Air Power Series
Bell (Model 15B) P-39F-1BE Airacobra
RAAF 24 Squadron, late 1942
Part # HA1711
The Bell P-39 was the first American fighter to use tricycle undercarriage. Also unique was the use of a mid-mounted engine with a propeller shaft that ran from the engine through the cockpit under the pilot to the propeller. A 37mm cannon was mounted behind the gearbox and set up to fire through the propeller and the proper role the Airacobra performed marvelously and created a number of Aces.
In 1942 the RAAF found themselves with a lack of British-designed interceptors and P- 40s. Without a way to fight the Japanese bombing raids on Northern Australia towns so as a stop-gap measure the RAAF had to resort to using older P-39Ds that the USAAF 5th AF had damaged and repaired. Eventually the RAAF 24th Squadron located in Townsville received seven new P-39F-1BEs on July 27, 1942. As it turned out adequate supplies of the P-39F-1BE weren’t available either so the seven that were supplied never did see combat. By November 1943 RAAF squadrons were being supplied with adequate numbers of Vultee Vengeance aircraft so the remaining P-39s were returned to the 5th AF except for three P-39F-1BEs and one P-39D that had been written off due to accidents.
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