Bell R-63 Fighter Aircraft Technical Specifications
- Crew – 1 person
- Engine – Allison V-1710-93
- Power-1500 hp
- Wingspan-11.68 m
- Wing area – 23.04 sq. m
- Empty aircraft weight-2569 kg
- Maximum take-off weight-4763 kg
- Maximum speed-657 km / h
- Practical ceiling – 13,106 m
- Maximum range-3540 km
- Armament – 1×37 mm cannon and 4×12. 7 mm Browning machine gun
- The maximum bomb load is 681 kg.
- American aircraft P-39 “Aerocobra” (Airacobra) and P-63 “Kingcobra” (Kingcobra) became the most famous foreign fighters in the Soviet Union during the Great Patriotic War.
Bell R-63 Fighter Aircraft Details
The Aerocobra aircraft was developed at the American company Bell Aircraft Corp by a design team led by R. Wood and X. Poyer. The first design work on it began in 1936, and in October 1937 the company received an order for the construction of an experimental XP-39 fighter. The new fighter was designed as an interceptor, so it was equipped with a very powerful Allison V-1710-17 water-cooled engine with a turbocharger. When creating it, the designers applied a number of innovative solutions, thanks to which, the P-39 in many respects turned out to be one of the most unusual aircraft of the Second World War period. The main distinguishing feature of the R-39 was the layout of the power plant: the engine, which stood on all single-engine fighters in the nose of the fuselage, the designers placed directly behind the cockpit. Power was transmitted to the propeller located in the front by a 2.5 m long shaft connecting the engine to the propeller gearbox. This arrangement of the engine gave a number of advantages: the heaviest unit of the aircraft-the engine with cooling systems-was located near the center of gravity, which reduced the moment of inertia relative to the transverse axis of the aircraft and improved its maneuverability; the nose of the fuselage became possible to give a well – streamlined shape, and at the same time-a significantly better view from the cockpit. In the cockpit, comfortable car-type side doors were made. A 37 – mm T-9 air gun and two synchronous 12.7-mm Browning machine guns were mounted in the vacant nose of the fuselage. In addition, such a scheme made it possible to use a three-post landing gear with a nose wheel (the front strut of which was retracted into the nose of the fuselage) and the aircraft had stability when moving on the ground; visibility improved; more vigorous braking on the run became possible; the danger of cowling was much reduced. At the same time, numerous problems arose in the R-39 as a result of its improvement, when the reservation was strengthened, the number of machine guns was increased, etc., it turned out to be heavily overloaded. Compared to the experimental version, its weight increased by about 800 kg (more than 23%).
The R-39 prototype made its first flight in April 1939, but later, until 1941, it was refined and improved, as a result of which it was necessary to abandon the turbocharger and use a motor with a single-speed drive supercharger and a lower altitude; reduce the wingspan and place four more 7.62 mm machine guns in it (but no longer synchronous). In addition, the radiators were removed from the sides of the fuselage, and remounted in the center wing section.
The first mass – produced fighters of this type, the P-39D, called the “Aerocobra”, were adopted by the US Air Force in February 1941. However, already in April 1940, when this aircraft was still in the development stage, the British government ordered 675 P-39 fighters for the British Air Force. In July 1941, the first P-39DS in the export version began to arrive in England. The only significant difference between them and the American version was the replacement of the 37-mm gun with a 20-mm air gun “Hispano-Suiza” Mk1. Air battles, training and real, conducted by British pilots, showed that the American car has a surprisingly small ceiling, low rate of climb and unsatisfactory maneuverability. Due to the relatively low altitude of the engine and too much weight, the aircraft was a poor interceptor, practically useless at altitude, and the take-off and landing characteristics of the P-39D were such that they excluded basing it at airfields from which British Hurricanes and Spitfires could operate: the take-off distance of the P-39 was a third longer than that of the Hurricane. At the same time, the positive qualities of the R-39 included its high survivability – the design of the “Aerocobra” could withstand a large number of damage without destruction. In this regard, the British pilots used the P-39 to conduct attacks on ground targets. But still, the P-39 fighter did not satisfy either the British or the Americans. They did not begin to look for ways to improve it, and already in December 1941, the Aerocobras were withdrawn from service with the British Air Force, while some of the received aircraft were sent to the Australian Air Force, New Guinea, and the Middle East, and the remaining British Aerocobras, as well as those that were removed from service with the fighter groups of the American Air Force stationed in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations,
