per sortie, with the 339th flying a similar number of missions.

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 F-80 Shooting Stars had effectively stopped North Korea’s Air Force from penetrating the 38th parallel. The F-82s conducted strike and escort missions and night intruder sorties. Several F-82s took hits in their radar radomes which were difficult to replace. As a consequence, the radomes were removed, converting the F-82s as day fighters. In the ground support role, the F-82s could reach any part of the Korean battlefield with a total ordnance load of over 4,000 lb. Each of the six .50 calibre machine guns carried 400 rounds. This firepower was well used against numerous ground targets. The escort missions flown with the B-26s took F-82s deep into the heart of North Korea. 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, thirty-eight tanks and seven personnel carriers were destroyed as well as a large number of enemy troops killed when the B-26s attacked 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 afterwards, the 4th Squadron returned to Okinawa with the 347th Provisional Fighter Group and control of the 68th Squadron turned over to the 8th Fighter Group. The 339th had been in combat for ten days flying a total of forty-four 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 were patrolling over South Korea over a thick overcast when they received an urgent request for air support from hard-pressed soldiers. Darkness was approaching when they reached the area and found UN 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 forty-five minutes and use all their ordnance. When the aircraft climbed into the clouds for the last time, the mortar positions were silent and left over 300 enemy dead.

Beginning in October 1950, F-82s would start flying weather reconnaissance pre-dawn missions over North Korea. At the same time, the squadron would also be responsible for keeping at least three aircraft on alert in the Seoul area (K-13 or Suwon and K-14 or 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 two 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 United Nations (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 reconnaissance 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 or 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 thirty-five trucks destroyed with damage to many others.

As 1951 progressed, the F-82s of the 68th Squadron continued its mission of air defence 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 Mustang. In March 1952, the Starfire-equipped 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 and then deployed to Alaska. By mid-April 1952, the F-82s in Okinawa were also sent to Japan for modification and then 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 28 May 1951, 20 miles (32 km) N of 38th parallel. 

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

46-373 (6160th ABW, 68th FIS) crashed 5 mi (8 km) NW of Brady AB, Japan, 12 February 1951. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Total: 10

1951 was the last year of F-82 operations in Korea as they were gradually replaced by the jet-powered F-94 Starfire. Twin Mustangs destroyed twenty enemy aircraft: three in the air and seventeen on the ground during the conflict.

On 27 June 1950, three F-82G airplanes bagged the first North Korean aircraft to be shot down. These included: 

1Lt William G. Hudson, 68SQ, YAK-11 

Maj. James W. Little, 339SQ, LA-7 

1Lt Charles B. Moran, 68SQ, LA-7

Twin Mustang Operating Units

Air Defense Command; 2nd Fighter (All Weather) Squadron; 5th Fighter (All Weather) Squadron; 

52nd Fighter (All Weather) Squadron; 317th Fighter (All Weather) Squadron; 318th Fighter (All Weather) Squadron; 319th Fighter (All Weather) Squadron; 325th Fighter (All Weather) Group; 

Alaska Air Command; 449th Fighter (All Weather) Squadron; 5001st Composite Group; Air Force Reserve; 84th Fighter (All Weather) Wing; Far East Air Forces; 4th Fighter Squadron; 347th Fighter (All Weather) Group; Twentieth Air Force; 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing Japan; 68th Fighter (All Weather) Squadron; Strategic Air Command; 27th Fighter-Escort Group; 523rd Fighter-Escort Squadron; 524th Fighter-Escort Squadron; 552nd Fighter-Escort Squadron; 52nd Fighter (All Weather) Group; 2nd Fighter (All Weather) Squadron; 5th Fighter (All Weather) Squadron; Fifth Air Force; 347th Provisional Fighter Group; 314th Air Division

Twin Mustang Production

NA-120, XP-82, 2; NA-120, XP-82A, 2; NA-123, P-82B, 18; 44-65168 modified to EF-82B for NASA – 44-65172 modified to RF-82B; NA-123, P-82C, 1; NA-123, P-82D, 1; NA-144, P-82E, 100; NA-149, P-82F, 91; NA-150, P-82G, 45 

Total: 260 

NA-150, P-82H, 14 (not new builds but modified from nine P-82Fs and five P-82Gs)

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