by: Andy Brazier [ ]
History The P-39 Airacobra was developed by the Bell Aircraft Corporation in Buffalo, New York in the late 30's. The first XP-39 prototype had its maiden flight on April the 6th, 1939 in Dayton, where it reached a maximum speed of 628km/h at 6100 m, climbing to that height in only 5 minutes. The XP-39 had a very good flight performance, and specifically, good manoeuvrability thanks its original concept of airframe, with its Alison V-1710-17 1150 HP supercharged engine located in its centre of gravity. This engine location also gave the aircraft a long, slim nose well suited for installation of a powerful weapon. The USAAF ordered a test series of 12 YP-39s on April the 27th, but before the series was finished the project was significantly changed. Because of supercharger troubles, the original engine was replaced by a less powerful Alison V-1710-37 without a supercharger, and just 1090 HP. The YP-39 had an engine-axis Oldsmobile T-9 cal. 37mm cannon, two .50 calibre (12.7 mm) machine guns and two .30 calibre (7.62mm) machine guns mounted in the nose. The pilot seat got some armour, but the weight was increased to 3160 kg against 2820kg of the prototype. Because of these changes the maximum speed was decreased to 590 km/h and climb to 6100m now took 7.5 minutes. Although the excellent prototype flight performances were decreased, the Air force didn't loose interest and ordered 80 production P-39Cs. The first 20 of these were supplied as standard P-39Cs and the remaining 60 were finished as P-39Ds, with the two .30 calibre (7.62mm) machine guns moved to the wings and two more .30 calibre (7.62mm) machine guns were added to the same location. The USAAF received its first P-39Ds in February 1941, and the next order for 344 P-39D's was placed at this time.
The British RAF ordered 675 P-39's in April 1940. British Airacobra Mk.I's were produced in P-39D standard, but with the engine-axis canon replaced with a British Hispano M1 20mm cannon and the wing machine guns were replaced with 7.7mm Browning's. The first Airacobra Mk.I's were received in July 1941, but the RAF was disappointed, when it was found that they were not suitable for service in the European war theatre. In October 1941 four Mk.I's were tested by 601 Squadron in the ground attack role over occupied France, Airacobras were withdrawn from service and 212 RAF Airacobra Mk.I's were send to Soviet Union.
When the USA came into the war, the USAAF confiscated 179 Airacobras from the British order on the production line. They were re-designated P-400, and served in the Pacific. All P-400's have 12 exhaust pipes on each side of the engine, and this was the major difference from the P-39D series. The next block of aircraft, also with 12 exhaust pipes, were 229 aircraft of the P-39F series, and after them came the P-39K series (210 aircraft), P-39L (250 aircraft), P-39M (240 aircraft) and P-39N (2095 aircraft). All these four series were very similar, using various engines, propellers and other equipment. The final version was the P-39Q with an Allison V-1710-85 engine (1420 HP), and the main
difference was the installation of two .50 calibre (12.7 mm) machine guns in under-wing pods instead of the four .30 calibre (7.62mm) wing mounted machine guns in the older series. Most of the 4905 Q series aircraft were sent to Soviet Union. Production was ceased in August 1944, after the final Airacobra, number 9558, was finished.
The USAAF employed Airacobras extensively until August 1944, when they were withdrawn from front line service. The USAAF used the largest number of Airacobras, 2105 of all types, in February 1944. They served in the Pacific theatre, as well as in North Africa and Italy.
In total 4758 Airacobras were sent to Russia (actually 4924, but 166 aircraft were lost during transport) where they were very popular for their solid metal airframe and heavy weapons. The French Air Force had 165 Airacobras, and P-39's also served with the Australian RAAF, the Italian AF and the Portuguese AF. After the war a number of Airacobras were employed in civilian service and used for air races.
In the box Eduard's P-39 has been around for around a decade, and was one of the first major releases from Eduard that put them in position as a major player in the plastic kit manufacturer.
This release by Eduard shares most of the parts from the numerous releases before it, but you get double the amount of parts.
