Lightning I/II exports
Both British and French delegations insisted the fighters be equipped with Allison s without turbo-superchargers and with strictly right-hand rotation because they wanted the engines interchangeable with those of the Curtiss H.81A Tomahawk that had been ordered by both Britain and France in large numbers. In addition the Committee wanted to optimize the aircraft for medium-altitude combat, as was currently the dominant mode of aerial warfare in Europe, rather than the high-altitude role for which the P-38 had been designed. The Anglo-French delegation was also aware of the problems currently being experienced by the USAAC in the delivery of turbo-superchargers and did not want to run the risk of costly, time-consuming delays, since they wanted all planes delivered in less than a year. It turned out that decision was particularly unfortunate.
British and French Model 322s were to be powered by Allison V-1710-C15s rated at 1010hp at 14,000' and with both engines rotating in the right-handed sense. The French version was to have metric-calibrated instruments, French-built radios and French-supplied armament, and were to have throttles that operated in the "French fashion"reverse from British/American throttles.
When France fell in June1940, the entire contract was taken up by Britain. By July 1941 the RAF recognized there would be a need for high-altitude capabilities, and the original contract was amended to deliver 143 Lightning Is [AE978/999, AF100/220] with the V-1710-15 non-turbo-supercharged engines, and the remaining 524 as Lightning IIs [AF221/AF744] with turbo-supercharged V-1710-F5L/-F5R engines (Model 322-60-04). Because of its non-turbo, right-handed Allisons, RAF's Lightning I was christened the "Castrated P-38" by the factory. It turned out that the nickname was apt. The first three Lightnings arrived in the UK by sea transport in March 1942. [AF105] was sent to Cunliffe-Owen at Southampton for examination and experiments. [AF106] was sent to Boscombe Down for flight evaluation. [AF107] went to the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough for experiments and evaluation.
Three F-4-1s were given to the Royal Australian Air Force in Sep 1942 and were assigned to the No. 1 Photographic Reconnaissance Unit where they were serialed as [A55-1/A55-3]. The first and last were written off in landing accidents, and the remaining one was returned to the USAAF after only three months in Australian service.
In April 1943 six F-4s went to Free French Groupe de Reconnaissance II/33 in Morocco for conversion training. They later were re-equipped with F-5s and operated as a squadron attached to the 3re Photographic Recon Group of the 12th AF. The best-known Free French F-5 pilot was the renowned author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, who disappeared off southern France on July 31, 1944 while on a combat sortie from Corsica.
After the liberation of France, GR II/33 was renamed GR I/33 "Belfort" and continued to fly recon Lightnings (F-5A/-5B and F-5F/-5G) for several years after the war, finally re-equipping with modified Republic F-84G Thunderjets in 1952.
Two P-38s of the First Fighter Group made forced landings at Lisbon, Portugal while being ferried from England to Algeria. The Portuguese government obtained USAAF permission to retain the planes and assigned them their own s/ns [300/301].
There is at least one occasion in which Lightnings served with Axis forces, joining the list of aircraft that served on both sides during WW2. Regia Aeronautica managed to obtain an intact P-38G when it was forced to land with navigation equipment problems on Sardinia on July 12, 1943 in a flight from Gibraltar to Malta. It was repainted in Italian markings and flown to the experimental center at Guidonia for evaluation, and flown from there on Aug 11 by Col Angelo Tondi to intercept American bombers. Tondi is credited with possibly shooting down one B-24D Liberator. However, the P-38 was grounded shortly thereafter by a lack of spare parts.