Published September 27, 2007
Curtiss P-40N-5-CU "Warhawk"
Engine: One Allison V-1710-81 inline reciprocating; 1,200 hp
Wingspan: 37 ft 4 in
Length: 33 ft 4 in
Height: 12 ft 4 in
Weight: 6,300 lbs empty; 8,850 lbs loaded
Speed: 350 mph at 16,400 feet; 290 mph cruise
Range: 750 miles
Ceiling: 31,000 ft
Armament: Six .50 cal. machine guns; Up to 500 lbs of bombs
Cost: $44,359 (actual)
After evaluation trials in May 1939 in competition with other pursuit prototypes, the XP-40 was declared the most acceptable, and an order for 524 P-40s was placed. Production continued with the P-40B, similar to the British Tomahawk II. The P-40B introduced armor protection for the pilot and doubled the wing firepower from two to four .30 caliber machine guns, in addition to two .50 caliber guns mounted on the engine cowling. Curtiss built 131 P-40Bs in 1941 before going over to P-40C production, which had improved self-sealing fuel tanks.
On December 7, 1941, a few P-40s managed to get into the air at Pearl Harbor and joined in scoring the first American fighter kills on Japanese aircraft. Although short on performance compared with other American fighters in service at the outbreak of war, the P-40 was available in large numbers with highly trained pilots to fly them.
It earned its fame through the activities of less than 100 aircraft flying in China with the American Volunteer Group, the "Flying Tigers," commanded by General Claire Chennault. Operating in a hostile environment using equipment inferior to that of the enemy, the P-40s with their red and white sharkmouth emblems on the nose, went into combat two weeks after Pearl Harbor and, before being disbanded in 1942, shot down 286 Japanese aircraft with the loss of only eight.
Curtiss produced 13,783 P-40s in various configurations, known as the Warhawk, Kittyhawk, and the Tomahawk. These fighters served throughout the war on every front with no less than 28 Allied nations. No other fighter during the war saw wider service. 5,219 N models were built.
In the winter of 1941-1942 Hill AFB had the responsibility for the overhaul of the P-40. On August 26, 1944 a production line was set up for the storage of various aircraft. Hill stored 250 operational-ready P-40s during World War II.
The P-40N-5-CU on exhibit, S/N 42-105270, is actually a composite of two aircraft: a fiberglass P-40E replica acquired by the museum years ago and major parts from a P-40N that crashed in Alaska in World War II. The data plates on the crashed aircraft were unreadable, so the serial number of another 11th Air Force P-40N from the same base was chosen by the USAF Museum for this airframe. The original aircraft with S/N 42-105270 was delivered to the 11th Air Force at Elmendorf AAF on July 1, 1943. It was flown by the 11th Fighter Squadron until October 21, 1944 when it was scrapped.