Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

The P-39 why a failure for the West and a winner in Russia?

Collapse
X
 
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • T. A. Gardner
    replied
    Originally posted by Mountain Man View Post
    What America built as a marginal fighter was used as a ground attack anti-armor aircraft by the Soviets. A 37 mm AP firing cannon is a great weapon in that role.
    That's a myth. The P-39 was used as an air superiority fighter in Russia and Soviet pilots considered it a good plane in that respect. They liked the 37mm because their tactics were to close to short range before firing on an enemy plane and usually the first one or two 37mm hits were sufficient to destroy the target. It took a different mindset on how to make the armament effective than that used by USAAF pilots who preferred a high volume of fire at longer range tearing the target apart.

    Leave a comment:


  • Mountain Man
    replied
    What America built as a marginal fighter was used as a ground attack anti-armor aircraft by the Soviets. A 37 mm AP firing cannon is a great weapon in that role.

    Leave a comment:


  • The P-39 why a failure for the West and a winner in Russia?

    The often maligned P-39 was clearly not a success in US and British hands. On the other hand, the Russians did quite well with the plane. Why the difference?

    I would suggest it has to do with the kind of air war the two were fighting.

    In British hands, the plane was simply seen as inferior and quickly rejected. There was little attempt to correct or learn to use it. So, the British didn't do much more than give the plane a brief try.

    In US hands, the P-39 had three distinct failings that left it unable to compete effectively with other US fighters

    First, was the altitude deficiency. The P-39 shared this with the P-40. Both with an Allison engine suffered performance falloff above 15,000 feet. In these terms there was little to choose between the P-40 and P-39. But, generally the P-39 did have a maneuver advantage over the P-40 when the two are compared. It was the other two deficiencies that made the P-40 the preferred choice of the two. The P-40 in the MTO also generally got the Merlin engine (the F and L models) that gave those two variants better high altitude performance even if the Merlin gave no overall increase in speed.

    Second, was range. The P-39 had relatively short legs and this was shorted on starting on with the P-39N even further when fuel tankage was reduced by about 25%. This absolutely killed the offensive ability of the P-39 compared to other US aircraft. The P-39 in this condition had a range of about 525 miles and could carry just one smallish drop tank for a max range of about 650 miles. The P-40 by comparison could fly about 650 miles on internal fuel and another 150 with a drop tank. In the Pacific this left the P-39 more often than not being relegated to a defensive interceptor, a role it was ill suited to due to its overall performance. In the MTO and ETO it frequently didn't have the range to make it to targets or be useful as an escort fighter.

    The third was armament. The P-39's armament was poor. Up through the P-39Q this was effectively a 37mm or 20mm cannon and two .50 machineguns in the nose. The four .30 machineguns in the wings were all but worthless and often not even fitted for that reason. This made it lighter than the 6 .50 machineguns on the P-40 and the issues with the early 37mm jamming did nothing to build confidence in the plane. The P-39Q tried to rectify this by fitting 2 .50 machineguns in pods in place of the 4 .30 guns but the pods were found to cause slight reductions in performance in an already marginal plane.

    For the Russians none of these deficiencies were deal breakers. The range without drop tank was usually more than sufficient for VVS operations. The Red Air Force rarely operated above 15,000 feet so the altitude performance restriction was almost irrelevant to them. Lastly, the armament of the P-39 was in line with, and usually as heavy or heavier, than what was fitted to any Russian built fighter. Thus, for the Russians the P-39 suffered none of the problems it did in US use. That resulted in the plane being very good for the combat environment it was flying in.

    The result was a dichotomy in failure versus success with the plane in combat.

Latest Topics

Collapse

Working...
X