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  • Bell P-63 Kingcobra Fighter Aircraft


    The American-originated Bell P-63 Kingcobra found more success abroad than at home - primarily in the hands of Soviet pilots during World War 2.

     Updated: 4/3/2017; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.MilitaryFactory.com


    At its core, the Bell P-63 Kingcobra proved a modest improvement over the relative failure that was the P-39 Airacobra. Though the P-39 developed into a useable platform, she never lived up to the original specifications thanks to meddling on the part of the USAAF (United States Army Air Forces). As such, the P-63 was designed with the intention of improving upon the poor high-altitude performance of the P-39, though performance of this system itself would never come close to matching the excellent fighters already in service. As such, the P-63 led an "under-the-radar" existence and was fielded primarily by air forces other than the United States.

    The P-39 Airacobra was already in production for the USAAF . This unique little aircraft sported a rear-mounted engine turning a three-bladed propeller system via a shaft running under the cockpit floor. With the engine mounted in the rear of the fuselage, the nose assembly was free to fit armament - this coming in the form of a 37mm Oldsmobile M4 cannon firing unobstructed through the propeller hub. Additionally 2 x 12.7mm heavy machine guns were fitted into the engine cowl and synchronized for firing through the spinning propeller blades. This armament was supplemented by the addition of four .30 caliber machine guns - two to a wing. Power was supplied by an Allison-brand V-1710-85 liquid-cooled V-12 engine supplying up to 1,200 horsepower.

    Though initially unveiled as a dedicated interceptor, the uniqueness of the aircraft proved much more expensive than the USAAF was interested in and, as such, it provided "suggestions" in an attempt to cut down on costs. One of the biggest changes was in dropping the turbocharger - effectively the backbone of the P-39's performance as an interceptor. This was replaced by a mechanically-based supercharger which didn't provide much in the way of high-altitude performance and the P-39 was doomed as a fighter. As it stood, the P-39 went on to more action in the low-altitude attack aircraft, with most of its success coming from the hands of Soviet pilots utilizing the type through Lend-Lease deliveries. Despite its inherent deficiencies, the P-39 became Bell's most successful production endeavor.


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    Bell P-63C Kingcobra Technical Specifications


    Service Year: 1943
    Type: Fighter Aircraft
    National Origin: United States
    Manufacturer(s): Bell Aircraft Corporation - USA
    Production Total: 3,303



    Structural (Crew Space, Dimensions and Weights)


    Operating Crew: 1
    Length: 32.81 feet (10 meters)
    Width: 38.39 feet (11.70 meters)
    Height: 12.47 feet (3.80 meters)

    Weight (Empty): 6,834 lb (3,100 kg)
    Weight (MTOW): 8,818 lb (4,000 kg)

    Installed Power and Standard Day Performance


    Engine(s): 1 x Allison V-1710-117 liguid-cooled V-12 inline piston engine developing 1,800 horsepower.

    Maximum Speed: 410 mph (660 kph; 356 knots)
    Maximum Range: 450 miles (725 km)
    Service Ceiling: 42,979 feet (13,100 meters; 8.14 miles)
    Rate-of-Climb: 2,500 feet-per-minute (762 m/min)

    Armament / Mission Payload


    STANDARD:
    1 x 37mm cannon in propeller hub
    2 x 12.7mm machine guns in nose
    2 x 12.7mm machine guns in wings (1 gun each).

    OPTIONAL:
    Bomb racks under wing and fuselage centerline.

    Global Operators / Customers


    Honduras; United Kingdom; France; Soviet Union; United States

    Model Variants (Including Prototypes)


    XP-63 - Initial Prototypes based on XP-39E Airacobra; 2 examples produced; laminar flow wing

    XP-63A - Improved XP-63 Prototypes; 2 examples produced; fitted with bomb racks.

    XP-63B - Proposed "improved" XP-63A prototype; cancelled.

    XP-63H - Modified P-63E model with a new engine selection.

    P-63A - Initial production models produced in 1 - 10 blocks; 1,726 examples produced.

    P-63C - Improved P-63A models; fitted with Allison V-1710-117 engine of 1,500 horsepower with 1,800 horsepower capable through water-injection; decreased wingspan; 1,227 examples produced.

    P-63D - Improved P-63; fitted with Allison V-1710-109 engine of 1,425 horsepower; increased wingspan; rear-sliding bubble canopy; 1 example produced; never entered quantitative production.

    P-63E - Improved P-63D model with new propeller system and ventral fin extension; 13 examples produced.

    P-63F - Improved P-63E with enlarged vertical tail; fitted with Allison V-1710-135 series engine; only 2 examples produced.

    RP-63A "Pinball" - Aerial Target Aircraft; 100 examples produced/modified; sans armor and armament; bright orange paint scheme.

    RP-63C "Pinball" - Improved RP-63A aerial target models; 200 examples produced/modified; sans armor and armament; bright orange paint scheme.

    RP-63G "Pinball" - Aerial Target Aircraft; 32 examples delivered; a further 420 were cancelled; sans armor and armament; bright orange paint scheme.