The General Electric Company developed the design for the J33 out of its work with the Frank Whittle jet engine during the Second World War.
Originally developed for the Lockheed P-80 “Shooting Star”, the J33 engine is a direct descendant of the British Whittle engine of the early 1940s. The first J33 underwent static testing on January 13, 1944, just 6 1/2 months after development began. Five months later, a J33 engine flew in the XP-80A replacing the de Havilland H-1A, a change that was to become permanent. In November 1945, the Allison Division of General Motors assumed complete responsibility for the development and production of J33 series engines.
The J33 powered the Lockheed F-80 fighter and the T-33 trainer for the USAF and the TV-2 trainer for the U.S. Navy By the time the production lines were shut down Allison had built over 6,600 J33’s, and General Electric another 300 (mostly the early runs).
The J33 employed a single-stage, double-entry centrifugal-flow compressor for its fourteen straight-through combustion chambers. The single-stage axial-flow turbine behind the combustion chamber assembly drives the compressor. In this design, almost three-fourths of the power generated is consumed by the compressor and only a fourth is translated into thrust.
The Museum's example of the J33 engine is trailer mounted and was used for special effects in the movie industry.
The Canadair CT-133 Shooting Star, a licence-built T-33 for the Royal Canadian Air Force, was powered by a 5100 lb (22 kN) thrust Rolls-Royce Nene 10 turbojet instead of the Allison J33. The Museum's T-33 on display is essentially the same as the USAF T-33.