Efforts to lighten the P-40E in December 41 and early 42?

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by oldcrowcv63, Oct 3, 2012.

  1. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    I have heard and seen in print numerous references to field modifications made by pilots ground crew to Commonwealth Buffaloes to lighten their weight and thereby increase their performance. This apparently included either replacing 0.50" HMGs with 0.30" LMGs or removing some MGs altogether.

    I know of only one instance wherein a US Pilot made a concerted effort to lighten his ship. This was 17th Pursuit Squadron's 1st Lt. John Brownwell who, arriving at Del Monte Airfield in early January, 1942, and assigned to perform recon missions, removed 4 of his 6 HMGs as well as his O2 equipment and Radio. The aircraft's quirky handling characteristics ultimately killed a young pilot who, unfamiliar with its idiosyncrasies attempted to land it while making a simple transfer to a nearby airfield.

    Does anyone know of or ever seen in print an instance where pilots/crew attempted to make the P-40E lighter by removing two of the six 0.50" MGs? I know that later in its service life that was done in subsequent marks but was it ever done in the PTO in early to mid 1942 by units/pilots of the USAAF, RAAF or RNZAF?
     
  2. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    :shock:
    Flying into battle armed only with .50cal MGs is bad enough. Surely you don't want to further reduce firepower. Find something else to remove.
     
  3. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    The Armor?

    Take out the self sealing tanks and put in sheet metal ones?

    The radio?

    There isn't much else.

    Japanese aircraft at the time had little or no armor and no self sealing tanks meaning they were vulnerable to .30 cal gun fire. Supplies of .50 cal ammo may have been hard to come by for Commonwealth Units in Singapore and Burma in Dec of 1941. Guns you can get ammo for beat the best gun in the world with no ammo.
     
  4. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    I am not asking what else could be taken out, I am wondering if there are examples of efforts at field modifications of the P-40E similar to those made on behalf of the Brewster B-339 during the Malayan and Java campaign.

    Dave, four 0.50" HMGs proved to be sufficient in the PTO whereas it was regarded as merely adequate in the ETO against armored Luftwaffe fighters. I'd expect there may have been efforts by Commonwealth users of the P-40E since they were evidently more inclined to make field mods than was the USAAF, until George Kenny arrived in Oz.
     
  5. varsity078740

    varsity078740 Member

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    The P-40 you're referring to was not Brownwell's P-40E. It was a hybrid rebuilt on a P-40B airframe that apparently had one P-40E wing. It was known as the P-40 Something and was known to have vicious handling characteristics. The pilot was Larry McDaniel.


    Duane
     
  6. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    #6 oldcrowcv63, Oct 4, 2012
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2012

    You are correct about the pilot who was killed in the P-40-Something but incorrect about Brownwell's P-40E. A careful reading of Bartsch (which I should have done earlier, PB page 232) ) shows Brownwell's lightened aircraft to be a P-40E and that it ended its career in a duel with 3 A6Ms after a mission to Davao. After running him out of fuel, the pilot, Gordon Bensen, ditched it in water near and up onto a beach where strafing Zeros tore it up. Brownwell was sorely pissed. (PB P. 239)
     
  7. varsity078740

    varsity078740 Member

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    #7 varsity078740, Oct 4, 2012
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2012
    True. I was referring specifically to the accident that killed McDaniel, not whether or not Brownwell's ship was lightened.

    Former 17th PS pilot George Kiser was also known for flying a 4 gun P-40E with reduced ammo while at Darwin with the 49th PG.

    Duane
     
  8. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    Varsity, Thanks, that's exactly the type of info I was looking for! Do you have a reference for that?
     
  9. varsity078740

    varsity078740 Member

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    Protect and Avenge. The 49th Fighter Group In WWII. Shiffer Publishing Group
     
  10. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    Thanks again. Following up on your information, I found out that a number of pilots followed Kiser's example and it was evidently not that rare for individual pilots to strip out two of their 0.50"s to improve the P-40Es performance.

    I'll check out the book.
     
  11. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    Researching efforts to make the P-40E a more capable interceptor, I have found out that more than just individual pilots chose to delete either 2 or 4 of their 0.50" guns to lighten their ships. Evidently there was a USAAF/49th Fighter Group effort, begun in April 1942. to evaluate a lighter version of the P-40E. Various modifications were tried that apparently got the aircraft down to around 7,000 lbs! Measures were somewhat extreme in cutting the fuel carried (Tanks and all) to about 87 gallons from the original stock capacity of 149.9 gallons. I obtained this information from Gordon Birkett who was kind enough to send me some of the original weight sheets and approved their posting. I'll post them in the tech section when I get a chance. OurCompany.com
     
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