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Posted 2/4/2011 Printable Fact Sheet
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Bell P-63A
Bell P-63A 3/4 view. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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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.

Type Number built/
XP-63 2 Improved XP-39E; laminar flow wing
XP-63A 2 Improved XP-63; bomb racks
P-63A 1,726 Prod. aircraft; Blocks 1-10
RP-63A 100 Aerial target aircraft
XP-63B 0 Improved XP-63A (canceled)
P-63C 1,227 Improved P-63A; engine change
RP-63C 200 Improved RP-63A
P-63D 1 Improved design; engine change
P-63E 13 Improved P-63D; new prop
P-63F 2 Improved P-63E; modified tail
RP-63G 32 Aerial target aircraft; 420 canceled
XP-63H 1 (cv) Modified P-63E; engine change

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

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