The heavily-armed Black Widow was the United States' first aircraft specifically designed as a night-fighter. The P-61 carried radar equipment in its nose that enabled its crew of two or three to locate enemy aircraft in total darkness and fly into proper position to attack.
The XP-61 was flight-tested in 1942 and the delivery of production aircraft began in late 1943. The P-61 flew its first operational intercept mission as a night fighter in Europe on July 3, 1944, and later was also used as a night intruder over enemy territory. In the Pacific, a Black Widow claimed its first "kill" on the night of July 6, 1944. As P-61s became available, they replaced interim Douglas P-70s and Bristol Beaufighters in all USAAF night fighter squadrons. During World War II, Northrop built approximately 700 P-61s; 41 of these were C models manufactured in the summer of 1945 offering greater speed and capable of operating at higher altitude.
Northrop P-61C Black Widow