This "Christmas Tree" fixed to the size of the Northrop
Black Widow P-61 night fighter is the radar interrogator, which sends
a constant and automatic impulse in the code of the day.
U.S. warpanes, caught in the widow's radar net automatically reply
in code, warning the Black Widow's observer that they are friendly.
Planes which sent back no code signal were identified as enemy, so
the Widow could close and sting with her eight heavy automatic guns.
The Northrop P-61 Black Widow, named for the American spider, was
the first operational U.S. military aircraft designed specifically
for night interception of opposing aircraft, and was the first aircraft
specifically designed to use radar.
Top speed: 366 mph (589 km/h)
Length: 50' (15 m)
Wingspan: 66' (20 m)
First flight: May 26, 1942
Engine type: Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp
Unit cost: 190,000190,000 USD
Courtesy: U.S. Army
National Museum of Air and Space:
The P-61 Black Widow was the first U.S. aircraft designed to locate
and destroy enemy aircraft at night and in bad weather, a feat made
possible by the use of on-board radar. The prototype first flew
in 1942. P-61 combat operations began just after D-Day, June 6,
1944, when Black Widows flew deep into German airspace, bombing
and strafing trains and road traffic. Operations in the Pacific
began at about the same time. By the end of World War II, Black
Widows had seen combat in every theater and had destroyed 127 enemy
aircraft and 18 German V-1 buzz bombs.
The Museums Black Widow, a P-61C-1-NO, was delivered to the
Army Air Forces in July 1945. It participated in cold-weather tests,
high-altitude drop tests, and in the National Thunderstorm Project,
for which the top turret was removed to make room for thunderstorm
Transferred from the United States Air Force
Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, Chantilly, VA
Hangar - Boeing Aviation Hangar
Courtesy: NASM - Smithsonian Institution