Home  |  What's New  |  Features  |  Gallery  |  Reviews  |  Reference  |  Forum  |  Search

P-38M Night Lightning

by Mark Brouyere


Lockheed P-38M Lightning


Academy's 1/48 scale P-38M Night Lightning is available online Squadron




I sometimes feel the "urge" to build a kit of a particular aircraft and, lately, I started building Academy's 1/48 scale P-38M Night Lightning. Given that there weren't a lot of P-38M produced, I decided to initiate building without worrying about the decoration (which, as Henry Ford could have said, could be anything, as long as it's black!) at that time.





The Academy kit is very nice and assembled quite easily after having tried the Hasegawa kit. I first test-fitted the main parts (fuselage, wings, booms and tailplane). After some adjustment, I glued the boom halves together without disassembling the model. This ensured that I had all the main parts correctly aligned, which is the main challenge with any P-38 kit. I then proceeded with the rest of the assembly.

I used a True Detail cockpit (which is one of their best) and added extra detailed to the RIO's station based on my reference pictures. Some filler was needed at the wing roots.



At this time I began looking for a subject. I was going to build the model as the prototype shown in many period photos and nicknamed "Night Lightning" on the nose. But while browsing in the book "Queen of the Midnight Skies" (Pape & Harrison - Schiffer Publishing) I discovered three small pictures of the P-38M's sent to Japan after the war for evaluation, and one of these was wearing a nice nose-art (and also a small 'cowl-art"!). I thought it would make a cool subject, and started digging a little further. The photos weren't of great quality. All I could see of the plane's identity was the last digit of the serial on the nose: a "5". The Internet came to the rescue, and I managed to gather some more information - the list of the serials of the P-38M production run, some facts about the 421st NFS, and mention about someone working on a book about that unit (more later), but no other picture unfortunately. I tried to make up the nose-art by scanning and playing with various software, but to no avail.

At the same time, I was trying the find the serial of that plane. I contacted the Air Force Historical Research Center at Maxwell AFB and, thanks to very helpful people there, received the historical card of 44-27245 holding the mention "Assigned to Fifth AF, PTO, on 8 Oct 1945". That was it!

At that time, I decided to put the project into storage, pending further information.

Then in December 2001, while looking around in a military bookshop here in Brussels, I saw the book "The 421st NFS in World War II" (Kolln - Schiffer Publ.) and there, among the many P-61's, where several pictures of the P-38M including a very nice, clear view of the nose art and crew names!! Don't you just love when pieces of the puzzle start to fall in place like in a dream!

So I was able to put the Lightning back on the production line.



Painting and Markings


Painting wasn't that difficult, but I tried to add subtle variations of grays to break an otherwise plain finish. Roundels were painted on the models using Frisket masks, and decals were drawn on my PC and printed on my ALPS printer.






Well, at one time, I was thinking the model could not be completed, but thanks to the power of Internet, I now have a nice-looking Night Lightning in my collection.

PS: be sure to add plenty of nose weight to balance the model; I didn't, and What You See Is NOT What You Get (thanks to digital picture retouching!!)





  • "Queen of the Midnight Skies", Garry R.Pape and Ronald C.Harrison, Shiffer 1992 - ISBN 0-88740-415-4

  • "The 421st Night Fighter Squadron in World War II", Jeff Kolln, Schiffer 2001 - ISBN 0-7643-1306-1

  • "WarbirdTech Vol.2 Lockheed P-38 Lightning", Frederick A.Johnsen, Specialty Press 1996 - ISBN 0-933424-65-5


Additional Images


Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

Model, Images and Article Copyright 2002 by Mark Brouyere
Page Created 09 April 2002
Last updated 04 June 2007

Back to HyperScale Main Page

Back to Features Page