Bell P-39Q Airacobra

The Bell P-39Q was the last version of the Airacobra, and was produced in greater numbers than any earlier version, with the 4,905 built representing just over half of the total production run of 9,529 aircraft. The P-39Q was in production from March 1943 until July 1944, by which time it had been replaced on the production lines by the P-63 Kingcobra.


The P-39Q-1 was produced with the same small 87 US gallon internal fuel tanks as the P-39N. However weight was increased by the addition of 231lb of armour plate. The Q-1 also saw the .30in machine guns in the wing removed and replaced by one .50ins gun per wing, located in an under-wing pylon and with 300 rounds of ammunition. These pylons were normally removed in the Soviet Union, where the nose mounted guns were felt to provide enough firepower. The P-39Q-1 was powered by the samel Allison V-1710-85 (E19) engine used in the P-39N. In Soviet service the P-39Q-1 had a top speed of 376mph. A total of 150 Q-1s were built.


Five of the Q-1s were converted to act as photographic reconnaissance aircraft with the designation P-39Q-2


The 950 P-39Q-5s were similar to the Q-1, but carried more internal fuel cells at the cost of a reduction in the amount of armour.


The 148 Q-6s were P-39Q-5s converted to act as photographic reconnaissance aircraft.


The P-39Q-10 combined the heavier armour of the Q-1 (227lb) and the increased fuel capacity of the Q-5 (120 gallons). The Q-10 also saw the oul system modified to improve reliability in Russian winter conditions.


Eight P-39Q-10s were converted to act as photographic reconnaissance aircraft with the designation Q-11.


The Q-15 was the most numerous version of the P-39Q. 1,000 were produced. They were similar to the Q-10 but with a modified oxygen system.


The Q-20 was also produced in large numbers – a total of 891 – and was similar to the Q-15 but with a number of minor changes.


The 109 P-39Q-21s were similar to the Q-20, but used a four-blade Aeroproducts propeller.


Twelve P-39Q-20s were converted into two-place fighter trainers with the designation P-39Q-22. As well as the two-place cockpit, the Q-22s had their guns removed and had a fin added above and below the fuselage.


700 P-39Q-25s were produced. Like the Q-21 they used the four-blade Aeroproducts propeller, but came with a reinforced aft-fuselage and horizontal stabilizer. As on many version of the P series aircraft intended for the Soviet Union were produced without the wing guns.


Production of the Airacobra ended with the 400 P-39Q-30s. These aircraft were similar to the Q-25 but came with a three bladed propeller.

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 (9 July 2008), Bell P-39Q Airacobra ,

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