Author Topic: Curtiss-Fairey P-40H Kittiwake  (Read 12839 times)

Offline KiwiZac

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Curtiss-Fairey P-40H Kittiwake
« on: December 19, 2014, 05:35:33 AM »
Hi all,
Very much a work in progress, updates and models to come as and when.

UPDATED 14/01/2020
Due to the unsatisfactory performance of the Supermarine Seafire the Fleet Air Arm held a snap competition to provide a new fleet fighter, which should also be capable of carrying external stores. Several manufacturers offered new designs while others, including Curtiss, suggested conversions of existing aircraft. Although the Seafire debacle had soured many on the concept of converted landplanes, the Curtiss proposal for a navalised P-40 Warhawk won the contest.

A Rolls-Royce Griffon XII, complete with propeller and spinner, was removed from a Firefly Mk.I and sent to the Curtiss works for use in the new fighter, which was to be based on a “long-tail” P-40N-1 (s/n 42-104731) withdrawn from the production line. The original sextet of Browning .50cal machineguns was replaced with four Hispano 20mm cannon, the wing was strengthened for carrying external stores and gained a manual wingfold mechanism. Finally the undercarriage was strengthened for carrier landings and a retractable tailhook fitted behind the tailwheel, the rudder receiving a small cut-out at its base to accommodate it. Curtiss assigned the type the designation XP-40H, this subtype having earlier been skipped over for unrecorded reasons, and the FAA and Fairey agreed on the name Kittiwake, a breed of seagull.

On September 23 1943 the XP-40H - now serialled VF259 - flew for the first time, performing excellently and showing no stability issues caused by the more powerful engine. After twelve flights were completed it was shipped to the UK as work began on three YP-40H pre-production airframes. Rigorous testing of the XP-40H in the UK showed the tailhook position to cause undue stress on the airframe so on the YP-40Hs this was moved to ahead of the tailwheel. Likewise the manual wingfold system was replaced with an electrical version.

The three YP-40H aircraft (serials VZ411, VZ412 and VZ413) were completed but not flown in the US, instead being shipped in pieces about the aircraft carrier HMS Hermes. Once reassembled in the UK they were flown and subjected to more testing and, due to the success of the XP-40H programme and the FAA’s enthusiasm, an order for 200 Kittiwake Mk.I aircraft – based on the YP-40H but with a more powerful Griffon VI originally destined for the abortive Seafire XV – was placed with Fairey.

After 50 machines had come off the line further testing, and combat experience, suggested more range was required. Because of this Fairey’s design team reworked the Mk.I to include an extra fuel tank in the rear fuselage, capable of holding an additional 35gal. Dubbed the Mk.II, it was decided by the FAA that the improved version should form the bulk of the Kittiwake fleet. As such the original order for 200 Mk.Is was reduced to 125 airframes, and a new order for 175 Mk.IIs was placed. The first unit to receive the type was 201 Squadron, based aboard HMS Seasprite.

The type became popular among its crews and was notching up combat “victories” in no time. Pilot Lt Carl Avery from 201 Sqn flying Mk.1 WA040 scored the first “kill” for the type – an Fw200C Condor – on February 12 1944. Dozens of Luftwaffe and Regia Aeronautica aircraft fell to the Kittiwake, making it a propaganda darling and the naval equivalent of the Spitfire in the eyes of the British public. Later operations in the Pacific also proved time and again the type’s capability and the skill of its pilots, the last kill – again by a 201 pilot – coming on August 5 1945.

Some pilots had complained of a lack of visibility in combat so Fairey withdrew a Mk.I (WA031) from its servicing line and made it the sole Mk.III. This involved a cut-down rear fuselage with a bubble canopy but retaining the same windscreen. An oblique-facing camera was also installed for photo-reconnaissance duties. Although test pilots reported much-improved visibility from the new canopy the FAA decided against ordering the Mk.III, and a proposal to retrofit the camera suite to existing aircraft was also shelved.

