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Curtiss P-42D Twin Warhawk - No.15 'Shark' Squadron, Royal Dhimari Air Force, 1943

In response to USAAC Materiel Division Circular Proposal 39-775 issued in 1939 for a high altitude interceptor, Curtiss submitted a twin-engined version of their P-40 Warhawk powered by two V-12 Allison V-1710-39 engines. Whilst their proposal finished a disapointing third behind the Grumman G-45 XP-50 and the winning Lockheed Model 522 XP-49, Curtiss revised their Twin Warhawk to incorporate two Packard (Rolls-Royce) V-1650-1 Merlin engines each developing 1300 h.p. and turning their own 3-bladed Curtiss electric constant-speed propellers with LH and RH rotation to remove the expected heavy swing on take-off. 

Redesignated as the Curtiss P-42 (replacing the earlier single-engined XP-42 derived from the P-36) the Twin Warhawk featured a powerful nose armament consisting of six 0.5 inch M2 Browning machine guns with 500 rounds per gun and two 20mm Hispano M2(C) cannon with 150 rounds per gun making it the most heavily armed fighter aircraft of it's era especially as the close grouping of the weapons meant that there were no convergence problems when compared with wing-mounted guns. With the ability to carry up to 2,000lb in external stores Curtiss pitched their new design as a multi-role fighter with primary missions of interceptor fighter and fighter-bomber. 

With an increasingly hostile Japan continuing its war against China during 1940 (and also signing the Tripartite Pact in 1940 with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy) the Roosevelt administration slowly moved from being a neutral power to one preparing for war and Curtiss gained further contracts for it's P-40 Warhawk and also an unexpected contract for 300 of the new P-42 Twin Warhawk for the USAAC. This was soon followed by an order for 200 P-42's from the UK Government in late 1940 for use by the RAF in the Western Desert but immediately after Pearl Harbour all 200 aircarft were requisitioned by the USAAC and redesignated as P-42D's.

The first YP-42 prototype first flew on October 11th 1940 and proved to be relatively easy to fly at all speeds with stable handling characteristics although test pilots were very critical of the visibilty over the nose and the engine nacelles. In addition, they considered that the high wing loading made it more suited to ground attack than to air combat. Testing progressed well during 1941 and by the end of the year production P-42B's were rolling off the Curtiss-Wright production line at Buffalo, New York and entering service in May 1942 with the 14th Pursuit Group in San Diego to provide West Coast defence. 

However, most P-42B's went to the 12th Air Force in North Africa as part of the force being built up for Operation Torch. Initially based in Algeria the P-42B's were first involved in North African combat operations during November 1942 shooting down several Italian twin-engined bombers plus two German Me-323 Gigant transports. But it was in the ground attack role that the P-42's of the 12th Air Force excelled in North Africa flying ground attack missions against gun emplacements, troops, supply dumps and tanks. In early 1943 the Royal Dhimari Air Force received 30 P-42D's directly from US stocks and these were used by No.15 Squadron to good effect during the Maqazad counter-offensive in the Spring of 1943.














Skin Credit: Charles

Edited by Spinners
Backstory added.
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