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World War Two: Curtiss P-40-E Kittyhawk

During the Second World War, the RNZAF operated 297 P-40 Kittyhawks, most of which were operated in the Pacific theatre, where they were used in a variety of roles, and were credited with downing 99 Japanese aircraft.


The P40 was replaced in front line service by Corsairs in 1944, and they were gradually returned to New Zealand to be used as advanced trainers. Twenty of the P40s were lost in combat, 152 were written off in accidents, and the remaining aircraft were unceremoniously scrapped at Rukuhia (NZ) in 1948.

FastAn example of the variety of roles that the RNZAF P40s had during the Pacific Campaign comes from April 1944.

The Allies had decided to try and determine if an enemy airfield could be knocked out, and kept out of action, by fighter bombers alone (i.e. without medium/heavy bomber support). A combined force of twelve P-38 Lightenings, twenty-four P-39 Airacobras and twenty-four RNZAF Kittyhawks attacked one of the Japanese airstrips at Rabaul in the Solomon Islands.

It was reported that eighteen of the Kittyhawks sucessfully dropped their 500 pound bombs on the runway, and thereafter a variety of fighter bombers regularly attacked the rest of the Rabaul airfields, keeping them effectively out of commission.

taxiWhile the RNZAF played a relatively small role in the campaign, from December 1943 to August 1945, RNZAF aircraft pilots dropped 2068 tons of bombs on Rabaul -- many of which were dropped from P-40s acting in the fighter bomber role.

This particular P40-E (NZ3009) is one of only six surviving Royal New Zealand Air Force Kittyhawks. The aircraft served with 14 Squadron RNZAF during the war.


A solo flying display from the P-40-E flying at low level.


An incredible in-cockpit view during an airshow display.


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