The World War II Photo of the Week
for 9 July 2001
|The Secret's in Her Nose ...
Why is the above photograph of a P-61 Black Widow night fighter so rare? Well, the secret's in her nose. The key to the P-61's success in WW II was the Western Electric SCR-720 airborne intercept (AI) radar, which is clearly visible in the closeup of "Black Maria" below. Army Air Force censors generally whited out such details, but this photo seems to have been taken stateside during testing. When deployed in combat, the Widow's nose cone was opaque or painted over to conceal the AI unit. The SCR-720 featured a 10-cm dish with a range of 6.5 miles; the unit was extraordinarily difficult to jam. The dish can be seen below, behind the top center portion of the transparent nose shield (and further below, a restored dish courtesy of The Mid-Atlantic Air Museum's P-61 Restoration). Photos of "Black Maria" from the Webmaster's collection.