The Warhawk was the best American fighter at the start of World War II. It was generally inferior to the best fighters of other nations, yet it served its users well and maintained a positive kill ratio until it was replaced by better types in later years.
Let’s look at this allied work horse.
My opening statement included a commonly used adage for many average fighters. The “positive kill ratio” of course means the type shot down more enemies than were lost in air-to-air combat. But the thing is, almost every fighter can make that claim, because so much air-to-air work is done against bombers, transports and support types.
The P-40’s record varied greatly based on the user and circumstance. Its probably safest to say it had some solid strengths, and serious weaknesses. Experienced pilots who were able to position themselves to take advantage of their strengths often did very well with the Warhawk. The type’s main strengths being high diving speed, good firepower and rugged construction. It also had good flying characteristics, good quality components (meaning the instruments, radios and weapons generally worked as advertised!) and was highly maneuverable at low altitudes.
Its biggest weakness, by far, was that performance dropped off rapidly above 10000 feet. This was particularly troublesome against the Germans, whose Bf 109 performed much better at altitude. It was also considered underpowered which led to continuous weight reduction redesign. And as most of us can relate to, the weight continued to creep up anyway. So after severe weight reduction in the P-40M, production turned to the P-40N shown here which restored much of what was cut in the previous model.
This particular aircraft was photographed in 1943 at a training field in Alabama. By this date more advanced types, the Lightning, Thunderbolt and Mustang, were becoming more common in combat units. While more P-40s were being sent straight to fighter transition schools. The last actual Trainer type most would be fighter pilots flew was the 600 hp Texan, the transition schools let the pilot fly actual combat types (often slightly obsolete combat types as seen here) and get used to controlling twice the horsepower they had trained in.
This example was built from the Mauve kit, and I used Cutting Edge decals. Both were excellent products. Sadly, the Japanese company Mauve only produced a couple of kits before the company and its molds were lost in an earthquake. That was a real loss to this hobby.