Northrop XP-56 Black Bullet

1943

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Northrop XP-56 Black Bullet

One of the most radical of US experimental fighters of World War II, the XP-56 was conceived as a result of an informal competition initiated late in 1939 for innovative fighter designs, the winning contractors being Vultee (XP-54), Curtiss (XP-55) and Northrop (XP-56). The XP-56 was a tailless pusher of all-magnesium, all-welded construction, two prototypes being ordered on 26 September 1940 and 13 February 1942 respectively. Power was provided by a 2,000hp Pratt & Whitney R-2800-29 Double Wasp 18-cylinder radial engine buried in the rear fuselage and driving contra-rotating pusher propellers. Proposed armament comprised two 20mm cannon and four 12.7mm machine guns.

The first two flights were conducted on 6 September 1943, dorsal fin area subsequently being increased and flight test being resumed on 8 October, the aircraft being written-off as a result of a landing accident on the second flight of that day. The second prototype, which differed in having bellows-type, split-flap wingtip "rudders" and a further increase in dorsal fin area, flew on 23 March 1944. Lateral instability and control reversal were experienced at low speeds, and high speeds were not attainable owing to inability to obtain full power. After the 10th flight of this XP-56, the USAAF concluded that further flight testing was "too hazardous" and development was discontinued.

FACTS AND FIGURES

The planned armament was four 20mm cannon and four 12.7mm machine guns in the nose, although this was never fitted.

In a later modification the ailerons were operated by bellows fed by intakes in the wingtips.

Northrop XP-56 Black Bullet

The tail configuration would have made escape from an inflight emergency difficult. To counter this restriction an explosive severing cord would jettison the gearbox and propellers before bailout.

Northrop had expected that the downturned wingtips would provide the necessary stability, but they were mistaken.

Northrop XP-56 Black Bullet

Specification 
 MODELXP-56 (est.)
 CREW1
 WEIGHTS
  Take-off weight5148 kg11349 lb
  Empty weight3946 kg8699 lb
 DIMENSIONS
  Wingspan12.98 m43 ft 7 in
  Length8.38 m28 ft 6 in
  Height2.94 m10 ft 8 in
  Wing area28.52 m2306.99 sq ft
 PERFORMANCE
  Max. speed671 km/h417 mph
  Range1062 km660 miles

3-View 
Northrop XP-56 Black BulletA three-view drawing (1276 x 998)

Comments
Zach, 18.10.2010 01:03

It was instrumental in desigining aircraft later on.

On a side note, the aircraft is flyable in the Secret Weapons over Normandy game.

reply

Zach, 18.10.2010 01:03

It was instrumental in desigining aircraft later on.

On a side note, the aircraft is flyable in the Secret Weapons over Normandy game.

reply

Ken Dowd, e-mail, 21.09.2010 16:15

The Northrop museum in Hawthorne, CA had one of the XP-56A
43-38353 waiting for restoration. This was several years ago.

reply

Kevin Morrow, e-mail, 12.09.2010 17:10

It did go in production only for special missions.

reply

Ian, e-mail, 25.04.2009 00:22

By all accounts due to it's magnesium construct it burned very brightly when it crashed.

reply

THE WHO, 25.03.2008 01:53

NICE PLANE, BUT TOO BAD IT DIDN'T GO IN PRODUCTION.

reply

THE WHO, 25.03.2008 01:52

NICE PLANE, BUT TOO BAD IT DIDN'T GO IN PRODUCTION.

reply

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