Hobbycraft 1/48 P-40F Warhawk
The history of the P-40 Warhawk has been done pretty thoroughly elsewhere, so I am going to focus on the highlights pertinent to the Merlin powered versions. Original versions of the P-40 Warhawk were Allison engined, and not designed for high altitude performance. As they saw combat versus the Luftwaffe in North Africa and the Japanese in the Pacific Theatre, their service ceiling was below that of the Messerschmitt fighter opposition and Japanese attackers as well, putting them at a disadvantage. This was not Curtiss Wright’s fault, but a result of the USAAC’s prewar thinking and resulting requirements, as the Army Air Corps did not anticipate the direction fighter design would go at the onset of World War II.
The P-40F and L variants were equipped with Packard-built Merlin engines in a successful attempt to improve service ceiling and address this disadvantage. The Merlin engined Warhawk is easily distinguished from its Allison powered brothers by the smooth upper cowling, as the carburetor intake was moved from that location to the redesigned deeper chin radiator intake. The majority were shipped immediately to the hot spots in 1942-1943, serving in North Africa with many USAAF fighter groups, some US-reequipped Free French units, and some Commonwealth squadrons, as well as equipping several USAAF squadrons on Guadalcanal. The improved service ceiling was of benefit, though successful pilots found they still had to use tactics that played to the P-40’s strengths and avoided its weaknesses. Eventually superseded by better fighter designs, the P-40 was there in the early war years to hold the line and then take the fight to the Axis until more capable fighter designs could be brought into production, and when flown to use its strengths, was the mount of many aces.
There were several Merlin equipped P-40F and P-40L variants, distinguished by a number of external changes. The following summary is the best I can develop, as current references do not completely nail these details down; in fact some current references are in conflict. This drove me crazy for a while, until I did enough research. I’ve done a photo study in all the references I could find, and my conclusions follow, though there are still a few questions I can’t answer.
The first key visual difference for the P-40F is whether or not the airframe has the short or long rear fuselage. All P-40Ls were built with the longer fuselage. At least one reference states that the first 50 P-40Ls had short fuselages, but every photo I have seen of aircraft in this block of airframes is long tailed, so that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
The second key visual difference for the P-40F/L is whether or not the airframe has the original or later windscreen. The original windscreen was first introduced on the P-40E, and had large corner windscreen panels that wrapped from the front windscreen panel around to each side where they met the closed canopy’s leading edge. The later version of this windscreen added a sliding panel on the left side between the windscreen and sliding canopy; this can be identified by the added frame. It appears that this windscreen showed up in late F production, and early L production; I can’t pin it down any better than that. It is clear to see on most left side photos, hard to tell from the right side. The later windscreen was retrofitted to earlier airframes in the field, so consult reference photos if you have them.
One final difference is the wing machine gun fit, although this is not a completely reliable identification feature. All P-40Fs and the 50 P-40L-1s had three .50 caliber machine guns in each wing like the P-40E and K. In an effort to increase top speed, all remaining P-40L blocks were built with only two guns per wing, and the front wing fuel tanks were removed. The increase in maximum speed was only 4 miles per hour at rated altitude, and since the wing structure was unchanged, many units removed the blanking plates and restored the 2 wing guns in the field, preferring the added firepower over the minimal speed increase. If it has 4 wing guns, it’s probably a P-40L-5 or later, but if it has 6 wing guns, it could be any P-40F or L.
Note that a number of P-40F and P-40L airframes were either converted or built with Allison engines but carried their original serial numbers, which can be mind boggling to the novice researcher. They can be distinguished by the Allison carburetor intake on top of the cowling and Allison style chin radiator inlet. While many were used in Stateside training units, some photos have come to light in recent years that show some USAAF P-40Rs in combat in North Africa.
Short fuselage/Early windscreen P-40Fs: - 699 aircraft
41-13600/13695 96 P-40F
41-13696 - P-40F (cancelled)
41-13697/14299 603 P-40F (sometimes noted as F-1s)
Many short tailed P-40Fs saw combat with the 57 FG, 79FG, and 324 FG in North Africa, and the 44FS and 68 FS in the SWPA. The majority served with training units in the US. See the note below for RAF P-40F service. Modeler’s Note: The AMT P-40F kit is a short fuselage version.
Long fuselage/Early or Late windscreen P-40Fs: - 612 aircraft
41-14300/14422 123 P-40F-5
41-14423/14599 177 P-40F-10
41-19733/19932 200 P-40F-15
41-19933/20044 112 P-40F-20
Long tailed P-40Fs saw combat with all five Warhawk equipped USAAF fighter groups in North Africa (the 33 FG, 57 FG, 79 FG, 324 FG, and 325 FG), and also the 44FS and 68 FS in the SWPA. Some may have also been passed on to the 27 FG, 86 FG, and 332 FG as the above P-40 units reequipped with P-47s or P-51s; hand-me-downs were common in the MTO. See the note below for RAF P-40F service.
