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n June 23, 1943 General Hap Arnold approved a letter contract for Lockheed to build the XP-80. The first XP-80, nicknamed Lulubelle, was built in the security of a temporary structure thrown together in 10 days from old engine packing crates. An entire machine shop was purchased so that the tools needed to build Lulubelle would not be taken away from the Lockheed assembly line currently in wartime production. 123 men, 23 engineers and 105 shop men worked 10 hours a day, 6 days a week to build the first XP-80. The head designer was non other than the famed Clarence L. "Kelly" Johnson. On January 8, 1944, just 203 days after the contract was signed the XP-80 lifted off the dry lake bed with Milo Burcham at the controls. Lulubelle flew! Top speed was 502 mph.
The Air corps wanted it and many more but de Havilland could not deliver the engines needed. General Electric proposed that Lockheed use their refined "Whittle" engine called the I-40. But due to it's larger size, Lockheed would have to build and almost entirely new airframe. Lockheed built the new airframe as the XP-80A, and Tony LeVier test flew it on June 10, 1944. With 1600 lbs. more thrust and a slick new gray paint job, the XP-80A flew at 561 mph.
Army Air Corps did two things - put the P-80A into full production, and sent two YP-80As to Great Britain and two more to Italy for the purpose of combat testing and to build the sagging moral of bomber crews that faced the German Jet threat every day from the ME262. Both aircraft sent to England suffered problems - one being totally destroyed and the other being fitted with a Rolls-Royce engine. The two sent to Italy performed well. They did get in a few combat missions, but VE day closed out any chance of their meeting the vaunted German Jets. Army Air Corps ordered 4390 F-80As.
The P-80A was essentially the same aircraft as the YP-80A. Dive brakes and boundary layer bleed ducts had now been installed and the armament bay redesigned. The GE I-40, now designated the J-33 was replaced by the Allison-built J-33-9/11, and later F-80A-5s by the J-33-17. Lockheed pushed the Army Air Corps for a jet trainer version but the Air Corps saw no need for such an aircraft and they didn't want to "waste" any fighter airframes. The methods for training jet pilots in 1947 was 180 hours in the T-6, 50 hours in P-51 Mustangs, and about 25 hours in a "captive" P-80.
Finally in January 1948 a cost-conscious Air Force awarded a contract for 20 TF-80C jet trainers and the designation was later changed to T-33A. The original trainer version was an F-80B fuselage with a 26 inch section added forward of the wingroot. Another 12 inch section was added forward of the rear fuselage for balance and stability. Additional differences between the P-80B and the TF-80C were: smaller 85 gallon fuselage fuel tank, nylon fuel cells, two .50 caliber guns instead of six, improved air conditioning, and of course dual fight controls. Also a six gun nose could be fitted to the T-33. Early models even had 1000 lb. bomb shackles on the wings. The only major change to the T-33 was the addition of Fletcher-type wingtip tanks. Almost 6000 T-33s were built, including 649 for the Navy and 1058 for foreign air forces. Canadair built 656 MKIIIs under license and Kawasaki built 210.
On November 8, 1950, the first jet-vs-jet aerial combat took place between a P-80 Shooting Star and a MIG-15 in the area in northwest Korea later known as "MIG Alley." Several days prior to the fateful day, MIG-15 jets had been encountered by U.S. AF F-51Ds on patrol near the Yalu River area. On the afternoon of 8 November, Lt. Russell Brown piloting his Shooting Star of the 16th Fighter Squadron, outmaneuvered two attacking MIG-15s, tacked onto the tail of one of them, and poured .50 caliber fire into him until the MIG exploded. It was the first of 827 MIGs to be shot down in Korea and the first jet-vs-jet victory ever. Units in Korea also used the TF-80C/T-33 and the RF-80. TF-80Cs and T-33s were used for photo-recon and pilot familiarization flights
1954 Canadiar T-33 Serial # 306
1954 Canadair CT-133 Serial # 452
AUP Upgrade 1999
1959 Canadair CT-133 Serial # 610
AUP Upgrade 2000
Stearman’s have been added to the fleet! More info coming soon!
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