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Curtiss P-40B Warhawk 1:48


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Curtiss P-40B Warhawk

1:48 Airfix via T7 Models




First flying before the outbreak of WWII, the Warhawk was a development of the P-36 Hawk, and although it was never the fastest fighter in the sky, it was a sturdy one that took part in the whole of WWII in American and Allied hands, with a lot being used by Soviet pilots in their battles on the Eastern front.  The various marks garnered different names such as Tomahawk and Kittyhawk, so it can get a mite confusing if you're not familiar with the type.  It wasn't able to keep pace with the supercharged Bf.109, but was used to great effect in the Far East and Africa, which may have assisted in the feeling that it was a second-string aircraft of inferior design, when this actually wasn't the case – certainly not to the extend inferred.


It was robust, cheap to make, and easy to repair, although its high altitude performance dropped off somewhat.  The early marks were under-armed with just two .50 guns firing through the prop from the top of the engine cowling and a pair of .303s in the wings, but later models benefitted from improved armament.  The B model that is the subject of this kit was a revision of  the initial airframe with lessons learned from early production, self-sealing fuel tanks and armour in critical parts of the airframe, although this extra weight did have an impact on performance.  It wasn't until the –F model that the Allinson engine was replaced by a license built Merlin that gave it better high altitude performance.



The Kit

A new tooling from Airfix, this is a welcome early model Warhawk that was used in China by the American Volunteer Group (AVG) before the US entered into WWII, as well as at Pearl Harbour in 1941 when a few aircraft managed to get airborne during the carnage inflicted by the Japanese sneak attack that brought American into the war.  Airfix have come on in leaps and bounds since they were bought by Hornby some years ago, and their kits are much improved from those of yore, with lots of extra detail without affecting prices too profoundly.  The kit arrives in one of Airfix's striking red boxes, and inside you find three sprues of mid-grey styrene, plus one of clear, and a compact decal sheet, with of course the by-now-familiar limited colour instruction booklets that also have the painting and decaling guide on the rear.









A long look over the sprues shows some nice detail, although the panel lines aren't the finest, but should look well under a couple of coats of paint and primer.  This is one of the new Made in England products that was manufactured in Blighty as well as being designed in the UK, and that is evident by the change in plastic colour, as well as the style of the moulding.  The clear parts also look to be an improvement over recent kits, which has got to be good news.  You get a nicely detailed cockpit, a pilot figure, the option of open or closed cooling flaps on the engine, raised or lowered landing gear, using alternative parts for the legs, tyres and doors, a choice of open or closed canopy, as well as a choice of windscreen styles.  All good so far.




Construction starts with the cockpit, which is built up on a portion of the centre-section of the wing, shows the front of a fuel tank behind the pilot's seat, a detailed front bulkhead, and a pair of side walls that have a latticework of ribs and stringers on which the various ancillary controls are suspended.  The instrument panel is suspended on the sidewalls, and a decal is included to detail the dials, with no background colour to complicate your paint choice.  The optional pilot figure is a squat fellow with separate arms, and should fit within the cockpit without any fettling, but test that supposition before you get too far with the build.  The fuselage halves have ribbing moulded-in, some of which will be seen thought the radio hatch if you elect to leave it open.  There's no detail inside other than the ribbing however, so it seems little more than an invitation for an aftermarket provider to make a radio set.  The cockpit interior is glued into the fuselage whilst upside down, and once set up and upright the intakes for the chin scoop are added, terminating with a nose-ring at the front.  This then allows the fuselage halves to mate firmly, after which the final part of the chin-scoop ducting is added at the tip of the nose.  Two sections of the sprue are left in the nose until this point too, in order to give the assembly more rigidity during assembly.  These are cut out when the fuselage is set in order to accommodate the gun-trough inserts and gun fairings.  The large wing fairings are moulded as separate parts, and are added to the fuselage before the wings are built up, slotting into a keyed area on the side.




