Curtiss Hawk 75A-6

Dubbed “The F-16 of its time” by noted historian Dan Hagedorn, the Hawk 75 had great success as an export fighter, with many of America’s pre-war allies obtaining them to bolster their fleets.

The Museum’s example is a combat veteran Hawk 75A-6 (construction number 13659) and bears the possibly unique distinction of having survived service with three opposing air arms during the WWII era (Norway, Germany and Finland). Its restoration is being completed by the team at AVSpecs (who built our Mosquito) in Ardmore, New Zealand.

Curtiss began designing the Hawk Model 75 as a private venture in 1934. A variant of the type flew with the U.S. Army Air Forces as the P-36 Hawk, the prototype making its first flight on May 6, 1935. Official tests of the Y1P-36 with the United States Army Air Corps were delayed by the crash of its competitor, the Seversky SEV-2XP (P-35 prototype), on its journey to Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio. Both types ended up serving with the Army Air Corps, albeit in small numbers.

In flight, the Hawk was characterized by excellent high speed handling, with a roll rate which actually improved as the aircraft accelerated. However, the early-model Pratt & Whitney R-1830 engine’s single speed supercharger limited the fighter’s high altitude performance potential. Many of the Hawk’s characteristics later conveyed to the type’s more famous younger sibling, the P-40 Warhawk, which initially used many of the same parts aft of the firewall.

It was these same positive performance traits which attracted attention from the Norwegian Army Air Service (Hærens Flyvåpen) in 1939. Norway had initially hoped to secure Spitfires, Hurricanes or Bf 109s for its military, but the political situation in Europe made acquiring these types impossible. They assessed the Hawk 75 as the best available alternative, ordering 24 examples – one of which was the Museum’s aircraft.

Of these 24 airplanes, only 19 had arrived in Norway by the time of the German Invasion on April 9, 1940. Only seven airframes had been reassembled by that date, with none of them being combat ready. The Norwegians assigned our Hawk the fuselage code 461. Although we do not know 461’s state of assembly when the Germans took control of the area where the Hawks were located (Oslo), it was probably still packed in its shipping crate. The Allies fought to support Norway, committing significant resources, but the conclusion of fighting on June 10, 1940 saw the whole country under German control. Some sources state that a Norwegian customs official sabotaged the crated Hawks before the Germans could get to them, smashing gauges and cutting control cables to make returning the aircraft to service more difficult.

Although well-equipped, the Germans certainly weren’t averse to repurposing military equipment seized during their advances across Europe. The Luftwaffe confiscated the surviving Norwegian Hawks, including s/n 13659, and took them to Germany where the aircraft underwent modifications for domestic use. A company named Espenlaub Flugzeugbau GmbH of Wuppertal-Langerfeld performed this work on our Hawk, which included installing German instrumentation, reassembly and test flying. The aircraft served in a training role with the Luftwaffe for a period before being sold to Finland in 1941 along with seven additional former Norwegian Hawk 75s and 36 ex-Armée de l‘Air examples which Germany captured in France.

While Finland and Nazi Germany were not natural Allies, the Soviet Union was a mutual enemy.  The Finns were in a desperate struggle for survival and seeking to regain land lost to the Soviets following their earlier invasion during the Winter War of 1939/1940. This created an alignment of purpose with Hitler’s planned invasion of Russia in June 1941. Three days after Germany’s invasion, Russian bombers raided Finnish cities which prompted the nation to declare war on the Soviets. The resulting clash with Russia, essentially a war within a war, became known as the Continuation War. It was during this conflict that our Hawk earned its place in history. The legendary Finnish Air Force pilots of 32 Lentolaivue (Squadron) claimed ten aerial victories against the Soviet Air Force in our aircraft (renumbered as CU-554). It may very well have flown in some of the same engagements as the Museum’s Polikarpov I-16 which was recovered in Karelia, near the Finnish border with the Soviet Union.

Of the 47 Finnish pilots known to have flown our Hawk 75, at least 16 of them became aces, with the most prominent being Kyösti Karhila (32 victories). The five-victory ace, Jaakko Kajanto, was flying CU-554 in combat over Karelia on March 19, 1943 when he was shot down by antiaircraft fire and killed. CU-554 crashed onto the frozen tundra, sinking into the peat during the spring thaw, which preserved what remained until its recovery during the 1990s. New Zealander, Michael Nicholls acquired the Hawk soon after, importing the airframe to his home in Omaka, where a comprehensive restoration began. The museum acquired the partially completed project in 2018, with work presently ongoing to return this unique survivor to flying condition.

Did You know?

USAAF Hawks were credited with some of the first US Victories of WWII! Five P-36s rose to defend Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, claiming two Japanese A6M2 Zeros for the loss of one of their own.


  • Number Built:  1,100+ total (215 P-36)
  • Year Produced:  1940
  • Serial Number:   461/CU-554
  • Crew: (1) Pilot
  • Current Pilots: TBD


  • Length:  28 ft. 6 in.
  • Wingspan:  37 ft. 4 in.
  • Empty Weight:  4,567 lbs.
  • Loaded Weight:  5,650 lbs.
  • Engine: 1x Pratt & Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp  14-cylinder radial piston engine
  • Engine Power:  1,050 hp


  • Cruising Speed:  270 mph
  • Max Speed: 313 mph 
  • Range:  625 miles
  • Ceiling: 32,700 ft
  • Rate of Climb:  3,400 ft./min. initial


  • 2x .50 caliber Browning machine guns in nose
  • 4x 0.303 caliber machine guns – 2x in each wing
  • Up to 150 lbs of bomb on each wing
  • *MAM aircraft is unarmed

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