The Bell P-59 Airacomet holds a special place in aviation history as the first jet aircraft operated by the USA. The experimental variant, the XP-59A, first flew in 1942 at what is now Edwards Air Force Base. Unfortunately, the performance characteristics of the P-59 were underwhelming, in some cases not even matching the abilities of the piston-engine P-51 Mustang. The United States Army Air Force decided to concentrate on piston-engine fighters for the duration of the war.

The P-59 never saw combat and by 1950, none of the 50 Airacomets produced were in service. However, the P-59 will always be remembered for ushering in the jet age for the USAAF. The P-59 was also the first jet design to house the engines entirely in the fuselage.

Above is a P-59B Airacomet displayed at the United States Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio.

The XP-59A Airacomet pictured here is from the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. and was the first Airacomet built.

Bell P-59 Airacomet

Speed: 412 mph
Ceiling: 46,200 ft
Armament: 1 37 mm cannon, 3 .50in machine guns, 8 60 lb rockets, 2,000 lbs of bombs
Crew: 1

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