Bell XFM - 1 Airacuda

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the lancaster kicks ass

Major General
Dec 20, 2003
i found this picture and though it looked interesting, anyone got anymore info on it??

and don't use the "i will use google before asking stupid questions" picture.........


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Here you go Lanc:

The YFM-1 Airacuda (sometimes spelled Aerocuda) was developed as a bomber destroyer aircraft. The FM in YFM stands for 'Fighter Multiplace' and is an USAAC designation, not to be confused with the USN designation (as used on the FM-2 Wildcat). It was an interesting design in that it had two engines, each with rearward-facing propellers, and forward-facing gunner's positions in the front of each of the extended engine nacelles. The 37mm cannon in each of these positions were remotely controlled by an operator seated in the fuselage behind the pilot, though a gunner was stationed behind each gun as a loader and for manual backup.
According to Major Alexander De Seversky's 1942 book "Victory Through Air Power", the Bell Airacuda "represents a great engineering achievment. But its designation as 'convoy fighter' is erroneous, since that requires different disposition of armament. With its maximum firepower directed forward, it really offers a preview of an effective long-range interceptor fighter."
The first prototype XFM-1 flew on September 1, 1937. The aircraft was equipped with Allison V-1710-13 1133 hp engines and achieved the top speed of 490 km/h. It was decided to build an experimental series of 13 aircraft, first of which was completed in September 1939. It was a revolutionary design that unfortunately was plagued by mechanical problems and poor performance. As a result the program ended without the Airacuda entering mass production.

Bell YFM-1 Airacuda

Type: heavy escort fighter/bomber destroyer aircraft
Crew: 5
Armament: two 37mm cannons,
two 12.7mm machine guns,
two 7.62mm machine guns,
up to 146 kg of bombs or rockets

Length: 14.0 meters
Height: 3.9 m
Wingspan: 21.3 m
Wing area: 55.8 sq. m
Empty Weight: 6200 kg
Max Weight: 8650 kg max at takeoff

No. of Engines: 2
Powerplant: Allison V-1710-13 (pusher config.)
Horsepower: 1133 hp each

Range: 2880 km
Cruise Speed: 383 km/h
Max Speed: 490 km/h
Ceiling: 9755 m
Wasn't it's performance lacking due to the extreme weight? That what I read about it. The wings had tunnels in them so the gunner could abanden their station in an emergency. This made them very thick. However it was slower then most bombers fully loaded.
In one of the twists and turns of how aircraft are conceived, the chief test pilot of this plane, a USAAC officer, looked long and hard at the faults of this aircraft. He then wrote the specs and concepts that ultimatly led to the P38 being designed.
Wasn't this sort of the aircraft that started the destroyer type of fighters. i.e. Me-110, Me-210 and 410, Mosquito, Beaufighter, Whirlwind and the Nick. So with out it we wouldn't have some of the great ground attack and even more the night fighters of the second world war???
Bell was a day late and a dollar short throughout WW2. They came out with the P39 Air Cobra that couldn't keep up with the bombers let alone shoot one down. The pilots didn't like the idea of the prop shaft between their legs either. The 37mm in the nose was a good idea, just couldn't catch up with anything in the air to use it. Bell made about 10,000 of them I think, but most of them went to Russia where the 37mm was fairly effective against tanks, if their were no 109s around.
Then they built the P63 King Cobra, a much bigger engine and would have been faster except they were so much heavier and didn't appear until after the P47 and P51 so I don't think they saw any action except again by the Russians. Still had the 37mm in the nose. Most of those that stayed in the Us became targets for gunnery practice. They traded the 37mm for a large red light in the nose and gunners fired at them with plastic bullets. When the pilot heard them hit the plane he hit his switch and turned on the light. Never could figure where they found those pilots.
Then later they hung two Jet pods under the wings. One came in to Ft Worth in I think 46 while I was there (had transitioned to B-29s by then) and caused some stir as it was the first jet anyone had seen. (Actually there were P80/T33s at Barsdale, LA at the time and they came in fairly often somewhat later.) Don't know if it was true, but we heard rumors that the Bell Jet still had fabric covered tail surfaces. The jet engines were very unreliable and the fire would go out if the throttle was advanced too fast. Rumor was that they went out and sprayed kerocene on the tail and then fired and set it off. Just rumors but we had a lot of them.

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