Discussion in 'Aircraft' started by Gromit801, Nov 13, 2011.
And then there are the contractual issues of telling Bell Aircraft to build a Republic design...
Even if the Russians were our best buddies, it would be counterproductive to ship them four-engine bombers. A heavy bomber force and everything that went into sustaining it in action was a massive investment, for the Russians and for us to ship to them. And we already had a far more effective and economical means of getting the heavies into action against German industry by basing them in Britain. That was also where our long-range fighters could be used to best effect in the common cause.
The Soviets' natural role in the Grand Alliance, dictated as much by geography as deliberate intent, was to engage German ground and tactical air forces with their own. The best thing we could do was to send them the tools to do that job, including the humble P-39 which they seem to have been happy with; Alexandr Pokryshkin got most of his kills in them. We might also consider the numerical impact of switching to say P-47s, both in production and delivery.
The US war production board had absolute authority to tell any manufacturer what to build and when. If Bell didn't like the decision, they would have soon found out that the material needed to build the P39's was diverted to other pressing programs. Nearly every production contract the US had during the war and since, has a "convenience of the govt" clause. That means the P39 program could be cancelled at any time with no penalties.
As for the Russian P39 production; nothing would have stopped us from telling them they would get P47's instead. And the VVS would have been better served by having a more capable fighter.
The P39 was a design dead end. The airframe was too small to accommodate more fuel cells and a turbocharger. Even the payload as an attack fighter was limited. The US and its allies would have been better served by terminating the production of this AC at the earliest opportunity and use the production facilities for better AC designs.
The P-39 has received a lot of "Bad Press" but we also have to consider the 1940 time-line to compare it's attributes. When the P-47 arrived in the SWPA the only people impressed with it were the pilots who flew it. Like all things, it comes down to more than a side by side comparison to other aircraft. The intended mission, cost and availability along with other factors were a large determinant. The "Jug" cost nearly twice as much as the Airacobra and the USAAF kept the newest and best weapon systems for ourselves. As has been mentioned: Stalin was one of the "necessary Evils" to be 'used but watched' and the US was not going to allow Russia to have our top aircraft nor other armaments due to trust issues.
B-17 $204,370. P-39 $42,384P-40 $44,892.
B-24 $215,516. P-47 $85,578.
B-25 $142,194. P-51 $51,572.
B-26 $192,426. C-47 $88,574.
B-29 $605,360. PT-17 $15,052.
P-38 $97,147. AT-6 $22,952.
From:Subject Index: Bell P-39 Airacobra
"" Of the six Soviet aces generally credited with fifty or more victories, four scored most of their successes while flying the P-39 Kobra. The Soviet (and Allied) second ranking ace of the war, Alexandr Pokryshkin, scored 48 of his 59 victories while flying the Airacobra. To the end of the Second World War these men were able to use this underrated American fighter to take on some of the best German pilots, equipped with the latest versions of the Bf 109 and Fw 190. When the fighting ended there were still 1,178 P-39 Kobras in service with the Soviet air forces. Despite its technical faults, the Airacobra had become the most successful of all lend-lease aircraft sent to Russia, and had played an important role in the final Allied victory. ""
""The P-39 entered service with the USAAF in the skies over New Guinea. The 35th and 36th Fighter Squadrons of the 8th Fighter Group reached Australia in March 1942, with 41 Airacobras. By the time the squadrons reached Seven Mile airfield, seven miles outside Port Moresby only twenty six of them were left, most of the rest having been lost in accidents. The group went into combat on 30 April 1942, taking part in an attack on the Japanese base of Lae. This raid also saw the P-39 pilots win their first victories in a clash with a number of Zero fighters. Both sides lost four aircraft, with three of the American victories credited to Lt. Colonel Boyd “Buzz” Wagner.
Soon after this encounter Wagner evaluated the performance of the P-39 against the Zero. He reported that the Zero could out-manoeuvre, out-climb and out-accelerate the P-39, but that the P-39 was faster than the Zero at sea level. He rated the P-39 as 10% better than the P-40 Warhawk in everything but manoeuvrability.""
However he did list eight flaws...........
It was obsolescent by the end of 1942 and definitely 2nd rate in early 1943.
The P39 was highly vulnerable to attack from the rear when used as a fighter. And pretty much worthless above 15,000 feet.
The P47 never had as many flaws or limitations as the P39 and as history showed, the airframe was adaptable for growth throughout the war.
The war production board knew the handwriting on the wall by the end of 1942 and should have told Bell to plan on building P38's or P47's by summer 1943.
From what I read we did send them a few P-47's they prefered the P-39 and later the P-63 I believe.
P39/P400/P63 was obsolescent and not liked in the west, not so in the east. The Soviets liked the aircraft and were happy with it in the type of fighting they did. It suited their tactics and conditions.
Would stopping Bell from building the P-39 (& follow up P-63) & switching to the Thunderbolt have made a greater contribution to the war effort?
Bell would have been tied up acquiring engineering drawings for both the aircraft & the tooling & having the tooling built. They would have had to retrain their P-39 work force. Suppliers would have to be brought on board & contracts written. Republic would have been tied up providing support for Bell to switch production. The Soviet personnel would have to be trained on not just operating a new aircraft but also maintaining, repairing & supplying a new type. Bell would probably have had to shift resources away from their jet aircraft work.
