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Bell XP-83

Jet-Powered Escort Fighter Aircraft Prototype

Bell XP-83

Jet-Powered Escort Fighter Aircraft Prototype


The ultimately-cancelled Bell XP-83 Escort Fighter was developed from the disappointing Bell P-59 Airacomet series during the immediate post-World War 2 years.
National Flag Graphic
ORIGIN: United States
YEAR: 1945
STATUS: Cancelled
MANUFACTURER(S): Bell Aircraft - USA
OPERATORS: United States

Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Bell XP-83 model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.
LENGTH: 44.85 feet (13.67 meters)
WIDTH: 52.99 feet (16.15 meters)
HEIGHT: 15.26 feet (4.65 meters)
WEIGHT (EMPTY): 14,110 pounds (6,400 kilograms)
WEIGHT (MTOW): 27,558 pounds (12,500 kilograms)
ENGINE: 2 x General Electric J33-GE-5 turbojet engines developing 4,000 lb thrust each.
SPEED (MAX): 522 miles-per-hour (840 kilometers-per-hour; 454 knots)
RANGE: 1,731 miles (2,785 kilometers; 1,504 nautical miles)
CEILING: 45,932 feet (14,000 meters; 8.70 miles)
RATE-OF-CLIMB: 5,650 feet-per-minute (1,722 meters-per-minute)

6 x 12.7mm Browning heavy machine guns
6 x 15.2mm T17E3 heavy machine guns
4 x 20mm Hispano cannons
1 x 37mm cannon in nose
Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun
Graphical image of an aircraft heavy machine gun
Graphical image of an aircrat automatic cannon

Series Model Variants
• XP-83 - Base Series Designation; two prototypes completed.


Detailing the development and operational history of the Bell XP-83 Jet-Powered Escort Fighter Aircraft Prototype.  Entry last updated on 2/6/2019. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©
In 1942, with World War in full swing across Europe and the Pacific, work began on an American turbo jet-powered aircraft to keep pace with developments around the world. This formally became the Bell P-59 "Airacomet" which achieved first flight on October 1st, 1942, becoming the first American jet-powered aircraft in history. However, it was deemed limited from a performance standpoint and production lasted just 66 total units.

In March of 1944, the war was reaching feverish pitches and jet programs were evolving along all fronts - particularly in Germany and in Britain. The United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) contracted Bell once again, this time to build a new jet-powered aircraft for the fighter escort role. By this time, American bomber raids were a regular occurrence over enemy held territory and piston-engined mounts were being used in defense of these masses of bomber formations being sent against enemy targets daily. A jet-powered fighter escort would provide technological superiority and allow for unheard of performance gains if the design could be harnesses properly and optimized to the extreme. The USAAF charged Bell with two prototype aircraft on July 31st, 1944.

The main challenge of the era concerning turbojet powered flight was in the rather thirsty nature of the new engine technology. Turbojets allowed for unprecedented performance gains to be sure but they proved short-term creatures that severely limited many tactical benefits. Bell took their underperforming P-59 and had attempted to introduce longer operational ranges as the "Model 40" company product. It was this derivative that the company would further into the XP-83. The XP-83 was slightly reminiscent of the original P-59 design with various aerodynamic and structural differences to clearly differentiate the types. Overall, however, the P-59 origins could clearly be identified in the Model 40 to the discerning student. Wings remained straight appendages while the empennage was capped by a conventional tail surface. Construction of the aircraft included metal skin left in an unfinished silver - consistent with many experimental aircraft of the 1940s and 1950s. The pilot managed a rather excellent view from his cockpit position at the front of the aircraft under a tear-drop style canopy. Design of the XP-83 was attributed to Charles Rhodes and the engine of choice became 2 x General Electric J33-GE-5 turbojets of 4,000lbs thrust each.

After some initial ground testing, the prototype achieved first flight on February 25th, 1945. Overall, the flight was a modest success but after-mission reports detailed the design as lackluster, underperforming and requiring much management. A follow-up prototype given a new tail assembly was debuted t o correct instability issues encountered by the first. In either case, the XP-83 was severely lacking in most respects. The type survived the end of the war in September of 1945 and continued on as a ramjet testbed into 1946. In 1947, with the war years over and many-a-production-contract slashed or outright cancelled, the XP-83 project died. The American military ultimately invested $4.2 million dollars into the cancelled program that yielded all but two prototypes. The straight-wing, jet-powered Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star - adopted in 1945 - was firmly entrenched as the primary jet-powered fighter of American forces for the time being until replaced by the North American F-86 Sabre during the Korean War.

All told, the XP-83 would see a top speed of 522 miles per hour and range was 1,700 miles on internal fuel though external drop tanks could be fitted for an increase of 2,000 miles. Its operational service ceiling was 45,000 feet which of course required use of a pressurized cockpit. Rate-of-climb was 5,600 feet per minute.

Over her short development cycle, the XP-83 was envisioned to stock a variety of armament options for the production versions. These included 6 x 12.7mm M2 Browning heavy machine guns as standard. The 15.2mm T17E3 prototype heavy machine gun was also considered as were 4 x 20mm Hispano cannons. A 37mm cannon could also have been fitted in the nose assembly for a truly potent offensive punch.


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.

Image of collection of graph types

Relative Maximum Speed
Hi: 750mph
Lo: 375mph
This entry's maximum listed speed (522mph).

Graph average of 562.5 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
Graph showcases the Bell XP-83's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production (2)
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units

  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

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

Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Supported Roles
Ground Attack
Aerial Tanker
A2A=Air-to-Air; UAV=Unmanned; CAS=Close Support; ASW=Anti-Submarine; AEW=Airborne Early Warning; MEDEVAC=Medical Evac; EW=Electronic Warfare; SAR=Search-Rescue
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 pioneering aircraft
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 representing modern aircraft
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 War
Military lapel ribbon for experimental x-plane aircraft
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.

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