Curtiss P40 Kittyhawk

In terms of both numbers and operational impact, the Kittyhawk was the most important fighter aircraft flown by Australians during the Second World War. When it entered mainstream service in March 1942, the RAAF possessed few modern aircraft and Japanese bombers were already attacking targets in Australia's north. For the rest of the war the Kittyhawk was employed as both a fighter and a ground attack aircraft and ultimately 848 served with the RAAF.

Kittyhawk was the British Commonwealth designation given to the latter variants of the Curtiss P-40 (P-40 D - N), which was known in the United States as the Warhawk. These variants featured a series of design improvements from the earlier Tomahawk (P-40, P-40 B - C), most notably heavier armament, in the form of six .50 calibre machine guns and the ability to carry bombs, and higher-performance engines. The Kittyhawk still retained the rugged, reliable reputation of its predecessor. In all, 13,738 P-40s of all variants were produced between April 1940 and December 1944.

In the Middle East and then Italy, Kittyhawks were operated primarily in the fighter bomber role by the Commonwealth air forces, including 3 and 450 Squadrons, RAAF. In the South-west Pacific eight RAAF squadrons - 75, 76, 77, 78, 80, 82, 84, and 86 - were equipped with Kittyhawks and the type proved critical in the desperate efforts to defend Darwin, Milne Bay and Port Moresby in 1942. Thereafter it became the RAAF's workhorse in the theatre. The end of the war effectively marked the end of the Kittyhawk's service with the RAAF and the last examples were retired in March 1946.

Specifications:



Curtiss P-40N (Kittyhawk IV)

Type:   Single seat fighter-bomber
Entered service:   early 1943
Crew:   1
Wing span:   11.38 m
Length:   10.16 m
Weight (unladen):   2,903 kg
Ceiling:   9,144 m
Endurance:   Maximum range (with drop tank) 2,011 km
Speed:   560 km/h
Armament:   6 x 5-in machine-guns
681 kg of bombs


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