So inside the box comes six plastic sprues, two clear sprue, a set of masks, four frets of photo etch, resin parts, a very large set of decals and a colour set of instructions.
The plastic sprues are in Eduard's new grey colour.
Considering the age of the moulds and the fact that the kit has been released several times over the years the parts are free of flash. A few flow marks can be found here and there, but I don't think they will show up under paint.
Exterior detail although not quite up too Eduard's standard nowadays is still pretty decent and will look good under paint. The kit has fine recessed panel lines and rivet detail.
The interior is nicely detailed with the choice of using P.E instrument panels or decals that fit over the plastic panel. The seat comes with a P.E harness. The rear cockpit wall and floor has some lovely detail that should pop out once a wash is used. The great thing about the P-39 is the side opening doors which will really show off the extra detail in the cockpit.
The wheel wells have some great detail with the main wheel wells have inserts for the undercarriage floor.
There are four photo etch frets supplied in this boxing, one coloured and three plain. The coloured fret has the parts for the cockpit, including four instrument panels. Which marking choice you decide starts with the cockpit as the various versions have different instrument panels. The instrument panels are made up of two main parts, the instrument dials then a P.E cover too fit over the top. Various smaller parts fit over the top, so lots of patience is needed to build the nicely detailed IPs. Photo etch harness's are supplied for the seat.
The rest of the coloured fret are for replacing or enhancing the detail in the cockpit, including door handles. Once built up the cockpit will be beautifully detailed.
The two smaller P.E frets are for improving the look of the wheel hubs.
The larger uncoloured fret has parts for the undercarriage legs, including oleo's, brake lines, detail for the gear door actuators, and a small gear door on the main undercarriage bays.
New mesh screens replace the moulded on detail for the radiator scoops.
The resin parts included are all new wheels and hubs. Two types are supplied, which different versions having different types. The casting as ever from Eduard is superb, with some very nice detail moulded on. One set of wheels have a tread pattern which looks stunning.
External stores for the kit are in the way of bombs or drop tanks. Four 30 inch calibre wing blast tubes complete the weapons.
Unlike some of the previous boxing's no nose weights are supplied, so unless you want a tail sitter, some weight will be needed to add in the nose.
The clear parts has the main canopy and windshield as one part with the two side opening doors as two separate parts which can be modelled open, so you can see all the detail in the cockpit.
The clear parts are blemish free and have raised areas for the framework.
Instructions and markings The instructions are printed as a colour booklet with the build over 7 pages. The build sequence is easy to follow with internal colours for the Aqueous and Mr Color paints. P.E and optional parts are clearly marked.
Part of the page is supplied for the application of the masks for the cockpit, wheel hubs and the wing walkway strips.
The decals are printed by Cartograph, are thin with very little carrier film and are in register. A full page stencil guide can be found on the back page of the instructions.
Having used Cartograph decals on several occasions I have never once had a problem applying them.
Markings for eight machines are supplied, three are for the P-400, one P-39D, two P-39F's, one P-39K and one P-39H.
P-400, BW151, 67 FS/347 FG, 13, Guadalcanal, 1942, 'Hells Bells'
P-400, BW146, 347 FG, 66, Guadalcanal, 1944, 'Old 66'
P-400, BW146, 67 FS/347 FG, 20, New Caledonia, 1942, 'Whistlin Britches'
P-39D, 41-38484, 12 FS/18 FG, 246, Guadalcanal, 1944, 'Daisy Mae'
P-39F, unknown, 70 FS/347 FG, 21, Fiji and Guadalcanal, 1942/43
P-39F, unknown, 67 FS/247 FG, 80, Panama Canal Zone, 1943, 'Pepper'
P-39K, 42-4275, 70 FS/18 FG, 28, Guadalcanal, 1943, 'Short Stroke'.
P-39N, 42-18799, 12th F/S18th FG, Salomon Islands, 1943/44.
All the paint and decal schemes are in colour with all four profiles of the aircraft shown.
As with the internal colours, paints are for the Aqueous and Mr Color range.
Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE.