Kit No. 2016
Decals: One version – U.S. Army Air Force
Comments: Engraved panel lines; flush rivet detail; detailed instrument panel; one-piece canopy; white metal propeller, spinner and landing gear
The XP-40Q was an experimental project launched by Curtiss Aircraft during World War II in an effort to remain competitive as a manufacturer of modern fighters, using the existing P-40 design as a starting point. The P-40 was a robust design that by 1942 had served in every theatre of World War II, against the Japanese with both the American Volunteer Group (the Flying Tigers) in China; with the Royal Australian and Royal New Zealand Air Forces in the Southwest Pacific; with the British RAF and later the Americans in North Africa; with the Soviet Air Force; and P-40’s had been among the handful of U.S. Army Air Corps fighters to get off the ground and engage the Japanese during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Still, for all its fame and widespread service, it soon became clear that the P-40 could barely hold its own against more modern enemy fighters such as the Messerschmitt Bf109 and Mitsubishi A6M Zero. It was heavy, slightly underpowered, and could not manuever well enough to be a true dogfighter; it was often employed most effectively in the fighter-bomber role. The P-40’s obsolescence was underscored by the even more advanced fighters that the Axis were developing, the Focke Wulf Fw190 and Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien being but two examples.
Acutely aware that newer Allied designs such as the Republic P-47 and North American P-51 Mustang had outclassed the P-40 and could take on the best Axis fighters and win, Curtiss moved toward a new, radically different design in an effort to remain competitive for defense contracts as the Second World War dragged on and orders for P-40’s began to dry up. The modifications were so drastic that the result was essentially a new aircraft having little in common with earlier P-40 versions. At a casual glance, the XP-40Q looked more like the P-51 than the classic Curtiss fighter.
The XP-40Q-2 was based on alterations to the P-40N airframe. Its nose was lengthened so that it was two feet longer than the P-40N, it was fitted with a two-piece bubble canopy, and the turtledeck aft of the cockpit was cut down. It had an improved engine with a two-speed supercharger, and the chin coolant area was trimmed down and a semi-flush, low drag oil cooler installed in each wing, with an intake just outboard of each of the main landing gear. A four-bladed propeller was fitted, the wings were clipped by nearly two feet and the tips squared off. Armament in the XP-40Q was four .50 caliber machine guns, two in each wing, but in production versions either six .50 caliber or four 20mm guns were planned.
The result of the modifications was a performance of 422 mph at 20,500 feet, making the XP-40Q the fastest of the P-40s. Even with this significant improvement the XP-40Q was outperformed by the P-47 and P-51, both of which had top speeds in the 435 mph range, performance that both were able to maintain at higher altitudes than the XP-40. While the XP-40Q represented a great stride forward for the P-40 design, it was too little, too late compared with contemporary Allied fighters which had been developed since the war began. When World War II ended, the P-40 was withdrawn from active service.
Pegasus’ XP-40Q is molded in grey and consists of 25 injection molded plastic and 8 white metal parts. There is a minor amount of flash on some parts that will require clean-up. The kit has a number of refinements that should make for an attractive, professional looking model: engraved panel lines, flush riveting, raised detail on the instrument panel, and white metal parts for the oil cooler intakes on the leading edge of each wing, as well as for the landing gear, with separare white metal parts for the four-bladed propeller and spinner.
The propeller will require careful filing to remove burrs, but its blades are nicely tapered and should not need re-shaping. The assembly instructions consist of a single exploded drawing of the kit parts, and call for the standard American World War II era paint scheme of olive drab over neutral grey. The decals are glossy and in register and include a shark mouth design, which photographs show found its way onto at least one prototype, perhaps as a marketing technique with Army officials in an effort to invoke the P-40’s fame and effectiveness in both North Africa and China.
An unusual kit of one of the might-have-beens of late World War II, the last of the famed line of Curtiss Hawk fighters. Highly recommended.
- Aviation Enthusiast Corner – http://www.aero-web.org