The P-40 Warhawk is one of the most famous planes of World War II. Curtis based its design on the P-36, and made its inaugural flight on October 14, 1938. In May of 1939, the P-40 earned the largest order ever made for a U.S. fighter aircraft of that time.
The P-40, as a single-engine pursuit aircraft, entered World War II with the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japanese forces. Maj. Pappy Boyington, and other American pilots who were collectively known as the Flying Tigers, flew the P-40 in China in early 1942 with great success and earned a proud war record.
In addition, the P-40 served in the 99th Fighter Squadron, an African-American unit that flew for the United States military in North Africa during WW II. The P-40 Warhawk also fought in Italy, the Far East, the Southwest Pacific, the Aleutians, and Russia.
The P-40 was not the fastest airplane, nor could it always match enemy planes in rate of climb or maneuverability. For instance, though the aircraft could out-turn the Messerschmitt 109, the P-40 couldn’t keep up with one if it climbed away.
In an effort to improve the Warhawk’s speed, many American and Russian pilots removed as much weight from the plane as possible. This often included taking out at least one of the wing guns. For what the plane lacked in speed and power, the P-40 made up for in toughness. The P-40 could take a beating and still bring her pilot home. During the early days of World War II, a large number of P-40 pilots became aces.
Before the P-40 was retired in June of 1948, more than 14,000 of the aircraft had been manufactured for 28 different countries. The P-40 was eventually retired from all military forces when, in 1958, the Brazilian Air Force took the last of this great warbird permanently out of service.
Maximum speed: 362 mph
Cruise speed: 235 mph
Range: 850 miles
Ceiling: 30,000 feet
Length: 31 feet, 9 inches
Wingspan: 37 feet, 4 inches
Height: 12 feet, 4 inches
Maximum weight: 9,100 pounds
Empty weight: 6,350 lbs
Engine(s): 1,150 hp Allison V-1710
Armament: 700 pounds of bombs and six .50-cal. machine guns