After this aircraft showed its low efficiency in combat operations in Europe, Africa, and also in the Pacific Ocean, its deliveries began to be carried out to the Soviet Union. The first 20 “demobilized” British P-39ds arrived in the USSR in January 1942. The command of the Soviet Air Force took into account the already existing experience of adapting imported aircraft to Soviet conditions and decided not to send” Aerocobras ” immediately to active units. For their assembly, flight and study, a group of employees of the Air Force Research Institute was formed, who immediately encountered complex operational problems. I had to urgently make a whole series of improvements on the “foreign” car and eliminate its defects. It turned out that with extreme rear alignment, the R-39 tends to have the most dangerous type of corkscrew – flat. Nevertheless, the Air Force Research Institute did everything possible to teach pilots how to properly pilot the aircraft in critical flight modes and minimize accidents. As a result of this work, the machine, which was abandoned by the British and Americans, was recognized as suitable for combat service in the Soviet Air Force. To its relatively good flight data for the Eastern Front, reliability was also added. Moreover, the work on the “Aerocobra” was not only to improve operational properties and increase reliability in combat. The American aircraft also had a lot of reserves to improve flight data, which was what Soviet and American specialists from Bell were doing in 1943. If at the beginning of 1942 in terms of flight characteristics, the Aerocobra was still approximately at the level of requirements for a fighter, then in 1943 it was already noticeably inferior to both the new Soviet fighters and the German ones.
The main disadvantage of the R-39 was its low power capacity. Since the “Aerocobra” weighed 400-700 kg more than, for example, mass-produced European fighters: “Hurricane”; “Spitfire”; Messerschmitt Bf 109F and Bf 109G; Yak-1, Yak-7 and Yak-9 with comparable V-shaped engine power, so along with the installation of more powerful engine options carried out by Bell, weight reduction of the P-39 was of paramount importance. A detailed acquaintance with the design of the P-39D, P-39L, P-39N and P-39Q models showed that without much damage to the combat capability and safety of the pilot and the aircraft, it is possible to remove the underwing machine guns and part of the armor (from the gearbox and oxygen cylinders, as well as the armored barrier between the pilot and the engine, since the engine itself was Only due to this, the mass of the P-39Q decreased from 3,549 to 3,236 kg. Some of the equipment was also dismantled. After that, the maneuverability and rate of climb of the P-39Q improved so much that it became quite combat-ready in the fight against modern German fighters. Thus, the maximum speed of the P-39Q aircraft was 605 km / h; the flight range was 845 km; the rate of climb was 762 m / min; the practical ceiling was 10,670 m; and the weapons used were a 37-mm T9 air gun and 4 12.7 mm Browning machine guns, as well as one 227 kg aerial bomb. Since on the Soviet-German front, air battles were mainly fought at altitudes up to 4500 m, the P-39 fighter showed itself positively.
In the spring of 1943, the R-39, brought mostly to normal, went to the Soviet ace-three times Hero of the Soviet Union A. I. Pokryshkin, who won 48 of his 59 victories on his Aerocobra. Together with him, such famous Soviet pilots as N. D. Gulaev (57 victories), G. A. Rechkalov (61 victories), D. B. Glinka (50 victories) and others fought on these fighters during the war. Light and docile in control, simple in piloting technique and quite accessible for a medium-skilled pilot to master, with powerful weapons and excellent trouble-free radio communication, the Aerocobra became a formidable weapon in the hands of an experienced pilot. A certain role in the success of the P-39 on the Soviet-German front was also played by the fact that they were armed with regiments that already had sufficient combat experience. Of the Lend-Lease fighters, the Aerocobra is one of the most successfully used aircraft. Of these, 25 air regiments were formed and sent to the front in 1942-1943, which accounted for 4.2% of all fighter air regiments formed during the Great Patriotic War. By the end of the Great Patriotic War, the Aerocobra fighter in the P-39N and P-39Q variants became the main fighter among the lend-lease fighters supplied by the allies to the USSR. In the course of mass production, which lasted until July 1944, Bell Aircraft built 9558 P-39 fighters of various modifications, of which 4924 were delivered to the Soviet Union.