Another aborted variant was the Mk.IV, which would have used a more powerful Griffon 65 with a contra-rotating propeller to counteract torque. The Mk.IV concept, which also involved moving the radiators to the wing root and doing away with the massive chin cowl, was tested on Mk.II WA192 with some success. However the amount of work involved in converting the line Kittiwakes to Mk.IV configuration was not seen as cost-effective by the FAA and was also put aside, although WA192 retained the bigger engine and prop for testing at the Fairey works.

At war’s end the Kittiwake squadrons were reshuffled and amended to compensate for combat losses, the FAA making it clear further Mk.I and Mk.II purchases were not on its radar due to projected peacetime requirements. As part of the reshuffle two squadrons – 238 and 240 – were ceremonially “gifted” to the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Australian Navy respectively. Both air arms also received 24 Kittiwakes each to fully equip each unit, being a mixture of Mk.Is and Mk.IIs – now designated Kittiwake FB.1 and FB.2. The FAA itself downsized to four squadrons (201, 310, 420 and 444) due to wartime attrition.

The machines of 240 Sqn RAN were shipped to Australia aboard the light carrier HMAS Wasp, formerly the Royal Navy vessel of the same name, in mid-1947. The squadron had six months’ deployment to the Korean Peninsula in 1951 and then to Malaya in 1956, and the type was retired in 1957 to be replaced by the de Havilland Sea Venom. Just one RAN Kittiwake was saved for preservation.

The RCN aircraft were much more active, being deployed to Korea for the duration and also being called on to support British forces in the Suez campaign. The remaining 14 Kittiwakes were retired to be sold at auction in 1959, with only two surviving today.

The FAA Kittiwakes, with aircraft and crews having a proven record from WW2, went on to another successful deployment in Korea. During the four-year conflict all four Kittiwake units saw action and one pilot – Lt Luke Frederick, flying WA040 – won the Victoria Cross for his efforts against a Communist AA nest and downing four North Korean MiG-15s.

Among them was 201 Sqn and their Kittiwakes, along with “Old Faithful” – HMS Seasprite. Immediately they went into action, and the squadron’s CO, Commander John Faulkner, scored the first jet kill by a Kittiwake in the squadron’s flagship, WA201.

During their Korean War posting from 1950 until 1953 201 Sqn flew another 220 missions, shooting down 50 enemy aircraft for the loss of five of their own. A flight of four 201 Sqn aircraft, led by Cmdr Faulkner in WA201, patrolled the 38th Parallel as the armistice was signed, ending the war. The aircraft even overflew the site of the signing itself as the war was declared at an end.

January 1950 saw the formation of the final FAA-equipped Kittiwake squadron, 444. Due to the lack of experienced Kittiwake pilots, many of 444’s aircraft were lost in accidents while training new personnel. When war in Korea was declared, 444 Sqn was sent to assist 201 and 310 Sqns in the conflict, sailing from Britain on HMS Icarus. Unfortunately, a tropical cyclone in the Indian Ocean sank Icarus, with the loss of all hands. 444 Squadron was disbanded in 1951 with no personnel or aircraft.

During the Korean War Fairey’s designers revisited the Mk.III and Mk.IV concepts with an eye to producing a new “Super Kittiwake” variant for FAA use to compete with the new jets and other types like the Hawker Sea Fury. Dubbed the FB.5, this final development mated the engine of the Mk.IV with the fuselage of the Mk.III, creating a slimmer aircraft with more horsepower and much better visibility for the pilot. Despite a projected performance superior to even the early jets, and a vastly improved stores-carrying capability, the Kittiwake FB.5 was one of several types called out by name in the infamous 1957 Defence White Paper and was swiftly cancelled. The sole example, a prototype yet to fly, was scrapped shortly afterward.

Following the Korean deployments 310 Sqn saw service in Malaya, primarily as fighters but with a secondary close-support role, alongside 60 Sqn RAF. As part of Operation Firedog 310 arrived at Tengah, Singapore in late 1953 and whilst in Malaya came under the control of the Far East Air Force.

