20 Cold War-Era Warplanes of the U.S. Air Force

P-61 Black Widow

The Army Rangers that liberated Cabanatuan Prison Camp likely wouldn’t have pulled off “The Great Raid” without a P-61 named Hard to Get flying overhead while the Rangers crawled up to their objective. Capt. Kenneth Schreiber cut the engines and started them up again to create a loud backfire — despite flying just above the treetops — and put on an aerobatic show until the Rangers suddenly wiped out the camp’s distracted defenders. America’s first night fighter was the also the first warplane built to use radar. The SCR-720 radar had a range of about five miles, and the radar operator would guide the pilot to the target until the target could be acquired visually. The 20-mm. dorsal turret could either be remotely fired by the gunner or the radar operator, or could be locked in the forward position and fired by the pilot. The P-61 served in the Pacific, European, Mediterranean, and China-Burma-India Theaters during World War II, and was replaced by F-82 Twin Mustangs just before the Korean War began.

Author: Chris Carter

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