AMtech 1/48 P-40K Kittyhawk III
KIT #:  
PRICE: $25.00 when new
DECALS: Four options
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver
NOTES: Early Aeromaster sheet,“Fighters Over The Sahara”used.


            The RAF first ordered the Curtiss H-87A-1 Hawk following the prototype’s first flight in 1940.  These early aircraft were known in service as the “Tomahawk.” When the H-87A-3, an improved modification of the earlier design that first appeared as the P-40D in the summer of 1941, it was ordered as the Kittyhawk I,” with most of these being P-40E-1 aircraft.  When it was supplied under Lend-Lease, it was known as the “Kittyhawk IA.  The Tomahawk and Kittyhawk replaced the Hurricane as the RAF air-superiority fighter, with both being considered superior to the Hurricane.  Once Spitfires became available in sufficient numbers in 1943, the Kittyhawks were used more and more in the close air support role.  The rugged construction of the P-40 meant it had little difficulty operating from primitive desert air strips.

             The P-40K was a development of the P-40E that first attempted to solve the problem of directional stability by adopting a vertical fin with an increased area; later in production, the problem was solved by extending the fuselage by approximately 12 inches.  Both versions were P-40Ks and all subsequent P-40s used the extended fuselage.

 2 Squadron SAAF in the North African campaign:

             On May 13, 1940, Maj N.G. Niblock‑Stuart with 19 pilots and 24 ground‑crew left AFB Waterkloof for Cairo.  On June 1, 1940 they began training on Gauntlets at Abu Seur.  Another group under the leadership of Lt S. van Breda Theron received training on Hurricanes and Furies before leaving for Kenya on  May 22, 1940. While in Kenya, the Squadron received two Cheetah cubs as mascots and the name “Flying Cheetahs” was born.

             On the completion of the East African Campaign on April 20, 1941, half of the squadron left East Africa via Durban for the Middle East.

             On May 2, 1941, the rest of the squadron left Durban for the Middle East, where they were based at Amriya, first with Hurricanes, and later with Tomahawks.  On December 4, 1941 ten 2 Squadron Tomahawks engaged more than 30 Stukas escorted by 20 C. 200 and Fiat G.50 fighters.  2 Squadron confirmed 6 enemy shot down and another 6 possibly shot down against a loss of only 2 pilots.  On December 10, Lt Enslin was shot down and rescued and returned by Lt Lipawsky. During December 1941 and January 1942, 17 enemy aircraft were shot down, 5 possibly destroyed and 13 damaged against the loss of only two 2 Squadron pilots. During the German attack on the Gazala‑line in the spring of 1942, the Tomahawks were replaced by Kittyhawks.

             By the fall of 1942, the Kittyhawk units were increasingly used for close air support in the fighting against the Afrika Korps. The German attack at El Alamein was stopped and a counter attack launched on October 23, 1942.  During October and November 1942, 2 Squadron, operating as fighter‑bombers, still managed to claim 26 aircraft destroyed, 6 possibly destroyed and 12 damaged.  With the termination of the North African campaign on May 13, 1943, the SAAF No 7 wing, comprised of No’s 2, 4 and  5 Squadrons, was considered the best dive bomber group in the North African theater.


             Back in the late 1990s, my friend Alan Griffiths leased AMT’s molds for their P-40 series of kits and released them with various upgrades, from better decals in each to an accurate resin nose for the P-40F and a resin rear fuselage/vertical fin and rudder for the P-40K.  I was fortunate to receive more than one of the tails, and used one with a Hasegawa 1/48 P-40E successfully.  For some reason I can’t remember because the model is really one of the better P-40s I’ve done, this particular kit “stalled out” on final approach around 2004 - painted, decaled, etc. - then the box it was in got mislaid, then in the course of moving to the house we now call “Le Chateau du Chat” it ended up in a box of other unbuilt kits in the garage.  It was only rediscovered this past spring (when I was searching for something else).  With all the recent brouhaha about the discovery of the 260 Squadron Kittyhawk I in the Egyptian Sahara, I was stimulated to take it out of its box and finish it.  Interestingly enough, I also recently re-discovered the kit-supplied decals for this project, and markings for a 260 Squadron Kittyhawk are included!


