The Airacomet was the first American-designed and built turbojet fighter. It first flew in prototype form on 1 October 1942. One later aircraft was subsequently exchanged for a British Gloster Meteor I fighter so that comparisons could be made between the types. Indeed the Airacomet's engines were developed from the British Whittle.
The Bell Aircraft Corporation was requested in September 1941 to design a fighter to be equipped with thermal jet propulsion units of British Whittle design, and before the end of the month preliminary drawings had been submitted to and approved by the USAAF. To maintain secrecy, this project was given the designation XP-59A - the XP-59 being a totally different fighter project with a pusher radial engine and twin tail-booms. Following trials with the prototype and two other XP-59A (with General Electric Type I-A engines) 13 YP-59A were produced for service trials, deliveries beginning in 1943. Twenty production P-59A with 8.9kN General Electric J31-GE-3 engines and 30 P-59B with similarly rated J31-GE-5 engines were delivered in 1944 and were used mainly as single-seat trainers.
Bell P-59 Airacomet on YOUTUBE
2 x turbo-jet GE J-31-GES, 89.0kN
46 ft 7 in
39 ft 9 in
12 ft 6 in
385.35 sq ft
1 x 37mm machine-guns, 3 x 12.7mm machine-guns, bombs
A three-view drawing (1655 x 1223)
Bradley, e-mail, 05.12.2013 18:03
Tango38alpha@aol.com I collect P-59 artifacts. Would you be interested to sell the front windscreen? Thx Bradley
Hello there, could anyone help to find original drawings and cross sections of the P-59. I have already kitted a 1 /7 scale version and would love to design a much larger precision scale version. Any help would be much appreciated. Ilja
I have a cool photo of this aircraft I bought in an antique shop. Looks like an original photo and not a copy. Anyway in the picture the plane is sitting in front of a hanger with (I guess) the crew (4 men) posing in front of her left wing. The aircraft tail number is 2650. I guess it was taken at Wright Patterson.
Can you imagine this 1942 jet fully developed in time for the Korean war. By 1946 it could have the swept wings of the Bell L-39 and by 1947 the XLR-11 rocket (of the record setting Bell X-1) in the tail to supe-up it's speed and climb rate. When the MiG-15 faced the straight-wing U.S. jets it proved tough to knock down with .50 cal guns. This Bell jet packed a 37mm gun like the MiG did. By the Korean war it could have been the most developed and refined U.S. jet fighter. Imagine that by 1947 when the rest were straight-wing p-shooters.
I must ammend my post about the weight. It was actually lighter than the P-38 at the time. But one has to note that the rate of climb at 1200 fpm is not that of a fighter, much less an interceptor. The heavier P-38 ranged from a sustained climb rate of 2300 to over 3300 fpm. The heavier Me 262 likewise. The Meteor Mk I was about the same weight but was 2155 fpm for initial climb rate. Of course these Anglo jets couldn't run with the 262. They Might keep up with the P-38 though in level speed. That's why I said the P-59 shouldn't be called a fighter.
Who else would build something so different in 1942? Gotta give Bell credit for that. I would rather see this called a twin jet attack bomber or bomber destroyer instead of a fighter. Look at that weight and speed! A P-38 could compare. I like the ceiling though, especially for early jets. With the P-39 denied a turbo for it's supercharger, this may have been a start at achieving the original purpose of the Cobra as a high flying interceptor, with a new approach - jet power.