Curtiss P-40 Warhawk / Kittyhawk / Tomahawk

P-40 Warhawk/Kittyhawk/Tomahawk

The P-40 was a development of the P-36 with a liquid-cooled engine, known to the manufacturer as Hawk 81 and to the British as Tomahawk. It suffered from the obsoleteness of the basic design. The P-40 was never the equal of its opponents, but nevertheless served throughout WWII. It most famous user was the AVG, better known as the 'Flying Tigers', a group of American pilots hired by China. The P-40D model introduced a strongly modified nose and a new engine; this version was known as Hawk 87 to the manufacturer and Kittyhawk to the British. The P-40 was sturdy and had good diving characteristics, but was outperformed by modern fighters, despite continuous improvement. Later P-40s had lengthened fuselages, a lighter structure, and even Packard V-1650 Merlin engines. 13738 were built.

Type: P-40C
Function: fighter
Year: 1941
Crew: 1
Engines: 1 * 1090 hp Allison V-1710-33
Wing Span: 11.37 m
Length: 9.66 m
Height: 3.22 m
Wing Area: 21.92 m2
Empty Weight: 2636 kg
Max.Weight: 3655 kg
Speed: 555 km/h
Ceiling: 8990 m
Range: 1287 km
Armament: 2*mg12.7mm 4*mg7.62mm

Type: P-40E-1
Function: fighter
Year: 1942
Crew: 1
Engines: 1 * 1150 kW Allison V-1710-39
Wing Span: 11.38 m
Length: 9.68 m
Height: 3.76 m
Wing Area: 21.92 m2
Empty Weight: 3133 kg
Max.Weight: 4131 kg
Max. Speed: 582 km/h
Ceiling: 8900 m
Max. Range: 1370 km
Armament: 6*mg 12.7mm, 227 kg payload

Type: P-40F-5
Function: fighter
Year: 1942
Crew: 1
Engines: 1 * 1300 hp Packard V-1650-1
Wing Span: 11.38 m
Length: 10.17 m
Height: 3.76 m
Wing Area: 21.92 m2
Empty Weight: 3178 kg
Max.Weight: 4540 kg
Speed: 586 km/h
Range: 2414 km
Armament: 6*mg12.7mm, 227 kg payload

Type: P-40N-20
Function: fighter
Year: 1943
Crew: 1
Engines: 1 * 1015 kW Allison V-1710-81
Wing Span: 11.42 m
Length: 10.20 m
Height: 3.77 m
Wing Area: 21.95 m2
Empty Weight: 2724 kg
Max.Weight: 4018 kg
Speed: 609 km/h
Ceiling: 11630 m
Armament: 6*mg12.7mm, 227 kg payload

Curtiss P-40 Warhawk / Tomahawk / Kittyhawk

The Curtiss P-40 was a U.S. single-engine, single-seat, low-wing, all-metal fighter and ground attack aircraft which first flew in 1938, and was used in great numbers in World War II. When production ceased in November 1944, 13,738 P-40s had been produced; they were used by the air forces of 28 nations.

Warhawk was the name the US Army Air Corps (USAAC; known later in the war as the US Army Air Forces) adopted for all models, making it the official name in the US for all P-40s. British Commonwealth air forces gave the name Tomahawk to models equivalent to the P-40B and P-40C, and the name Kittyhawk to models equivalent to the P-40E and all later versions.

The P-40's lack of a two-stage supercharger made it inferior to Luftwaffe fighters in high altitude combat, and the P-40 was barely used in the northwest European theater, where the USAAF would eventually be concentrated. However, between 1941 and 1944, the P-40 played a critical role with Allied air forces in five major theaters around the world: China; the Mediterranean Theater; the South East Asian Theater; the South West Pacific Area, and in Eastern Europe.

P-40s first saw action with British Commonwealth air forces in the Desert Air Force, in August 1941. The P-40's poor high-altitude performance was of less consequence in the North African Campaign, and its bomb load, armour, and good range were valuable. The RAF's No. 112 Squadron was the first to fly Tomahawks in North Africa. The squadron copied the famous shark mouth markings under the spinner from Luftwaffe Messerschmitt Me 110 Zerstörer units.

Performance characteristics

The P-40 had good agility, especially at high speed. It was one of the tightest-turning monoplane fighters of the war, though at lower speeds not even comparable to the highly maneuverable Japanese fighters such as the A6M Zero and Ki-43.

Allison V-1710 engines were not powerful by the standards of the time, and the P-40's speed was average. Its climb performance was fair to poor, depending on the subtype. Dive acceleration was good and dive speed excellent. However the single-stage, single-speed supercharger meant that it could not compete with modern -- enemy or allied -- types as a high-altitude fighter.

It was a fairly simple aircraft, lacking such sophisticated innovations as boosted ailerons or automatic leading edge slats, but it had a very strong structure including a seven-longeron wing which enabled P-40s to survive several documented partial mid-air collisions with enemy aircraft (some of these were recorded as victories by the RAF and VVS).

Operational range was good by early war standards, almost double that of the Supermarine Spitfire, or Bf 109 for example, though inferior to the A6M Zero and the Ki-43, or the late-war P-38 Lightning and P-51 Mustang. Visibility was adequate, hampered by an overly complex frame and completely blocked to the rear. Poor ground visibility and the relatively narrow undercarriage and wheels led to many losses due to accidents on the ground.

It was also fairly heavily armed and armored. The P-40 could carry a moderately effective air-to-ground load (although it was never fitted with rockets), was semi-modular and thus easy to maintain in the field, and tolerated harsh conditions, fighting everywhere from the deserts of North Africa, to the jungles of New Guinea and the Dutch East Indies, to the Arctic climes of the Soviet Union and Alaska.

The P-40 -- just like the P-39 which was equipped with a similar Allison engine -- was considered inferior by many USAAF officials and was unpopular with some US pilots in the Pacific. Its gradual replacement by the turbo-supercharged P-38 was greeted with relief. However, the bulk of the fighting conducted by the USAAF during the the height of Axis power in 1942-1943 was borne by the P-40 (and the P-39,) and it was these two Army Airforce fighters, along with the Navy's F4F Wildcat, which contributed most among US types to breaking Axis air-power during this critical period, especially in the Pacific. In this stop-gap role fighting in nearly every theater and under every allied flag, the P-40 offered the additional advantage of a low price tag, which kept it in production as a tactical (ground-attack) fighter long after it was obsolete as an air-superiority type.

In theaters where the high-altitude characteristics were less important, the P-40 still proved considerably more effective as a fighter. Although it gained a post-war reputation as a mediocre type suitable only for close air support, more recent data from Allied squadrons in particular indicate that the P-40 performed surprisingly well as an air-superiority fighter, sometimes suffering severe losses but also taking a very heavy toll on enemy aircraft.
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