The emotions of Soviet pilots regarding the armament of the Airacobra were more contradictory. Pilots preferred the 20 mm automatic cannon, considering the Browning 7.7 mm machine guns insufficiently effective, useful only to inflict damage on German aircraft, but not able to destroy them. The wing-mounted machine guns often were removed. The reduction in aircraft weight increased its maneuvering capabilities, while the pilots did not think removal of two machine guns of rifle caliber was a great sacrifice (the Aircobra 1 was armed with a 20 mm canon and two .50 machine guns in the nose, as well as four .30 machine guns in the wings). The airmen liked very much the later P-39Q Airacobra version that included a 37 mm cannon and four .50 machine guns - two in the nose and two under the wings in gondolas. According to Soviet standards, a fighter had to have one cannon and two large-caliber machineguns. The P-39Q even exceeded this requirement. The wing-mounted machine gun containers were most often removed from the P-39Q to lighten the aircraft. The consideration was that the firepower remaining after removal of the machine guns entirely sufficed. Soviet pilots considered the Airacobra a maneuvering fighter that did not cede anything to the enemy either in the verticals or in the horizontal. The evaluation differed strikingly from that of American pilots. It was a case where the Americans did not like the conduct of the Airacobra primarily at high altitudes at a time when most of the aerial combat on the Soviet-German front took place near the ground or at medium altitudes. At the same time, the Russians found several deficiencies in the American aircraft.
P-40 Warhawk Tomahawk \ Kittyhawk
The Curtiss P-40 Warhawk was an American single-engine, single-seat, all-metal fighter and ground attack aircraft that first flew in 1938. It was used by the air forces of 28 nations, including those of most Allied powers during World War II, and remained in front line service until the end of the war. It was the third most produced American fighter ever, after the P-51 and P-47; by November 1944, when production of the P-40 ceased, 13,738 had been built, all at Curtiss-Wright Corporation's main production facility at Buffalo, New York.
The P-40 design was a modification of the previous Curtiss P-36; this reduced development time and enabled a rapid entry into production and operational service.
Warhawk was the name the United States Army Air Corps adopted for all models, making it the official name in the United States for all P-40s. The British Commonwealth and Soviet air forces used the name Tomahawk for models equivalent to the P-40B and P-40C, and the name Kittyhawk for models equivalent to the P-40D and all later variants.
The P-40's lack of a two-stage supercharger made it inferior to Luftwaffe fighters such as the Messerschmitt Bf 109 or the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 in high altitude combat and it was rarely used in operations in Northwest Europe. Between 1941 and 1944, however, the P-40 played a critical role with Allied air forces in three major theaters: North Africa, the Southwest Pacific and China. It also had a significant role in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, Alaska and Italy. The P-40's high altitude performance was not as critical in those theaters, where it served as an air supremacy fighter, bomber escort and fighter bomber.
P-40s first saw combat with the British Commonwealth squadrons of the Desert Air Force (DAF) in the Middle East and North African campaigns, during June 1941. The Royal Air Force's No. 112 Squadron was among the first to operate Tomahawks, in North Africa, and the unit was the first to feature the "shark mouth" logo, copying similar markings on some Luftwaffe Messerschmitt Bf 110 twin-engine fighters.