Curtiss P-40 Warhawk Fighter-Bomber / Fighter Aircraft
The Curtiss P-40 Warhawk fighter was used to good effect by Allied pilots during the early stages of World War 2.
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The Curtiss P-40 "Warhawk" series of fighter aircraft was a further development of the Curtiss P-36 "Hawk" line (detailed elsewhere on this site). The Warhawk became a legendary aircraft of the famous American Volunteer Group (AVG) fighting in China against the Japanese, earning themselves the nickname of "The Flying Tigers". Over the course of the war, the P-40 would be generally replaced by incoming improved types but she nonetheless remained one of the more important Allied fighters early in the World War 2 - used by the desperate Americans, British and Soviets alike. It was a pair of P-40s, piloted by American airmen George Welch and Ken Taylor, who were able to get airborne during the December 7th, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor while Soviet pilots Nikolai Fyodorovich Kuznetsov, Petr Pokryshev and Stephan Novichkov all became aces flying their Lend-Lease P-40s. The P-40 was a good. solid gunnery platform for its time, limited to an extent by production numbers and demand of the wartime economy. Eventually technological developments found in incoming fighter lines like the Grumman F6F Hellcat and Vought F4U Corsair pushed the P-40 past its usefulness and strengths.
Some 13,738 P-40s were produced from 1939 into 1944. Operators included Australia, Brazil, Canada, China (Taiwan), Egypt, Finland, France, Indonesia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, South Africa, the Soviet Union, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States. Some fell to Imperial Japanese forces and were reconstituted to fight for their new owners.
Not an overly exceptional aircraft in any one category, the P-40 Warhawk could be a deadly fighting machine in trained hands. She fielded a formidable armament of 4 x 0.50 caliber Browning M2 heavy machine guns (with up to 200 to 235 rounds per gun) in her nose and wings. This would later be complemented by the airframe's ability to carry a modest bombload in an attempt to increase the workhorse's workload in war. Warhawks were fitted with a liquid-cooled in-line piston engine at the head of their design, a departure from the more popular air-cooled radials seen in many fighter types of the period (including the P-36 Hawk). The engine consisted of an Allison V12 providing over 1,000 horsepower.
Though the French Air Force had placed orders for the P-40 at the outset of the war, the eventual Fall of France forced the order to be diverted to Britain where it was promptly redesignated as the "Tomahawk". British versions installed the readily-available .303 machine gun in place of the 0.50 caliber types. Some Tomahawk models would eventually end up in the hands of the American Volunteer Group in China which, in turn, offered up an increasing amount of aerial victories against marauding Japanese fighters and bombers. Initial P-40 models included te P-40B and P-40C as well as the Tomahawk I, Tomahawk IIA and Tomahawk IIB. These served from 1941 into 1943 and primarily over North Africa, China/Burma/India, the Philippines and Pearl Harbor. Soviet units operated over the East Front as well as over Finland during the "Continuation War". P-40B models introduced some cockpit and fuel tank armoring while the C-model had an all-armored fuel system which reduced its speed.