|Manufacturer||Bell Aircraft Corporation|
|Maiden Flight||7 December 1942|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
ww2dbaseThe P-63 Kingcobra fighters were developed from some of the ideas generated during the XP-39E Airacobra project. P-63 Kingcobra fighters were larger than what XP-39E Airacobra design called for, with an additional supercharger installed for better high-altitude performance. Order was given by the United States Army Air Forces about three months before the prototype took flight at the end of 1942. The first prototype aircraft crashed during a landing accident on 28 Jan 1943 when the landing gear failed to extend during landing; the second prototype aircraft was also destroyed due to engine failure.
ww2dbaseProduction for P-63 Kingcobra aircraft began in 1943, and the first examples were delivered in Oct of that year. After a series of tests, however, the USAAF decided that P-63 Kingcobra fighters were less capable than the P-51 Mustang aircraft, and declined to deploy these new fighters to American forces. Orders for large quantities were made, however, for export to Russia via Lend-Lease provisions. Because the Russians were already major purchasers of the P-39 Airacobra aircraft, Russian pilot Andrey G. Kochetkov and engineer Fiodor Suprun were actually closely involved with the design and development for this aircraft.
ww2dbaseDeliveries of P-63 Kingcobra aircraft were completed in two phases. First, Air Transport Command ferry pilots, which included female pilots of the WASP program, flew newly manufactured P-63 Kingcobra aircraft from the Bell factory at Niagara Falls, New York to Nome, Alaska, with a stop in Great Falls, Montana for refueling. Russian pilots, also including some female pilots, would pick up the aircraft at Nome and flew them across the Bering Strait into Russia.
ww2dbaseIn 1943, an agreement was reached between United States and Russia noting that P-63 Kingcobra fighters must remain in the Soviet Far East, building up for the eventual declaration of war against Japan. However, there were unconfirmed reports that the Russians secretly used them against German forces in Europe, violating the terms of the agreement; these Russian P-63 Kingcobra aircraft supposedly fought near Königsberg, in Poland, and on the final drive toward Berlin. There were also German reports of possible P-63 Kingcobra aircraft destroyed in action, though also not confirmed. During Operation August Storm, these aircraft were used both as ground attack aircraft as well as fighters against the Japanese in Manchuria, China and northern Korea.
ww2dbaseAfter WW2, some P-63 Kingcobra aircraft remained in various Soviet forces, possibly serving in the Korean War on the side of the North Koreans. In 1945, 114 of them were exported to France and saw action during the First Indochina War. In the United States, some of them were painted bright orange and were equipped with sensors for use as target aircraft during gunnery exercises; in this role, these P-63 Kingcobra aircraft were nicknamed "Pinballs". Some of them were sold into the civilian market in the US and became air racers.
ww2dbaseDuring the production life of the P-63 Kingcobra design, 3,303 were produced. 2,397 of them were exported to Russia.
|Machinery||One Allison V-1710-117 liquid-cooled V-12 engine rated at 1,800hp|
|Armament||1x37mm M4 cannon, 2x12.7mm M2 Browning machine guns in nose, 2x12.7mm M2 Browning machine guns in wings|
|Wing Area||23.00 m˛|
|Weight, Empty||3,100 kg|
|Weight, Loaded||4,000 kg|
|Weight, Maximum||4,900 kg|
|Speed, Maximum||660 km/h|
|Rate of Climb||12.70 m/s|
|Service Ceiling||13,100 m|
|Range, Normal||725 km|
|Range, Maximum||3,540 km|
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Joachim von Ribbentrop, German Foreign Minister, Aug 1939