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Curtiss P-40 Tomahawk

United States (1941)
Picture of Curtiss P-40 Tomahawk Single-Seat. Single-Engine Monoplane Fighter Aircraft
Picture of Curtiss P-40 Tomahawk Single-Seat. Single-Engine Monoplane Fighter Aircraft Picture of Curtiss P-40 Tomahawk Single-Seat. Single-Engine Monoplane Fighter Aircraft
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The Curtiss P-40 Tomahawk designation covered P-40B and P-40C Warhawk models destined for Europe and elsewhere.


Detailing the development and operational history of the Curtiss P-40 Tomahawk Single-Seat. Single-Engine Monoplane Fighter Aircraft.  Entry last updated on 6/26/2017. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com

The Curtiss P-40 "Tomahawk" became an offshoot of the classic American P-40 "Warhawk" monoplane fighter and were made up of early-form production Warhawks - namely the P-40, P-40B and P-40C models becoming the "Tomahawk I", "Tomahawk IIA" and "Tomahawk IIB" respectively. The B- and C-models were slightly improved forms of the base P-40 with more machine gun firepower and increased survivability and these marks gained considerable fighting experience in the skies over Europe, the Mediterranean, North Africa, Southeast Asia and along the East Front. Lend-Lease ensured availability to many of the primary Allied players including Britain, Australia, Canada and the Soviet Union.

The initial U.S. Army order for Warhawks constituted 524 aircraft of which 199 of these were of the P-40 mark with the export designation of Hawk 81A being assigned. Deliveries began in June of 1940. These aircraft were very lightly armed by comparison to frontline fighters of the day - 2 x 0.50 caliber heavy machine guns fitted to the engine cowling were all that the pilot could muster against a target. Additionally these aircraft were delivered without cockpit armoring of any kind and - perhaps most importantly - lacked self-sealing fuel tanks despite Curtiss designers having the experience of observing the expanding air war over Europe.


Picture of the Curtiss P-40 Tomahawk Single-Seat. Single-Engine Monoplane Fighter Aircraft
Picture of the Curtiss P-40 Tomahawk Single-Seat. Single-Engine Monoplane Fighter Aircraft


Because of the need for modern fighting aircraft in Europe, powers like Britain and France came to the United States for help and this led to easing of foreign sales for American aero companies. Both countries then ordered the new American fighter in number and Curtiss obliged. Despite the numbers eating into a standing U.S. Army order, the branch adopted a wait-and-see policy against the aircraft for it knew the design could be made better at the expense of combat exposure brought on through foreign service.

The French order came to naught for the country fell to the Germans before any P-40s could be delivered. These, instead, went to the British but they lacked armoring and self-sealing fuel tanks. These were designated as "Tomahawk Mk I". The aircraft proved to be poor performers as fighters against modern German foes and were ultimately relegated to the low-level tactical reconnaissance role (P-40s generally suffered in high-altitude fighting, making them inferior to enemy aircraft like the Messerschmitt Bf 109 and Focke-Wulf Fw 190 series fighters).

For the British order it was requested that wing armament be added - four 0.30 caliber machine guns in all, two per wing. This was to be coupled with the existing 0.50 caliber set already in the engine cowling to promote far better firepower than originally anticipated by Curtiss. This promptly led to a quick wing redesign to make the room necessary for the new gun installations. The new four-gunned wings proved tempting enough that the U.S. Army pulled forty-four of them from Curtiss lines, added them to P-40 fuselages and created the P-40G designation. Some of this stock was sent to the Soviets via Lend-Lease while the rest stayed in the American inventory.

The original French order for Warhawks, now becoming British Tomahawk Is, were further addressed to acquiesce to new British requirements for the P-40. Ninety aircraft were modified to have armoring and self-sealing fuel tanks, reversed throttle controls and British instrumentation - producing the "Tomahawk IIA" designation. Twenty-more were added as new-builds from Curtiss lines.

