Warplane Wednesday

Warplane Wednesday: Curtiss P-40 Warhawk / Kittyhawk

After surviving the German pass, Charles “Seabuster” Hall spotted what he identified as a pair of Fw 190s angling in on the egressing bombers. He positioned his P-40 on the tail of the trailing fighter and loosed a long burst from his .50 caliber machine guns. This time the Tuskegee airman was able to follow his victim as the machine dove abruptly toward the ground. The Fw 190 hit the ground in a “big cloud of dust.”

– Excerpt from Eagles over Husky

p-40-kittyhawk-plane-fighter-pilot-flight-landscape
The Vintage Wings of Canada “Stocky” Edwards Kittyhawk in No. 260 Squadron RAF colours

The Curtiss P-40 was the workhorse of the Allied air forces in the middle years of the Second World War. For Operation Husky, most US fighter squadrons flew the Warhawk, the code-name for the P-40F/L/K/M and N variants. Squadrons like the 99th Fighter Squadron — the famous Tuskegee originals — flew combat air patrols over the beaches and escorted bombers of the Tactical and Strategic Air Forces on missions around Sicily and Sardinia.

The British code-named these variants the Kittyhawk. They saw extensive use with the Desert Air Force as both fighters and fighter-bombers. By mid-1943, the Desert Air Force had received large stocks of Supermarine Spitfires, relegating Kittyhawks to the fighter-bomber role. These ‘Kittybombers’ provided close air support to Lieutenant-General Bernard Montgomery’s Eighth Army in Sicily. Some French units also flew Kittyhawks on local air defence missions with the Coastal Air Force.  


Specifications (P-40M)

Type: single-seat fighter and fighter-bomber

Powerplant: one 895kW (1200hp) Allison V-1710-81 12-cylinder Vee engine

Performance: maximum speed 552km/h (343 mph); climb to 6095m (20,000ft) in 8 minutes 48 seconds; service ceiling 9450m (31,000ft); range 1207km (750 miles)

Weights: empty 2812kg (6200lb); maximum take-off 5171kg (11,400lb)

Wingspan: 11.37m (37ft 4in)

Length: 10.16m (33ft 4in)

Height: 3.23m (10ft 7in)

Armament: six 12.7mm (0.5in) fixed forward-firing machine guns in the leading edges of the wing, plus an external bomb load of 680kg (1500lb)


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The following Mediterranean Air Command units used the Curtiss P-40 / Kittyhawk in the invasion of Sicily:

Northwest African Coastal Air Force

  • No. II/5 (French) Squadron
  • No. II/7 (French) Squadron

Northwest African Strategic Air Force

  • US 317th Fighter Squadron
  • US 318th Fighter Squadron
  • US 319th Fighter Squadron

Norwest African Tactical Air Force

  • Desert Air Force
    • No. 3 Squadron RAAF
    • No. 5 Squadron SAAF
    • No. 112 Squadron RAF
    • No. 250 Squadron RAF
    • No. 260 Squadron RAF
    • No. 450 Squadron RAAF
    • US 64th Fighter Squadron
    • US 65th Fighter Squadron
    • US 66th Fighter Squadron
    • US 85th Fighter Squadron
    • US 86th Fighter Squadron
    • US 87th Fighter Squadron
  • XII Air Support Command
    • US 58th Fighter Squadron
    • US 59th Fighter Squadron
    • US 60th Fighter Squadron
    • US 99th Fighter Squadron
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