Northrop XP-56 Black Bullet

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    Northrop XP-56 Black Bullet

    Advanced airframe layout with a truncated fuselage and short empennage.two 20mm cannon and four .50 cal. machine guns in the nose, a pilot behind the armament, a powerful Pratt & Whitney engine, and two 3-blade contra-rotating propellers at the rear. At the rear of the fuselage, there was only the hint of a dorsal fin but a large ventral fin protruded prominently into the air stream to increase directional stability.

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Jack Northrop's Black Bullet came about on July 17, 1939. The XP-56 was an attempt to radically improve combat aircraft performance by using an unconventional, near all-wing, airframe design. Although it ultimately failed, the XP-56 was built using a new material, magnesium, and a new construction process, Heliarc welding. Heliarc welding became a standard method for fabricating metals and Northrop patented a special welding torch for this purpose. The advanced airframe layout with a truncated fuselage and almost no empennage failed to perform as expected.