The XFL-1 experimental shipboard fighter was developed
in parallel with the XP-39 Airacobra, and was
flown for the first time on 13 May 1940. Powered by a
1150hp Allison XV-1710-6 12-cylinder liquid-cooled
engine, the XFL-1 differed from its land-based counterpart
primarily in having a tailwheel undercarriage and
underwing radiators. The airframe was re-stressed for
shipboard operation, and proposed armament comprised
a single 12.7mm machine gun or a
37mm cannon firing through the propeller hub and a
pair of fuselage-mounted 7.62mm guns,
although, in the event, no armament was installed. The
XFL-1 failed its carrier qualification trials and further
development was abandoned at the beginning of 1942.
|A three-view drawing (1138 x 862)|
| Take-off weight||3271 kg||7211 lb|
| Empty weight||2341 kg||5161 lb|
| Wingspan||10.67 m||35 ft 0 in|
| Length||9.09 m||30 ft 10 in|
| Height||3.90 m||13 ft 10 in|
| Wing area||21.55 m2||231.96 sq ft|
| Max. speed||494 km/h||307 mph|
| Range||1725 km||1072 miles|
|Klaatu83, Klaatu83=lycos.com, 20.02.2011|
This unfortunate airplane had a lot of things going against it right from the start. Land-based pilots were nervous about having that large, heavy engine behind them in the event of a crash, and I imagine that the carrier-based Navy aviators must have been doubly dubious about it. In addition to that, there's the matter of the cockpit doors. Carrier-based Navy aviators liked to have the canopies open during take-offs and landings, just in case they came down in the drink. I don't imagine they would have been overjoyed at the prospect of those car-type doors, with their crank-down car-type side windows.
Yet another strike against Bell fighter was the Allison engine. It wasn't simply a question of whether the engine came with a turbo-supercharger or not. Stowage space for spare parts was always at more of a premium on an aircraft carrier than it was on any land airbase. Consequently, the Navy preferred to limit the number of different types of engines it used on it's planes. Although there were lots of Navy planes that used the ubiquitous P&W R-2800 engine, the Airobonita would have been the only Navy plane equipped with an Allison engine. It simply wouldn't have made sense for the Navy to buy an airplane that required it's carriers to stock spare parts for a whole other kind of engine.
|Ron, toolkeeper123=roadrunner.com, 15.02.2010|
XFL-1. Sobering to reread what I wrote last night. I couldn't even keep those letters in order.
To add to one of my points:
If the nose-heavy Corsair could get in a burst of fire at a Zero in the beginning of a turn, certainly a mid-engine design could too, even more so with unweighted wings. Pilots used to conventional front engine fighters would remark on the instant ability of the P-39 to point it's nose into a turn 'right now'. Just stay away from the stall after the shot, that's all.
|Ronald, toolkeeper123=roadrunner.com, 15.02.2010|
Lost out to the more promising F4U. Even outclassed by the F4F before it. Engine and landing gear trouble dogged it's 1941 U.S. Navy debut. Compared to the powerful Corsair it was an underpowered embarrassment. Just look at the numbers. Enough motivation for Bell to hijack a P-38 engine? The turbo-less Allison 'grenade' power-plant couldn't fly with the Wildcat up high like the Navy wanted.
With a lost cause like this XFL-1 should Bell have taken off the gloves ala Howard Hughes and built a 'single engine P-38' in the Airabonita to compete with the Corsair while it wasn't deck worthy? The Japanese had equal regard for both the Lightning and Corsair. The Army had the P-39 in action when needed, meanwhile the turbo could have been perfected on the Navy XLF. This answers the excuse that the P-39 couldn't have answered the call in strength of numbers except as is. The undeveloped turbo-supercharged Allison could have gone forward with the Navy (that did appreciate performance at altitude, if the Army didn't). Then Bell would soon have a cure for the underpowered P-39 as well.
I can feel Bell's frustration when I look at this photo.
Here they have a tail dragger to avoid the P-39s long take-off run so it could be a fast climbing, hard hitting interceptor for the carrier groups. But without the turbo the Army made it a shadow of Bell's dream. Maybe the Navy should have seen to it that their XLF didn't get castrated.
If they were going to be in a furball with lightweight tight-turning fighters, having a lean and powerful mid-engine interceptor could have been a handy weapon as the Russians later proved. They stripped off the Cobras' wing guns and such, exchanging heavy slow firing nose-guns for light and efficient Soviet weapons over time. After defeating Hitler, one of Bell's Russian P-63s shot down a nimble Nakajima Oscar at the end of the war in the Pacific.
Too bad Russia did what the U.S.A. didn't do. Appreciate Bell's Cobra and make it the mount of more Allied top aces than any other American-made fighter in history!
Do you have any comments about this aircraft ?