Airborne Awesomosity

When One Mustang Isn’t Enough: The F-82 Twin Mustang


F-82 Twin Mustang


During the early days of the Cold War the need for very long range fighters was identified. The bombers of the day, like the B-36 Peacemaker, were being capable of flights of several thousand miles and protection was needed. During the Second World War the premier long range fighter escort was the P-51 Mustang. Naturally someone thought the best solution for the post war would be to marry two of these together.


F-82 Twin Mustang's in formation

During the preparation for Operation Olympus, the invasion of the Japanese home islands, the call was put out to North American to create a fighter escort that would be able to follow the B-29’s for the 2,000 miles during the mission. They were designed to use the same Packard Merlins that the P-51 had during the war. As well to keep the same armament of six 50 caliber machine guns. In the P-82 the guns would be clustered together in the new middle wing area. Allowing a much tighter firing group.

Although the prototypes were ready before the end of the war they would sit at the factory until 1946. Their future would be in two very different places Alaska and Korea. After the war the first thing to happen was that all US fighters changed from their pursuit P designations to the new fighter F designations. This would happen in  1947 with the separation of the US Air Force from the US Army.

Also of note was the change from the Packard Merlin back to the a newer version of the Allison V-1720 that had powered the first P-51 Mustangs. This was to avoid licensing fees to post war Britain. The change over happened with the P-82C model with the A’s and B’s becoming trainers. Since the Allison was a lower powered engine then the Merlin this was a rare occurrence of the trainer being faster then the production fighter.




F-82 production line

The F-82’s Twin Mustangs were deployed to Alaska with the Strategic Air Command to defend the northern border from marauding Russian bombers. Their long range would benefit them greatly in this role. At the same the Korean conflict was heating up and the Twin Mustangs were deployed as fighter escorts. This would be short lived with the appearance of the Mig 15 shutting down any chances of a piston engined fighter being able to protect it’s bombers.

Thus we would see the start of the F-82’s second life. The US Air Force identified a need for a radar equipped fighter that would able to located and dispatch enemy bombers at high altitude. Note the change here from one of escort to one of bomber destroyer. To accomplish this the second pilot’s cockpit was changed to a radar operator and more importantly the radar was installed as you see below.

Even with this their useful life was still short lived and they only were in service until 1952 when the first of the radar equipped jet fighters entered service.


File:North American P-82G Twin Mustang 4th Fighter Squadron 46-400 1950.jpg

F-82 Twin Mustang

Although it had a short service life the F-82 is notable for being the only twin fuselage aircraft to go into service after World War II. It should be noted that in this short time they served many roles admirably while the new aircraft were designed. Mostly it would be remembered as the last piston engined fighter ordered by the US. The roles it provided needed several aircraft to be designed to fulfill them.

The following decades would show a preference by the US Air Force for multirole aircraft. Aircraft with a single purpose being ignored in the face of a true multirole aircraft. For this we can see the F-82 as the predecessor to all that would follow her.



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  • $kaycog

    I know nothing about airplanes, but I just have to say that this F-82 is awesome!

  • Wonder how many North Korean/Chinese/Russian pilots thought they were up against 2 aircraft when they spotted one of these.

    • fodder650

      I would think quite a few. Who would have thought'd we do this?

  • aastrovan

    I thought I had seen everything the U.S. Military ever had in the air,until now.Good post.

    • fodder650

      There are some things even strange. Now that I am leaving WWII to focus on some Cold War tech you will see them in the coming weeks

  • The Twin-Mustang has always been high on my list. What's the best way to make something awesome better? Awesome x 2.

    At one time the CAF (Commemorative Air Force) used to have the only flyable F-82, back when the C stood for something less PC. I found a couple of pictures in my old CAF museum guides.

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    Apparently the Air Force took it back despite having given it over free and clear in the 1960s. A fact which I did not know, until I looked it up so I could put a link to the only flyable Twin-Mustang, and discovered it is now the former only flyable F-82.

    • Apparently the deal was the CAF could keep it as long as they wanted, they just couldn't give/sell it to anyone else. Also, looks like the props and landing gear are the special unobtanium parts.

    • thomasmac

      The real kicker is the USAFM now has 2 P-82s on display, I`ll be doing a post about my visit to that museum and I will be sure to include these 2 airframes. If your looking for more interesting reading there are 2 more under restoration to flying with the next 2 years.

      • fodder650

        Please do share that

        • thomasmac

          All in good time! Just submitted my National Air Force Museum of Canada post, then I`ve got the Canadian Air & Space Museum, then ill do the USAFM and maybe the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum

          • fodder650

            Actually the ones you've done have been pretty interesting. I thought about doing a small story on the Canadair CL-4 because it had the 4 Merlins that you have a picture of

  • fodder650

    Yes I would like to use that picture. Now you have me thinking of whether there was a Merlin powered aircraft with a tricycle landing gear. For the life of me the only thing that comes to mind is how they wanted to put a Merlin in a P-39 but couldnt because the engine was needed.
    This is going to bug me

  • fodder650

    The P-39/P-63 is on my list to do a write up on. Since they had so many odd features and the fact that although the US Air Force didn't like it, the Russians loved them

    • CaptianNemo2001

      It had cannons if i recall and something else that set it apart from the Mustang… Weight?

      • fodder650

        Sorry for the slow delay. It didn't use to many of the P-51 parts in the end. So it was pretty much a clean design that looked dated. Not what you want out of a new aircraft. It also had a very long range but by the time of Korea it was seen as a liability. The Mig-15 would have wiped them from the skies.