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Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center: P-40 Warhawk with “sharktooth” nose

Image by Chris Devers
See a lot more photos of this, and the Wikipedia write-up.

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

Whether known as the Warhawk, Tomahawk, or Kittyhawk, the Curtiss P-40 proved to be a productive, versatile fighter in the course of 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 common airplanes of the war. P-40E pilot Lt. Boyd D. Wagner became the very first American ace of Globe War II when he shot down six Japanese aircraft in the Philippines in mid-December 1941.

Curtiss-Wright built this airplane as Model 87-A3 and delivered it to Canada as a Kittyhawk I in 1941. It served until 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 Organization


Nation of Origin:
United States of America

Overall: 330 x 970cm, 2686kg, 1140cm (10ft 9 15/16in. x 31ft 9 7/8in., 5921.6lb., 37ft 4 13/16in.)

All-metal, semi-monocoque

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

Lengthy Description:
Whether or not it was the Tomahawk, Warhawk, or Kittyhawk, the Curtiss P-40 was a profitable and versatile fighter aircraft throughout the first half of World War II. The shark-mouthed Tomahawks that General Claire Chennault led against the Japanese stay amongst the most well-liked airplanes of the war. In the Phillipines, Lt. Boyd D. Wagner became the 1st American ace of Globe War II although flying a P-40E when he shot down six Japanese aircraft for the duration of mid-December 1941. P-40s had been 1st-line Army Air Corps fighters at the start of the war but they quickly gave way to more sophisticated styles such as the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt and the Lockheed P-38 Lightning (see NASM collection for each aircraft). The P-40 is not ranked amongst the best all round fighters of the war but it was a rugged, successful design and style obtainable in massive numbers early in the war when America and her allies urgently required them. The P-40 remained in production from 1939 to the finish of 1944 and a total of 13, 737 were built.

Design and style engineer Dr. Donovan R. Berlin layed the foundation for the P-40 in 1935 when he developed 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 Planet War I. Worldwide, fighter aircraft designs matured swiftly during the late 1930s and it was quickly obvious that the P-36 was no match for newer European styles. High altitude efficiency in distinct became a priceless commodity. Berlin attempted to enhance 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 trustworthy 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 much more-streamlined XP-37 was much more quickly than the P-36.

Curtiss attempted once more in 1938. Berlin had modified one more P-36 with a new Allison V-1710-19 engine. It was designated the XP-40 and very first flew on October 14, 1938. The XP-40 looked promising and Curtiss presented it to Army Air Corps leaders who evaluated the airplane at Wright Field, Ohio, in 1939, along with several other fighter proposals. The P-40 won the competition, following 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.

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 found they performed poorly in high-altitude combat more than northern Europe and relegated them to low-altitude operations in North Africa. The Russians purchased much more than two,000 P-40s but details of their operational history stay obscure.

When the United States declared war, P-40s equipped several of the Army Air Corps’s front line fighter units. The plucky fighter at some point saw combat in nearly every theater of operations being the most successful in the China-Burma-India (CBI) Theater. Of all the CBI groups that gained the most notoriety of the complete 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 virtually 9 million dollars in 1940 to acquire aircraft and recruit pilots to fly against the Japanese. Chennault’s most critical assistance inside the Chinese government came from Madam Chiang Kai-shek, a Lt. Colonel in the Chinese Air Force and for a time, the service’s general commander.

The cash from China diverted an order placed by the British Royal Air Force for 100 Curtiss-Wright P-40B Tomahawks but buying airplanes was only a single essential step in producing a fighting air unit. Trained pilots were necessary, and rapidly, 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 although the Army Air Corps supplied 1-third. Factory test pilots at Bell, Consolidated, and other firms, and commercial airline pilots, filled the remaining slots.

The Flying Tigers flew their first 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, huge radiator air intake. The thought is stated to originate from photos 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 around their air intakes. The Flying Tigers have been the initial genuine opposition the Japanese military encountered. In significantly 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 4, 1942, and its assets, like a few pilots, became a element 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 produced numerous modifications. Engineers added armor plate, greater self-sealing fuel tanks, and more potent engines. They modified the cockpit to enhance visibility and changed the armament package to six, wing-mounted, .50 caliber machine guns. The P-40E Kittyhawk was the very first model with this gun package and it entered service in time to serve in the AVG. The final model created in quantity was the P-40N, the lightest P-40 constructed in quantity, and considerably faster than prior models. Curtiss built a single P-40Q. It was the quickest P-40 to fly (679 kph/422 mph) but it could not match the 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 bought and flew P-40s which includes 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 assist defend the region. Soon after the Japanese threat diminished, the unit returned to Canada and ultimately transferred to England without 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 a number of owners before ending up with the Explorer Scouts youth group in Meridian, Mississippi. For the duration of the early 1960s, the Smithsonian began browsing for a P-40 with a documented history of service in the AVG but discovered none. In 1964, the Exchange Club in Meridian donated the Kittyhawk IA to the National Aeronautical Collection, in memory of Mr. Kellis Forbes, a regional 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, including those of most Allied powers throughout Planet War II, and remained in front line service until the end of the war. It was the third most-developed American fighter, right after the P-51 and P-47 by November 1944, when production of the P-40 ceased, 13,738 had been built, all at Curtiss-Wright Corporation‘s major production facility at Buffalo, New York.

The P-40 design and style was a modification of the preceding Curtiss P-36 this reduced development time and enabled a speedy 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 created it inferior to Luftwaffe fighters such as the Messerschmitt Bf 109 or the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 in higher-altitude combat and it was hardly ever used in operations in Northwest Europe. Amongst 1941 and 1944, however, the P-40 played a essential role with Allied air forces in 3 main theaters: North Africa, the Southwest Pacific and China. It also had a important part in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, Alaska and Italy. The P-40’s efficiency at high altitudes was not as critical in these theaters, exactly where it served as an air superiority fighter, bomber escort and fighter bomber.

P-40s 1st 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 among the first to operate Tomahawks, in North Africa, and the unit was the 1st to feature the &quotshark mouth&quot logo, copying comparable markings on some Luftwaffe Messerschmitt Bf 110 twin-engine fighters. [N 1]

Even though it gained a post-war reputation as a mediocre design and style, appropriate only for close air help, more recent analysis such as scrutiny of the records of person Allied squadrons indicates that the P-40 performed surprisingly properly as an air superiority fighter, at times suffering serious losses, but also taking a really heavy toll on enemy aircraft. The P-40 presented the added advantage of low expense, which kept it in production as a ground-attack fighter extended after it was obsolete in the air superiority part.

As of 2008, 19 P-40s were airworthy.

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