It seems that the Soviets were happy w/ the P-39 & the USAAF was receiving adequate numbers of P-47’s maybe it was better to keep building a known number of obsolete planes compared ramping up to build a possibly redundant amount of P-47’s & jeopardizing the P-59 program.
Lockheed and Douglas built B17's. Ford built B24's. Goodyear built Corsairs. Martin built B29's. You tell me Bell couldn't build a single engine fighter?
The US workforce proved to be extremely adaptable throughout the war. As for the subcontractors; whats the issue? The WPB had immense powers to assign production and do whatever they needed to get what was needed.
Why is that? P47's were already being flown by the Soviets.
Why is that? And didn't you know that Lockheed was working full bore on the P80, along with building the Connie, Lightning and Hudson/Ventura?
They would have been happier with the P47. And until late in the war, there never was enough P47's to go around.
Bell actually did build under a sub-contract building a few Curtiss C-46's. Bell was also building the B-29 in a new facility in Marietta Georgia (652 units). They could have 'converted' to another type of aircraft but again the logistics of re-tooling an entire factory would take time. This time might vary, but I worked in a "modern" factory and we could expect, at the least, a six month to year turn around and that was very optimistic. Also while the new lines for production were being installed, the old lines kept churning out the soon to be replaced what's-ya'-call-em's. I'm not sure the revamping of an entire facility would have accomplished that much in producing any gains in number of aircraft. Possibly actually the opposite.
Another aspect of the application and viability of the P-39 is that the Army interjected and modified the role from a fighter to a close-air support unit which called for better performance under 10,000'. This removed the super-turbocharger among other design modifications.
Would they? I believe the Soviets specifically stated they prefered P-39's tp P-47's.
The VVS didn't want the Thunderbolt, really they were the ones who handed the trial batch over to Naval Aviation, who only used them in the Black Sea. They opted out of ordering more, the VVS had cancelled an escort-fighter variation of the excellent Pe-2 light bomber, so the AVMF got that put into limited production for their long range naval attack-fighter instead of Thunderbolts. I'd say the VVS simply had no use for them because by the time they were optioned the Ural factories were operating at full capacity with of thousands of aircraft of all models lining the lots. Primarily: il2, Pe2 and Yak-9 variations, with tons of La5 available although it still had teething issues, LaGG could be produced on the same lines (and were well into 1943), to take up on that slack so if you didn't get La5 you got LaGG with the latest klimov PF2 motor and about 1450hp to 15,000ft or so. By this stage Soviet aircraft manufacture had sorted its qualitive issues, there are some good TsAGI reports of the period.
The thing they liked about the P-39 in Pokryshin's own words wasn't its performance or handling, they were certainly adequate and there were no complaints going up against German fighters, but it was the standard equipment fitted to the P-39. It was fitted out even better than the P-40, ergonomics were good, armament was excellent if not overkill, and most importantly it had three individual radio sets and reliable compasses.
Pokryshin said he switched back to the P-39 when his Guards squadron got the La-5FN replacement, because he took it up and the radio didn't work and the compass was ridiculous.
I wonder: why was the P39 so cheap compared to others? Was the turbo/supercharger expensive?
Also were the air victories by Soviet P-39's due to cannon fire? Were the German planes shot down fighters or bombers/other?...Good pilots made bad planes efficient?
Pokryshin's comments remind me of Dmitri Loza writing about the Sherman tank; he cites items like the radios and auxiliary generator. People often focus on the obvious statistics like speed or gunpower, but the actual users may find the less glamorous features just as important.
Mounting the power boosting systems to the Allison was a bit problematic in the style sent to the V-VS, and since their air battles were different from those in the west it was more quite sufficient at the altitudes under 15,000 feet. The cost of an engine without the turbo/supercharger was about $8,500 per unit, but those with the system were much higher. Just "bolting on" a boost system isn't as easy as it might seem on the surface, they require intercoolers, aftercoolers, and other additions to mate them to the engine. So, I would say that the elimination of the power boosting device was a "cost saver" for both Bell and the eventual users.
I'm sure that Bell could have but how soon after the contract was awarded would the have been able to produce their 1st P-47? Three months? Six months? And at the expense of losing what amount of P-39... s slightly obsolete plane in the hand vs. two in the bush. The WPB may have been all powerful but they didn't have a magic wand to makes things happen in the blink of an eye. There was a valid use for the P-39 & it's not like Bell was building something like the Vultee Vengence.
Plus, Bell was working on the P-59 from January, 1942. I don't think the USAAC wanted to disrupt that project any more than necessary
Yet Bell still had the resources to develop a two place night fighter version of the P39. Fortunately that didn't go very far.
I am curious which version are you thinking of? Here is a list of all six of the aircraft and even single model prototypes developed by Bell in WW2.
And use the link on the top of the page, or scroll down to search by manufacture, and click on Bell.
So, they do a one-off proof of concept? Far cry from tooling up to produce an entire series of aircraft. And Arnold had the P-59 on his high priority list.