The Bell P-59 Airacomet was a single-seat, twin jet-engine fighter aircraft that was designed and built by Bell Aircraft during World War II, the first produced in the United States. As the British were further along in jet engine development, they donated an engine for the United States to copy in 1941 that became the basis for the General Electric jet used by the P-59 a year later. Underpowered, the United States Army Air Forces was not impressed by its performance and canceled half of the original order for 100 fighters, using the completed aircraft as trainers. Although no P-59s entered combat, the aircraft paved the way for later generations of U.S. turbojet-powered aircraft.
The 13 service test YP-59As had a more powerful engine than their predecessor, the General Electric J31, but the performance improvement was negligible, with top speed increased by only 5 mph and a reduction in the time they could be used before an overhaul was needed. One of these aircraft, the third YP-59A (S/n: 42-22611) was supplied to the Royal Air Force (receiving British serial RG362/G), in exchange for the first production Gloster Meteor I, EE210/G. British pilots found that the aircraft compared very unfavorably with the jets that they were already flying. Two YP-59A Airacomets (42-108778 and 42-100779) were also delivered to the U.S. Navy where they were evaluated as the “YF2L-1” but were quickly found completely unsuitable for carrier operations.
The Bell Aircraft Corporation was an aircraft manufacturer of the United States, a builder of several types of fighter aircraft for World War II but most famous for the Bell X-1, the first supersonic aircraft, and for the development and production of many important civilian and military helicopters. Bell also developed the Reaction Control System for the Mercury Spacecraft, North American X-15, and Bell Rocket Belt. The company was purchased in 1960 by Textron, and lives on as Bell Helicopter.