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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. These were turbojets that were developed by Britain and brought to the United States in October 1941.

Early Issues

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

Prototype

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

The YP-59A flew in August 1943.

Production

  • Bell XP-59A: 3
  • Bell YP-59A: 13
  • Bell P-59A: 20
  • Bell P-59B: 30
  • Total: 50, 66
    • Manufacturer: Bell Aircraft Company

Production was cancelled in October 1944.

Variants

  • Bell XP-59A: Used Whittle turbojets (called General Electric Type I-A).
  • Bell YP-59A: Had longer fuselages and General Electric I-16 engines (1,600 lb / 7.2kN).
  • Bell P-59A: First flew in August 1944. Had 2,000 lb thrust.
  • Bell P-59B: Had minor changes.

Usage

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

The United States Navy received three P-59s and designated them XF2L-1.

The 412th Fighter Group was equipped with the B-59.

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

Specifications

  Bell P-59 Airacomet
Type Jet fighter trainer
Crew 1
Engine (Type) 2: General Electric J31-GE-3/5 turbojets
Thrust 2,000 lb each
9.0 kN each
Dimensions  
Span 45' 6"
13.87 m
Length 38' 10"
11.83 m
Height 12' 4"
3.76 m
Weight  
Empty 8,165 lb
3,704 kg
Loaded 13,700 lb
6,214 kg
Performance  
Speed at 30,000' / 9,144 m 413 mph
665 kph
Cruising speed 375 mph
603 kph
Climb to 10,000' / 3,050 m 3.2 minutes
Service ceiling 46,200'
14,080 m
Range 525 miles
845 km
Armament  
Nose 1: 37 mm
3: 0.5" MG
  Bell P-59A Airacomet
Type Fighter
Crew 1
Engine (Type) 2: General Electric J-31-GE-3
Thrust 2,000 lb each
Dimensions  
Span 45' 6"
Length 38' 10"
Height 12' 4"
Weight  
Loaded 13,700 lb
Performance  
Speed at 30,000' / 9,144 m 413 mph
Service ceiling 46,200'
Range 525 miles
Armament 1: 37 mm
3: MG
  Bell P-59B Airacomet
Type Fighter
Crew 1
Engine (Type) 2: General Electric J31-GE-5 turbojets
Thrust 2,000 lb
907 kg
Dimensions  
Span 45' 6"
13.87 m
Length 38' 1.5"
11.62 m
Height 12'
3.66 m
Wing area 385.8 sq ft
35.84 sq m
Weight  
Empty 8,165 lb
3,704 kg
Loaded 13,700 lb
6,214 kg
Performance  
Speed at 35,000' / 10,670 m 409 mph
658 kph
Climb to 10,000' / 3,050 m 3 minutes 20 seconds
Service ceiling 46,200'
14,040 m
Range 400 miles
644 km
Armament  
Nose 1: 20 mm M4
3: 12.7 mm / 0.5" MG

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