Long fuselage/Early or Late windscreen P-40Ls: - 700 aircraft
42-10430/10479 50 P-40F-1
42-10480/10699 220 P-40F-5
42-10700/10847 148 P-40F-10
42-10848/10959 112 P-40F-15
42-10960/11129 170 P-40F-20
P-40Ls saw combat with all five Warhawk equipped fighter groups in North Africa (the 33 FG, 57 FG, 79 FG, 324 FG, and 325 FG), and also the 99 FS, the first squadron of Tuskegee Airmen to serve in the theatre. Some may have also been passed on to the 27 FG, 86 FG, and 332 FG as the above P-40 units reequipped with P-47s or P-51s; hand-me-downs were common in the MTO. See note below for RAF P-40F service.
The use of the Merlin-engined P-40 by RAF and Commonwealth squadrons is a challenging thing to sort out. 150 P-40Fs (a mix of both long and short tailed versions) and 100 P-40Ls were supplied to the RAF under Lend Lease as Kittyhawk Mk. IIs. The types are mixed in serial lots, so serials cannot be used to tell the versions apart. Many were transferred to Russia, some were returned to the USAAF for use in North African, some went to re-equipped Free French units, and some were lost at sea, so apparently few saw service with the RAF. 160 additional P-40Ls were provided as Kittyhawk Mk. IIIs. Pictures of RAF P-40Fs or Ls are not very common, but some did serve with squadrons in North Africa and the Med.
I thought it highly unlikely that Hobbycraft would produce brand new tooling for a 1/48 P-40F, given the availability of the AMtech P-40F/L and AMT/Ertl P-40F kits, and I was not mistaken. Upon opening the box one finds a long-tailed P-40F with the original type windscreen that is produced with the AMT/Ertl tooling. The 65 parts are well packaged. Most are molded in grey plastic that is somewhat harder than the soft plastic AMT used, and packed in an oversized poly bag that is neatly folded and taped to fit the kit box. The 5 clear parts are in their own separate sealed bag. The sturdy kit box is the type that opens at either end and includes color painting and decaling diagrams printed on the back; more on this later. Since the AMT P-40F boxing was a short tailed version, this long-tailed version has only been previously available in the AMTech boxing, which also includes a resin nose that corrects shape problems with the AMT Merlin-engined nose. While the AMT nose isn’t exactly correct, it still captures the different look of the Merlin engined Warhawk. If you’re not into adding that resin nose, this could be the kit for you.
The instructions are a hybrid of AMT and Hobbycraft, with color callouts for all parts, an improvement over the usual Hobbycraft approach. This kit is technically correct for any long tailed P-40Fs or P-40Ls that have the original type windscreen and six wing guns. It is relatively easy to remove the outer wing gun on each side (leave the wing bottom surface as is, or cover up the cartridge and link ejection slots, it was done both ways). It will be more challenging to find a newer style windscreen if you want to build one this way and this matters to you. Squadron makes a P-40N vacuformed canopy for the AMT kits that could be used as a source for the newer windscreen (item number 9609), or you could use the windscreen from the AMT P-40N if you have a spare. Or you can build it as is, it’s your model, it’s your choice, and heck with any nitpickers!
This is the highlight of the kit, in my opinion. The decals cover four aircraft options and are the usual thin well-printed type we’ve come to expect in newer Hobbycraft kits, and should be easy to apply. All four aircraft are painted in the same desert scheme, RAF Dark Earth and RAF Middle Stone over Azure Blue, and views of all sides of the scheme are provided. In real life the colors Curtiss used were Dupont Company equivalents, not exact matches, you can find out more about this elsewhere on the internet. One of the problems sometimes seen when Hobbycraft uses this type of box is that for some reason some of the colors or details seem to get left off the painting and decaling diagrams on the back. This kit was no exception; it’s hard to see the proper location of some decals, and the yellow serial numbers are completely missing from the box art. This is unfortunate, as the modeler who does not have the right references or access to this preview has no way to determine which serial number to use. Fortunately the decals for the four airframes’ correct serials are provided, along with matching serial stencil blocks for three of the four aircraft. I was able to find references to support all four options and clear up some questions, and here is what I learned. It turns out that Hobbycraft did their homework, they just didn’t bother to tell the modeler!
