Wing Span: 113”
Wing Area: 1875 sq. in.
Weight: 38 to 45 lbs.
Engines: (2) 3.5 to 5.2 cu. in gas
The Northrop P-61 Black Widow was originally ordered by the British. It was the first American aircraft to be designed as a night fighter. It had an enclosed radar rather than the radar arms outside the fuselage that created drag and slowed the aircraft by 25 mph or more. It was a large aircraft, similar to a medium bomber, but was very agile and the pilots loved the way it flew. Armament was four 50 cal. Machine guns mounted on a movable dorsal turret and four 20 mm canons mounted in the fuselage. It carried a might punch for a fighter.
Early models were not supercharged and lacked speed and high altitude performance that the British needed. They canceled their orders for the Black Widow.
The USAAF used them in the Mediterranean and the Pacific primarily. The dorsal turret was eliminated due to shortages because the B-29 needed them too. Extra fuel tanks replace the turret. Later models were equipped with super-turbocharges and newer R-2800 engines and became a very potent aircraft.
There were many innovations first used on the P-61. It had spoilers for lateral stability, assisted by small ailerons for a better pilot feel, enclosed radar.
Although design began early in the war, too few arrived early enough to make an impact. The squadrons that received the Black Widow after D-Day and shortly there after the Allies owned the sky, so most of the P-61’s ended up in the Pacific.