P-63 Kingcobra file photo [6223]

P-63 Kingcobra

CountryUnited States
ManufacturerBell Aircraft Corporation
Primary RoleFighter
Maiden Flight7 December 1942


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.

ww2dbaseSource: Wikipedia.

Last Major Revision: Jul 2008


MachineryOne Allison V-1710-117 liquid-cooled V-12 engine rated at 1,800hp
Armament1x37mm M4 cannon, 2x12.7mm M2 Browning machine guns in nose, 2x12.7mm M2 Browning machine guns in wings
Span10.00 m
Length11.70 m
Height3.80 m
Wing Area23.00 m²
Weight, Empty3,100 kg
Weight, Loaded4,000 kg
Weight, Maximum4,900 kg
Speed, Maximum660 km/h
Rate of Climb12.70 m/s
Service Ceiling13,100 m
Range, Normal725 km
Range, Maximum3,540 km


P-63A Kingcobra aircraft at rest, Aug 1943-Aug 1945P-63C Kingcobra aircraft modified as US Navy L-39 prototype fighters, post-1945; note swept-back wings

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Wayne Brinker says:
12 Jun 2009 01:08:20 PM

Other sources show top speed to be 650 k/mh which is more likely.
2. Commenter identity confirmed Alan Chanter says:
8 Feb 2021 12:44:06 AM

During the Soviet invasion of Manchuria in August 1945 American-supplied Kingcobras conducted escort and ground attack missions. Their first recorded air victory in the invasion occurred on 15th August, when Lieutenant Miroshnichenko shot down a Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa fighter off the coast of North Korea.
3. Commenter identity confirmed Alan Chanter says:
19 Feb 2021 09:54:51 AM

A total of 3,303 P-63 Kingcobras were completed by the time production ended in 1945, of which at least 2,397 (and possibly as many as 2,672) had been supplied to the VVS.

It seems likely that the 4th Guards Fighter Regiment converted to P-63s in 1944 and flew them in action over East Prussia and Berlin.

Hans-Ulrich Rudel, the Luftwaffe’s most highly decorated pilot, recalled ‘…American types of aircraft, especially Airacobras, Kingcobras and Bostons’ over the Courland Pocket in 1944/45.
4. Commenter identity confirmed Alan Chanter says:
21 Mar 2021 08:19:25 AM

Kingcobras remained in front-line service with the VVS until about 1950, after which they were used to train pilots converting to the MiG-15 jet fighter. The P-63 was chosen for this role as it had a tricycle undercarriage similar to that of the MiG-15, whereas all Soviet–built piston-engined fighters had tail wheel landing gear.
5. Commenter identity confirmed Alan John Chanter says:
22 Jul 2021 12:52:51 AM

The M4 37mm automatic gun which armed both the P-39 Airacobra and P-63 Kingcobra, was designed by American firearms designer John Browning. The M4 had a compact design and was light for its calibre, but had a relatively low muzzle velocity and rate of fire, which made it less suitable for use as a bomber destroyer. Despite this, the lend-lease P-39s and P-63s were popular with the VVS (Voenno-Vozdushuye Sily Krasnoi Armii) which employed them primarily as effective low-level fighters from 1942 until the end of the war.

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P-63A Kingcobra aircraft at rest, Aug 1943-Aug 1945
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