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.
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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.