310’s Malayan service resulted in medals for many of its pilots, and one was given the highest honour short of a knighthood. On the morning of July 15, 1957, Lieutenants Harry Granger and Simon Black took off on a combat air patrol over neutral territory. However, against a treaty signed the week before, the hills were full of Communist insurgents. Lt Black was shot down, and Lt Granger wounded. Nevertheless, Lt Granger carried out multiple strafing runs against the enemy positions, until he was out of ammunition and perilously low on fuel. For his actions, he was awarded the Victoria Cross a week later.

After its Korean sojourn 201 then returned to England, arriving in Southampton in January of 1954. Later that year the aircraft served for 18 months in Malaya then Seasprite sailed for the Mediterranean. Taking part in action against Egypt along with Venoms, Hawker Hunters, English Electric Canberras and Vickers Valiants of the RAF, 201 flew 150 operations as part of Operation Musketeer. Musketeer took place in November 1956, and involved British and French forces attacking those of Egypt. Fighting, although not as fierce as in Korea or Malaya, nevertheless saw rookies fresh from training in the UK turned into hardened combat pilots.

The Suez Crisis saw 260 Egyptian aircraft destroyed for the loss of seven French and British aircraft, not one of which was a Kittiwake, and 201 went from strength to strength.

In 1957, upon its arrival home from Suez, 201 Sqn saw a period without any action. But one mysterious event involving the unit would see four pilots and their aircraft leave, never to return. On May 12 1957, led by Commander Ian Spencer, Lieutenants Lance Young, Robert Humphries and Arthur Griffith took off in their FB Mk.2s from Yeovilton for a flight to HMS Wasp, which was sailing for the US and a Contact Blue exchange trip. At the time, Wasp was about 150 miles off the coast of Ireland. The four aircraft flew as planned, landing at Shannon for a refuelling and the fitting of drop tanks. They took off for the 30-minute flight, and the last contact made with the group was a warning by Shannon’s tower that bad weather was moving towards them. No trace of the pilots or their aircraft was ever found.

Kittiwakes of the four squadrons were seen on almost every continent throughout the 1950s, and were the most visible part of British military might throughout the early part of the Cold War. Pilots from many UN and NATO forces flew Kittiwakes through the “Contact Blue” programme, where pilots from the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force would have a years’ exchange flying with another country’s air arm. Americans, Canadians, New Zealanders, Frenchmen, even Greeks and Spaniards flew the Kittiwake thanks to “Contact Blue”.

By 1960 the decision was made to finally retire the type from FAA service in favour of the new, improved jets now coming on line. The remaining 70 airframes were offered for sale in what’s been called “The Great Auction” by Kittiwake enthusiasts. This three-day sale at RNAS Yeovilton in June 1960 saw many were sold into private ownership, including several which flew out afterward to their new homes. Less than a dozen complete aircraft escaped the scrapper’s axe, with 10 still remaining today (including some donated by the FAA to museums prior to the auction).

Variants_zps05209bba by Zac Yates, on Flickr

XP-40H: the prototype, a P-40N-1 airframe removed from the Curtiss-Wright line and completed as a Kittiwake. Clipped wings with manual fold at the flap/aileron join, strengthened undercarriage, tailhook mounted behind tailwheel. x4 Hispano 20mm cannon replacing original x6 .50 Browning mg, Griffon XII of 1765hp with three-bladed propeller. One produced (42-104731/VF259)
YP-40H: pre-production testing airframes, built at Curtiss-Wright and shipped to UK for assembly and testing. Tailhook relocated to under fuselage, electric wingfold mechanism installed, otherwise identical to XP-40H. Three produced (VZ410-413)
Kittiwake Mk.I: Fairey-built production version of YP-40H powered by Griffon VI of 1850hp with four-bladed propeller. 125 produced (WA000-124)
Kittiwake Mk.II: identical to Mk.I except for addition of 35gal fuel tank in rear fuselage. 175 produced (WA125-299)
Kittiwake Mk.III: proposed replacement for existing fleet with bubble canopy and low-back fuselage and cameras for photo-reconnaissance, wing unchanged. None produced but one airframe converted for testing modified fuselage (Mk.I WA031)
Kittiwake Mk.IV: proposed retrofit of Griffon 65 powerplant with contra-rotating propellers. None converted but one airframe used for testing, later used for FB.5 project (Mk.II WA192)
Kittiwake FB.1: post-1947 designation for surviving Mk.I airframes
Kittiwake FB.2: post-1947 designation for surviving Mk.II airframes
Kittiwake FB.5: redesigned airframe with bubble canopy and low-back fuselage, Griffon 65 with contraprop, wing root-mounted radiators. One produced at Fairey but scrapped before completion (no FAA serial assigned)

