Curtiss P-40 Warhawk

The Curtiss P-40 was an American single-engine, single-seat, all-metal fighter and ground attack aircraft that first flew in 1938. It was used by the air forces of 28 nations, including those of most Allied powers during World War II, and remained in frontline service until the end of the war. By November 1944, when production of the P-40 ceased, 13,738 had been built. 

The P-40 design was a modification of the previous Curtiss P-36; this reduced development time and enabled a rapid entry into production and operational service. 

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 lacked a two-stage supercharger which made it inferior to German fighters 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. 

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 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. The logo was most famously used on P-40s by the Flying Tigers in China. 

In theaters where high-altitude performance was less important, the P-40 proved an effective fighter. The P-40 offered the additional advantage of low cost, which kept it in production as a ground attack fighter long after it was obsolete in air superiority.

Curtiss P-40 Warhawk
Class Aircraft
Type Fighter
Manufacturer Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company
Origin United States of America
Country Name Origin Year
United States of America 1938
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
United States of America 1938 1958 View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company 13738 View

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1
  • Length: 31.67 ft (9.66 m)
  • Wingspan: 37.33 ft (11.38 m)
  • Height: 12.33 ft (3.76 m)
  • Wing area: 235.94 ft (21.92 m)
  • Empty weight: 6,350 lb (2,880 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 8,280 lb (3,760 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 8,810 lb (4,000 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 x Allison V-1710-39 liquid-cooled V12 engine, 1,150 hp (858 kW)


  • Maximum speed: 360 mph (310 knots, 580 km/h)
  • Cruise speed: 270 mph (235 knots, 435 km/h)
  • Range: 650 mi (560 nm, 1,100 km)
  • Service ceiling 29,000 ft (8,800 m)
  • Rate of climb: 2,100 ft/min (11 m/s)
  • Wing loading: 35.1 lb/ft (171.5 kg/m)
  • Power/mass: 0.14 hp/lb (230 W/kg)


  • Guns: 6 x .50 caliber (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns, 150-200 rounds per gun
  • Bombs: 250 lb (113 kg) to 1,000 Ib (453 kg), a total of 1,500 lb (680 kg) on three hardpoints (one under the fuselage and two underwing)

End notes