Curtiss P-40E Warhawk

The P-40 carried a wide range of colorful unit markings, and the gaping radiator intake under the nose translated into many of them being mouth or head themed designs.


After the jump, a look at the lesser known Flying Tigers.

The P-40 was the best American fighter at the start of World War II.  It is often considered a mediocre fighter, but that doesn’t mean the type was without any virtue.  It was fast, maneuverable, sturdy, mechanically reliable and robust with heavy firepower.  Its biggest deficiency was the lack of adequate supercharging which meant its performance dropped off rapidly above 10000 feet.

The P-40D had 4 x .50 machine guns.  The British wanted more, so Curtiss switched to 3 x .50 in each wing.  The Army Air Force called this version the P-40E.

The P-40D had 4 x .50 machine guns. The British wanted more, so Curtiss switched to 3 x .50 in each wing. The Army Air Force called this version the P-40E.

It was also handicapped in the Pacific war because Japanese fighters, especially the famous Zero, had a particular set of strengths that were largely unknown to Allied fighter pilots.  Specifically low speed maneuverability.  This was for a very traditional sort of aerial combat known as dog fighting.  In the opening months of the war allied fighter pilots were often killed by playing directly to Japanese strengths.

IMG_9507 IMG_9508

The Flying Tigers were an American mercenary group led by Claire Chennault for the Chinese Nationalist government.  He had learned the Japanese strengths through many years observing in China.  When the war started, the Flying Tigers were the most successful allied fighter group because of tactics developed by Chennault.


Wartime color photo from Life Magazine of the Aleutian Tigers. Notice not all the planes have the full tiger face.


But this is not one of their airplanes!  The Flying Tigers were mostly flying Curtiss Hawk 81 fighters (P-40C in US service).  But the new and improved Hawk 87 (P-40D/E) was just entering service.  It featured heavier firepower, better pilot armor and improved (but still not great) altitude performance.


This P-40E was attached to the 343rd Fighter Group based in the Aleutians from late 1942 through the end of the war.  They initially operated a mix of P-39 and P-40, and were gradually re-equipping with P-38 as the war ended.  They were based at a variety of small bases, and fought the elements more than the Japanese.  But they did fight a defensive war until they supported the reconquest of Attu and Kiska Island, and finished out the war flying offensive operations against the Japanese in the Kurile Islands.

The 343rd Fighter Group often faced float Zeros.

The 343rd Fighter Group often faced float Zeros.  The Japanese had small units at scattered locations just like the US.

But perhaps most pertinent here is that the group commander in those early years was John Chennault, son of Claire Chennault who led the Flying Tigers.  Which is why the group chose this “Aleutian Tiger” motif for their Warhawks. This is the Hasegawa kit with Cutting Edge decals.

About atcDave

I'm 5o-something years old and live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I'm happily married to Jodie. I was an air traffic controller for 33 years and recently retired; grew up in the Chicago area, and am still a fanatic for pizza and the Chicago Bears. My main interest is military history, and my related hobbies include scale model building and strategy games.
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8 Responses to Curtiss P-40E Warhawk

  1. Superb build as always Dave, and a great article. The weathering and attention to detail is spot-on.

  2. Pierre Lagacé says:

    Another favourite airplane

  3. Pierre Lagacé says:

    Reblogged this on My Forgotten Hobby and commented:
    Another of my favourite airplanes

  4. Pingback: Curtiss P-40K Warhawk | Plane Dave

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