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United States' Bell P-63 Kingcobra fighter

Design

The Bell P-63 Kingcobra was larger and had a more powerful engine than the Bell P-39.

In June 1941 the US Army Air Force ordered two prototypes to be built.

Like the P-39 it also had tricycle landing gear, engine behind the pilot, and a door similar to a car for the pilot. The P-63 had a taller tail.

The intake, right behind the cockpit glass, provided air to the carburator.

Prototype

The first flight of the XP-63 prototype was in / on December 1942 / December 7, 1942. Both prototypes were lost in early accidents.

The third prototype, XP-63A, was first flown on April 26, 1943.

Production

An order was placed in September 1942, before the prototypes first flight. Deliveries of the production version began in October 1943.

  • Bell XP-63/A: 3
  • Bell P-63A: 1,725
  • Bell P-63C: 1,227
  • Bell P-63D: 1
  • Bell P-63E: 13
    • Production: May 1945
  • Bell P-63F: 1, 2
  • Bell RP-63A: 90, P-63A conversion: 100
  • Bell RP-63C: 200 , P-63C conversion: 200
  • Bell RP-63G: 42
  • Total: 3,300, 3,303
    • Manufacturer: Bell Aircraft Corporation
    • Manufacturing location: Buffalo, New York
    • Production: ? - 1945

Orders Cancelled

At the end of World War II orders for 2,930 P-63Es were cancelled.

Variants

  • Bell XP-63: Had an Allison V-1710-47 engine (1,325 HP).
  • Bell XP-63A: Was the third prototype. Had an Allison V-1710-93 (1,500 HP).
  • Bell P-63A-1: Delivery started in October 1943.
  • Bell P-63A-10:
  • Bell P-63B: Was to have a Packard-Merlin engine but was never produced.
  • Bell P-63C: Most supplied to the Soviet Union. Used Allison V-1710-177 engine. Wingspan reduced by 10".
  • Bell P-63C-5: Ventral fin added below the tail.
  • Bell P-63D: Larger wing and bubble canopy. Had an V-1710-109 engine. Aerodynamics were cleaned up. Could go 437 mph.
  • Bell P-63E: Used standard canopy of earlier models (pre P-63D). Had the V-1710-109 engine.
  • Bell P-63F: New vertical tail surfaces. Used an V-1710-135 engine.
  • Bell RP-63A: Had armor and armament removed. A tough aluminum skin was added to the wings, fuselage, tail, and canopy. Firing aircraft fired frangible bullets. If a hit was scored a red light on the spinner would blink giving the aircraft the nickname "Pinball." 100 P-63As converted.
  • Bell RP-63C: Had armor and armament removed. A tough aluminum skin was added to the wings, fuselage, tail, and canopy. Firing aircraft fired frangible bullets. If a hit was scored a red light on the spinner would blink giving the aircraft the nickname "Pinball." Allison engine was water injected.
  • Bell RP-63G: Had armor and armament removed. A tough aluminum skin was added to the wings, fuselage, tail, and canopy. Firing aircraft fired frangible bullets. If a hit was scored a red light on the spinner would blink giving the aircraft the nickname "Pinball."

Usage

Countries Using P-63s

France (P-63C: 114) , Soviet Union (P-63A: 1,386, total: 2,376), United Kingdom and the United States used the P-63. However, the United States never used it in combat, only as a trainer or a target aircraft.

The US Army Air Force decided it wasn't advanced enough and around 2,400 / 2,421 P-63s were shipped to Russia. Around 300 went to the Free French forces. One was sent to the RAF.

Korea

There were some reports by United Nations' pilots that they encountered P-63s flown by North Koreans. They were code named "Fred" by NATO.

Indo China

The French Armée de l'Air flew 5 squadrons of P-63C Kingcobras in Indo China.

