Three planes were critical to the WWII Night Fighter Squadrons:
The Bristol Beaufighter: The Beaufighter’s were the most important part of the War in Europe as they were the only Aircraft designed, equipped and available to the US with the highly secret RADAR installed. The Beaus were borrowed on a “Lend Lease” agreement with Great Britain. The first 4 US Night Fighter Squadrons (414th, 415th, 416th and 417th) were the only US Night Fighter Squadrons that used them. New Zealand used them for night fighting, as well as other Allied Countries. The Beaufighter did the most to deter the Germans from flying Night Missions before the P-61 came on board. For more details on the Bristol Beaufighter, click on this link
- The P-61: The Northrop designed P-61 Black Widow, was the first operational US aircraft developed specifically for night interception of opposing aircraft and and was the first aircraft specifically designed to use improved RADAR equipment. The 414th, 415th, 416th and 417th were eventually given US P-61’s to end the Beaufighter “Lend Lease” agreement with Great Britain. The 417th NFS was assigned to be the Night Fighter Squadron for the Army of Occupation in Europe. All the P-61’s in Europe then became a part of the 417th NFS. The 422nd and 425th NFS were the only Night fighter Squadrons in Europe that used only the P-61. For more information on the P-61 click on this link, or read Jeff Kohn’s book Night Hunter, which provides details on each of the P-61s that were built.
- B-25s: These ex-bomber planes were repurposed for hauling supplies. They were stripped of their guns and turned over to the Fighter Squadrons and called “Hacks”. All of the Night Fighter pilots could fly them and use them for group movements and supplies.
The 3 galleries below contain images of these planes.
The P61’s – The Black Widow