Bell P-59 Airacomet

1st Flight 1942

The Bell P-59 Airacomet was a single-seat, twin jet-engine fighter aircraft that was designed and built by Bell Aircraft during World War II, the first produced in the United States.

As the British were further along in jet engine development, they donated an engine for the United States to copy in 1941 that became the basis for the General Electric jet used by the P-59 a year later.

Because the plane was underpowered, the United States Army Air Forces was not impressed by its performance and cancelled half of the original order for 100 fighters, using the completed aircraft as trainers.

Although no P-59s entered combat, the aircraft paved the way for later generations of U.S. turbojet-powered aircraft.

Variants

XP-59 – Unrelated piston engine-powered pusher-propeller design developed from the Bell XP-52. Not built.

XP-59A – Prototype of the new jet engine-powered aircraft.

YP-59A – Series of test aircraft.

YF2L-1 – Two YP-59A delivered to the US Navy for carrier evaluation.

P-59A – First production version.

Redesignated ZF-59A in June 1948.

XP-59B – Study for a single-engine P-59A.

P-59B – Improved P-59A. 80 aircraft ordered but only 30 built, 50 were cancelled.

Redesignated ZF-59B in June 1948.

Specifications

Crew: 1

Length: 38 ft 10 in (11.84 m)

Wingspan: 45 ft 6 in (13.87 m)

Height: 12 ft 4 in (3.76 m)

Wing area: 386 sq ft (35.9 m2)

Airfoil: root: NACA 66-014; tip: NACA 66-212

Empty weight: 8,165 lb (3,704 kg)

Gross weight: 11,040 lb (5,008 kg)

Max take-off weight: 13,700 lb (6,214 kg)

Fuel capacity: 356 US gallons (1,350 l; 296 imp gal)

Powerplant: 2 × General Electric J31-GE-5 centrifugal-flow turbojet engines, 2,000 lbf (8.9 kN) thrust each

Performance

Maximum speed: 413 mph (665 km/h, 359 kn) at 30,000 ft (9,144 m)

Cruise speed: 375 mph (604 km/h, 326 kn)

Range: 375 mi (604 km, 326 nmi)

Ferry range: 950 mi (1,530 km, 830 nmi)

Service ceiling: 46,200 ft (14,100 m)

Time to altitude: 30,000 ft (9,144 m) in 15 minutes 30 seconds

Armament

Guns:

1 × 37 mm M10 auto cannon with 44 rounds of ammunition

3 × .50 cal AN/M2 Browning heavy machine guns with 200 rounds per gun.

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