Along with the P-40 Warhawk and Kittyhawk, the Tomahawk series of aircraft was the further development of the P-36 Hawk platform. The Warhawk would become synonymous with the American Volunteer Group fighting in China against the Japanese under the identifiable nickname of the “Flying Tigers”. Generally forgotten amongst the cast of American ace-makers in the war, the P-40 series was a capable and proven fighter aircraft in its own right and produced a bevy of famous pilots attached to her name – most notably were American airmen George Welch and Ken Taylor who were able to get their mounts airborne during the Japanese attack on Peral Harbor. Soviet pilots Nikolai Fyodorovich Kuznetsov, Petr Pokryshev and Stephan Novichkov all became aces flying thier Lend-Lease P-40s. The P-40 was a good fighter for its time, however production numbers never seemed to keep pace with the war, allowing technological developments and airborne tactics to evolve past the aircraft’s usefulness and strengths.
Not an overly exceptional aircraft in any one category, the P-40 Warhawk was a deadly fighting machine in trained hands. The formidable armament of 6 x 12.7mm (.50 caliber) machine guns (up to 200 rounds per gun) was complimented by the ability of the aircraft to carry a bombload for an increasingly expanding workload. Warhawks were fitted with a liquid-cooled in-line piston engine as opposed to the air-cooled variety commonly found in the P-36 Hawk.
Though the French placed orders for the P-40 at the outset of the war, the eventual Fall of France forced the order to be diverted to Britain where it was promptly renamed the “Tomahawk”. Some Tomahawk models would eventually end up in the hands of the American Volunteer Group in China which, in turn, offered up an increasing amount of aerial victories against intruding Japanese fighters and bombers.
Further improvements to the P-40 line produced the “D” model which raised performance specifications of the Allison piston engine. By this time, the dual nose-mounted 12.7mm machine guns were dropped from the design, leaving only the four wing-mounted machine guns. The deletion of the machine guns was offset to an extent by the addition of an optional undercarriage bomb rack that allowed for the provision of a single 500lb bomb adding to the versatility of the aircraft. On top of the diverted French Warhawks or Tomahawks, the British also ordered their own P-40D models and assigned the name of “Kittyhawk” to these.
By this time, the entire Warhawk series was becoming out-classed by the up-and-coming next generation piston flyers. Despite this fact, the Warhawk – in every form – continued to find success where ever it was fielded. So much was the impression of the Warhawk that the final “E” model was introduced and used to good effect throughout the North African campaign (as the Kittyhawk under British use) and again in China with the American Volunteer Group. Total production at war’s end would amount to an astounding 16,800 P-40s.
Also, here’s a video of an actual P-40 in flight courtesy of youtube.