Variant and S/N – Last reported owner. Current status. History.

XP-40H 42-104731/VF259 – Fleet Air Arm Museum, Yeovilton, Somerset, UK. P/D. Formerly airworthy with Tony Fox at Ardmore, New Zealand, donated to FAAM 2009 with time-expired engine as the flying engine and spares were donated to RNHF to support the operation of WA201. On display in Hall 4 next to Wyvern VR137.
Academy 1/72 Curtiss-Fairey Kittiwake by Zac Yates, on Flickr

YP-40H VZ413 – Imperial War Museum, Duxford, Cambs, UK. S/P. Fuselage only sold at auction to RW Landry & Son scrap merchants, Podimore, Somerset. Sold to Warbirds of Great Britain 1983, TFC 1992 and then on to the IWM in 2004. Held as a spares source for restoration of WA299.

FB.1 WA000/N6481CA – Planes of Fame, Chino, CA, USA. U/R. Sold at auction to Ed Maloney in June 1960, who immediately had the aircraft shipped back to California for rebuild and display. Never flown although registered and occasionally taxied, the aircraft was put into airworthy restoration in 2005 and this is ongoing but work on it is occasional as other projects take priority.

FB.1 WA012/N40H – Commemorative Air Force, Pittsburgh, PA, USA. A/W. Purchased at auction by Sir William Roberts in June 1960 this machine was flown to its new home at the Strathallan Aircraft Museum as G-AXPD. Following the museum’s closure in 1980 the aircraft was one of several purchased by Kermit Weeks and shipped to his Florida museum. Weeks sold the aircraft to Pittsburgh businessman and pilot Perry Bryan in 1997 and he in turn donated it to the Confederate Air Force. After being stored following its arrival, by road, from Florida, the Kittiwake was restored and flew again on 03/07/2013. It now flies as N40H from Arnold Palmer Regional Airport.

FB.1 WA040 – Fleet Air Arm Museum, RNAS Yeovilton, Somerset, UK. P/D. Retired from service in 1955 and placed in storage with the RAF at St Athan. Trucked to Yeovilton in 1964 for the opening of the FAA Museum and painted in its Korean War colours. Restored between 1977-1979, it is now on display in Hall 2 alongside Sea Fury WJ231.

FB.1 WA062/C-FHNA[/u] – Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum, Hamilton, Ont, CAN. A/W.
Academy 1/72 Curtiss-Fairey Kittiwake by Zac Yates, on Flickr

FB.1 WA063 – Canadian Museum of Flight, Langley, BC, CAN. P/D. Sold in 1959 to DJ Bailey of Toronto, the aircraft was used for air racing (unmodified) as CF-SRM until it was donated to the CMF in 1977. A founding exhibit when the museum opened that year the Kittiwake, the only one on permanent public display in Canada, was restored in 1990 into the colours it wore when active in the Korean War.

FB.1 WA079/G-PXLH - The Fighter Collection, Duxford, Cambs, UK. A/W. Sold at auction June 1960 to RW Landry & Son scrap merchants, at whose Podimore yard the aircraft was placed on display. On at least three occasions the aircraft’s engine was run and the wingfold mechanism cycled, although proprietor Tom Landry was not a pilot. After son Alex Landry took over the yard in 1983 the aircraft was sold to Doug Arnold for his Warbirds of Great Britain collection at Blackbushe. The aircraft was restored in a Suez War-inspired scheme and flew again 22/05/1985 as G-PXLH but was then stored, not being seen in public again until after Arnold’s death in 1992. Stephen Grey then purchased the aircraft and based it at Duxford where it remains today, albeit now in its original North Atlantic WW2 colour scheme.