            The AMT P-40 kit needs no introduction; it’s been around for close to 18-20 years now.  The kit is not as detailed and accurate in small areas as Hasegawa’s P-40 series, but is far more “buildable” for the average “muddler” since none of the kits are produced in modular form as are the Hasegawa kits, though as you can see here the end result is certainly acceptable. 

             I used the upgrade of an Aries resin cockpit I had on hand, and the resin tail provided by AMTech. Going through the decal dungeon, I discovered a very early Aeromaster release, “Fighters Over The Sahara,” which included markings for a 2 Squadron SAAF Kittyhawk III with the very cool “Springbok of Africa” squadron marking, and determined I would use that.

             The first thing to do is cut off the tail.  The resin replacement fits along a panel line, which makes the later assembly much easier than a Hasegawa kit, where the tail joint is between panel lines.

             Among the real lacks of the AMT kit is a really-acceptable cockpit beyond very basic detail.  Any good resin cockpit from True Details, Aires, etc., will vastly improve the final result.  A True Details vacuform canopy is also a very useful addition.

            In assembling any model with a resin replacement cockpit, one needs to remember to thin down the fuselage in the vicinity of the cockpit by about half the original thickness,  as well as to thin down the sidewalls of the resin replacement till they are “paper-thin” and you can see light through them, so that the cockpit will fit without “bulging” the kit fuselage and thus widening it.  This is particularly important when building a model that has a one-piece lower wing like this one (or any P-51), because if you fail to do this and have a wider fuselage, forcing a fit of the fuselage sub-assembly and the wing sub-assembly will lead to a loss of proper dihedral; by the time that condition is discovered, it is far too late to fix the mistake.

            Once the fuselage was glued together, I cut off the pour block from the resin tail and filed the plug so the tail would slip easily into the fuselage and attached it with cyanoacrylate glue.  Fit was overall excellent and needed no additional work past a light sanding-down around the joint.

            I then assembled the wing and attached it to the fuselage, as well as the horizontal stabilizers.


             The model was pre-shaded with flat black and then painted freehand with Gunze-Sangyo “Dark Earth,” “Middle Stone” and “Sky Blue.”  It then received a coat of Future once the paint had cured (you need to be careful with this when applying Future over Gunze, because if the paint isn’t fully cured, it will develop little cracks over the surface under the Future - give it a few days between painting and applying Future to be sure).  The various colors were post-shaded by adding a bit of light grey and going back over panels, to simulate sun-fading in the harsh North African environment.

             The Aeromaster decals went on without a problem under a coat of Micro-Sol.


             The model was washed to get rid of decal residue and then given a coat of Micro-Gloss, followed by a thorough coat of Micro-Flat to kill all shine and thoroughly sun-fade the scheme.  I then attached the exhausts, landing gear and prop.  The model was “dinged” with Tamiya Flat Aluminum, particularly the prop tips and the leading edges of the flying surfaces, which would have been sand-blasted at every takeoff.  I used Tamiya “Smoke” over Tamiya “Sky Grey” to simulate exhaust stains on the fuselage, with “smoke” applied for oil stains on the underside and on the wings for gunfire residue.  I also “muddied” the landing gear and wheels.  I chose not to put a drop tank on, since the one provided had managed to disappear.  The canopy is really too thick to sit down properly, and I strongly recommend if you build one of these that you get the True Details P-40E vacuform canopy, which will look incredibly better in the end.  (If I can get one, I will replace the canopy on this model.)


            This model is proof that “old kit” is not a synonym for “bad kit.”  The AMT P-40s are eminently buildable, with the AMTech releases all having nice additions to make them better; even though they are all now long out of production, you can find them on dealer’s tables at shows or on Evil Bay for a reasonable price.  Recommended for anyone who likes the P-40.

 Tom Cleaver

May 2012

Kit courtesy of AMTech back in the day.

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