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Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center: P-40 Warhawk with “sharktooth” nose
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Image by Chris Devers
See much more pictures of this, and the Wikipedia report.

Information, quoting from Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum | Curtiss P-40E Warhawk (Kittyhawk IA):

Whether or not identified as the Warhawk, Tomahawk, or Kittyhawk, the Curtiss P-40 proved to be a successful, versatile fighter throughout the very first half of Globe War II. The shark-mouthed Tomahawks that Gen. Claire Chennault’s &quotFlying Tigers&quot flew in China against the Japanese stay among the most well-liked airplanes of the war. P-40E pilot Lt. Boyd D. Wagner became the very first American ace of World War II when he shot down six Japanese aircraft in the Philippines in mid-December 1941.

Curtiss-Wright constructed this airplane as Model 87-A3 and delivered it to Canada as a Kittyhawk I in 1941. It served till 1946 in No. 111 Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force. U.S. Air Force personnel at Andrews Air Force Base restored it in 1975 to represent an aircraft of the 75th Fighter Squadron, 23rd Fighter Group, 14th Air Force.

Donated by the Exchange Club in Memory of Kellis Forbes.

Curtiss Aircraft Company


Nation of Origin:
United States of America

General: 330 x 970cm, 2686kg, 1140cm (10ft 9 15/16in. x 31ft 9 7/8in., 5921.6lb., 37ft four 13/16in.)

All-metal, semi-monocoque

Physical Description:
Single engine, single seat, fighter aircraft.

Lengthy Description:
Regardless of whether it was the Tomahawk, Warhawk, or Kittyhawk, the Curtiss P-40 was a productive and versatile fighter aircraft during the first half of World War II. The shark-mouthed Tomahawks that General Claire Chennault led against the Japanese remain amongst the most well-known airplanes of the war. In the Phillipines, Lt. Boyd D. Wagner became the first American ace of Planet War II whilst flying a P-40E when he shot down six Japanese aircraft for the duration of mid-December 1941. P-40s have been 1st-line Army Air Corps fighters at the start of the war but they quickly gave way to far more sophisticated styles such as the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt and the Lockheed P-38 Lightning (see NASM collection for both aircraft). The P-40 is not ranked amongst the greatest all round fighters of the war but it was a rugged, successful design and style accessible in big numbers early in the war when America and her allies urgently necessary them. The P-40 remained in production from 1939 to the end of 1944 and a total of 13, 737 were constructed.

Design engineer Dr. Donovan R. Berlin layed the foundation for the P-40 in 1935 when he made the agile, but lightly-armed, P-36 fighter equipped with a radial, air-cooled engine. The Curtiss-Wright Corporation won a production contract for 210 P-36 airplanes in 1937-the largest Army airplane contract awarded given that World War I. Worldwide, fighter aircraft styles matured quickly throughout the late 1930s and it was quickly apparent that the P-36 was no match for newer European styles. High altitude overall performance in specific became a priceless commodity. Berlin attempted to improve the P-36 by redesigning it in to accommodate a turbo-supercharged Allison V-1710-11 inline, liquid-cooled engine. The new aircraft was designated the XP-37 but proved unpopular with pilots. The turbo-supercharger was not dependable and Berlin had placed the cockpit also far back on the fuselage, restricting the view to the front of the fighter. Nonetheless, when the engine was not providing trouble, the far more-streamlined XP-37 was a lot quicker than the P-36.

Curtiss tried once more in 1938. Berlin had modified yet another P-36 with a new Allison V-1710-19 engine. It was designated the XP-40 and initial flew on October 14, 1938. The XP-40 looked promising and Curtiss supplied it to Army Air Corps leaders who evaluated the airplane at Wright Field, Ohio, in 1939, along with a number of other fighter proposals. The P-40 won the competitors, right after some modifications, and Curtiss received an order for 540. At this time, the armament package consisted of two .50 caliber machine guns in the fuselage and four .30 caliber machine guns in the wings.

Soon after production began in March 1940, France ordered 140 P-40s but the British took delivery of these airplanes when Paris surrendered. The British named the aircraft Tomahawks but located they performed poorly in higher-altitude combat over northern Europe and relegated them to low-altitude operations in North Africa. The Russians purchased far more than 2,000 P-40s but information of their operational history remain obscure.

When the United States declared war, P-40s equipped numerous of the Army Air Corps’s front line fighter units. The plucky fighter ultimately saw combat in almost each theater of operations becoming the most successful in the China-Burma-India (CBI) Theater. Of all the CBI groups that gained the most notoriety of the whole war, and remains to this day synonymous with the P-40, is the American Volunteer Group (AVG) or the Flying Tigers. The unit was organized right after the Chinese gave former U. S. Army Air Corps Captain Claire Lee Chennault nearly 9 million dollars in 1940 to acquire aircraft and recruit pilots to fly against the Japanese. Chennault’s most critical assistance within the Chinese government came from Madam Chiang Kai-shek, a Lt. Colonel in the Chinese Air Force and for a time, the service’s all round commander.

The funds from China diverted an order placed by the British Royal Air Force for 100 Curtiss-Wright P-40B Tomahawks but getting airplanes was only one particular critical step in creating a fighting air unit. Trained pilots were necessary, and quickly, as tensions across the Pacific escalated. On April 15, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt quietly signed an Executive Order permitting Chennault to recruit straight from the ranks of American military reserve pilots. Within a couple of months, 350 flyers joined from pursuit (fighter), bomber, and patrol squadrons. In all, about half the pilots in the Flying Tigers came from the U. S. Navy and Marine Corps while the Army Air Corps supplied one-third. Factory test pilots at Bell, Consolidated, and other companies, and industrial airline pilots, filled the remaining slots.

