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Bell XP-77

United States (1944)
Picture of Bell XP-77 Fighter Prototype Aircraft

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


Detailing the development and operational history of the Bell XP-77 Fighter Prototype Aircraft.  Entry last updated on 3/28/2018. 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.
On May 16th, 1942, with American fully-committed to war by now, the U.S. Army commissioned for 25 of the promising mini-fighters - given the designation of "XP-77". However, one revision called for support of a single 300lb bomb fitted under fuselage centerline for the ground attack role. Additionally, the hardpoint would have to support the carrying of a 325lb naval depth charge for hunting enemy submarines - the U-boats a great threat to American shipping along both coasts.

Additional problems were brewing when Ranger was unable to keep its V-770-9 commitment and offered the V-770-6 which was already in use with United States Navy service aircraft. While the V-770-6 engine could supply the needed 500 horsepower output, is performance dropped significantly above 12,000 feet - a detrimental quality for a fighter. The engines were not supercharged which did not help matters.

With the war progressing and the XP-77 falling further and further behind schedules (and its developmental costs rising), the U.S. Army returned to reduce their original 25-strong order to just six aircraft. With some life still being felt in the product, Bell sought to reduce the increasing weight of its little aircraft which led to the nixing of the 20mm cannon. The U.S. Army called again and reduced their order to just two aircraft - ringing the death knell for the machine. it also dropped all interest in the Ranger V-770-9 series engine.

Despite its early design start in the war, the completed XP-77 prototype did not record its first flight until April 1st, 1944. The U.S. Army had grown quite content with their stable of fighters and even Bell's interest on the product had waned as it attempted to fulfill various military orders for its other proven aircraft. When it finally did enter flight testing, the design proved a flawed one - stability issues were apparent and excessive vibrations noted along the airframe. Pilots noted a cramped and noisy cockpit and they were further restricted from conducting violent, aggressive maneuvers. Additionally, views from the pilot's seat were blocked by the long nose and the cockpit's placement behind and above the wings.

Two flyable prototypes were eventually completed and these served in testing at both Wright Field and Elgin Field. During one landing run, a prototype saw its nose leg collapse. in another flight, the aircraft entered into an uncontrollable spin, forcing the pilot to bail out -the aircraft crashed.

It was the crash that signaled the complete end to the XP-77 program and no more of it was furthered. Regardless, the Army held no need for the little aircraft anymore and the tide had finally turned in favor of the Allies. The surviving prototype was retained as a outdoor showpiece before time took its toll. From there, its weathered body was taken away and burned.






Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

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Relative Maximum Speed Rating
Hi: 400mph
Lo: 200mph
    This entry's maximum listed speed (329mph).

    Graph average of 300 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
NYC
 
  LON
LON
 
  PAR
PAR
 
  BER
BER
 
  MOS
MOS
 
  TOK
TOK
 
  SYD
SYD
 
  LAX
LAX
 
  NYC
Graph showcases the Bell XP-77's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
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Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units
2
2


  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.


Altitude Visualization
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Origin: United States
Year: 1944
Type: Fighter Prototype Aircraft
Manufacturer(s): bell Aircraft Corporation - USA
Production: 2
Status: Cancelled
Global Operators:
United States
Historical Commitments / Honors:

Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.
Measurements and Weights icon
Structural - Crew, Dimensions, and Weights:
Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Bell XP-77 model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.

Operational
CREW


Personnel
1


Dimension
LENGTH


Feet
22.83 ft


Meters
6.96 m


Dimension
WIDTH


Feet
27.49 ft


Meters
8.38 m


Dimension
HEIGHT


Feet
8.20 ft


Meters
2.5 m


Weight
EMPTY


Pounds
2,866 lb


Kilograms
1,300 kg


Weight
LOADED


Pounds
4,034 lb


Kilograms
1,830 kg

Engine icon
Installed Power - Standard Day Performance:
1 x Ranger V770-7 V12 engine developing 520 horsepower.

Performance
SPEED


Miles-per-Hour
329 mph


Kilometers-per-Hour
530 kph


Knots
286 kts


Performance
RANGE


Miles
553 mi


Kilometers
890 km


Nautical Miles
481 nm


Performance
CEILING


Feet
30,118 ft


Meters
9,180 m


Miles
5.70 mi


Performance
CLIMB RATE


Feet-per-Minute
1,100 ft/min


Meters-per-Minute
335 m/min

Supported Weapon Systems:

Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun
Graphical image of an aircraft heavy machine gun
Graphical image of an aircrat automatic cannon
Graphical image of an aircraft conventional drop bomb munition
Armament - Hardpoints (1):

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

OPTIONAL:
1 x 300lb bomb or 325lb naval depth charge under fuselage centerline.
Variants: Series Model Variants
• XP-77 - Project model designation; 2 prototypes completed.