This World War II fighter was developed from the P-39 Airacobra, which it closely resembles. The U.S. Army Air Forces never used the P-63 in combat, although 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. Since the P-63's low-level performance was adequate, it was widely used by the Soviets for such missions as "tank busting." Bell produced 3,305 P-63s, 13 of which were P-63Es.
The most unusual P-63 variations were the RP-63A and RP-63C "pinball" versions developed late in WWII. Aerial gunnery students fired at these manned target aircraft using .30-cal. lead and plastic frangible machine gun bullets which disintegrated harmlessly against the target's external 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 P-63E on display was donated by Bell Aircraft Corp. in 1958. Although it lacks the armor plate and other "pinball" features, it is marked and painted in the unusual color scheme of an RP-63A.
TECHNICAL NOTES: Armament: One 37mm cannon and four .50-cal. machine guns (none on "pinball" aircraft) Engine: One Allison V-1710 of 1,325 hp Maximum speed: 408 mph Cruising speed: 280 mph Range: 450 miles Ceiling: 43,000 ft. Span: 38 ft. 4 in. Length: 32 ft. 8 in. Height: 12 ft. 7 in. Weight: 9,350 lbs. maximum Serial number: 43-11728
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