Already in February 1941, Bell, using the accumulated experience in creating the P-39, began designing a new fighter, which, in essence, was a further development of the Aerocobra. In June of the same year, the company received an order for the construction of a prototype aircraft, under the designation XP-63 ” Kingcobra “(Kingcobra). The R-63 Kingcobra fighter was a single-seat all-metal monoplane with a closed cockpit. He kept the original layout of the “Aerocobra” unchanged: the engine is behind the pilot; the armament is in front; retractable tricycle landing gear with bow strut and cab with side doors. At the same time, a number of significant changes were made to its design: a new more powerful Allison V-1710-93 engine was installed, which had a height of 6100 m at a 15-minute combat mode, against 4740 m for the V-1710-85 engine, which stood on the Aerocobra. This altitude was more suitable for the conditions of the air war in Western Europe, in addition, this engine could work for 5 minutes, in the so-called “emergency mode”, while developing a power of up to 1500 hp. At the same time, the maximum speed of the R-63 increased to 657 km/h. The vertical speed has doubled compared to the Aerocobra. To avoid a strong decrease in engine power near the ground and at low altitudes, a two-stage supercharger was installed on it, the first stage of which was driven into rotation through a hydraulic coupling. The main feature of the new model of the American fighter was the wing formed by laminar profiles, which reduced aerodynamic drag at high flight speeds. The R-63 fighter looked very similar to the R-39, but was larger in size (the wing area increased by 16%) and differed in the shape of the tail. To improve the corkscrew characteristics of the aircraft, the designers increased the vertical tail area by 30% and shifted it back. Its reservation became more rational, and the weight of armor decreased by 42 kg. Instead of a three-bladed screw, a four-bladed one was mounted. The armament remains the same as on the last modification of the R-39 Q – one 37-mm T9 cannon and four 12.7-mm Browning AN-M 2 heavy machine guns.
The Kingcobra made its first flight in December 1942, and almost a year later, in October 1943, the serial P – 63A rolled off the American assembly line. Deliveries of P-63 Kingcobra fighters to the US Air Force began in late 1943. In December of the same year, Bell sent detailed information about the P-63 to potential customers, including Soviet representatives.
In 1944, the delivery of P-63 fighters to the Soviet Union began under the Lend-Lease program, and the Kingcobras were transported from the United States to the SSSR via the ALSIB (Alaska-Siberia) air route. First of all, they were sent to air defense units that had previously flown on Aircobras. In December 1944, the 28th Air Defense Regiment, stationed near Moscow at Vnukovo airfield, received the first Kingcobra fighters. By May 1, 1945, there were already 51 R-63A aircraft in the air defense regiments. In the Red Army Air Force, deliveries of new American fighters began in the summer of 1945, with priority given to the Far Eastern air armies preparing for combat operations against Japan. The first unit to receive the P-63A was the 190th Fighter Air Division, which was relocated to Transbaikalia in June 1945. Since June 24, she started receiving “Kingcobras” and, by the beginning of August, she had already finished retraining for them. During combat operations in Manchuria, the 190th Fighter Air Division operated from two airfields near Choibalsan, Mongolia. There, in the 12th Air Army on the Trans-Baikal Front, the 245th Fighter Aviation Division fought, which included two air regiments (the 940th and 781st) armed with P-63 fighters. In July-August, the first Kingcobra aircraft were delivered to the 888th and 410th fighter regiments based in Kamchatka.
During the Soviet-Japanese war of 1945, Kingcobra fighters were actively used to escort bombers and reconnaissance aircraft; cover troops and ships from the air; attack and bomb Japanese positions. The transfer of American fighters to representatives of the Soviet military mission in Fairbanks (USA) stopped immediately after the surrender of Japan on September 2, 1945, and the last to arrive in the USSR were the R-63C Kingcobras, which were mounted on the V-1710-117 engine with increased altitude and increased emergency power due to water injection.
The American aircraft manufacturer Bell Aircraft (Niagara Falls) produced 3303 Kingcobra fighters in 1943-1945. Of the 2,450 of these aircraft ordered by the Soviet side, the Soviet Union received under lend-lease in 1944-1945-2,421 units.
The Central Museum of the Great Patriotic War exhibits the R-63A Kingcobra fighter (tail number 08, factory number 44011), which was part of the 940th Aviation Fighter Regiment of the 190th Aviation Fighter Division of Major General V. V. Fokin, stationed at the Baykovo airfield on the Shumshu Island of the Kuril Ridge in 1945. Restoration and restoration works were carried out by LLC “Aviation and Restoration Group”. The aircraft was handed over to the museum on May 25, 2002.