“I never felt that I was a second-class citizen in a P-40. In many ways I thought the P-40 was better than the more modern fighters. I had a hell of a lot of time in a P-40, probably close to a thousand hours. I could make it sit up and talk. It was an unforgiving airplane. It had vicious stall characteristics. … If you knew what you were doing, you could fight a Jap on even terms, but you had to make him fight your way.”
— Joel Paris, P-40 pilot, 49th Fighter Group.
Durability – The P-40E continued the trend of being able to sustain great amounts of battle damage.
Guns – Six .50 caliber machine guns with 280 rpg gives the Warhawk pilot a good combination of hitting power and firing time.
High Altitude Performance – Despite the newer engine, the P-40E is still rather sluggish and unresponsive at high altitude. In particular the climb rate and ceiling were poor compared to contemporaries such as the Spitfire and Bf-109.
Early in 1940, the new Allison V-1710-39 engine became available, and Curtiss set about redesigning the P-40 to accommodate the new power plant. The new P-40D model was visibly different from the P-40C but in fact bore the new Curtiss development designation “Hawk 87A”. Backs to the wall and in desperate need of combat aircraft, the British government turned its eye westward in 1940 to the vast manufacturing capacity of the United States. They wanted to buy Curtiss’ latest “Hawk” but the U.S. Army needed every P-40 that Curtiss could produce.
The most visible difference from earlier P-40s was the addition of a deeper radiator “chin” under the engine. This new engine arrangement necessitated the removal of the nose-mounted machine guns in favor of placement in the wings, two .50 caliber machine guns being mounted in each wing with 280 rpg.
After a production run of only 22 P-40Ds an extra .50 caliber machine gun was mounted in each wing, the subsequent model being designated the P-40E by the US Army and the Kittyhawk I by the RAF. In addition to the improved armament, the “E” model incorporated newer hydraulic gun chargers, which replaced the unreliable mechanical charging system that was generally bypassed in the field. Additionally, the P-40E could carry either a 52-gallon drop tank or a 500 lb. bomb under the fuselage.