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Bell P-39 Airacobra
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Bell P-39 Airacobra
History:   First flown April 1939 as XP-39. It was a new type of aircraft, as it had tricycle landing gear and the engine was mounted behind the pilot. This was supposed to provide better balance for the aircraft and keep the center of gravity over the wings. Also, the entire nose section was empty of an engine, so guns could be closley placed and provide hard, tightly grouped hitting power.  The propeller drive was hollow, and a 37mm cannon was set to fire through the center of the propeller hub. On the first production model, the P-39C (1941), two 30 caliber and two 50 caliber machine guns were also placed in the nose, synchronized to fire through the propeller arc.  The British ordered several of the unconventional fighters in 1940 and found them to be well balanced but not well suited for a fighters service. In June 1941 the first P-39 arrived in Britain with a reworked armament, having the 37mm cannon with its 15 shells replaced by a 20mm cannon with 60 shells.  The British P-39s were operated by the No. 601 Sqn, and their performance was noticably poor and their fighters were rarely in a servicable condition.  The US Army Air Force also ordered examples of the fighter, and had better luck with it.  The P-39 was used in large numbers before the American entry into the war as a first line fighter. Once the United States entered the conflict, it was soon evident that the P-39s could not compete on the same leval as a Fw 190 or A6M Zero.  The P-39, along with the P-40 and P-36, composed the bulk of American Army fighters, and that was the reason it was not taken from front line fighter service until the P-38 Lightning was in production.  When it was removed from the fighter list, the numerous P-39s were used with great success as groud attack aircraft by the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union. Actually, the Soviets loved the P-39 and gave it a heavier cannon to knock out German tanks. In the end, over 4,770 P-39s were shipped to the Soviet Union through the Lend-Lease program.

     Statistics:
     Type: Single Seat fighter
     Engine: One 1,325hp Allison V-1710-63  Vee 12-cylinder liquid cooled inline
     Deminsions: Span 34 feet; length 30 feet 2 inches; height 11 feet 10 inches.
     Armament: One 37mm cannon with 15 rounds, two .50 and two .303 calibre machine guns all in nose.
     Date of First Flight: April 1939
     Nations: United States, Great Britain, France, Italy, Portugul, Soviet Union

                                                     

Bell P-39 Airacobra

On to the P-59 Airacomet