Northrop XP-56 Black Bullet

The Northrop XP -56 Black Bullet was an experimental aircraft to test the pusher propeller concept for fighter planes.


In November 1939, shortly after it was founded by Jack Northrop, the Northrop Corporation participated in a tender of the United States Army Air Forces for a new fighter plane. In addition to Northrop submitted yet Vultee Aircraft with the XP -54 and XP -55 Curtiss with their own new concepts before.

Northrop's design called for a tailless, powered with twin counter-rotating propellers pressure fighter, the liquid-cooled from the located at that time in the development motor Pratt & Whitney should be X -1800 - A3G driven.

The order for the production of a prototype was delivered on August 22, 1940, in the following time nor various changes became necessary in the construction of wind tunnel tests on a 1:1 model created simultaneously.

Since the work was stopped on the X -1800 engine, instead had to be installed, but required a modification of the hull and the weight of the machine increased to 1000 kg an air-cooled P & W R - 2800-29. The work was delayed by five months. After seeing the model by members of the Army Air Force changes to the chassis, the cockpit and armament yet been made. On February 13, 1942, the order was issued for the production of a second prototype to Northrop.

In March 1943, the first engine test runs were carried out, then the machine was to flight test site Muroc (now Edwards Air Force Base ) brought, where took place in only 1.2 m on September 6, the 1.6- km-long first flight. Here, also showed a poor stability to the vertical axis, which should be compensated by an increase in the rudder.

In high-speed taxi tests in the fall of 1943, burst a tire, the aircraft was completely destroyed during the subsequent rollover. However, the pilot remained virtually unharmed.

As a consequence of this accident, the chassis was revised for the second prototype but the first test flight could take place due to bad weather until 23 March 1944. The subsequent test flights and wind tunnel tests showed that the machine was still unstable and due to the higher weight of the planned top speed could not reach.

Later, the trial was stopped because the progress in the development of jet aircraft made ​​superfluous the concept.

For Jack Northrop, however, the project provided important insights, which he could use later in his YB -35 and YB -49- Nurflügelbombern.

The second prototype still exists today; it is stored at the National Air and Space Museum in Silver Hill, Maryland.