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P-63 Kingcobra

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A US Army Air Force (USAAF) order for two prototypes in June 1941 launched the P-63 Kingcobra. Further prototypes followed before deliveries of the first production version began in October 1943.

It quickly became clear that the P-63 was not advanced enough for front-line service, and the majority of Kingcobras were delivered to the Soviet Union under the Lend-Lease programme. A significant number also went to Free French forces, and a single example was delivered to the RAF. Several were used as flying testbeds.

The P-63 was a low-wing design which served American forces well in a training capacity but was never used by them in combat. The Kingcobra was not an easy aircraft to fly, however, especially in the circuit pattern around an airfield, and pilots never bestowed on it the affection they extended to the Musang, Thunderbolt and Hellcat.

Kingcobras were given a variety of second-line duties. In one of the most unusual, known as Project Pinball, modified, armoured Kingcobras acted as manned targets for gunnery exercises by fighters shooting frangible bullets.

Created as an improved version of the Bell P-39 Airacobra, the P-63 Kingcobra retained the tricycle landing gear of the earlier type, a nose cannon and an engine mounted behind the pilot driving the propeller through a long shaft. Like the P-39, it also had a car-type door for access to the cockpit. Unfortunately, the P-63 never measured up to the top wartime fighters, like the P-51, Bf 109 and Zero.


P-63 Kingcobra

P-63 Kingcobra fighter and ground attack aircraft P-63 Kingcobra used as a close support and attack roles. Bell P-63 Kingcobra
Of the few which remained in the United States, some were used for test and training duties. The majority of the rest went to the USSR. The Kingcobra operated successfully in the close-support and attack roles. It saw most service with Soviet forces amd was formidably armed and armoured. Fitted with underwing drop-tanks, this P-63A flying with the Soviet air force is typical of the 2400 or more delivered under the Lend-Lease programme.

P-63 Kingcobra (Technical Specification)
Role Fighter and ground attack aircraft
Manufacturer Bell
Maximum Speed 660 kmh (409 mph)
Maximum Range 724 km (450 miles)
Ceiling 13,106 meters (43,200 feet)
Maximum Takeoff

2,892 kg (6,932 lbs)
4,763 kg (10,479 lbs)
Wing Area

11.68 meters (38 ft 4 in)
9.96 meters (32 ft 8 in)
3.84 meters (12 ft 7 in)
23.04 square meters (248 sq ft)
Engines One Allison V-1710-63 liquid cooled 12 cyclinder Vee piston engine driving a four bladed propeller providing 988-kW (1,325 hp)
Armament One 37 mm (1.46 in) cannon
Four fixed forward firing 12.7 mm (0.50 cal) machine guns
Three 237 kg (520 lbs) bombs or six rocket projectiles dependent on the sub-variant.

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