Then came an order for 930 "Tomahawk IIB" models which replaced the original American 0.30 caliber wing guns with British 0.303-inch guns. This variant was also given provision for a jettisonable ventral fuel tank, featured British instrumentation and installed with an updated fuel delivery system.

Tomahawks were fielded by British and Commonwealth forces over Europe, during the North African Campaign, across Southeast Asia and around the Mediterranean. It was in the desert campaign that the Warhawk received its iconic "shark's mouth" nose decal - a detail later featured on American-piloted P-40s in China against the Japanese.

About 100 aircraft of the British order were sectioned off for delivery to China following a Chinese government purchase of the modern fighter. These were assembled locally and eventually fielded with volunteer American pilots at the controls through the "American Volunteer Group" - or AVG. The AVG served as indirect American involvement against Japan with the force made up of Army, Navy and Marine airmen.

For the various services of the world employing the Tomahawk, the type served well for its time though it was outclassed as a frontline fighting machine in short order. Those that managed to fight on for a period longer were done in by lack of spares. Others were simply surpassed technologically by the arrival of superior Supermarine Spitfires and North American P-51 Mustangs.






Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

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Relative Maximum Speed Rating
Hi: 400mph
Lo: 200mph
    This entry's maximum listed speed (351mph).

    Graph average of 300 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
NYC
 
  LON
LON
 
  PAR
PAR
 
  BER
BER
 
  MOS
MOS
 
  TOK
TOK
 
  SYD
SYD
 
  LAX
LAX
 
  NYC
Graph showcases the Curtiss P-40B Tomahawk IIA's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
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Pie graph section
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Pie graph section
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units
1180
1180


  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.


Altitude Visualization
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Origin: United States
Year: 1941
Type: Single-Seat. Single-Engine Monoplane Fighter Aircraft
Manufacturer(s): Curtiss-Wright Corporation - USA
Production: 1,180
Global Operators:
Australia; Canada; France; Soviet Union; United Kingdom; United States
Historical Commitments / Honors:

Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.
Measurements and Weights icon
Structural - Crew, Dimensions, and Weights:
Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Curtiss P-40B Tomahawk IIA model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.

Operational
CREW


Personnel
1


Dimension
LENGTH


Feet
31.69 ft


Meters
9.66 m


Dimension
WIDTH


Feet
37.27 ft


Meters
11.36 m


Dimension
HEIGHT


Feet
12.30 ft


Meters
3.75 m


Weight
EMPTY


Pounds
5,600 lb


Kilograms
2,540 kg


Weight
LOADED


Pounds
7,606 lb


Kilograms
3,450 kg

Engine icon
Installed Power - Standard Day Performance:
1 x Allison V-1710-33 liquid-cooled inline piston engine developing 1,040 horsepower.

Performance
SPEED


Miles-per-Hour
351 mph


Kilometers-per-Hour
565 kph


Knots
305 kts


Performance
RANGE


Miles
730 mi


Kilometers
1,175 km


Nautical Miles
634 nm


Performance
CEILING


Feet
32,398 ft


Meters
9,875 m


Miles
6.14 mi


Performance
CLIMB RATE


Feet-per-Minute
2,860 ft/min


Meters-per-Minute
872 m/min

Supported Weapon Systems:

Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun
Graphical image of an aircraft heavy machine gun
Graphical image of an aircraft conventional drop bomb munition
Armament - Hardpoints (2):

STANDARD:
2 x 0.50 caliber heavy machine guns in engine cowling
4 x 0.30 caliber OR 0.303 inch medium machine guns in wings (two guns to a wing).

OPTIONAL:
Conventional drop bombs carried under the wings.
Variants: Series Model Variants
• P-40 Tomahawk - Base Series Designation
• P-40 "Tomahawk Mk I" (P-40 / Hawk 81A) - Original fighter form.
• P-40B "Tomahawk Mk IIA" (P-40B) - 4 x wing machine guns; cockpit armoring; self-sealing fuel tanks.
• P-40C "Tomahawk Mk IIB" (P-40C) - Self-sealing fuel tanks, ventral jettisonable fuel tank; bomb provisions.