||The numerous variants of the Curtiss P-40 constituted one of the most ubiquitous Allied aircraft types of the Second World War. A development of Curtiss' P-36 Hawk fighter, the P-40 prototype flew for the first time in October 1938. Soon after, the United States Army Air Corps placed an order for 524 aircraft - the largest single order placed with an American manufacturer since the Great War. France also placed an order for 230, which was taken over by Britain when the latter surrendered in June 1940. These aircraft, christened Tomahawks, were the first of 1180 early model P-40s (P-40, P-40 B & P40 C) to see service with the RAF. The bulk of these were employed in Mediterranean theatres.
The Tomahawk had its limitations as a fighter, due to a slow rate of climb and poor performance at high altitude, but being both stable, and agile, at low altitudes, and extremely sturdy, it was a superb ground attack aircraft. Flown by experienced pilots well-acquainted with its strengths and weaknesses, however, the Tomahawk could still match it with higher-performing enemy fighters. The only RAAF squadron to operate Tomahawks was 3 Squadron in the Middle East between May and December 1941, although numerous Australian pilots also flew them with RAF Squadrons.