Manufacturer: Lockheed

Model: 39

Name: Swordstar

Type: Fighter

Date: 1944

Status: Experimental

Country: United States

Service: U.S. Air Force

Designation: XP-73


After the XP-58 Chain Lightning was turned down by the USAF, Lockheed took the half-assembled second prototype and reworked all the elements to turn it into a single fuselage design for a fast piston interceptor, the Model 39 Swordstar (a mix of "Swordfish", as in the XP-38E test-bed and the usual "star" suffix used by Lockheed). Though unsollicited, the proposal was judged interesting enough for the USAAF to borrow the aircraft from Lockheed and give it the XP-73 designation (serial 43-45315).

However, the Swordstar was sadly lost after only three hours of test flying in mid-air collision with a Culver PQ-8 Dart target drone gone wild, killing test pilot Shane Bolt. The embarrassment was such that the Air Force agreed on a refund of the prototype and all of Lockheed's expenses on condition that the XP-73 be erased from the records, which was done on both sides. It would have remained a lost chapter of aviation history were it not for a set of documents hidden away by one of the project's engineers that resurfaced recently after his passing. Unfortunately no photograph of the Swordstar has survived.

The Swordstar was a sort of missing link in Lockheed design history, being the last distant grandson of the P-38 Lightning family and also the company's last piston design before the F-80 Shooting Star, which was to incorporate its tail design with very little change.


The photo of the Swordstar was based on that of a Chain Lightning. The tail's redesign was inspired by that of the Shooting Star (although it doesn't seem obvious). The result is a pretty ugly machine if you ask me!

The three-view arrangement (right) was reworked from a beautiful three-view of the Chain Lightning by Vincent Bourguignon (see bottom of the page).

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