>> Home >> Magazine >> This page

>> 500+ other articles are available in our archive

 

Modeller's Guide to Curtiss P-40 Variants

n by Martin Waligorski


How Good is Good Enough?

The P-40 was the last and best known of Curtiss Hawk series fighters initiated in the 1920s. It's qualities were, and are, controversial.Criticised by many for poor manoeuvrability, low speed and rate of climb, it was on a verge of being obsolescent already before series production started. The inadequacies of the P-40 were widely publicised in the initial war years and even became the subject of a Congressional investigation.

Still, the P-40 was used successfully by many Air Forces during the war. One of the first customers was RAF, where the fighter named Kittyhawk distinguished itself in the African and Italian campaigns. It also did pretty well in USAAF service during the first year of Japanese advance in the Pacific, when little else (namely the P-39 Airacobra) was available in quantity. Popularised as the aircraft used by the Flying Tigers (American Volunteer Group) in China, it also helped to produce one of the first morale-boosting 'success stories' of the American Air Force in the war against Japan. It is with this unit that the P-40 achieved immortal fame.

Another large user of the P-40 was the Soviet VVS. Interestingly, although favoured by USSR pilots, Josef Stalin himself opted for Bell P-39 over P-40 as "more suited for combat against German fighters." On what grounds his opinion was based remains a mystery.

The P-40 had no serious vices and was a pleasant aircraft to fly. When flown by an experienced pilot was able to give a good account of itself in aerial combat. It's indisputable advantage was also very tough construction, which made the aircraft capable of bringing it's pilot home despite sometimes heavy damage.

Contrary to it's opinion of a stop-gap measure, the production of P-40 continued long after more modern types were readily available. The total number of P-40 manufactured reached the third highest total for American World War II fighters, bettered only by the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt and the North American P-51 Mustang. These production numbers can be deemed the ultimate measure of the aircraft's usefulness.

And besides, do you know any other aircraft that looked better with the sharkmouth?

p40_07.jpg (12817 bytes)

Do you know any other aircraft that looked better with the sharkmouth? Often associated with American Volunteer Group (AVG) in China, this motive was actually "discovered" by No. 112 RAF Squadron in North Africa, then adopted by AVG and many other air force units flying P-40s all over the world, including countries like Brazil!

Illustration (c) 1999 Thomas A. Tullis. Used with permission.

A Quick Guide to P-40 Variants

Unsurprisingly for the massive production of almost 14,000 aircraft, the P-40 went through many changes during it's life. Little resemblance can be found between last production variants and the original concept. This guide is intended to help identifying the production versions and spot the major differences between them.

To make a very long story short, here's the list of major production variants:

p40_16.jpg (21535 bytes)

A first production version P-40 can be recognised by armament concentrated solely above the engine.
Wing-mounted guns would be introduced in all subsequent versions.

p40_17.jpg (12736 bytes)

This is Tomahawk Mk. I, modified to the RAF specification with four wing-mounted 0.303" Brownings. Installation of British radio equipment resulted in a radio mast halfway down the rear fuselage.

p40_09.jpg (24438 bytes)

P-40C displays it's four-gun installation in the wing,
which was a distinctive feature of this version.

p40_01.jpg (28389 bytes)

This excellent period photograph shows a flight of "Flying Tigers" Tomahawk Mk. IIBs in flight over China. Various sources refer to AVG machines as being P-40Bs or P-40Cs, but they were actually produced for British contract to Tomahawk Mk. IIB standard.
The first machine is flown by Charles Older, AVG. It appears to have only two wing machine guns mounted.

'p40_10.jpg (32084 bytes)

The completely redesigned nose accommodating the Allison V-1710-39 can be seen in detail on this photo, which the author believes to show one of the AVG P-40Es. "Flying Tigers" received their first Es in March 1942, after the lack of spare parts and combat attrition reduced the unit's strength to only 20 flyable P-40Cs.

p40_19.jpg (14362 bytes)

113601 was the second production P-40F. The most prominent feature of the Merlin-powered Warhawks
was lack of carburettor air scoop on top of the cowling.

p40_02.jpg (28701 bytes)

Seven of the RAF Kittyhawks Mk. II were handed over to the Free French Air Force in Africa. Almost all of these aircraft can be seen on the above photo. The aircraft are representative of the late P-40F production with lengthened fuselage.

p40_03.jpg (24948 bytes)

p40_06.jpg (22871 bytes)

Early production P-40Ks featured a short fuselage of the P-40E with enlarged  fin,
which can be seen on the second aircraft.

p40_05.jpg (26039 bytes)

Late series Ks looked much different. The P-40K-15 presented here
displays a long style fuselage. The K-15 series carried special equipment for winter conditions.

p40_12.jpg (21708 bytes)

A row of British Kittyhawks Mk. III. The nearest aircraft is a machine from P-40K-1 series,
which can be read from the partially obscured RAF serial FR3??.
An interesting detail is a non-standard camouflage pattern on the first aircraft's nose.

p40_14.jpg (21733 bytes)

The P-40M introduced the rectangular cooling gill just in front of the exhaust stacks. This is one of the machines serving with 14th Air Force in China.

