|The Curtiss P-40 was a U.S. single-engine, single-seat, low-wing, all-metal fighter and ground attack aircraft which first flew in 1938, and was used in great numbers in World War II. When production ceased in November 1944, 13,738 P-40s had been produced; they were used by the air forces of 28 nations.|
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. British Commonwealth air forces gave the name Tomahawk to models equivalent to the P-40B and P-40C, and the name Kittyhawk to models equivalent to the P-40E and all later versions.
The P-40's lack of a two-stage supercharger made it inferior to Luftwaffe fighters in high altitude combat, and the P-40 was barely used in the northwest European theater, where the Army Air Force would eventually be concentrated. However, between 1941 and 1944, the P-40 played a critical role with Allied air forces in five major theaters around the world: China; the Mediterranean Theater; the South East Asian Theater; the South West Pacific Area, and in Eastern Europe.
P-40s first saw action with British Commonwealth air forces in the Desert Air Force, in August 1941. The P-40's poor high-altitude performance was of less consequence in the North African Campaign, and its bomb load, armour, and good range were valuable. The Royal Air Force's No. 112 Squadron was the first to fly Tomahawks in North Africa. The squadron copied the famous shark mouth markings under the spinner from Luftwaffe Messerschmitt Me 110 Zerstörer units, and the logo was later adopted by the Flying Tigers in China.