This World War II fighter was developed from the P-39 Airacobra, which it closely resembles. The Army Air Forces never used the P-63 in combat, but some were used for fighter training. Many P-63s were exported as Lend-Lease aircraft; the Soviet Union received 2,456 and Free French forces obtained 300. P-63 performance was adequate for low-level fighting, and P-63s were widely used by the Soviets for such missions as "tank busting." Bell produced 3,305 P-63s, 13 of which were E models.
The most unusual P-63 variations were the RP-63A and RP-63C "pinball" versions developed late in WWII. These manned target aircraft were fired at by aerial gunnery students using .30-cal. lead and plastic frangible machine gun bullets that disintegrated harmlessly against the target's external skin of Duralumin armor plating. Special instruments sent impulses to red lights in the nose of the "pinball" aircraft, causing them to blink when bullets struck the plane.
The National Museum of the United States Air Force has a P-63E on display.
Improved XP-39E; laminar flow wing
Improved XP-63; bomb racks
Prod. aircraft; Blocks 1-10
Aerial target aircraft
Improved XP-63A (canceled)
Improved P-63A; engine change
Improved design; engine change
Improved P-63D; new prop
Improved P-63E; modified tail
Aerial target aircraft; 420 canceled
Modified P-63E; engine change
TECHNICAL NOTES (P-63E): Armament: One 37mm cannon and four .50-cal. machine guns Engine: One Allison V-1710 of 1,325 hp Maximum speed: 408 mph Cruising speed: 280 mph Range: 450 miles Service ceiling: 43,000 ft. Span: 38 ft. 4 in. Length: 32 ft. 8 in. Height: 12 ft. 7 in. Weight: 9,350 lbs. maximum Crew: One