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Digital Subscriptions > Scale Aircraft Modelling International > January 2018 > BELL’S FIRST GREAT SNAKE

BELL’S FIRST GREAT SNAKE

AIRACOBRA

The Airacobra in 1/72

Kit No: 92181

Scale: 1/72

Type: Injection Moulded Plastic

Manufacturer: RS Models Hannants/UMM USA

The Bell XP-39 design arose from a response to a challenging United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) specification, Circular Proposal X-609, which called for a high-altitude interceptor to be heavily armed and capable of a speed in excess of 400mph. Bell’s response took an innovative approach using a turbo supercharged Allison twelve cylinder water cooled engine, placing it behind the pilot in order to allow space in the nose for a hard hitting 37mm Oldsmobile/American Armament Corporation T9 cannon iring through the propeller hub.

Encouraging early light testing of the XP- 39/YP-39 led to significant interest from the French Air Force and RAF, the former placing an order for 200 and the RAF ordering 475. In what has come to be seen as a bizarre series of events, and before any aircraft were delivered, the crucial turbo supercharger was deleted on the instructions of the US Army Air Corps senior staff. There are several theories as to why, but the result was a serious reduction in the aircraft’s performance, and amid rather acrimonious accusations of bad faith, the entire RAF order was cancelled after only a handful of airframes had been delivered. In the meantime France had fallen, and the aircraft destined for the French order and those no longer required by the RAF were designated P400 and diverted to the USAAF to be used primarily in the Pacific theatre, and to the Soviet Union, where they served in the ground attack role, where the lack of highaltitude performance was no handicap.

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January 2018