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Northrop XP-56

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P-56 Black Bullet
Northrop XP-56 Black Bullet, first aircraft.
Type Fighter
Manufacturer Northrop
Maiden flight 1943-09-30
Status Cancelled
Number built 2

The XP-56 Black Bullet was a unique prototype fighter interceptor built by Northrop. It was one of the most radical of the experimental aircraft built during World War II. The idea for this single-seat, initially tail-less, airplane originated in 1939 as the Northrop N2B. It was designed around the liquid-cooled Pratt & Whitney X-1800 engine in a pusher configuration driving contra-rotating propellers. The type was ordered on June 22, 1940, and a prototype aircraft was ordered on September 26, 1940. Shortly after work had begun, Pratt & Whitney, however, stopped development of the X-1800, and an R2800 was substituted, although it was considered not entirely suitable.

In parallel, flight trials of the configuration were conducted on the N1M airframe with a wing similar to that planned for the XP-56. Two small Lycoming engines powered this aircraft. These trials confirmed the stability of the radical design and the need for a second prototype, which was ordered on February 13, 1942.

Taxi tests of the XP-56 began in April 1943 during which a serious yaw problem was discovered, thought to be caused by the wheel brakes. Manual hydraulic brakes were installed and the aircraft flew on September 30, 1943 at Muroc Air Base in southern California. After a number of flights, the first XP-56 was destroyed when the tire on the left gear blew out.

A number of changes were made to the second prototype, including re-ballasting to move the center of gravity forward and increasing the size of the upper vertical tail, and the plane flew on March 23, 1944. The pilot had difficulty lifting the nose wheel below 160 mph. This flight lasted less than eight minutes but subsequent flights were longer, and the nose heaviness disappeared when the landing gear was retracted. Only relatively low speeds were attained, however. While urging NACA to investigate the inability to attain designed speeds, further flight tests were made. On the tenth flight the pilot noted extreme tail heaviness, lack of power, and excessive fuel consumption. Flight testing, then, was ceased as too hazardous, and the project was abandoned after a year of inactivity.

Specifications (XP-56 estimates)

File:Northrop XP-56 Black Bullet.jpg
Northrop XP-56 Black Bullet, S/N 42-38353; second aircraft.

General characteristics

  • Crew: one, pilot
  • Length: 27 ft 6 in (8.38 m)
  • Wingspan: 42 ft 6 in (12.96 m)
  • Height: 11 ft 0 in (3.35 m)
  • Wing area: 306 ft² (28.44 m²)
  • Empty weight: 8,700 lb (3,955 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 11,350 lb (5,159 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 12,145 lb (5,520 kg)
  • Powerplant:Pratt & Whitney R-2800-29 radial, 2,000 hp (1,492 kW)



  • 2x 20 mm cannons
  • 4x .50 cal (12.7 mm) machine guns

See also

Related development

Comparable aircraft

Designation sequence
XP-53 - XP-54 - XP-55 - XP-56 - XP-57 - XP-58 - P-59




  • Allen, R.S. The Northrop Story. New York: Orion, 1990. ISBN 0-517-56677-4.
  • Andersen, Fred. Northrop - An Aeronautical History. Century City, CA: Northrop, 1976; Library of Congress nr. 76-22294.
  • Green, William. War Planes of the Second World War, Volume Four: Fighters. London: MacDonald & Co. (Publishers) Ltd., 1961 (Sixth impression 1969). ISBN 0-356-01448-7.
  • Green, William and Swanborough, Gordon. WW2 Aircraft Fact Files: US Army Air Force Fighters, Part 2. London: Macdonald and Jane's Publishers Ltd., 1978. ISBN 0-354-01072-7.
  • Maloney, Edward T. Northrop Flying Wings. Buena Park, CA: Planes Of Fame Publishers, 1975. ISBN 0-915464-00-4.
  • Pape, Gerry and Campbell, John M. & Donna. The Flying Wings of Jack Northrop. Atglen , PA: Schiffer, 1994. ISBN 0-88740-597-5.
  • Woolridge, E.T. Winged Wonders - The Story of the Flying Wings. Washington: Smithsonian Press, 1983. ISBN 0-87474-966-2.

Template:USAF fighters

cs:Northrop XP-56 Black Bullet de:Northrop XP-56 fr:Northrop XP-56 Black Bullet ja:XP-56 (航空機)

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.
It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Northrop XP-56".