Thursday, February 21, 2013

P-39 Airacobra walk around

Among the more promising US fighter designs of the late 1930s, bell's P-39 Airacobra was never to achieve in service it's early potential as a high-altitude fighter, thanks to deletion of the turbocharger installed on the early prototypes.

   The P-39 design came about as the result of a desire to build a fighter around the T9 37mm cannon; use of this large weapon, which would fire through the propeller hub, dictated that the Allison V-1710 engine be placed well aft in the fuselage, requiring a long extension shaft. A tricycle landing gear configuration was necessary, and the P-39 would be the first Army Air Corps fighter to be so equipped.

P-39Q Airacobra at NMUSAF photo
Although displayed as a P-39J, the NMUSAF's Airacobra is actually a P-39Q, having been configured at one point as a two-seater before being restored in the 1960s to standard configuration .

Bell P-39Q side view picture

P-39M: V-1710-83 engines. -2-BE

P-39Q: The major production variant of the Airacobra, the P-39Q was also the last. Most were supplied to the USSR and other Allied air arms.

P-39Q-1-BE: 150 aircraft, with reduced fuel.
P-39Q-2-BE: 1-BE conversions with cameras.
P-39Q-5-BE: Less armor, more fuel.
P-39Q-10BE: Winterized, more fuel.
P-39Q-21BE: Aeroproducts four-bladed props.
P-39Q-25BE: Beefed up rear fuselage, four blade props.
P-39Q-30BE: Three bladed props.
F2L-1K: Designation for a pair of Q-model Airacobras transferred to the USN.

TP-39: Unarmed trainer conversions with second cockpit forward, dorsal and ventral fins.


"Detailing the P-39" Structural drawings of the cabin, rear fuselage, and outer wing. Flying November 1943  p.116

Photo: TP-39Q 44-3908/N40A Warbirds International October 2000 p.61

Color profile: Italian Co-Belligerent P-39N  Encyclopedia of 20th Century Air Warfare, p.149

The Airacobra's first export customer was to have been France, but like orders for other American types, the French collapse mean that these aircraft could not be delivered. Britain, desperate for any modern fighters, appropriated the 200-aircraft French order and added 475 more.  The Airacobra I would be fitted with a 20mm Hispano in the nose and .303 machine guns in the wing. However, the type would have a very short service life in the RAF, as No. 601 Squadron had barely started conversion when it was recognized that the non-turbocharged aircraft had deficient performance at altitude.

Scale Models:

Special Hobby made a 1/32 scale P-39D that has since been reissued by Revell. There was also an earlier vacuform Airacobra in that scale from Combat Models.

 P-39 model under development for FSX
Monogram 1/48 P-39 models for sale

P-39 Airacutie of the 3th FS

Building the Hasegawa 1/48 scale Airacobra as the NX92848 Cobra II air racer

Sureflite RC P-39 conversion

Some great views of the Simtech P-39 for FS2004

An excellent series of photos depicting the restoration of a P-39 by the Classic Jets Fighter Museum, using pieces salvaged from PNG as well as new-build components.

P-39 pictures from the NMUSAF archives 

A detailed video walk around of a P-39Q under restoration

Thanks for visiting!
Most images are clickable for larger versions