The Flying Tigers flew their initial mission on December 20. The unit’s name was derived from the ferocious fangs and teeth painted on the nose of AVG P-40s at either side of the distinctive, massive radiator air intake. The concept is stated to originate from images in a magazine that showed Royal Air Force Tomahawks of No. 112 Squadron, operating in the western desert of North Africa, adorned with fangs and teeth painted about their air intakes. The Flying Tigers were the 1st genuine opposition the Japanese military encountered. In less than 7 months of action, AVG pilots destroyed about 115 Japanese aircraft and lost only 11 planes in air-to-air combat. The AVG disbanded on July four, 1942, and its assets, which includes a few pilots, became a part of the U. S. Army Air Forces (AAF) 23rd Fighter Group in the newly activated 14th Air Force. Chennault, now a Brigadier Common, assumed command of the 14th AF and by war’s finish, the 23rd was one particular of the highest-scoring Army fighter groups.

As wartime experience in the P-40 mounted, Curtiss made several modifications. Engineers added armor plate, much better self-sealing fuel tanks, and a lot more strong engines. They modified the cockpit to improve visibility and changed the armament package to six, wing-mounted, .50 caliber machine guns. The P-40E Kittyhawk was the first model with this gun package and it entered service in time to serve in the AVG. The last model made in quantity was the P-40N, the lightest P-40 built in quantity, and significantly quicker than earlier models. Curtiss constructed a single P-40Q. It was the fastest P-40 to fly (679 kph/422 mph) but it could not match the overall performance of the P-47 Thunderbolt and the P-51 Mustang so Curtiss ended development of the P-40 series with this model. In addition to the AAF, many Allied nations purchased and flew P-40s including England, France, China, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, and Turkey.

The Smithsonian P-40E did not serve in the U. S. military. Curtiss-Wright constructed it in Buffalo, New York, as Model 87-A3 and delivered it to Canada as a Kittyhawk IA on March 11, 1941. It served in No. 111 Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). When the Japanese navy moved to attack Midway, they sent a diversionary battle group to menace the Aleutian Islands. Canada moved No. 111 Squadron to Alaska to aid defend the area. Right after the Japanese threat diminished, the unit returned to Canada and eventually transferred to England with no its P-40s. The RCAF declared the NASM Kittyhawk IA surplus on July 27, 1946, and the aircraft ultimately returned to the United States. It had many owners ahead of ending up with the Explorer Scouts youth group in Meridian, Mississippi. For the duration of the early 1960s, the Smithsonian started looking for a P-40 with a documented history of service in the AVG but located none. In 1964, the Exchange Club in Meridian donated the Kittyhawk IA to the National Aeronautical Collection, in memory of Mr. Kellis Forbes, a local man devoted to Boys Club activities. A U. S. Air Force Reserve crew airlifted the fighter to Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, on March 13, 1964. Andrews personnel restored the airplane in 1975 and painted it to represent an aircraft of the 75th Fighter Squadron, 23rd Fighter Group, 14th Air Force.

• • •

Quoting from Wikipedia | Curtiss P-40 Warhawk:

The Curtiss P-40 Warhawk was an American single-engine, single-seat, all-metal fighter and ground attack aircraft that very first flew in 1938. It was utilized by the air forces of 28 nations, which includes those of most Allied powers throughout Globe War II, and remained in front line service until the finish of the war. It was the third most-made American fighter, soon after the P-51 and P-47 by November 1944, when production of the P-40 ceased, 13,738 had been constructed, all at Curtiss-Wright Corporation‘s major production facility at Buffalo, New York.

The P-40 design and style was a modification of the prior Curtiss P-36 this decreased development time and enabled a fast entry into production and operational service.

Warhawk was the name the United States Army Air Corps adopted for all models, making it the official name in the United States for all P-40s. The British Commonwealth and Soviet air forces utilized the name Tomahawk for models equivalent to the P-40B and P-40C, and the name Kittyhawk for models equivalent to the P-40D and all later variants.

The P-40’s lack of a two-stage supercharger made it inferior to Luftwaffe fighters such as the Messerschmitt Bf 109 or the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 in higher-altitude combat and it was rarely employed in operations in Northwest Europe. Among 1941 and 1944, even so, the P-40 played a essential part with Allied air forces in three significant theaters: North Africa, the Southwest Pacific and China. It also had a significant function in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, Alaska and Italy. The P-40’s performance at high altitudes was not as vital in these theaters, where it served as an air superiority fighter, bomber escort and fighter bomber.

P-40s initial saw combat with the British Commonwealth squadrons of the Desert Air Force (DAF) in the Middle East and North African campaigns, in the course of June 1941. The Royal Air Force‘s No. 112 Squadron was amongst the initial to operate Tomahawks, in North Africa, and the unit was the initial to feature the &quotshark mouth&quot logo, copying similar markings on some Luftwaffe Messerschmitt Bf 110 twin-engine fighters. [N 1]

Even though it gained a post-war reputation as a mediocre design, appropriate only for close air assistance, much more recent study which includes scrutiny of the records of individual Allied squadrons indicates that the P-40 performed surprisingly properly as an air superiority fighter, at instances suffering extreme losses, but also taking a quite heavy toll on enemy aircraft. The P-40 supplied the further advantage of low price, which kept it in production as a ground-attack fighter extended following it was obsolete in the air superiority part.

As of 2008, 19 P-40s had been airworthy.