Specifications

  Bell P-63 Kingcobra
Type Fighter bomber, Manned target
Crew 1
Engine (Type)  
Cylinders  
Cooling  
HP  
Propeller blades 4
Dimensions  
Span 38' 4"
11.68 m
Length 32' 8"
9.95 m
Height 12' 7"
3.83 m
Wing area  
Weight  
Empty  
Loaded  
Performance  
Speed  
Cruising speed  
Climb  
Service ceiling  
Range  
Armament  
Through propeller hub 37 mm
Nose 2: 0.5" MG
Under wing 2: 0.5" MG
Bombs 3: 500 lb
3: 227 kg
  Bell P-63A Kingcobra
Type Fighter, Ground Attack
Crew 1
Engine (Type) Allison V-1710-93, Allison V-1710-95
Cylinders V 12
Cooling Liquid
HP 1,325
Propeller blades 4
Dimensions  
Span 38' 4"
11.68 m
Length 32' 8"
9.96 m
Height 12' 7"
3.84 m
Wing area 248ft2
23.04 m2
Weight  
Empty 6,375 lb, 6,932 lb
2,892 kg
Loaded 10,479 lb, 10,500 lb
4,763 kg
Performance  
Speed  
Speed @ 24,450' /
7,450 m
408 mph
656 kph
Speed @ 25,000' /
7,620 m
409 mph
660 kph
Cruising speed 377 mph
608 kph
Climb to 25,000' /
7,620 m
7.3 minutes
Service ceiling 43,000, 43,200'
13,105 m, 13,106 m
Range 450 miles
724 km
Armament 1: 37 mm
4: MG
Through propeller hub 37 mm
30 rounds
Nose 2: 12.7 mm
Under wing 6 rockets
Bombs 520 lb, 1,500 lb
237 kg
  Bell P-63A-1 Kingcobra
Type  
Crew  
Engine (Type)  
Cylinders  
Cooling  
HP  
Propeller blades  
Dimensions  
Span  
Length  
Height  
Wing area  
Weight  
Empty  
Loaded  
Performance  
Speed  
Cruising speed  
Climb  
Service ceiling  
Range  
Armament  
Through propeller hub 37 mm M4
Nose 2: 12.7 mm MG
Wings 2: 12.7 mm MG
Bombs 3: 500 lb
3: 226.8 kg
  Bell P-63A-10 Kingcobra
Type Fighter bomber
Crew  
Engine (Type)  
Cylinders  
Cooling  
HP  
Propeller blades  
Dimensions  
Span 38' 4"
11.68 m
Length 32' 8"
9.96 m
Height 12' 7"
3.83 m
Wing area 248 ft2
23.04 m2
Weight  
Empty 6,375 lb
2,892 kg
Loaded 10,500 lb
4,763 kg
Performance  
Speed @ 5,000' /
1,524 m
361 mph
581 kph
Speed @ 25,000' /
7,620 m
410 mph
660 kph
Cruising speed  
Climb  
Service ceiling  
Range  
Range with external tanks
@ 177 mph / 285 kph
@ 10,000' / 3,048 m
2,200 miles
3,540 km
Armament  
  Bell P-63C Kingcobra
Type Fighter bomber
Crew 1
Engine (Type) Allison V-1710-117
Cylinders 12
Cooling Water
HP 1,510, 1,800
Propeller blades 4 constant speed
Dimensions  
Span 38' 4"
Length 32' 8"
Height  
Wing area 248 ft2
Weight  
Empty 6,800 lb
Loaded 8,800 lb
Performance  
Speed @ 25,000' 410 mph
Cruising speed 356 mph
Climb  
Service ceiling 38,600'
Range - loaded 320 miles
Range - max 2,100 miles
Armament  
Propeller hub 1: 37 mm
Nose 2: .50 cal MG
Wing pods 2: .50 cal MG
Bombs - fuselage and wings 1,500 lb

Sources:

  1. Aircraft of WWII, General Editor: Jim Winchester, 2004
  2. The Great Book of Fighters, William Green, Gordon Swanborough, 1994
  3. Aircraft of WWII, Stewart Wilson, 1998
  4. World War II Airplanes Volume 2, Enzo Angelucci, Paolo Matricardi, 1976
  5. American Attack Aircraft Since 1926, E. R. Johnson, 2012
20th Century American Military History Crucial Site