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Bell P-39 Airacobra



One of the first "modern" Air Corps fighter designs and the first fighter designed by Bell, Airacobras were used primarily for ground attack. The XP-39 prototypes featured an engine supercharger, but the Army's decision to eliminate it on production aircraft greatly limited the type's effectiveness, and, in fact, the aircraft performed best below 17,000 ft. The P-39 had a unique automobile-type cockpit door, tricycle landing gear (another first for an AAC fighter), and a center-fuselage-mounted engine. The Airacobra entered Air Corps service in 1941. At the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 179 British Airacobras were still in the US waiting to be delivered, and these aircraft were commandeered by the AAC, redesignated P-400, and sent to the southwest Pacific. US P- 39s were used extensively in operations in North Africa (most particularly Operation Torch), Italy, and the Pacific. The type achieved the lowest loss rate per sortie of any Army Air Forces fighter used in the European theater of operations, although it was mostly used in areas where Bf-109s and FW-190s were scarce. Numerous P-39s remained in the US during the war, where they were used for training units.
Almost half of the production run was sent to the Soviet Union, where its tank-killing capability was used to great advantage. Most of these aircraft were ferried to Russia via Alaska. P-39s were also flown in numbers by the RAF and the Free French. Production ended in August 1944. Several aircraft were used by NACA as research aircraft at the Ames Flight Research Center in California, and a number were flown as racers after the war, but only a handful of P-39s are still in existence.
The larger, better-performing P-63 Kingcobra was a direct descendent of the P-39.
General characteristics P-39D
Primary function Fighter
Contractor Bell Aircraft Corp.
Power plant One Allison V-1710-35 engine
Thrust 1,609 HP 1,200 kW
Wingspan 34 ft 10.37 m
Length 30.2 ft 9.21 m
Height 11.8 ft 3.60 m
Wingarea 213 sq ft 19.79 sq m
Weight empty 6,305 lb 2,860 kg
max. 8,860 lb 4,018 kg
Max. speed 335 mph 539 km/h
Ceiling 32,100 ft 9,785 m
Max. range 1,100 miles 1,770 km
Armament 1x 37mm cannon (60 rounds), 4x 7.62mm machine guns, 2x 12.7mm machine guns, 1x 227 kg bomb.
Crew One
First flight April 6, 1938 (XP-39)
Date deployed 1941
General characteristics P-39N
Primary function Fighter
Power plant One Allison V-1710-85 liquid-cooled V-12 engine
Thrust 1,609 HP 1,200 kW
Wingspan 34 ft 10.37 m
Length 30.2 ft 9.21 m
Height 12.4 ft 3.79 m
Wingarea 213 sq ft 19.79 sq m
Weight empty 6,407 lb 2,906 kg
max. 8,807 lb 3,995 kg
Speed 376 mph 605 km/h
Initial climb rate 4,000 ft/min 1,220 m/min
Ceiling 35,000 ft 10,670 m
Range normal 976 miles 1,570 km
2 ext. tanks 1,446 miles 2,360 km
Armament 1x 37mm cannon, 2x 7.62mm machine guns, 2x 12.7mm machine guns, 1x 227 kg bomb.
Crew One
Cost $46,000
Number built 9,558 (all types)


Jirka Wagner

 

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Last updated 01.01.2017