With The discovery of the Me-262 in 1943 by US Intelligence, came the need for a competing aircraft. The British jet engine designs were studied and led the General of the Army Air Force at the time, Henry H Arnold, to believe an airframe could be designed to fit the British engine, which was the Halford H-1 (Goblin).
Lockheed was tasked to develop a suitable airframe, in a short period of time since the Germans were far ahead with development of a jet A/C. Clarence “Kelly” Johnson submitted a proposal to have an airframe ready in 180 days, well Lockheed developed it in 143 days. The program was so secret only 5 of the 130 heads working on the project actually knew that they were building a jet aircraft. Unfortunately, after the engine had been installed in the airframe, Lockheed had not heeded warning by a British engineer that the skin of the inlet was too thin, and these collapsed and were sucked into the engine at full throttle during the preliminary run-up of the engine. Lockheed was very fortunate since De Havilland sent another engine, which was intended for the second prototype Vampire.
The first prototype, BuNo 44-83020, flew on January 8 1944 where the jet flew at 502mph at 20,500ft. A quote from Johnson after the flight; “It was a magnificent demonstration, our plane was a success – such a complete success that it had overcome the temporary advantage the Germans had gained from years of preliminary development on jet planes.”
Although a little too late for full use in World War Two, 2 pre-production YP-80s saw very limited action in Europe, tasked to intercept the Arado Ar 234 recon jet A/C. It was Korea where the F-80 saw the brunt of the initial combat flying some 15,000 sorties. Though a few Mig-15s were downed by Shooting Star Pilots, the Migs far outclassed the F-80. One such engagement which was actually the first jet-vs-jet combat occurred on November 8, 1950. USAF 1st Lieutenant Russell Brown piloting an F-80C of the 16th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing was at an altitude of 20,000ft when he spotted 8 Mig-15s around 10,000ft above his flight. 1st Lt. Brown’s flight was flying Defense Suppression strikes agasinst North Korean AAA in support of B-29 operations. The Migs were at their patrol height, usually around 30,000ft,and were just waiting for their targets to appear, which they would dive upon. While having an edge over the F-80 at high altitude, the Mig-15’s advantage was cancelled out at lower altitudes. Brown, having spotted a Mig that strayed from his flight, quickly closed on the diving Soviet Fighter and with a well aimed burst of his .50 cal M2 Brownings dispatched the Mig, which was from Col. A.V Alelyukhin’s 28th Interceptor Air Division.
|Wingspan:||38 feet 10 inches|
|Length:||34 feet 6 inches|
|Height:||11 feet 4 inches|
|Weight:||16,856 pounds (loaded)|
|Power plant:||1 Allison J33 turbojet (5,400 lbs thrust)|
|Speed:||580 miles per hour|
 DVHAA at Wings of Freedom Museum, Horsham, Pennsylvania.
 American Warplanes. London. Salamander Books. 1986.
 Jane’s Encyclopedia of Aircraft. United Kingdom. Jane’s Information Group. 1989.