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The P-40 (aka Hawk 81)

They dive down, guns flashing, shark mouths seemingly grinning in anticipation of the kill. An explosion, and another Japanese bomber goes down! Zoom under, then claw for altitude to do it again. Mission accomplished, the pilots head for home - in this case, a primitive, muddy airfield somewhere in China...

The P-40 is best known to most as the aircraft of the Flying Tigers. But its use was much more widespread. It was the primary aircraft of the US Army Air Corps on our entry into the war. The British tried it out, but weren't sorely impressed, and sent their units to the desert where they gave a good accounting of themselves against Rommel. Under 15,000 feet, it could even give the vaunted ME-109 of the time a run for its money. The Australians used it, heck, we even sold some to the Soviets! The P-40 was a rugged, widely used fighter and erstwhile ground attack aircraft. While it eventually gave way to advanced fighters like the P-47 and P-51, it was there in quantity when we needed it.