The Curtis P-40 was the first fighter flown in
action against the Japanese forces in Burnna before the
official U.S. entry into WWII. Also Curtiss P40B's (78th P.S.
15th P.G.) were some of the aircraft which managed to take off
from Bellows Field during the attack on Pearl Harbor on
December 6th 1941.
The P-40 Warhawk/Tomahawk/Kittyhawk family of fighters
evolved from the Curtiss P-36 Hawk series with a better engine
and all round better performance. The first group of variants
that saw any combat service was the P-40B/C Tomahawk and these
versions were exported to China in the early days of the
Japanese invasion. The Curtiss P-40B was the best fighter the
US had at the beginning of WWII. Although it achieved a trial
speed of 366 mph, summarily whipping the existing competition
at the time, when war broke out it was quickly realized that
it was not an equal to Japan’s Zero or to Germany’s Bf-109.
Pilots soon developed tactics to take advantage of the
Tomahawk’s diving ability while avoiding twisting dogfights
with the lighter and more maneuverable Zeros and
The XP-40 prototype first flew on October 14th, 1938.
Powered by a 1,050 hp Allison V-1710-19 liquid-cooled engine
with integral supercharging, it could reach 342 mph at 12,200
feet. P-40 delivery to the USAAC (200 planes) began in June of
1940. Powered by the 1,040 hp V-1710-33, it could achieve a
speed of 357 mph, and was armed by two cowl-mounted .50 cal
and two wing-mounted .30 cal machine guns. The P-40B had an
extra 7.7mm machine gun in each wing and the first “B” flew on
March 13, 1941. These aircraft were delivered in full
camouflage and retained the same dimensions of the P-40, but
weight was increased to 5590 pounds empty, 7326 pounds gross,
and 7600 pounds maximum loaded. Because of the additional
weight, the P-40B had an inferior performance to the P-40,
maximum speed being 352 mph, service ceiling being 32,400
feet, and initial climb rate being 2860 feet per minute.
Normal range was 730 miles, but an extended range of 1230
miles could be attained at the minimum cruise settings.
The export equivalent of the P-40B was the Tomahawk IIA.
They differed from the American version by having the wing
guns replaced by four 0.303-inch Brownings. 110 were produced
for the RAF. 23 of these planes were transferred to the USSR,
and one (AH938) went to Canada as an instructional airframe.
The P-40 was used by Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil,
Canada, China, Colombia, Egypt, Finland, France,
Great-Britain, Iraq, Italy, New Zealand, Netherlands, Norway,
Peru, Portugal, South Africa, Turkey, USA and USSR! The only
American fighter aircraft built in larger numbers than the
P-40 were the P-47 Thunderbolt and P-51 Mustang. The P-40 saw
many variations in engine and armament outfits, each of which
received a different production letter. The “E” and “M” models
saw extensive production and the final variant was the “Q”.
P-40Q prototype was the result of a complete redesign of the
P-40; however it had no advantage over the P-47 Thunderbolt or
P-51 Mustang and the project was cancelled.