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BOOK REVIEW


P-40 Warkhawk
By Dana Bell (2013)

Aircraft Pictorial #5
Classic Warships Publishing



The Curtis P-40 was one of the most iconic and prolific aircraft of the Second World War.  In perhaps its most famous guise, it was the airplane operated by the legendary Flying Tigers based in China.  The P-40 was designed to meet the requirements of a pursuit aircraft for the U.S. Army Air Corps in the mid-1930s.  It was an evolution of the Curtis P-36, and among other new features did away with a radial engine and replaced it with a liquid-cooled, supercharged Allison V-1710 V-12 powerplant.  The prototype XP-40 first flew in October 1938 out of the Curtiss facility in Buffalo, New York.  The airplane was designed to be relatively inexpensive, adaptable to harsh operating conditions, and able to soak up significant battle damage.  The design was to be easy to repair and to be highly agile at low and medium altitudes.  In that part of the envelope, a P-40 could out-turn almost any opponent right up to the end of the war.  Its single-stage supercharger meant that the P-40 would always be a plagued by poor performance at higher altitudes – the one limitation that some historians argue prevented the P-40 from attaining legendary status on par with the P-51, Zero, and Bf 109.

Eventually named as the Warhawk, there were about a 20 production variants of the P-40, with the P-40N being arguably the definitive combat-proven version.  Warhawks first saw combat with the British squadrons of the Desert Air Force in the Middle East and North African campaigns in mid-1941.  It was with the RAF that the shark-mouth logo, rather inseparable from the identity of the P-40, was first applied.  Between 1941 and 1944, P-40s played key roles with Allied air forces in North Africa, the Pacific, and China along with other noted contributions in Eastern Europe, Italy, and Alaska.  None may have been more famous than the Flying Tigers, the American Volunteer Group operating the P-40B in the early years of the war as a volunteer unit within the Chinese Air Force.  The Warhawk performed well as an air superiority fighter, bomber escort, and fighter-bomber.  Some 200 Allied fighter pilots achieved the status as an ace in the airplane.  Production ceased by late November 1944 with the P-40 being produced in greater numbers than any U. S. WWII fighter with the exception of the P-51 and P-47.

In this book by renowned aviation author and researcher Dana Bell, the reader is provided a definitive look at the early variants of the P-40 from the XP-40 to the P-40G.  Even though it’s been out for a while, it’s an excellent book and deserves a close look.

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This 72-page book by aviation historian and author Dana Bell was the fifth in a series of books he has published through the Classic Warships line over the last ten years or so.  Each one of these titles is expertly written, insightful, lavishly illustrated, and thoroughly and deeply researched (including newly discovered information and never-before published photos including material from the National Archives).  If you’re familiar with any of the earlier or later titles in this series, you’ll find the same consistently high quality writing, layout, printing, and information.  In other words, this is a beautiful book filled to the brim with great information.
           
Bell’s P-40 book is richly informative, but it is presented in rather concise fashion and never feels overwhelming or wordy.  This is one of the keys to the success of Dana Bell’s books.  The book begins with a general history of the airplane and then transitions into an extended photo essay continuing the story with detailed images of the prototype XP-40 and its design evolution, the earliest production P-40-CUs, incremental developments seen in the P-40B and C, and the hybrid P-40G that was modified to prevent, as much as possible, the all-too-common problem of ground looping that plagued the P-40-CU accounting for nearly half of the –CUs that were written off.

The book is filled with exquisite original photography of many different early P-40s to give a good sense of aircraft external configurations and paint schemes.  A good number of these are in color, too.  These are complemented by a wealth of detail photos spanning the cowling mounted guns and internal mechanisms, views of the Allison V-1710 powerplant (including shots of an engine change – my favorite as a scale modeler).  There are also extensive references on the cockpit layouts of the P-40-CU, B, C, and G, canopy details, pilot gear (again, using original photos), aft fuselage fuel tank, landing gear (including experimental tracked, double wheeled, and “centipede” wheel configurations that I had never seen before), and gear wells.  Also covered are tail wheel configurations, flaps, the wing mounted guns, and more.    

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There’s really nothing to critique in this excellent volume.  The only potential editorial criticism would have been to add a subtitle along the lines of “Early U.S. Variants” since that’s what the subject matter most closely covers.  Later versions and export models are not featured here.  Also, while the length of the books is quite sufficient, I am sure that many readers, including myself, would probably wish that it had been longer yet still.  This book, as with Bell’s other titles, feature such high-quality reproduction of original archival photography that is like a time machine that transports readers back to the era of the early P-40s – just shy of hearing its engine roar to life and smelling the exhaust.  If you’re like me, you just might like to stay there a little longer!

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Dana Bell’s P-40 book is a superlative volume.  As with all his other works, it is engaging, impeccably researched, and immensely informative.  Warhawk fans and students of USAAF aviation especially will regard this book as a cherished reference while scale modelers will find it living on their workbench no matter what scale or kit of the early P-40 they’re working on.

We are grateful to Dana Bell for his generosity in sharing a copy of the book with Detail & Scale for this review.  You can find it available at amazon.com, hopefully at your local hobby shop, and at Classic Warships website (http://www.classicwarships.com) where you can also see their other titles.

Haagen Klaus
Scale Modeling News & Reviews Editor
Detail & Scale

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Just Released!

JET FIGHTERS
OF THE U. S. NAVY AND MARINE CORPS
PART 1: THE FIRST TEN YEARS
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Detail & Scale Special Edition Books

U. S. Navy and Marine Carrier-Based Aircraft of World War II
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Attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan Awakens a Sleeping Giant

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Colors & Markings Series



Colors & Markings of U. S. Navy
F-14 Tomcats,
Part 1: Atlantic
Coast Squadrons
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Colors & Markings of the F-102
Delta Dagger

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Colors & Markings of U. S. Navy
F-14 Tomcats,
Part 2: Pacific
Coast Squadrons

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