Northrop XP-56 Black Bullet
1943
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Northrop XP-56 Black Bullet

One of the most radical of US experimental fighters of World War II, the XP-56 was conceived as a result of an informal competition initiated late in 1939 for innovative fighter designs, the winning contractors being Vultee (XP-54), Curtiss (XP-55) and Northrop (XP-56). The XP-56 was a tailless pusher of all-magnesium, all-welded construction, two prototypes being ordered on 26 September 1940 and 13 February 1942 respectively. Power was provided by a 2,000hp Pratt & Whitney R-2800-29 Double Wasp 18-cylinder radial engine buried in the rear fuselage and driving contra-rotating pusher propellers. Proposed armament comprised two 20mm cannon and four 12.7mm machine guns.

Northrop XP-56 Black Bullet

The first two flights were conducted on 6 September 1943, dorsal fin area subsequently being increased and flight test being resumed on 8 October, the aircraft being written-off as a result of a landing accident on the second flight of that day. The second prototype, which differed in having bellows-type, split-flap wingtip "rudders" and a further increase in dorsal fin area, flew on 23 March 1944. Lateral instability and control reversal were experienced at low speeds, and high speeds were not attainable owing to inability to obtain full power. After the 10th flight of this XP-56, the USAAF concluded that further flight testing was "too hazardous" and development was discontinued.

Northrop XP-56 Black Bullet


Specification 
 MODELXP-56 (est.)
 CREW1
 WEIGHTS
    Take-off weight5148 kg11349 lb
    Empty weight3946 kg8699 lb
 DIMENSIONS
    Wingspan12.98 m43 ft 7 in
    Length8.38 m28 ft 6 in
    Height2.94 m10 ft 8 in
    Wing area28.52 m2306.99 sq ft
 PERFORMANCE
    Max. speed671 km/h417 mph
    Range1062 km660 miles

3-View 
Northrop XP-56 Black BulletA three-view drawing (1276 x 998)

Comments
Zach, 18.10.2010

It was instrumental in desigining aircraft later on.

On a side note, the aircraft is flyable in the Secret Weapons over Normandy game.

Zach, 18.10.2010

It was instrumental in desigining aircraft later on.

On a side note, the aircraft is flyable in the Secret Weapons over Normandy game.

Ken Dowd, 21.09.2010

The Northrop museum in Hawthorne, CA had one of the XP-56A
43-38353 waiting for restoration. This was several years ago.

Kevin Morrow, 12.09.2010

It did go in production only for special missions.

Ian, 25.04.2009

By all accounts due to it's magnesium construct it burned very brightly when it crashed.

THE WHO, 25.03.2008

NICE PLANE, BUT TOO BAD IT DIDN'T GO IN PRODUCTION.

THE WHO, 25.03.2008

NICE PLANE, BUT TOO BAD IT DIDN'T GO IN PRODUCTION.

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FACTS AND FIGURES

The planned armament was four 20mm cannon and four 12.7mm machine guns in the nose, although this was never fitted.

In a later modification the ailerons were operated by bellows fed by intakes in the wingtips.

The tail configuration would have made escape from an inflight emergency difficult. To counter this restriction an explosive severing cord would jettison the gearbox and propellers before bailout.

Northrop had expected that the downturned wingtips would provide the necessary stability, but they were mistaken.



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