The lower wing is full span as you would expect, and into this is placed a single piece that performs the combined task of providing the fabric-lined wheel bay inserts and adding a little structural rigidity to the wing.  The assembly then slots into the bottom of the fuselage leading-edge first, engaging a pair of tabs into the corresponding slots, which is a nice touch.  The upper wings and the "knuckle" fairings of the landing gear bays are then added, as are the tail plane, followed by the separate elevators and rudder parts, which are posable.  The instructions helpfully give you maximum deflection angles for each surface, which will help you get them looking right.  A choice of open or closed cowling flaps is next, simply by choosing the appropriate part.


Next you need to choose whether to model your Warhawk with the wheels up or down, which affects your choice of parts for the next few steps.  Wheels up includes a closed tail-wheel door, partial depth main wheels and main struts, plus closed bay doors, such as they are.  The gear down option has single-part struts with a retraction leg, with additional struts added for extra strength, and open bay doors that fit into place with good-sized contact areas.  The wheels are separate from the hubs, and have a slightly over-done flat patch at the bottom to simulate the weight of the airframe on the pneumatic tyres.


The prop is supposed as a single part that fits into a five-part spinner/axle that glues into the larger hole in the front of the fuselage, and requires you to be careful with the glue if you want to keep it spinning.  The exhaust stacks and wing-mounted guns sit into their respective slots, and a choice of straight or cranked pitot probes slot into a hole in the port wingtip.  The final task is to fit the pilot's armoured glazing before adding a choice of windscreen parts, and the rear-view panels that cause some much fuss over the colour of the panels behind it.  Then you have a choice of open or closed canopy parts, after which you're done.






There are two markings options in the box for this model, both of which are quite well-known if you have an interest in the early war exploits of American fighter pilots.  Decals are by Cartograf, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas.


From the box you can build one of the following:


  • P-40B flown by 2nd Lt. George Welch, 47th Pursuit Squadron, 15th Pursuit Group, Wheeler Field, Oahu, Hawaii, 7th December 1941 – Olive drab over Compass Grey, with the old style US Star roundels.
  • Hawk 81-A-2 flown by Flight Leader Robert "R T" Smith, 3rd Squadron, Kunming, China, June 1942 – Dark green and light earth camouflage over camouflage grey undersides, wearing the Republic of China roundel and fuselage art showing a winged tiger.





An appealing kit of an aircraft that doesn't get the recognition it perhaps deserves.  It looks like a pleasant build to boot.


Highly recommended.



Review sample courtesy of


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One thing to note is that the trim tab on the rudder is only scribed on one side.  Jonners mentions it in his build (apologies, I can't find the build thread at present). Looking at my kit, it is easy to see where the lines should be and it is a 2 minute job to put them in.  Other than that, it is a lovely looking kit and definitely shows a step forward from Airfix.

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There are lots of AM decals available, but if you've seen the decal options hundreds of times, they must be popular, which is probably why they've turned up again :)  I'd probably go for AVG, as it's an(other) area I know little about.

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Excellent comprehensive review Mike, of note for those building the USAAC version,the colour sheet for the paint and decalling differs

from the box art and box top profile in respect of the demarcation between the upper and lower colour's being straight from front to

rear along the bottom fuselage thankfully I was able to correct this when I noticed the error,however I found picture of a partially destroyed

machine at Pearl Harbour with the straight demarcation so I'm not sure which is correct.

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6 hours ago, Mike said:

There are lots of AM decals available, but if you've seen the decal options hundreds of times, they must be popular, which is probably why they've turned up again :)  I'd probably go for AVG, as it's an(other) area I know little about.


Hi Mike,

Then could you point me to some good alternatives in AM?

It seems to me that Airfix used to provide some not so popular options but still interesting as a second choice on their decals sheets, when it's possible.

In this case, AVG, well...

Maybe I lived in Taiwan for too long...

I'll look for a Desert Air Force option, I think.

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Another one to add to my collection? Thanks god, Airfix is working through the LIDAR system. (See on airfix website) It will be difficult to be more accurate than this.

I'm more eager to see the Sea Fury and Walrus coming. That will be Extra ordi nary !!

Thank Mike for the good review.


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For anyone building Welch's 160, Rod Lewis' example restored to fly in NZ (which I'll build from this gorgeous kit) is in those colours and makes for a nice reference. I know some don't trust warbirds as references, but in my case it's the warbird I'm building rather than the original! 

Edited by k5054nz
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