Design, Development, & HistoryEdit
The P-39, a single-seat fighter, was a radical design for its day. Produced by the US Bell Corporation. It was designed around the 37 mm T-9 cannon which was fitted to fire through the propeller hub. To allow for the cannon, the engine was placed behind the cockpit which drove the propeller via a long shaft which passed under the cockpit floor. The change in engine location resulted in the need for a tricycle landing gear arrangement, the first of it's kind among WWII fighters.
The Model-N was the most widely produced P-39, with a V-1710-85 (E19) (1,200 hp/895 kW) engine, aeroproducts propeller (10 ft 4 in diameter) & different propeller reduction gear ratio. It was serviced not only in limited numbers with the United States, its primary combat user being the Soviet Union with other countries such as France, Great Britain, Portugal, and Australia taking orders as well. Bell P-39N was very effectively flown by Russian pilots. The Top scoring Cobra pilot of the war, and second-ranking Soviet ace of the war, was Alexsandr Pokryshkinwith with 59 enemy aircraft kills(48 while flying Airacobra's). Interestingly, Soviet Ace Mikhail Baranov brought down a Bf-109 over Stalingrad by chopping it's tail off with his propeller in a ramming attack, after using up all of his ammunition on three other 109's during the fight.
Because of the P-39 Airacobra's impressive firepower, it is an incredibly effective deterrent against large foes such as assorted bombers, attackers, and heavy fighters. Despite this, however, it is still a reasonable fighter when in a pinch. Its rate of climb and airspeed lends the Airacobra to being able to out run most opponents if the need arises, but it can turn well enough to dogfight fighters of un-astounding agility such as the Yak-7 or Typhoon.
Because the Airacobra's biggest strength is its 37 mm nose mounted auto-cannon, it can be used to either send a barrage of lethal and mundane bullets towards foes, or can be used to "snipe" the wings off of unuspecting aircraft from above. Unfortunately, the P-39's greatest strength is also its largest weakness. The cannon can overheat or jam in as little as 5 shots, making elongated sorties while waiting to reload very risky. Due to its small size, it is also very possible for cannonfire from other crafts to slam into the cockpit of an Airacobra, so it is highly suggested to keep enemies below the belly of the plane in order to protect the vulnerable pilot.
As a high-altitude interceptor, the P-39 Airacobra is best used against bombers. Its ravenous cannon can tear the wing from the airframe of a B-25 in as little as 2 shots.
In a head on, the 37mm will almost ensure victory.