The Black Widow was the first U.S. aircraft to be designed from the beginning as a night fighter and was the standard front line night fighter by the end of the second world war. Design work commenced in 1940 at the time of the night-bombing which followed the Battle of Britain and many of the lessons learned at that time were incorporated by Northrop.The prototype XP-61 was a large aircraft approximiately the size and weight of a medium bomber, with a twin boom layout and accommodating the crew, radar and armament in a central nacelle. The three-men crew consisted of a pilot, a radar operator/gunner who sat above and behind him, and a radio operator/gunner in a separate compartment at the rear.
The fixed armament was a battery of four 20mm cannons beneath the floor and fired by the pilot and movable armament was a remotely controlled turret with four 0.5 inch machine guns which were capable of being operated by any of the crew. Delivery of production aircraft began in the second half of 1943. The first of these P-61A's ha the top turret fitted but problems arose in service and the majority of the A models built had the turret deleted. The P-61A Black Widow, "Lady in the Dark", which is one of the subjects of this model, took part in the Pacific Campaign with the 548th Night Fighter Squadron.
On August 14th, 1945, it took off from its base at La Shima with a crew of two, Lieutnant Clyde, the pilot and Lieutnant Leford, the radar operator, to intercept some Japanese "Oscar" fighters. Late that night, it made radar contact with an "Oscar" and gave chase. During the ensuing maneuvers, both aircraft flew closer ad closer to the sea, until the "Osacer" crashed without either machine firing a shot. When "Lady in the Dark" landed early on the morning of august 15th hostilities had ended and she had made the last kill of the war.
The P-61B Black Widow was powered by two 2,250 h.p. Pratt and Whitney Double Wasp engines, giving a maximum speed of 366 mph. Normal range was 940 miles and maximum range with external drop tanks was 1,900 miles. Armament consisted of four 20mm canons and four 0.5 inch machine-guns and up to 6,400 lb of bombs could be carried. Wingspan was 66 ft and lenght 48 ft 11 inch.
- Speed: 2/4
- Control: 1/4
- Fuel: 3/4
- Armour: 4/4