Tag Archives: P-39 Soviet

Crimean Cobra floated

Meanwhile, in Crimea’s Kalamata Bay, a joint effort between the Russian Geographic Society and Russian Ministry of Defence has retrieved a gently-used Bell P-39 Airacobra from the bottom of the Black Sea.

Discovered at a depth of just 19 feet, about a half-mile offshore, the specimen joined the Black Sea Fleet in late 1943 as Lend-Lease and was lost in July 1944, piloted by one Lieutenant Vladimir Shishkin, who was able to swim ashore from his ditched aircraft, which he splashed down after the engine conked out.

Note her centerline 37mm M4 cannon in the prop hub and twin synchronized Browning M2 machine guns, probably the last Allied fighter designed to fire through a spinning propeller. P-39s also carried another pair of .50s in their wing roots, giving them a very centralized 5-gun punch.

Dubbed the Kobrushka (little cobra) by the Soviets, the aircraft was loved on the Eastern Front for its ability to operate from rugged strips and ticked up a great kill ratio against German attack and observation aircraft such as the slow-moving Stuka and Fw 189 Uhu while running ground support tasks.

Almost half of the P-39s and improved P-69s produced– 4,719– were sent to the Soviets, mostly flown and handed over warm via the Alaska-Siberia ferry route. 

Other “Red Star” Cobras have been found in better condition over the years

The Russians kept the type in service into the early 1950s, at which point the spares had run out and Washington wasn’t sending any more.

P-69 Kingcobras before being sent to the USSR via Alaska 1944