FB.1 WA119/NX6291 – Dr Bert Reilly, Las Vegas, NV, USA. C/D.
Academy 1/72 Curtiss-Fairey Kittiwake by Zac Yates, on Flickr

FB.1 WA201 – Royal Navy Historic Flight, Yeovilton, Somerset, UK. A/W. After retirement the machine was placed on display outside the crew rooms at RNAS Yeovilton. In 1972 it was removed from display and returned to flight with the newly-formed RNHF. It has flown continuously since then, apart from a major overhaul/restoration in 1984-87 after a landing accident.
B5E4D370-A0B5-4BC8-BBF9-016E263BC17B_zpsvwtzzxyy by Zac Yates, on Flickr

FB.2 WA232/N232RL - Lewis Flying Legends, San Antonio, Texas, United States of America
Airfix 1/72 Curtiss-Fairey Kittiwake by Zac Yates, on Flickr
Academy 1/72 Curtiss-Fairey Kittiwake by Zac Yates, on Flickr

FB.2 WA234/G-AWGN – George Edwards, Shoreham Airport, West Sussex, UK. D. Purchased as surplus by George Edwards in June 1960. Rebuilt and painted in generic WW2 markings with fuselage codes GD-E (the owner’s initials), it appeared at several fly-ins and airshows. It was destroyed in an electrical fire in a hangar on the night of 12/09/1978 (Edwards, who had been asleep in an adjoining rest room, narrowly escaped).

FB.2 WA235/G-AYAL – Neil Williams, Blackbushe, Hamps, UK. C/D. Sold at auction to KL Gardener in June 1960, this aircraft proceeded through several owners until being purchased by renowned aerobatic pilot Neil Williams in 1972. Rebuilt and flown again in 1974 it became a popular airshow attendee. Fuel starvation caused the engine to quit during a practice for the Biggin Hill Air Fair in 1977. Williams bailed out without injury but the aircraft was destroyed when it crashed into nearby farmland.

FB.2 WA241/VH-CKF – Temora Aviation Museum, Temora, NSW, AUS. A/W.

FB.2 WA299 – Imperial War Museum, Duxford, Cambs, UK. S/R. Upon retirement it was donated to the IWN and stripped of internal parts and engine, being placed at the main gate. Sporadically repainted, it was removed for restoration in mid-2004 and is currently stored pending restoration for display.

FB.2 replica – Fleet Air Arm Museum, HMAS Albatross, Nowra, NSW, AUS. P/D. Built by Transavia in 1988 based on WA241. Displayed as WA259 in Korean War service.

FB.2 replica – War Memorial of Korea, Yongsan-dong, Seoul, South Korea. P/D. Built by Transavia in 1988 based on WA241. Displayed (outdoors) as FB.1 WA040 at the time of Fred Luke’s VC-winning action.

FB.5 replica G-XLHV – Lawrence Hardy, Duxford, Cambs, UK. A/W.
D2FA4B41-6752-439B-9D2F-54C685F671A5_zps4ug2tdwl by Zac Yates, on Flickr

P-40E “KITTIWAKE” 42-97398/N440CF – Gulf Coast Wing CAF, Houston, TX, USA. A/W.
WA1964 by Zac Yates, on Flickr
« Last Edit: January 14, 2020, 04:58:23 AM by KiwiZac »

Offline KiwiZac

  • The Modeller Formerly Known As K5054NZ
Re: Curtiss-Fairey P-40H Kittiwake
« Reply #1 on: December 22, 2014, 04:53:11 AM »
Line drawings and history added.

