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Posted 2/4/2011 Printable Fact Sheet
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Northrop P-61
Northrop P-61A-1-NO (S/N 42-5488; fourth block 1 aircraft built) taken Aug. 25, 1944. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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The heavily-armed Black Widow was America's first aircraft specifically designed as a night-fighter. In the nose, it carried radar equipment that enabled its crew of two or three to locate enemy aircraft in total darkness and fly into proper position to attack.

The XP-61 was flight-tested in 1942 and delivery of production aircraft began in late 1943. The P-61 flew its first operational intercept mission as a night fighter in Europe on July 3, 1944, and later was also used as a night intruder over enemy territory. In the Pacific, a Black Widow claimed its first "kill" on the night of July 6, 1944. As P-61s became available, they replaced interim Douglas P-70s in all USAAF night fighter squadrons. During World War II, Northrop built approximately 700 P-61s; 41 of these were -Cs manufactured in the summer of 1945, offering greater speed and capable of operating at higher altitude. Northrop fabricated 36 more Black Widows in 1946 as F-15A unarmed photo-reconnaissance aircraft.

The National Museum of the United States Air Force has a P-61C on display.

Type Number built/
XP-61 2 Prototype night fighter
YP-61 13 Service test
P-61 80 Pwr turret, S/N 42-5485 to -5522 only
P-61A 120 Improved P-61; no top turret
P-61B 450 Improved P-61A; drop tanks added
P-61C 41 Engine change; top turret added
XP-61D 1 (cv) Modified P-61A with engine change
XP-61E 1 (cv) Modified P-61B; new armament
XP-61F 1 (cv) Modified P-61C

Armament: Four .50-cal. machine guns in upper turret and four 20mm cannons in belly; 6,400 lbs. of bombs
Engines: Two Pratt & Whitney R-2800s of 2,100 hp each
Maximum speed: 425 mph
Cruising speed: 275 mph
Range: 1,200 miles
Service ceiling: 46,200 ft.
Span: 66 ft.
Length: 49 ft. 7 in.
Height: 14 ft. 8 in.
Weight: 35,855 lbs. loaded

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