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United States' Bell P-59 Airacomet jet fighter

Photos

  • Bell YP-59A prototype jet fighter
  • Bell P-59 Airacomet jet fighter

Design

The Bell P-59 Airacomet met a September 5, 1941, requirement from the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) for a fighter that would use two Whittle turbojets.1,2 These were turbojets that were developed by Britain and brought to the United States in October 1941.1

Early Issues

Early on, it was realized that the P-59 couldn't be effective as a front line fighter.1 It was decided to use the P-59 as fighter trainers.1

Prototype

The XP-59A prototype flew for the first time on October 1, 1942, at Muroc Lake.1,2,3 It was flown by Robert M. Stanley, Bell's chief pilot.2,3

The YP-59A flew in August 1943.1,2

Production

  • Bell XP-59A: 31,3
  • Bell YP-59A: 131,2,3
  • Bell P-59A: 201,2,3
  • Bell P-59B: 301,2,3
  • Total: 502, 661
    • Manufacturer: Bell Aircraft Company2

Production was cancelled in October 1944.1

Variants

  • Bell XP-59A: Used Whittle turbojets (called General Electric Type I-A).1,2,3
  • Bell YP-59A: Had longer fuselages and General Electric I-16 engines (1,600 lb / 7.2kN).1,2
  • Bell P-59A: First flew in August 1944.1 Had 2,000 lb thrust.2
  • Bell P-59B: Had minor changes.1

Usage

The United Kingdom and United States used the P-59.1 One P-59 was sent to England in exchange for a Gloster Meteor.1,3

The United States Navy received three P-59s and designated them XF2L-1.1

The 412th Fighter Group was equipped with the B-59.1,2,3

The B-59s were only used for testing and training.2

Specifications

  Bell P-59 Airacomet
Type Jet fighter trainer1
Crew 11
Engine (Type) 2: General Electric J31-GE-3/5 turbojets1
Thrust 2,000 lb each1
9.0 kN each1
Dimensions  
Span 45' 6"1
13.87 m1
Length 38' 10"1
11.83 m1
Height 12' 4"1
3.76 m1
Weight  
Empty 8,165 lb1
3,704 kg1
Loaded 13,700 lb1
6,214 kg1
Performance  
Speed at 30,000' / 9,144 m 413 mph1
665 kph1
Cruising speed 375 mph1
603 kph1
Climb to 10,000' / 3,050 m 3.2 minutes1
Service ceiling 46,200'1
14,080 m1
Range 525 miles1
845 km1
Armament  
Nose 1: 37 mm1
3: 0.5" MG1
  Bell P-59A Airacomet2
Type Fighter2
Crew 12
Engine (Type) 2: General Electric J-31-GE-32
Thrust 2,000 lb each2
Dimensions  
Span 45' 6"2
Length 38' 10"2
Height 12' 4"2
Weight  
Loaded 13,700 lb2
Performance  
Speed at 30,000' / 9,144 m 413 mph2
Service ceiling 46,200'2
Range 525 miles2
Armament 1: 37 mm2
3: MG2
  Bell P-59B Airacomet
Type Fighter3
Crew 13
Engine (Type) 2: General Electric J31-GE-5 turbojets3
Thrust 2,000 lb3
907 kg3
Dimensions  
Span 45' 6"3
13.87 m3
Length 38' 1.5"3
11.62 m3
Height 12'3
3.66 m3
Wing area 385.8 sq ft3
35.84 sq m3
Weight  
Empty 8,165 lb3
3,704 kg3
Loaded 13,700 lb3
6,214 kg3
Performance  
Speed at 35,000' / 10,670 m 409 mph3
658 kph3
Climb to 10,000' / 3,050 m 3 minutes 20 seconds3
Service ceiling 46,200'3
14,040 m3
Range 400 miles3
644 km3
Armament  
Nose 1: 20 mm M43
3: 12.7 mm / 0.5" MG3

Sources:

  1. Aircraft of WWII, Stewart Wilson, 1998
  2. World War II Airplanes Volume 2, Enzo Angelucci, Paolo Matricardi, 1976
  3. The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II, Chris Bishop, 1998
20th Century American Military History Crucial Site