Serial Numbers

The table below states production numbers for all (I hope) P-40s produced. This section is based on Joe Baugher's excellent research published at his home page.

Version US serial numbers RAF serial numbers RAAF serial numbers RNZAF serial numbers
P-40 39-156..280
40-292..357
     
Tomahawk Mk. I   AH741..880    
P-40B 41-5205..5304
41-13297..13327
     
Tomahawk Mk. IIA   AH881..990    
P-40C 41-13328..13520      
Tomahawk Mk. IIB   AH991..999
(all to VVS)
AK100..570
(36 to AVG)
AM370..519
(64 to AVG)
AN218..517
   
P-40D 40-359..381      
P-40E 40-358
40-382..681
41-5305..5744
41-13521..13599
     
Kittyhawk Mk. I & Mk. IA   AK571..999
AL100..230
   
P-40E-1 (Kittyhawk Mk. IA) 41-24776..25195
41-35874..36353
41-36354..36953
ET100..999

EV100..699
A29-1..163 NZ3001..3044
NZ3091..3098
NZ3100..3108
NZ3271
P-40F 41-13600..13695
41-13697..14299
     
P-40F-5 41-14300..14422      
P-40F-10 41-14423..14599      
P-40F-15 41-19733..19932      
P-40F-20 41-19733..19932      
Kittyhawk Mk. II (P-40Fs and Ls) delivered from series
41-13697..14599
FL219..448    
P-40G 42-14261..14274
42-14277..14278
42-14281
     
P-40K-1  and Kittyhawk Mk. III 42-45722..46321 FL875..905
FR111..115
FR210..361
FL710..713
  NZ3045..3065
NZ3090
NZ3099
P-40K-5 42-9730..9929      
P-40K-10 42-9930..10264   A-29-164..202  
P-40K-15 42-10265..10429   A-29-203..205  
P-40L-1 42-10430..10479      
P-40L-5 42-10480..10699      
P-40L-10 42-10700..10847      
P-40L-15 42-10848..10959      
P-40L-20 42-10960..11129      
Kittyhawk Mk. II (P-40L)   FS400..499    
Kittyhawk Mk. III (P-40L)   FL714..730
FR116..140
FR385..392
FR413..521
   
P-40M-1 43-5403..5462      
P-40M-5 43-5463..5722      
P-40M-10 43-5723..6002      
Kittyhawk Mk. III (P-40M) 43-5403..6002 FR779..872
FS100..269
A29-300..389
A29-400..414
A29-420..434
A29-442..460
A29-473..502
NZ3066..3073
NZ3075..3089
NZ3109..3119
NZ3180
P-40N-1 42-104429..104828   A29-415..419
A29-435..442
A29-461..472
A29-503..541
A29-559..563
A29-577..587
 
P-40N-5 42-104829..105928   A29-542..558
A29-564..576
 
P-40N-10 42-105929..106028      
P-40N-15 42-106029..106405      
P-40N-20 42-106406..106428
43-22752..24251
  A29-600..704  
P-40N-25 43-24252..24751   A29-800..811
A29-819..828
 
P-40N-30 44-7001..7500   A29-900..928  
P-40N-35 44-7501..8000   A29-1000..1079  
P-40N-40 44-47749..47968   A29-1100..1221  
Kittyhawk Mk. IV   FS270..399
(all to VVS)
FT849..954
FX498..847
  NZ3120..3179
NZ3182..3270
NZ3272..3293

n


This page: 
Has been last updated:
The URL of the page is:
Downloaded at:


©  Copyright 1997-2006 by IPMS Stockholm and the Community Members. All Rights Reserved.
The layout and graphics of this site, HTML and program code are © Copyright 1997-2006 Martin Waligorski. Used by permission.

Terms of use: This site is an interactive community of enthusiasts interested in the art of scale modelling of aircraft, armor, figures, spacecraft and similar subjetcs. All material within this site is protected under copyright, and may only be reproduced for personal use. You must  contact the Author(s) and/or Editor for permission to use any material on this site for any purpose other than private use.