Design, Development, & HistoryEdit
Most of the "Q" series Airacobras delivered to Russia did not include the wing mounted machine guns. The suspension tank of 87 gal being replaced by the standard 120 gal tank, the "Q" use a fuel cell of 110 gal to balance it's load. Of 4699 aircraft carrying the "Q" designation 3291 were sent to Russia. Others were fitted and geared as reconnaissance models with photo cameras.
The "Q" series became the most numerous and advanced of all the Airacobra family. It was a direct successor of the N series. The whole propeller-engine group remained unchanged: the Allison V-1710-85 engine, the reduction gear, the elongated shaft and the Aeroprop type propeller. Because of this, the flight characteristics remained virtually unchanged. However, a more efficient four-bladed propeller was fitted to the series from Q-21 to Q-25. As for the alterations, they mainly concerned the armament. The inefficient wing machine guns of rifle caliber were removed and usually replaced by two 12.7 mm Browning's in pods under the wings. But these were not always fitted. Most of the aircraft sent for export to the USSR had no wing machine guns. The suspension tank of 87 gallons was replaced by the standard 120 gallon tank. A tank of 110 gallons (416 l) capacity was used in the Q-5 series.
The differences between the various "Q" series consisted mainly of the search for the optimum combination of armor protection and internal fuel tank capacity. Takeoff weight, range and load varied from version to version. Altogether, beginning with Q-1 and ending with Q-30, eight series of the fighter were built, to a total number of 4699 aircraft. Of these, 3291 were exported to the USSR. Furthermore, a few reconnaissance versions of this aircraft, fitted with photo-cameras, were built on the basis of the "Q" series.
This aircraft was not used at all in Great Britain, because the high-altitude speed characteristics of the Cobra were considered unsatisfactory. The US Army Air Corps used the aircraft mainly in the Pacific, in places in which it was impossible to use any aircraft other than the Cobra because of the condition of the airstrips, where the P-39, because of its tricycle landing gear, had no difficulties. Nevertheless, the American pilots feared and disliked the aircraft, calling it Dogchain because of its rear-mounted engine and rear centering. Cases were known of the aircraft being deliberately crashed to speed up re-equipment with the more popular P-38.
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. In addition, unless the 37m m cannon is upgraded, the gun is woefully inaccurate, and should not be relied on at 500 meters and beyond. The cannon will also recoil significantly, causing the nose of the aircraft to rise during continous fire. 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 hull of a B-25 in as little as 2 shots. Additionally, if upgraded the with Engine Injection upgrade, the P-39Q Airacobra will boast a very respectable climb rate for it's tier, making it easy for it to reach the altitudes that bombers usually fly at. However, due to the lack of a good supercharger, the aircraft's high altitude performance is at best, marginal.