Curtiss P-40C Tomahawk

Place in history: The P-40 Tomahawk debuted at the start of WWII and was a modification of the older P-36 Hawk. Because of this heritage, the plane was relatively easy to produce and could be hurried into service. Its low cost kept the aircraft in production as a ground attack fighter long after other airplanes had technologically surpassed it. The P-40 is particularly notable for being the shark-mouthed choice of the famed Flying Tiger squadron. The P-40 did not have the glamorous reputation of other US fighters, like the P-51 Mustang; but the plane had its proponents, who cited its high-speed agility at lower altitudes and its ability to make tight turns. Overall, the P-40s excellence lay in its great dependability and lack of complexity.

This aircraft: While this fighter was manufactured in the United States, it never flew for American forces. It was purchased by the British and then given to the Soviet Union in September, 1941, under the Lend-Lease (armament-sharing) program. For nine months this airplane spent its combat career in the skies over the Karelian battle front in Russia, defending Murmansk against invading German forces. On September 27, 1942, the craft's oil tank was punctured by enemy fire. Its pilot managed to glide the aircraft to a belly-landing near Murmansk, where it was abandoned.

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