The first option, “Sweet Bets”, X8*1 of the 87FS, 79 FG is actually P-40F-15 41-19746 (119746), flown by Lt. Charles “Jazz” Jaslow after he scored his sole victory, a Bf109 he downed on 2 April 1943. It includes squadron badges on each side of the nose, one victory marking under the left canopy, a small painting of Dopey (one of Snow White’s seven dwarves) on the left rudder, and black and yellow checked wheel covers. The red/white/blue fin flashes were painted over the three serial digits on each side of the vertical fin, so only the three digits on each side of the rudder need be applied. The box top art shows this version. The photo and profile in my references show the forward half of the spinner as sand colored, and the after half in red, but presumably the spinner could have been done all red at some point, which was more typical, your call. There is a color photo of this bird on page 37 of Reference C. The profile on page 54 of Reference A circa March 1943 shows the detailed markings much better than the box top, though Dopey is not present on the rudder.
The second option, “MADKOT”, is P-40F-5 41-143499 (114349) of Commandant Konstantin Rozanoff of GC II/5 “Lafayette”. This Free French group was re-equipped with the 33 FG’s “previously owned” long-tailed P-40Fs at Casablanca in January 1943 (the 33 FG group subsequently was supplied with new P-40Ls from the recently arrived 324 FG, and the 324 FG had to re-equip as new Warhawks slowly trickled into the theatre!). There are several nice color shots of some GC II/5 aircraft on page 38 of Reference C. One photo confirms that the darker US blue was used for the tricolored rudder and roundels on some of the group’s aircraft, the other shows one where a lighter blue was used for the national markings and also for the underside color. There is also a color profile of “MADKOT” with national markings and rudder showing the lighter French blue on page 59 of Reference E. I cannot confirm if Rozanoff’s machine was originally painted in the light blue, or first in the dark blue and repainted light blue later. Most modelers won’t even know, so I’d use the kit markings; it’s a very cool scheme and a different one for a P-40.
The third option, “DAMMIT”, is a less colorful long-tailed P-40F of the 33 FG around the time of the Torch landings and was serial number 41-14378 (114378). This aircraft has the yellow surrounds on the national markings, as well as U.S. flags on the upper left wing, lower right wing, and either side of the fuselage. Some aircraft of this group had a flag with a “backwards” field applied to the right side. A photo of 41-14378 on page 79 of Reference F shows a standard flag on the right side, so Hobbycraft got it right.
The last option is a very plain long-tailed Merlin P-40 of the 33 FG in early 1943. By process of elimination this was serial number 42-10511 (210511), which makes it a P-40L-5 and it would have had 4 wing guns as built. This aircraft has U.S. flags on the upper left wing, lower right wing, and either side of the fuselage, but no yellow surrounds on the national insignia. There is no serial block decal for this version. The only thing unique about this Warhawk is that the spinner is painted in Sand rather than Stone; that’s stretching it, I know, but it’s hard to know why else this option was tossed in! It likely does have the backwards U.S. flag on the right fuselage side, as Hobbycraft notes on the box artwork. Page 20 of Reference D has a small color photo of this aircraft, but captions it as assigned to the 57 FG. The 57 FG arrived in North Africa and served with the Desert Air Force prior to Operation Torch, so their original P-40s were painted sand over grey or blue undersides. It is possible they received replacement aircraft from some of the groups of Warhawks ferried over in the period these markings were used, from November 1942 into the early months of 1943.
All in all, this is a decent kit with an excellent set of decals, and I can definitely recommend it to you for a future build. If you check the built-up reviews of the other AMT and AMtech P-40s on the site, you’ll get the guidance you need to deal with the areas of the kit that need work, and you’ll end up with a very nice desert Warhawk to display in your collection.
Review kit courtesy of me, my local hobby shop, and my hard-earned cash!
Osprey Aircraft of the Aces 43: P-40 Warhawk Aces of the MTO, by Carl Molesworth, C 2002, Osprey Publishing
Osprey Aircraft of the Aces 62: P-40 Warhawk Aces of the Pacific, by Carl Molesworth, C 2003, Osprey Publishing
Detail and Scale Volume 62, P-40 Warhawk Part 2, by Bert Kinzey, C 1999, Detail and Scale, Inc.
Wings of Fame Volume 10, pp. 4-23, “Air War Over the Desert”, by Francis K. Mason, C 1998, Aerospace Publishing Ltd.
Camouflage and Markings No. 1, French Air Force 1938-1945, Christian-Jacques Ehrengardt, C 2000, Aero-Editions
Warbird History P-40 Warhawk, by Frederick A. Johnsen, C 1998, MBI Publishing Company
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