Even before the events of World War 2 (1939-1945) eventually thrust the United States into Total War, the United States Navy (USN) service was hard at work on attempting to find modern solutions to modern problems. One topic at the center of the conversation became a new single-seat carrierborne fighter (under Specification SD-112-18) capable of speeds nearing 400 miles-per-hour while reaching an altitude of 35,000 feet and out to a range of at least 1,000 miles from the ship. The deadline was set for March 10th, 1941 for all interested parties.
Aeroplane makers had the freedom to delivery studies centered around single- or twin-engine designs but the span of the aircraft was restricted to a full 46 feet due to the limited space aboard American carriers of the period. Requested armament was for up to 6 x 0.50 caliber heavy machine guns or 4 x 20mm automatic cannons - all in fixed installations set to fire forward but providing a good "punch" against any and all enemy aircraft of the period.
For the Bell Aircraft Corporation, this effort resulted in the "Model 22". Engineers elected for a twin-boom design in which the fuselage was a centralized, self-contained structure buried into the middle span of the wing mainplanes. The booms emanated from the trailing edges of these wing members and terminated at the rear where twin vertical rudders were seated - the tailplanes joined at their bases by a shared horizontal plane. The cockpit would be positioned well-forward in the aircraft with heavy glazing but offering exceptional views nonetheless. The engine was to be installed aft of the cockpit and drive power to a pair of three-bladed propeller units running in "contra-rotating" fashion ("pusher" arrangement), eliminating naturally-occurring torque effects of the engine and providing inherent stability. The fitting of the engine aft of the cockpit presented much-improved views for the pilot - a strong quality for a naval aircraft to have - as the pilot was not required to look down the long nose of his aircraft when taxiing, taking off, or landing. The aircraft was to have a modern tricycle landing gear arrangement in which each leg (two mains and a nose leg) were single-wheeled and retractable into the frame. For the purposes of naval service, these members were to be reinforced and arrestor would have figured into the mix.
The proposed armament of 6 x 0.50 caliber Heavy Machine Guns (HMGs) was to be mounted at the front ends of each tailboom structure - the guns stacked as a group of three at each boom. With no propeller unit at the nose to contend with, interrupter gear was not needed.
All told, the aircraft bore a striking resemblance to another Bell Aircraft proposal, the "Model 20" (detailed on this site), which was also to showcase a centralized single-seat fuselage, single-engine "pusher" propeller configuration, and twin-boom tail design. The Model 20 evolved into the "XP-59" but, when the design was shelved altogether, the XP-59 designation was reused to cover America's first jet fighter design - this becoming the P-59 "Airacomet" (also detailed elsewhere on this site).
The Bell Model 22 was not selected for further development and joined many other proposals in falling by the wayside.
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
✓Air-to-Air Combat, Fighter
General ability to actively engage other aircraft of similar form and function, typically through guns, missiles, and/or aerial rockets.
✓Maritime / Navy
Land-based or shipborne capability for operating over-water in various maritime-related roles while supported by allied naval surface elements.
✓X-Plane (Developmental, Prototype, Technology Demonstrator)
Aircraft developed for the role of prototyping, technology demonstration, or research / data collection.
37.2 ft (11.35 m)
44.3 ft (13.50 m)
11,497 lb (5,215 kg)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the base Bell Model 22 production variant)
1 x Pratt & Whitney R-2800 "Double Wasp" air-cooled radial piston engine developing 2,000 horsepower driving 2 x Three-bladed propeller units in contra-rotating fashion.
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