This American fighter was the workhorse of the early war years. It served in every theater and generally acquitted itself well, if never quite being considered among the best.
Join me for a look at an ubiquitous aircraft.
I’ve posted various members of the P-40 family here before, and I’ll guess most readers can figure out the P-40K was somewhere between the P-40E and P-40N in terms of development. In RAF service it was a Kittyhawk Mk III.
In most cases, the defining trait of the various models was the engine. The P-40K used an Allison V-1710-73 rated at 1325 hp. That was a 175 hp increase over the version used in the P-40E. While every version of the Allison was deficient at higher altitudes, this was actually a pretty good boost for the P-40K. Maximum speed was 370 at 20000 ft. making it the fastest P-40 variant to date.
But this was also the heaviest P-40, which impacted maneuverability and rate of climb.
The increased power also exaggerated the type’s already notorious torque pull which led to a couple of different fixes. Seen here, is a fin extension to the front of the vertical stabilizer. This was used in the first two blocks of P-40K production, later blocks had a lengthened tail. Donovan Berlin, the lead designer on both the P-36 and P-40 projects felt strongly the company was addressing the wrong end of the airplane to fix the problem and advocated a new nose and radiator. That the company chose otherwise is among the reasons why he left Curtiss, and likely among the reasons why Curtiss never had another successful fighter design (failure to listen to their best designers).
This particular aircraft was a part of the 78th Fighter Squadron, 15th Fighter Group, 7th Air Force in late 1942.
The 78th FS and 15th FG first saw combat on December 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor. Its different squadrons were equipped with P-36, P-40B and even P-26. No surprise it suffered heavy casualties. Given the obsolescence of most aircraft types the group was re-equipped with later P-40s and P-39s as quickly as possible. Through 1942 they flew mostly defensive patrols and air intercept missions around Hawaii. Some detachments went to other island bases, and the group was more scattered through 1943 (although Hawaii was always main base). In early 1944 the 15th FG was equipped with Thunderbolts, but continued in mostly rear area operations. In early 1945 they were given Mustangs and moved to Saipan, before finally moving forward to Iwo Jima for Very Long Range missions over Japan.
This build is from the Hasegawa kit with Superscale decals. Both the kit and decals are excellent products and performed well. Only complaint being that itty bitty tail wheel that disappeared during construction and literally did not show up until the day a replacement I ordered arrived in the mail…
I think the RAF were always pretty happy with the Kitty / Tomahawk, particularly in North Africa.
I’m pretty sure that’s completely true. Fast, rugged and heavy firepower. And below 20000 ft it was a good match for a Messerscmitt.
The ‘Hawk’ series, Tomahawk, Kittyhawk and Warhawk have always baffled me. This at least gives me a better idea of them and the models are just great!
It might help to know Curtiss called all their fighters Hawks. This design basically starts with what Curtiss called a “Hawk 75”. USAAC called it a P-36, RAF called it Mohawk. Then Curtiss put an Allison engine on it and called it a “Hawk 81”. USAAC called it a
P-40 Warhawk, RAF called it a Tomahawk. Later, Curtiss put a better Allison engine on it and said it’s a “Hawk 87”. RAF said okay it’s a Kittyhawk. USAAF (USAAC had changed from “Air Corp” to “Air Force”) said still a P-40 Warhawk to us…
Funny thing is they then put a Merlin engine on it (for service North Africa where there was already an abundance of Merlin trained mechanics) and nobody gave it a new name (USAAF P-40F/L, RAF Kittyhawk Mk II/IIa).
You’d have thought they’d have kept them the same! That explains a lot, thanks so much for clarifying what has been a life long confusion!
Happy to solve one of life’s great mysteries!
At least I can be a guru on ONE thing!
Cool models! … so the message in 15mm/1:144 is that I will continue to use whichever kit I can get my hands on 🙂
Thanks for the clarification Dave
That sounds like the true modelers message!