|Curtiss P-40 Warhawk|
Sharks in the sky
|Upgrades to||P51 Mustang|
|“|| Target at my niner, bankin' by the left!|
- P-40 pilot engaging
The first all-metal US fighter, the P40 "Warhawk" with its famous "shark mouth" wasn't actually as a good plane as its reputation made one believe. Its armament was too light (four .30 cal. machine-guns) and its engine underpowered, and the fact that the P40 was usually engaged against more sophisticated fighters didn't help. However, as it is cheap to produce the P40 can be deployed in pairs in order to restore the balance. As for strafing, with only four light machine-guns that is certainly not its strong point.
In April 1939, the U.S. Army Air Corps, witnessing the new sleek, high speed, in-line-engined fighters of the European air forces, placed the largest single fighter order it had ever made for fighters: 524 P-40s.
"Warhawk" was the name the United States Army Air Corps adopted for all models, making it the official name in the United States for all P-40s. The British Commonwealth and Soviet air forces used the name Tomahawk for models equivalent to the P-40B and P-40C, and the name Kittyhawk for models equivalent to the P-40D and all later variants.
The P-40's lack of a two-stage supercharger made it inferior to Luftwaffe fighters such as the Messerschmitt Bf 109 or the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 in high altitude combat and it was rarely used in operations in Northwest Europe. Between 1941 and 1944, however, the P-40 played a critical role with Allied air forces in three major theaters: North Africa, the Southwest Pacific and China. It also had a significant role in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, Alaska and Italy. The P-40's high altitude performance was not as critical in those theaters, where it served as an air supremacy fighter, bomber escort and fighter bomber.
P-40s first saw combat with the British Commonwealth squadrons of the Desert Air Force (DAF) in the Middle East and North African campaigns, during June 1941. The Royal Air Force's No. 112 Squadron was among the first to operate Tomahawks, in North Africa, and the unit was the first to feature the "shark mouth" logo, copying similar markings on some Luftwaffe Messerschmitt Bf 110 twin-engine fighters.
Small Cal. Machine-Gun