Bell P-39 Airacobra

The Bell P-39 Airacobra was one of the principal American fighter aircraft in service at the start of World War II. It was the first fighter in history with a tricycle undercarriage and the first to have the engine installed in the center fuselage, behind the pilot. Although its mid-engine placement was innovative, the P-39 design was handicapped by the lack of an efficient turbo-supercharger, limiting it to low-altitude work. The P-39 was used with great success by the Soviet Air Force, who scored the highest number of individual kills attributed to any U.S. fighter type. Other important users were the Free French and co-belligerent Italian air forces. Together with the derivative P-63 Kingcobra, these aircraft became the most successful mass-produced fixed-wing aircraft manufactured by Bell.

The Airacobra saw combat throughout the world, particularly in the Southwest Pacific, Mediterranean and Russian theaters. Because its engine was only equipped with a single-stage, single-speed supercharger, the P-39 performed best below 17,000 feet (5,200 m) altitude. In both western Europe and the Pacific, the Airacobra found itself outclassed as an interceptor, its earliest proposed role, and the type was gradually relegated to other duties. It often was used at lower altitudes for such missions as ground strafing.

The most successful use of the P-39 was in the hands of the Soviet Air Force (VVS). The usual nickname for the well-loved Airacobra in the VVS was Kobrushka, "little cobra", or Kobrastochka, a portmanteau of Kobra and Lastochka (swallow), "dear little cobra". The low-speed, low-altitude turning nature of most air combat on the Russian Front suited the P-39's strengths: sturdy construction, reliable radio gear, and adequate firepower. Russian pilots appreciated the cannon-armed P-39 primarily for its air-to-air attack capability.

General characteristics
  • Crew: One
  • Length: 30 ft 2 in (9.2 m)
  • Wingspan: 34 ft 0 in (10.4 m)
  • Height: 12 ft 5 in (3.8 m)
  • Wing area: 213 sq?ft (19.8 m²)
  • Empty weight: 5,347 lb (2,425 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 7,379 lb (3,347 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 8,400 lb (3,800 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1× Allison V-1710-85 liquid-cooled V-12, 1,200 hp (895 kW)

  • Maximum speed: 376 mph (605 km/h) (Redline dive speed was 525 mph)
  • Range: 525 miles on internal fuel (840 km)
  • Service ceiling: 35,000 ft (10,700 m)
  • Rate of climb: 3,750 ft/min (19 m/s)
  • Wing loading: 34.6 lb/sq?ft (169 kg/m²)
  • Power/mass: 0.16 hp/lb (0.27 kW/kg)
  • Time to climb: 15,000 in 4.5 min at 160 mph (260 km/h).

  • 1 x 37 mm M4 cannon with 30 rounds of HE ammo.
  • 2 x .50 cal (12.7 mm) machine guns. 200 rounds per nose-gun
  • 4 x .30 cal machine guns, wing mounted. 300 per wing-pod
  • 500 lb (230 kg) of bombs externally

** Bell P-39 Airacobra - Warbird Fare

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