Curtiss P-40 Warhawk

The Curtiss P-40 Warhawk ( bears the name Tomahawk and Kittyhawk for Allied squadrons ) was an American single-engine, single-seat, all-metal fighter and ground attack aircraft that first flew in 1938. It was used by the air forces of 28 nations, including those of most Allied powers during World War II, and remained in front line service until the end of the war. The P-40 design was a modification of the previous Curtiss P-36. By November 1944, when production of the P-40 ceased, 13,738 had been built, all at Curtiss-Wright Corporation's main production facility at Buffalo, New York.

Restorated P-40 Warhawk

The P-40 had good agility, especially at high speed and medium to low altitude. It was one of the tightest-turning monoplane fighters of the war,although at lower speeds it could not out-turn the extremely manoeuvrable Japanese fighters such as the Mitsubishi A6M Zero and Nakajima Ki-43 "Oscar".

According to some sources the P-40 initially proved quite effective against Axis aircraft and contributed to a slight shift of momentum in the Allied favor. The gradual replacement of Hurricanes by the Tomahawks and Kittyhawks led to the Luftwaffe accelerating retirement of the Bf 109E and introducing the newer Bf 109F; these were to be flown by the veteran pilots of elite Luftwaffe units, such as Jagdgeschwader 27 (JG27), in North Africa.

The P-40 was generally considered roughly equal or slightly superior to the Bf 109 at low altitude, but inferior at high altitude, particularly against the Bf 109F. Most air combat in North Africa took place well below 16,000 ft (4,900 m), thus negating much of the Bf 109's superiority. The P-40 usually had an edge over Bf 109 in horizontal maneuverability, dive speed and structural strength, was roughly equal in firepower, but was slightly inferior in speed and outclassed in rate of climb and operational ceiling.

The P-40 was generally superior to early Italian fighter types, such as the Fiat G.50 and the Macchi C.200. Its performance against the Macchi C.202 Folgore elicited varying opinions. Some observers consider the Macchi C.202 superior. Clive Caldwell, who scored victories against them in his P-40, felt that the Folgore would have been superior to both the P-40 and the Bf 109 except that its armament of only two or four machine guns was inadequate. Other observers considered the two equally matched, or favored the Folgore in aerobatic performance, such as turning radius. Boyne wrote that over Africa, the P-40 and the Folgore were "equivalent".

Against its lack of high altitude performance the P-40 was considered to be a stable gun platform, and its rugged construction meant that it was able to operate from rough frontline airstrips with a good rate of serviceability.

P-40s first saw combat with the British Commonwealth squadrons of the Desert Air Force (DAF) in the Middle East and North African campaigns, during June 1941. The Royal Air Force's No. 112 Squadron was among the first to operate Tomahawks, in North Africa, and the unit was the first to feature the "shark mouth" logo, copying similar markings on some Luftwaffe Messerschmitt Bf 110 twin-engine fighters. Inspired by 112 Squadron's usage of them in North Africa, and by the Luftwaffe's even earlier use of it, both via Allied wartime newspaper and magazine article images, the "shark mouth" logo's usage on the sides of the P-40's nose was most famously used on those used by the Flying Tigers in China.

In theatres where high altitude performance was less important, the P-40 proved an effective fighter. Although it gained a post-war reputation as a mediocre design, suitable only for close air support, more recent research including scrutiny of the records of individual Allied squadrons indicates that the P-40 performed surprisingly well as an air superiority fighter, at times suffering severe losses, but also taking a very heavy toll on enemy aircraft. The P-40 offered the additional advantage of low cost, which kept it in production as a ground attack fighter long after it was obsolete in air superiority.

General characteristics
  • Crew: 1
  • Length: 31.67 ft (9.66 m)
  • Wingspan: 37.33 ft (11.38 m)
  • Height: 12.33 ft (3.76 m)
  • Wing area: 235.94 ft² (21.92 m²)
  • Empty weight: 6,350 lb (2,880 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 8,280 lb (3,760 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 8,810 lb (4,000 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1× Allison V-1710-39 liquid-cooled V12 engine, 1,150 hp (858 kW)

  • Maximum speed: 360 mph (310 kn, 580 km/h)
  • Cruise speed: 270 mph (235 kn, 435 km/h)
  • Range: 650 mi (560 nmi, 1,100 km)
  • Service ceiling: 29,000 ft (8,800 m)
  • Rate of climb: 2,100 ft/min (11 m/s)
  • Wing loading: 35.1 lb/ft² (171.5 kg/m²)
  • Power/mass: 0.14 hp/lb (230 W/kg)

  • 6 × .50 in (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns
  • 250 to 1,000 lb (110 to 450 kg) bombs to a total of 2,000 lb (907 kg)

** Curtiss P-40 Warhawk - Warbird Fare

Other Warbirds

Facebook Twitter Stumbleupon Delicious Digg More Favorites

Back To Top