Northrop P-56C Bullet

The Northrop XP-56 Black Bullet first flew in September 1943. Although the first prototypes showed some serious stability problems these were quickly solved by some relative simple adjustments to the wings and vertical tail.

The first P-56A fighters were delivered to the USAAF in October 1944 and were quickly put into operational use in Europe. The P-56 was very manoeuvrable and fast and could easily out-manoeuvre any German fighters it came across. The only shortcoming of the fighter was the relatively short range. The P-56 was unable to operate very far over mainland Europe due to its limited endurance.

It did however perform very well in the defence of Britain against the German long range bombers. Its rate of climb was very fast and it was able to meet the bombers at great height at short notice. The longer range missions were assigned to the P-51 Mustang and later the P-55 Ascender.

The name Black Bullet was soon shortened into just Bullet by the aircrew and generally the aircraft was well liked.

In 1945 the P-56B model was put into production. It featured a slightly more powerful engine than the P-56A and reached speeds in excess of 500mph. Both the A and the B model had an armament of 6 .5in machine guns. In order to inflict more damage the P-56C which appeared at the end of 1945 was armed with 7 20mm canon. There were three canon in the nose and four in the wings.

The P-56C was the main production version with 4.587 aircraft produced. The P-56C remained in service until 1949 with the USAF and was also delivered to the RAF and the RAAF. In RAF service the P-56C was called Bullet Mk I.

In 1949 the last P-56C was withdrawn from USAF service and replaced by the P-80 Shooting Star. It had claimed 1.856 German bombers, mainly He-277s and Me-264s for an loss to enemy fire of only 457 aircraft.

In an effort to extend the range of the Bullet, Northrop developed the P-56D as a long range fighter. The fuselage was enlarged to house more fuel and a provision was created to fit external fuel tanks. The modifications to the airframe placed too much of a burden on it however and performance detoriated. After testing the two P-56D prototypes the USAF decided not to place an order for this variant.

The model

The model is the 1/48 Czech Model kit.


Last updated: 11/11/2011