Bell XP-83

S/n 44-84990 in test flight over Wright Field, May 1945
Role Escort fighter
Manufacturer Bell Aircraft
Designer Charles Rhodes
First flight 25 February 1945
Status Project cancelled 1947
Primary user United States Army Air Forces (intended)
Developed from Bell P-59 Airacomet

The Bell XP-83 (later redesignated ZXF-83) was a United States prototype escort fighter designed by Bell Aircraft during World War II. It first flew in 1945. As an early jet fighter, its limitations included a lack of power and it was soon eclipsed by more advanced designs.

Design and development

The early jet fighters consumed fuel at a prodigious rate, which severely limited their range and endurance. In March 1944, the United States Army Air Forces requested Bell to design a fighter with increased endurance, and formally awarded a contract for two prototypes on 31 July 1944.

Bell had been working on its "Model 40" interceptor design since 1943. It was redesigned as a long-range escort fighter, retaining the general layout of the P-59 Airacomet. The two General Electric J33-GE-5 turbojet engines were located in each wing root, which left the large and bulky fuselage free for fuel tanks and armament. The fuselage was an all-metal semimonocoque, capable of carrying 1,150 gal (4,350 l) of fuel; in addition, two 250 gal (950 l) drop tanks could be carried. The cabin was pressurized, and the canopy a small and low bubble type. The armament was to be six 0.5 in (12.7 mm) machine guns in the nose.


Early wind tunnel reports had pinpointed directional instability but the "fix" of a larger tail would not be ready in time for flight testing.[1] The first prototype was flown on 25 February 1945, by Bell's chief test pilot Jack Woolams, who found it to be underpowered and unstable. The limited flight testing provided satisfactory flight characteristics although spins were restricted until the larger tailfin was installed. The second prototype did incorporate the extended tail and an aileron boost system.[2] One unique characteristic was the XP-83's refusal to "slow down" due to its sleek aerodynamic shape and lack of drag brakes; test pilots were forced to fly very long and flat landing approaches.[3]

The first prototype was used in 1946 as a ramjet testbed, with an engineer's station located in the fuselage behind the pilot and on 14 September 1946 one of the ramjets caught fire - the pilot "Slick" Goodlin and engineer Charles Fay had to parachute out. The second prototype flew on 19 October and was scrapped in 1947. Apart from range, the XP-83 was inferior to Lockheed's P-80 Shooting Star, and the XP-83 project was canceled in 1947.

Specifications (XP-83)

Data from War Planes of the Second World War[4]

General characteristics



See also

Related development

Related lists



  1. Koehnen 1982, p. 24.
  2. Koehnen 1982, pp. 44, 48.
  3. Koehnen 1982, p. 48.
  4. Green 1961, p. 24.


  • Carpenter, David M. Flame Powered: The Bell XP-59A Airacomet and the General Electric I-A Engine. Boston: Jet Pioneers of America, 1982. ISBN 0-9633387-0-6. (Page 59 is about the XP-83.)
  • Green, William. War Planes of the Second World War: Fighters, Volume Four. London: Macdonald, 1961 (6th impression 1969). ISBN 0-356-01448-7.
  • Green, William and Gordon Swanborough. WW2 Aircraft Fact Files: US Army Air Force Fighters, Part 1. London: Macdonald and Jane's Publishers Ltd., 1977. ISBN 0-356-08218-0.
  • Knaack, Marcelle Size. Encyclopedia of US Air Force Aircraft and Missile Systems: Volume 1 Post-World War II Fighters 1945-1973. Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History, 1978. ISBN 0-912799-59-5.
  • Koehnen, Richard C. "Bell's No Name Fighter." Airpower, Vol. 12, no. 1. January 1982.
  • Pelletier, Alain J. Bell Aircraft Since 1935. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1992. ISBN 1-55750-056-8.

External links

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