Before drones, the US Air Force shot at real pilots for target practice

See the original posting on The Verge

As an Army Air Force pilot during World War II, one could expect to take fire from time to time — but the bullets weren’t always coming from Axis aircraft. Sometimes, it was your fellow servicemen and women taking the shots.

The Bell P-63 Kingcobra fighter, developed in 1942, never got much love from the American military, which had a preference for the legendary P-51 Mustang. Instead, over 2,400 Kingcobras ended up in Soviet control under Lend-Lease, a wartime program to provide American allies with gear to fight Germany and Japan. That doesn’t mean the US didn’t put the P-63 into service, though: it ordered a bunch as the RP-63 “Pinball,” a substantially modified P-63 designed specifically to be fired upon for target practice. Though…

Continue reading…