The J31 (also known by its company designation, I-16) was the first turbojet engine produced in quantity in the United States. It was developed from the original American-built jet engine, the General Electric I-A, which was a copy of the highly secret British "Whittle" engine.
The Bell P-59 was powered by two General Electric J31-GE-5 turbojet engines (derived from the British Whittle engine) of 2000 pounds thrust each. The engines were contained in pods that blended into the sides of the fuselage, with the exhaust nozzles below and behind the wing trailing edge. The unswept wing was mounted in the shoulder position and had a constant airfoil thickness ratio of 14 percent, which was significantly greater than that used on the wings of the Me 262 and the Meteor.
Although having about the same total thrust as the Me 262, along with a thrust-to-weight ratio over 30 percent greater than that of the German aircraft, the P-59A was slower by about 130 miles per hour. Analysis shows that the 65-percent-greater wing area and consequent greater drag area of the P-59A was responsible for much but not all of the difference in performance of the two aircraft. Perhaps the thick airfoil sections of the P-59A or some other sources of added drag....
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