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  • Bell XP-77 Fighter Prototype

    The Bell XP-77 fighter was to have relied on non-strategic materials in its construction - only two prototypes were built.

     Updated: 8/12/2014; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.MilitaryFactory.com

    The deteriorating war situations in both Europe and the Far East during World War 2 began forcing American warplanners to think through to a possible direct war with one of the Axis powers. the war could very well restrict strategic war materials (oil, metals, etc...) and therefore cripple mass production efforts of weapons - particularly aircraft. Thus it fell to American aviation engineers to undertake development of a new "resource-friendly" fighter that would make heavier use of "non-strategic" materials for the lengthy war commitment that potentially lay ahead.

    Bell Aircraft began work on such a proposal for the U.S. Army outlining a dimensionally compact, single-seat, single-engine fighter to be constructed largely of wood and under very quick and inexpensive conditions. The proposal was submitted to Army authorities on October 30th, 1941 - just two months before America's formal entry into World War 2.

    Bell's approach brought about a most contained, streamlined form designed with inherent agility and speed suitable for clashing with the thoroughbreds fielded by the Empire of Japan and Nazi Germany - namely the Mistubishi A6M "Zero" and the Messerschmitt Bf 109 respectively. The aircraft would incorporate a long, yet slender, nose assembly housing the engine with a triangular cross-section fuselage. The cockpit was to be set aft of amidships due to the restrictive internal volume provided and a conventional tail unit would completed the aircraft's side profile with a single vertical tail fin and low-set horizontal planes The mainplanes of the aircraft would be straight in their general shape with clipped tips and mounted low along the sides of the fuselage. A high-aspect ratio wing was envisioned with a single spar in play. Internally, each wing would make use of wooden ribbing and held together through nails and glue. A resin/plastic bonded skin would cover the entire surface while itself being coated in a cotton fabric-based blend. In keeping with Bell's previous fighter designs, the undercarriage would be of the non-traditional tricycle arrangement featuring a single-wheeled nose leg under the engine compartment and a pair of single-wheeled main legs under each wing. Proposed armament was a single 20mm cannon firing through the propeller hub along with 2 x 0.50 caliber Browning M2 heavy machine guns, 200 rounds afforded to these two guns.

    One of the primary concerns found with the project was the slim fuselage required which limited engine selection. This left the only choice to become the still-in-development and unproven Ranger-brand V-770 12-cylinder, air-cooled supercharged system of 500 horsepower output for the role. Coupled with the aircraft's small footprint, performance estimates envisioned a maximum speed reaching 400 miles per hour. The engine drove a simple two-bladed propeller.

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    Bell XP-77 Technical Specifications

    Service Year: 1944
    Type: Fighter Prototype
    National Origin: United States
    Manufacturer(s): bell Aircraft Corporation - USA
    Production Total: 2

    Structural (Crew Space, Dimensions and Weights)

    Operating Crew: 1
    Length: 22.83 feet (6.96 meters)
    Width: 27.49 feet (8.38 meters)
    Height: 8.20 feet (2.50 meters)

    Weight (Empty): 2,866 lb (1,300 kg)
    Weight (MTOW): 4,034 lb (1,830 kg)

    Installed Power and Standard Day Performance

    Engine(s): 1 x Ranger V770-7 V12 engine developing 520 horsepower.

    Maximum Speed: 329 mph (530 kph; 286 knots)
    Maximum Range: 553 miles (890 km)
    Service Ceiling: 30,118 feet (9,180 meters; 5.70 miles)
    Rate-of-Climb: 1,100 feet-per-minute (335 m/min)

    Armament / Mission Payload

    1 x 20mm Hispano-Suiza HS.404 cannon in propeller hub.
    2 x 12.7mm M2 Browning machine guns

    1 x 300lb bomb or 325lb naval depth charge under fuselage centerline.

    Global Operators / Customers

    United States

    Model Variants (Including Prototypes)

    XP-77 - Project model designation; 2 prototypes completed.