Bell P-39C Airacobra

The P-39C was the first production version of the Airacobra, although only twenty aircraft were produced before production moved on to the P-39D. The P-39C was powered by the Allison V-1710-35 (E4) engine, and was armed with the standard 37mm T9 nose-mounted cannon. It differed from most P-39 Airacobras in that the secondary armament was provided by two .30in and two .50in machine guns mounted in the nose, with no wing-mounted guns.

The first P-39C made its maiden flight in January 1941, and by March 1941 all twenty aircraft had reached the 31st Pursuit Group. Having been hyped as a high speed fighter, the actual performance of the P-39C came as something of a disappointment. It was also felt to be under-armoured for a ground-support aircraft.

In the summer of 1941 three of the P-39Cs were sent to Britain to undergo tests with the RAF, with the first test flight taking place on 6 July 1941. These tests revealed that the P-39C had a top speed of 359mph, much lower than the 392mph achieved by the superturbocharged XP-39 and used in Bell publicity.

Bell P-39 Airacobra, Robert F. Dorr with Jerry C. Scutts (Crowood Aviation). A detailed looked at the development and service history of this controversial American fighter aircraft. The P-39 had a poor reputation amongst British and American pilots, and Dorr examines the reasons why, as well as looking at why the same aircraft was so much more popular in Soviet Service. Scutts provides a chapter on the P-63 Kingcobra, and the book also covers the numerous Bell fighter projects that failed to enter production.
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (7 July 2008), Bell P-39C Airacobra , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_P-39C.html

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