Curtiss P-40E Warhawk

Although outmatched by many adversaries at the time, the Curtiss P-40 was the best fighter the US Army could field on the eve of WWII. Even so, it held the line while faster and more capable aircraft were developed and produced. P-40s comprised more than half of the US Army Air Forces’ fighter strength until July 1943!

During 1941, Curtiss-Wright built the Museum’s P-40E-1-CU Warhawk (41-35918) at their plant in Buffalo, New York to help satisfy a United States Army Air Corps order (Curtiss Contract Number 1025). The US Government soon transferred the aircraft to Britain’s Royal Air Force as Kittyhawk Mk.IA ET564, but they in turn supplied it (along with 9 others) to the Soviet Air Force, the VVS (Voyenno-Vozdushnyye Sily), during April/May 1942. 

The 19th Guards Regiment flew the fighter in defense of the vital Russian port city of Murmansk, which was under threat from the invading German army. Shot down in combat near Murmansk, the P-40 remained where it fell until recovered in 1992. Soon after the Museum acquired the wreck, we shipped the fighter to New Zealand for rebuild. The fighter made its first post-restoration flight at Ardmore in April, 2003 and, following its return to the USA soon after, it became the first airplane in the Military Aviation Museum’s collection. 

Col. David Lee “Tex” Hill: Our Warhawk bears the markings of an American Volunteer Group (AVG) P-40E (41-5658) belonging to the 3rd Squadron, known as the Hells Angels. Its livery features the AVG’s distinctive sharks mouth paintwork on the nose cowling, as well as their Walt Disney-designed Flying Tiger emblem on the fuselage. The P-40 also wears Nationalist Chinese Insignia in place of American Stars and Bars, since none of the AVG’s aircraft, nor their American pilots, were actually serving in the US Military at the time the AVG formed during the summer of 1941. 

Although the AVG started out with earlier model P-40s, attrition had worn down that initial fleet of 99 fighters to just 20 operational aircraft by the time they received a shipment of replacement P-40E’s via Africa and India. “Tex” Hill, himself a part of the 2nd Squadron Panda Bears, borrowed ‘aircraft 108’ from the 3rd Squadron to lead an attack on the Salween River Gorge. The E-model’s improved 700 lb bomb capacity appealed to him for the mission profile involved, as did the extra pair of .50 caliber machine guns in the wings.

Claire Chennault, who commanded the Flying Tigers, later said that Hill and the three pilots who flew with him in their new P-40Es had “staved off China’s collapse on the Salween” after destroying a Japanese pontoon bridge and strafing enemy positions for four days in the mile-deep gorge.

“Tex” Hill began his military flying career as a US Naval Aviator, earning his wings of gold in 1939. He initially flew Douglas TBD Devastators from USS Saratoga, then Vought SB2U Vindicators aboard USS Ranger, before resigning his commission to join the AVG in China. Hill eventually became a triple-ace, claiming 12 ¼ victories with the AVG, and a further 6 in a P-51 Mustang after joining the US Army Air Forces in the Summer of 1942. “Tex” Hill survived WWII and remained with the military, eventually becoming the youngest Brigadier General in Air National Guard history. Before his death aged 92 in October 2007, “Tex” visited the Military Aviation Museum and flew in his recreated P-40E, stating afterwards that, “It looks exactly like my old plane, except… it’s too clean.”

Did You know?

The P-40 was widely loved because of its ruggedness. It operated reliably in harsh conditions, and its partially modular construction made it easier to fix in comparison to most of its contemporaries.


  • Number Built: 13,738
  • Year Produced: 1941
  • Serial Number: 41-35918
  • Crew: 1x Pilot
  • Current Pilots: Mike Spalding, John “Pappy” Mazza, Mark “Gooch” Gannucc


  • Length: 31ft 8.5in
  • Wingspan: 37 ft 3.5 in
  • Empty Weight: 5,992lbs
  • Loaded Weight: 8,515lbs
  • Engine: 1 × Allison V-1710-39 V-12 liquid cooled piston engine; 3-blade Curtiss constant-speed propeller
  • Engine Power: 1,240 hp


  • Cruising Speed: 308 mph
  • Max Speed: 334 mph
  • Range (One Way) (distance and time)
  • Ceiling: 29,100 ft
  • Rate of Climb: 2,900 fpm initial


  • 6 × 0.50 cal (12.70 mm) M2 Browning machine guns with 235 rounds per gun in the wings
  • 250 to 1,000 lb bombs to a total of 2,000 lb on three hardpoints
  • *MAM aircraft are unarmed