P-39 was one of America's first-line pursuit planes in December
1941. It made its initial flight in April 1939 at Wright Field and
by the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, nearly 600 had been
built. The Air Cobra saw combat throughout the world,
particularly in the Southwest Pacific, Mediterranean and Russian
theaters. Because its engine was not equipped with a supercharger,
the P-39 performed best below 17,000 feet altitude, and it often
was used at lower altitudes for such missions as ground strafing.
When P-39 production ended in August 1944, Bell had built 9,584
Air Cobras, of which 4,773 had been allotted to the Soviet Union.
Russian pilots particularly liked the cannon-armed P-39 for its
ground attack capability. Other P-39s served French and British