P-40L Warhawk, Kittyhawk II

In order to improve the Merlin-powered Warhawk's performance in short-range combat, the P-40L version was created.

The P-40L (Model 87-B3) was basically a "stripped" version of the Merlin-powered P-40F-5-CU, in which 250 pounds of weight was saved by the partial removal of fuel, armament, and other equipment. The P-40L was otherwise virtually identical to the Merlin-powered P-40F-5-CU. Some of the P-40L production blocks featured planes with reduced armament and smaller capacity fuel tanks in order to obtain even more reduced weight and even better performance. The L-model was sometimes known as the "Gipsy Rose Lee", after the famous strip-tease dancer of the time.

The P-40L-1-CU had the same fuel and armament as the P-40F.

The P-40L-5-CU and subsequent P-40Ls had two of their wing guns removed to reduce the total armament to four 0.50-inch machine guns with 201 rounds per gun. Internal fuel was reduced by 31 Imp gal by the removal of front wing tanks.

The P-40L-10-CU had electrical aileron trim tabs and engine control changes.

The P-40L-15-CU had revised carburetor air filters and inter-aircraft signal lights.

The P-40L-20-CU had radio and electrical changes and provisions for an incendiary (destruct) grenade.

Despite the weight savings, the maximum speed of the P-40L was a mere 4 mph greater than that of the P-40F at rated altitude.

One hundred P-40Ls were sent to Britain as Kittyhawk IIs with no mark distinctions from the P-40Fs. The RAF serials for the P-40Ls were FS400/FS499. 160 other P-40Ls reached the RAF as Kittyhawk IIIs. Their serials were FL714/FL730, FR116/FR140, FR385/FR392, and FR413/FR521.

A certain number of P-40Ls were selected at random and were withdrawn from operational service and modified with the adoption of the 1360 hp Allison V-1710-81 engine in place of the original Merlin. These were used as advanced trainers. They were redesignated P-40R-2. At least 53 P-40L-->P-40R conversions took place which can be identified by serial number, but there were probably many more.

The P-40Ls were originally assigned the serial numbers 42-65202/65901. These numbers were cancelled and were replaced as follows:

42-10430/10479 Curtiss P-40L-1-CU Warhawk
42-10480/10699 Curtiss P-40L-5-CU Warhawk
42-10700/10847 Curtiss P-40L-10-CU Warhawk
42-10848/10959 Curtiss P-40L-15-CU Warhawk
42-10960/11129 Curtiss P-40L-20-CU Warhawk
42-11130/11676 Curtiss P-40L-25-CU Warhawk - contract cancelled
42-14237/14296 Curtiss P-40L-30-CU Warhawk -- contract cancelled.


War Planes of the Second World War, Fighters, Volume Four, William Green, Doubleday, 1964.

The American Fighter, Enzo Angelucci and Peter Bowers, Orion Books, 1987.

United States Military Aircraft since 1909, Gordon Swanborough and Peter M. Bowers, Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989.

Curtiss Aircraft, 1907-1947, Peter M. Bowers, Naval Institute Press, 1979.

The Curtiss P-40 Tomahawk, Ray Wagner, Aircraft in Profile, Volume 2, Doubleday, 1965.

© Joseph Baugher