"The Portuguese want to buy 11 American Airacobras that landed there. This has the support of the American military authorities and a fair offer has been made."...On 26 April 1943 it was noted, "Today we received authority to sell to Portugal, at $20,000 each, 16 Airacobras and one Lightning which are intact..."
The story of the Portuguese Airacobras, starts when two USAAC Fighter Groups equipped with Airacobras were dispatched to North Africa between December 1942 and February 1943, within the aircraft reinforcement plans for "Operation Torch", and due to several problems some of the aircraft had to land at Lisbon Airport and others in Spain.
The situation of the Airacobras, stated in Portuguese official records, refers that since June 23, 1943, 19 Airacobras (15 of the P-400 model, and 4 of the P-39L model) were assigned to a Fighter Squadron.
The OK Squadron (as it was known due to the identifying letters OK used in the British way) was commanded by Captain Joćo Faustino Albuquerque de Freitas, with Lieut. Astem Godman Solano de Almeida and Alferes Feliciano Gomes as Flight Commanders.
The Airacobras received the serials 300 to 314 (P-400) and 315 to 318 (P-39L). The serial 335 was given to the sole P-38 Lightning of the Squadron.
The OK Squadron never saw real combat during the WWII, and was retired in 1950.
We would like to dedicate this virtual squadron to those airmen who flew the Airacobras under our national insignia.
The P-400 model
P-400 was the non-standard designation of the Bell Model 14, and received the British designation of Airacobra I. The aircraft was equipped with an Allison V-1710-35 (E4) engine of 12 cylinders in V, with 1150 hp at takeoff. The propeller was a constant speed Curtiss model. As armament it had 4 Colt-Browning .30" machine-guns on the wings, and an Hispano Suiza 20mm cannon with 60 rounds. This cannon, again according to the documents found, was not the same in all aircraft: from aircraft 300 to 310 it had an hydraulic system, and from 311 to 314 the system was a mechanical one. It had also an oxygen system described as Mk.VIII-D.
The P-39L model
The P-39L (Bell Model 26B), was identical to the model K except in what concerned the propeller that had a diameter of 3,15 meters, made also by Curtiss Electric. The model K in turn was the same as the model P-39D-2, powered by an Allison V-1710-63 (E6) engine of 1325 HP. The model L also had a different nose wheel, designed for lesser drag at take-off, as well as the possibility of pylon installation in the wings. As armament it had the same four Colt-Browning .30" on the wings, two .50" machine guns in the nose, and one 37 mm M-4 cannon. It was also equipped with a more advanced oxygen system: the A.9A.