Bell P-39 Airacobra

The Bell P-39 was a rather revolutionary design that American pilots didn’t like. It had an ugly tendency to enter unrecoverable spins if flown too hardly, and was not as able as its German or Japanese opponents. The British cancelled an order for the type after testing it and deciding it was completely inadequate to operations in Europe. It was however very popular with Soviet pilots who received it under the Lend-Lease act. On the Eastern Front, it was used at lower altitudes where it performed better (and where Fw 190s and Me 109s didn’t) and it’s heavy armament was greatly appreciated.


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1. Airacobra I (P-400) “White 34” of the 19th GIAP, Murmansk, December 1942. This aicraft, an ex-RAF model, retains part of the original British colour scheme.


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2. Konstantin Vasiljevich Sukhov, a Soviet ace with 22 victories, flew this P-39N, “White 50” of 16th GIAP in Eastern Germany, during Spring 1945. This aircraft kept its original factory colours, apart from the red spinner and fin flash.


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3. Airacobra I (P-400) of 19th GIAP flown by Pavel Stepanovich Kutachov, a Soviet ace with 38 victories (14 individual and 24 shared victories). This aircraft is believed to be Airacobra I serial BX228, an ex-RAF machine. Notice the Guards insignia on the cockpit door.


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4. P-39D-2 Airacobra (serial 41-38427) “White 39” of 16th GIAP, October 1942. This aircraft was an ex-USAAC model, and retained its tail number as well as the “US ARMY” inscription under the wings. The US national roundels can still be seen, the VVS Red Star having been painted on top of the US white star.


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5. P-400 (ex-RAF Airacobra I) “Red 77” of the 6th Independant Fighter Eskadrilya (6 IAE VMF SF) on the Northern Front, winter of 1942-1943. The pilot of this aircraft was probably Yuri Penakov.

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