The P-82 Twin Mustang, sometimes lovingly referred to as 'Double Trouble' and later redesignated the F-82, was something of an odd concept, taking two P-51 Mustang fuselages and slapping them together to create a long-range escort fighter. But that doesn't mean it wasn't beautiful and effective.
Only 272 of the aircraft were built and the last time one had flown, or even run its engines for that matter, was in 1987. Now all that is about to change. But before a first flight milestone is reached, thanks to master warbird restorer Tom Reilly, we get to see and hear one of these marvelous machines awake and humming once again, with its twin Merlin engines churning away side-by-side.
XP-82 44-83887 was a prototype for what would become known as the P/F-82. You can read about how Tom came upon the project and went about restoring what was seemingly unrestorable here. But suffice it to say, over the last decade the warbird nut has made his very expensive dream nearly come true, with the imminent goal of flying the reforged XP-82 Twin Mustang to Oshkosh this Summer. Regardless of if this happens or not, a once seemingly mythical future where a Twin Mustang could still be seen skirting the heavens is about to become a reality.
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The P-82 was in the works in the latter half of World War II. It was intended to be paired with B-29s on very long-range missions—up to 2,300 miles—that were well beyond the reach of P-38 Lightnings, but the type didn't become operational until 1946. Still, the Twin Mustang went on to have a successful career, protecting the homeland for Air Defense Command and being among the first American aircraft to wade into the Korean conflict.
The Twin Mustang even holds the mantle of the type to shoot down the first three North Korean aircraft of the war. It also proved to be a highly effective ground attack platform, wreaking havoc on North Korean positions with its guns, rockets, and bombs.
Not long into its seven-year operational run, some of the F-82s gained a center-wing mounted radar and the electronics to go with it, making it the USAF's top night interceptor and replacing the World War II vintage P-61 Black Widow. But even with the P-82's great versatility and proven pedigree, the arrival of the jet age would usher in its demise.
Although it borrows on the Mustang design directly, the P-82 shares few interchangeable parts with its single-engine progenitor. Additionally, one of its Packard-built Rolls-Royce V-1650 Merlin engines turns to the left, making the aircraft even harder to restore and find parts for. But thanks to the hard work and dedication of Tom Reilly and his team, the Twin Mustang is about to rise again.
Oh, and while we are on the subject of dream warbirds and fork-tailed flyers, a P-61 Black Widow is also deep in the restoration process. Once finished, the Mid Atlantic Air Museum will have the only P-61 in flyable condition. The charcoal-colored night fighter and its heavy armament have captured the imaginations of military and aviation enthusiasts for over the better part of a century, and with any luck, we may see it alongside its eventual successor, the XP-82, on the airshow circuit by the end of the decade.
Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com