Offline Cliffy B

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Re: Curtiss-Fairey P-40H Kittiwake
« Reply #2 on: December 22, 2014, 08:50:47 AM »
Love it!!!  Those bubble topped models though....  :-*
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Offline KiwiZac

  • The Modeller Formerly Known As K5054NZ
Re: Curtiss-Fairey P-40H Kittiwake
« Reply #3 on: December 22, 2014, 09:14:52 AM »
Thanks Cliffy! I quite like the thinner-cowl versions myself.

Thanks to MartinH of the What If Sig in the UK, I now have the original "magazine article" I wrote about the Kittiwake way back when so I've amended the article above. It mentions the FB.5 had a taller fin and rudder...will have to amend the drawing for that, but I think it'll look brilliant!  8)
« Last Edit: December 22, 2014, 09:16:54 AM by KiwiZac »

Offline KiwiZac

  • The Modeller Formerly Known As K5054NZ
Re: Curtiss-Fairey P-40H Kittiwake
« Reply #4 on: August 13, 2015, 04:58:11 AM »
Slight edit, possibly some major ones to the line art to come.

Offline KiwiZac

  • The Modeller Formerly Known As K5054NZ
Re: Curtiss-Fairey P-40H Kittiwake
« Reply #5 on: October 12, 2017, 05:29:51 AM »
Images relinked and new ones added.

Offline KiwiZac

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Re: Curtiss-Fairey P-40H Kittiwake
« Reply #6 on: November 15, 2019, 10:15:00 AM »
Bump  :smiley:

72nd Kittiwakes 15/11/19 by Zac Yates, on Flickr

Offline Old Wombat

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Re: Curtiss-Fairey P-40H Kittiwake
« Reply #7 on: November 15, 2019, 10:21:08 AM »
Cool! 8)

Is that Xtradecal set at the back for the Sea Fury? ???
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Offline KiwiZac

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Re: Curtiss-Fairey P-40H Kittiwake
« Reply #8 on: November 16, 2019, 03:05:07 AM »
It is! And a great sheet it is too. I see more Xtradecal purchases in my future.

Offline apophenia

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Re: Curtiss-Fairey P-40H Kittiwake
« Reply #9 on: November 16, 2019, 03:06:53 AM »
Bump  :smiley:

Nice! That's quite the fleet you're building up there 'Zac   :smiley:
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Offline Frank3k

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Re: Curtiss-Fairey P-40H Kittiwake
« Reply #10 on: November 16, 2019, 05:52:03 AM »
That's a really nice looking collection! What's the base kit? They look too nice for the ancient Academy kit.

Offline KiwiZac

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Re: Curtiss-Fairey P-40H Kittiwake
« Reply #11 on: November 17, 2019, 05:55:31 PM »
Thanks folks.

What's the base kit? They look too nice for the ancient Academy kit.
It's the Academy 1/72 P-40M/N, it's a lovely kit and fairly accurate apart from a too-tall windscreen and canopy, as well as slightly misshapen rear-quarter windows. It's also cheap and fairly plentiful here, excellent for this project. Scalemates says the tooling is from 1999.

Offline KiwiZac

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Re: Curtiss-Fairey P-40H Kittiwake
« Reply #12 on: November 25, 2019, 09:32:22 AM »
Formatting updated and some small details and teasers ;) added.

Offline KiwiZac

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Re: Curtiss-Fairey P-40H Kittiwake
« Reply #13 on: November 30, 2019, 12:27:02 PM »
Photo of WA119 model and link to WIP and story added, awaiting parts to allow three more to go up soon.

Offline KiwiZac

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Re: Curtiss-Fairey P-40H Kittiwake
« Reply #14 on: December 05, 2019, 04:46:55 AM »
Link to build of WA241/VH-CKF added.

Offline KiwiZac

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Re: Curtiss-Fairey P-40H Kittiwake
« Reply #15 on: December 22, 2019, 03:16:27 PM »
Cheeky update to reflect two further builds now underway.

Offline KiwiZac

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Re: Curtiss-Fairey P-40H Kittiwake
« Reply #16 on: January 14, 2020, 08:33:57 AM »
Links to threads for, and photos added of, WA062 and WA232.