Warhawks in Italy were replaced in AAF groups by the P-47, and their last P-40 mission was flown July 18, 1944, by the 324th Group. In 67,054 sorties, the P-40s lost 553, downed 481 enemies, and destroyed 40 on the ground.** Their best day was the “Palm Sunday Massacre” (April 18, 1943) of 59 Axis transports and 16 fighters, and the top P-40 ace in that area was Major Levi Chase with ten victories. But the main Warhawk role was as a fighter-bomber.
In the South Pacific, the only P-40Fs were those used by the 44th Fighter Squadron at Guadalcanal in 1943.
Later P-40 Models
Development of the P-40 continued with efforts to catch up with the performance of more advanced types. The third P-40F was remodeled with a deep radiator back under the wing and called the YP-40F. A P-40H, apparently with a more advanced Merlin engine, and a P-40J with a turbo-supercharged Allison were projected, but when the company lacked interest, designer Don Berlin left Curtiss in December 1941, and both projects were dropped. The creative impulse at Curtiss seems to have left with him, for no more new fighter projects there met success.
Had the P-40 been replaced by the P-60A as planned, the last Warhawks would have been 600 P-40K-ls ordered October 28, 1941, for lend-lease to China. Fearing to interrupt production for an unproven type, authorities canceled the P-60A program in January 1942 in favor of the P-47G and more P-40s. A new contract approved June 15, 1942, added 1,400 more P-40K and M types to the schedule.
The first P-40K-l delivered May 5, 1942, was similar to the P-40E-l except for an improved V-1710-73 engine. A small dorsal fin was fitted to late P-40E-ls, the P-40K-l, and 200 P-40K-5s, to correct a swinging tendency during takeoff, but the lengthened fuselage of parallel late F models was introduced in October 1942 on 500 P-40K-10 and K-15 aircraft. Armament was six .50-caliber guns with 1,410 rounds in the wings, armor weighed 136 pounds, the armor glass windshield weighed 36 pounds, while some were delivered with only four guns and winterization. The Ks replaced the Es in AAF groups facing Japan, while some went to the 57th FG, and 765 were shipped as the lend-lease Kittyhawk III.
In November 1942, the P-40M replaced the K on the production lines. Ordered for lend-lease contracts, the 600 P-40Ms had six guns and a V-1710-81 with war-emergency power boost (WE) and a cooling grill behind the propeller spinner.
Four thousand P-40N fighters were ordered by a contract approved January 25, 1943, and this type began to replace the P-40M and L models at Curtiss in March 1943. By then, the much-superior P-38, P-47 and P-51 fighters were scheduled to equip all AAF groups in Europe and most of the Pacific, but increasing P-40 output provided a quick and less expensive way to meet commitments to lend-lease schedules and secondary Pacific sectors.
Four hundred P-40N-ls had a lighter structure with only four guns and the V-1710-81, and were the fastest production Warhawks, at 378 mph. Six guns, and wing racks for drop tanks or 500-pound bombs, greatly increased the ground attack or ferry capability of the P-40N-5, which also introduced an improved canopy. Allison V-1710-81 engines were also used on 1,100 P-40N-5s, 100 P-40N-10s winterized for Alaska’s 343rd Group, and 377 P-40N-15s with more internal fuel.
Warhawk production reached a height of 463 P-40Ns in August 1943, and the following month the 80th Group in India became the seventh P-40 group in continuous combat against Japan. The other groups (15, 18, 23, 49, 51, and 343rd) also used P-40Ns, along with the 8th Group’s 35th Squadron.
Allison V-1710-99s with an automatic engine control unit were used on 3,022 P-40N-20 to N-35 blocks, which differed in minor details. Twenty-five of these were completed as TP-40N two-place trainers. As late as June 30, 1944, another thousand were ordered, but that contract was cut back to 220 P-40N-40s with V-1710-115 engines and metal-covered ailerons. This last service model was delivered without camouflage paint and included five finished as two-seaters.
There was a development effort to advance P-40 performance with the P-40P and P-40Q programs, but the Packard-powered P-40P was canceled with none built. The P-40Q project included two reworked P-40K-l0s and another begun as a P-40N-25, and the first flown on June 15, 1943. The best example was the XP-40Q example shown on the next page; actually the first P-40K-1 rebuilt in 1944 with a bubble canopy, V-1710-121 with two-stage supercharger, four-bladed propeller, clipped wingtips, new radiators, and four wing guns.
