A Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawk Mk III of No. 112 Squadron, Royal Air Force, taxiing through the scrub at Medenine, Tunisia. The ground crewman on the wing is directing the pilot, whose view ahead is hindered by the aircraft’s nose. Imperial War Museum photo
Photo courtesy of Defense Media Network
Made famous by the AVG under General Claire Chennault in china, the Curtis P-40 was inferior in performance to the enemy aircraft it opposed. Whatever its shortcomings against aircraft that had passed it by technologically, the P-40 held the line when nothing else was available. After the war, Gen. Henry “Hap” Arnold said, “But for the P-40, the Japanese would have come all the way to Australia.”
Time in Service
RAF Army Cooperation Command 1941–43, with 10+ squadrons equipped by early spring 1942. All based in UK.
Desert Air Force (DAF) 1941–43: North Africa and Syria
Chinese Air Force (American Volunteer Group; AVG; “Flying Tigers”) 1941–42: China/Burma/India (CBI)
United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) 1941–42: Pearl Harbor, Philippines and Java
Военно-воздушные силы (Soviet Air Forces; VVS) 1942–43: Eastern Front (World War II) and Continuation War
This was the first version armed with six .50 caliber machine guns. More powerful than the P-40B/C in terms of armor, armament and performance, this was the type which fought as a fighter during the most crucial period in both the Pacific and North African campaigns. The P-40E played a major role in the defense of Australia and New Guinea in 1942, and with the Desert Air Force (DAF) in intense fighting against the Luftwaffe and Regia Aeronautica also in 1942. The P-40E was also an important type for the Soviets.
In the Desert War the arrival of the Kittyhawk led to the early retirement of the Bf 109E and its replacement by the faster and more maneuverable Bf 109F. The top scoring DAF squadrons, including No. 3 Squadron RAAF and No. 112 Squadron RAF, transferred from the Tomahawk to the Kittyhawk, scoring many kills against Luftwaffe and Regia Aeronautica types, helping the DAF hold on through this tough period.
The Kittyhawk also played an important role in the Soviet Air Force in 1942, notably during the Battle of Leningrad.
6x .50 cal (12.7 mm) Browning M2 machine guns, 281 rounds/gun
Up to 1,500 lb (680 kg) of bombs on three hardpoints.
Maximum speed 360 mph
Cruising speed 270 mph
Range 650 miles
Service ceiling – Wiki blew it big time on this statistic; The P-40 could reach 15,000 feet, but was only good at Medium and lower altitudes, the engine’s performance being very poor at high altitude. Interestingly, it could outrun the Bf 109-E, but it’s poor climb rate made it better suited for “hit and run” tactics.
Climb rate 2,100 ft/min