When the last P-40N-40 was accepted November 30, 1944, the Curtiss Buffalo factory had delivered 13,738 P-40 fighters since 1940. Peak AAF inventory had been 2,499 in April 1944 and eight foreign Air Forces used them under lend-lease. Production had continued on long past the P-40’s prime and the end of the P-40 also meant the end of quantity fighter production by Curtiss.
The Kittyhawk I became the RAF’s most important fighter in North Africa after it entered combat January 1, 1942, but never operated from the United Kingdom itself. Precise enumeration of RAF Kittyhawks is complicated by accidents and local transfers, but lend-lease shipments included 200 Kittyhawk IA (P-40E-1) that arrived for the Mediterranean Allied Air Forces (MAAF), but 34 were sunk at sea, and two more were tested in the UK.
The RAF allotted 130 serial numbers to the P-40F and 100 to the P-40L-10 as the Kittyhawk II, but only 103 P-40Fs and 45 P-40L-10s reached the RAF in North Africa, while 21 were lost at sea. Some served with No. 260 Squadron, and others were retained by the AAF.
Beginning in September 1942, the area’s MAAF command received the Kittyhawk III, including 338 P-40K and 94 P-40Ms shipped from the U.S., plus a few P-40Ks transferred from local AAF units. The 456 Kittyhawk IVs shipped in 1943-44, less 15 sunk, were P-40Ns. While they won their last air battle in Italy on April 7, 1944, one squadron continued in the ground support role until the war’s end.
Australia formed eight Kittyhawk squadrons, receiving 811: 37 P-40E and 126 P-40E-l, 42 P-40K-10 and K-15, 90
P-40M-5 and M-10, and 516 P-40N-1 to N-40 models. New Zealand equipped its seven fighter squadrons with 62 P-40E-1, 23 P-40K, one P-40L, 35 P-40M and 172 P-40N Kittyhawks. Besides the 72 Kittyhawk Is obtained from the RAF, Canada got replenishments through lend-lease: 12 P-40E-1, 15 P-40M-5 to M-10, and 35 P-40N-1 to N-20 models, while nine P-40K-ls were borrowed, but returned in 1943.
The Soviet Union was lend-leased 2,430 P-40s from the U.S., (in addition to the 171 Tomahawks shipped from Britain) of which 304 were lost in transit. Models sent included 75 more Tomahawks, about 840 P-40E-1s, 313 P-40Ks, 220 P-40Ms, and 980 P-40Ns.
At first they were sent on the Northern route, but in 1942. that route was the most dangerous, with 248 Kittyhawks sunk and 959 reaching Archangel or Murmansk. Forty-eight P-40Ks came via Alaska, starting in October 1942, but 1,091 Warhawks arrived on ships reaching the Persian Gulf, beginning on November 15, 1942, with 54 lost at sea.
A total of 320 of these Warhawks (or Kittyhawks in RAF/VVS usage) went to the Soviet North and Black Sea Fleets. The first to get the P-40E in May 1942 was the 72nd Fighter Air Regiment near Murmansk, joined in 1943 by the 27th and 78th IAPs, who promoted the fighter-bomber role, while a 118th MRAP squadron did naval reconnaissance. Black Sea Fleet regiments like the 7th and 62nd IAP and the 30th RAP, received 109 of the Navy’s P-40s.
Red Army regiments with Kittyhawks included the 126th, 147th, 154th, 159th, 191st, 196th and 436th IAPs. To avoid a problem with the Allison engine’s bearings, Soviet M-105 power plants were used by some P-40Es of the 196th IAP.
Apart from AVG aircraft, 14 P-40K, 15 P-40M and 299 P-40N fighters were shipped to China, but diversions to the 10th and 14th Air Forces reduced actual deliveries to 65 for the operational training unit in India and 139 for the Chinese air force itself. Two Chinese squadrons training in India received their first P-40N-5s on October 15, 1943. Eight fighter squadrons in the Chinese-American Composite Wing used P-40Ns by 1945.
Brazil acquired six P-40E-1, 29 P-40K, 9 P-40M-5 and 41 P-40N Warhawks to train a fighter group. Apparently, the last P-40 in combat was among the 59 P-40N-20s received by the Dutch No. 120 Squadron in Australia from December 1943 to July 1945 and used after the war against Indonesian nationalists.
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