Hawk

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The Curtiss Hawk series was a U.S.-built fighter aircraft of the 1930s. A contemporary of the Hawker Hurricane and Messerschmitt Bf 109, it was one of the first fighters of a new generation – sleek monoplanes with extensive use of metal for construction and skin, and powerful piston engines. Although nearly obsolete at the onset of World War II and best known as the predecessor of the Curtiss P-40, the P-36 saw only limited combat with the United States Army Air Forces, but was extensively used by the French Air Force and also by British Commonwealth and Chinese air units. Several dozen also fought in the Finnish Air Force against the Soviet Red Air Force. In the end, with around 1,000 aircraft built, the P-36 was a major commercial success for Curtiss. The up engined version, replacing the radial for sleek inline water cooled engine with a massive radiator mouth that made this solid design a legend in the P-40.

Warhawk was the name the United States Army Air Corps adopted for later models, making it the official name in the United States for the P-40D on. 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.

Hawk 75 A3 (P-36)

Ac fr hawk 75.jpg
Curtiss H-75
Specifications
Type Fighter
Armament 6 x 7.5 mm Machine Guns
Crew 1 (Pilot)
Weight 2,789kg
Top Speed 510km/h
Armored Glass Windscreen  ?
Pilot Armor (back/head)  ?

History

The forerunner to the famous P-40, the Curtiss Hawk 75 (known as H-75 in France and Mohawk in the RAF) was the export version of the USAAF P-36. It was considered to be one of the finest flying aircraft in the world in 1938 and had beautifully harmonized controls. The Hawk 75 was virtually unmatched in maneuverability against all low wing monoplane fighters of the day. While acrobatically wonderful, the Hawk was poorly armored and lightly armed. This combined with a relatively poor rate of climb and acceleration made the Hawk in some combat terms almost obsolete when it rolled of the production lines in 1938.

However many countries had no fighter designs nor the facility to produce such designs in the numbers needed to meet the demands of a world at war. The Hawk found its fame as a ubiquitous poor man's fighter. USA, Great Britain, France, China, Argentina, Portugal, Thailand, and Iran all ordered and deployed Hawk 75s in combat squadrons, often because they had little else available. French H-75s fared better in 1940 against the Luftwaffe than other types in service with the Armée de l'Air. A little known fact is a few USAAF P-36s (with the much more well known P-40 pair) lifted and scored a few precious air victories on Dec. 7th 1941 at Pearl Harbor.

The variant in game is the later H-75 A-2 or A-3, with six 7.5 mm machine guns and the Pratt & Whitney R-1830 SC3-G engine.

Game Play

The H-75's main virtue is its maneuverability: its rate of roll and rate of turn is second to none, and it also dives well unless you push it over the edge of compressibility at around 550 km/h. As noted above, its chief drawbacks are its comparably low speed, anemic acceleration and poor climb performance. Because of this, the astute H-75 pilot starts his sortie by climbing to at least 3-4 km and then some as the situation warrants, so as to secure an initial energy advantage for himself before combat is joined. To extend his visit in the battle zone, the H-75 pilot must dismantle his opponent in a single high-speed surprise attack and regain his position of advantage without major energy loss. Once engaged or otherwise facing an increasing energy disadvantage, the little H-75 must fight for freedom and defeat his opponent quickly, or suffer the handicap of inability to extricate himself – he does not have the option of running away.

Although the H-75 is by far one of the most nimble and responsive fighters in the sky, it is false to consider it a “dogfighting machine” pure and simple. The Hawk can do so much more, and the wise pilot should only resort to dogfighting when all other options have been expended. It is of course hard to not dogfight in a machine that practically invites it, but be aware that dogfighting is THE hardest thing to master and that you will have to sacrifice hundreds of frustrating deaths before the God of War before you can call yourself reasonably good at it. Again, because the H-75 is slow and slower still when engaged, you must turn and weave and roll throughout your sortie to keep your six clear, and never ever fly straight for more than three seconds in a free-for-all. To succeed in the Hawk you must possess (or quickly acquire) superior Situational Awareness; learn to find your exit window before you engage; and learn to disengage by fighting.

Your combat dues as a Hawk driver will be paid in white knuckle wrestling matches against superior aircraft in almost every fight you enter, and if you become good at controlling the combat in the little Hawk you will become a very deadly pilot in almost anything else. Those who master the H-75 in air combat can lay claim to being a cut above the norm in the Battleground Europe air war, and are fittingly deserving of the upgrade they get in the Allison V-12 powered Hawk 81 as the campaign continues to its climax. An ace in the H-75 will kill you in anything he will ever fly.

Because the H-75 carries relatively weak armament you are well served by setting your convergence to short range (i.e. 100-150 m): the six rifle-caliber machineguns lose most of its clout outside 200 meters and as a beginner you must anyway motor up close to the enemy in order to have a chance at hitting him.

As noted in the tips for the D.520, the best course of action for a pilot flying a fighter that is inferior in performance compared to the enemy machines, outside of taking the greatest care in maintaining superiority of energy and position, is to fight with a wingman or preferably in a flight of four friendly pilots with the added bonus of voice communications. By flying in line abreast (i.e. parallel to each other) you can watch each others tails to help defend against sudden attacks from above and behind by faster and better climbing enemy aircraft.

One of the tricks that Hawk pilots learn is to fight in circles and to use himself as bait to induce a faster opponent to turn and get within his reach. In a typical scenario where you are being chased down by a Bf-109E coming at you from astern, you know that there is no future in running but must fight instead. Lure the enemy into burning energy by making a gentle turn that you pull in tighter and higher into a steep spiral as the enemy closes to guns range. Once the enemy fighter is committed to trying to maintain his shot solution he will blow most of his energy in the belief that he can catch you, and finally overshoot behind you as you climb onto his back, just in range to lay into him with your six guns of destruction. Be quick about it and nail the bandit before he recovers his wits – and if you miss and the bandit runs away, do not try to chase him.

Beginner pilots in the H-75 frequently make the mistake of trying to follow much faster enemy aircraft around. This is a forlorn hope, and such pursuit is best abandoned by a swift turn away. In this instance the enemy pilot usually turns back for another go, which is precisely what the H-75 pilot wanted in the first place. Because the enemy aircraft are generally faster, the Hawk pilot must use cunning, teamwork and psychology to get to grips on his own terms.

Curtiss H-81 A2 (early P-40)

Ac fr hawk 81.jpg
Curtiss H-81
Specifications
Type Fighter
Armament 2 x .50 cal Heavy Machine Guns,
4 x .30 cal Machine Guns
Crew 1 (Pilot)
Weight 3,322kg
Top Speed 566km/h
Armored Glass Windscreen  ?
Pilot Armor (back/head)  ?

History

Similar to the type made famous by the Flying Tigers of the AVG in China, the Hawk 81A-2 was neither a P-40B nor a P-40C, but a hybrid hotrod. USAAF orders had already shifted to the D and E models of the P-40 when the war broke out, so the H-81 was seen by Curtiss managers as a potential cash cow for the company sold as an export fighter. While not the best in speed or climb above low/med altitudes, its rugged construction, good maneuverability, and incredible dive performance made it a very attractive buy for France as the war drew closer. An order was placed and filled, but never delivered due to the German-French armistice of June 1940. Some of these planes were eventually delivered to Great Britain, where the type became known as the Tomahawk.

Unique in the Curtiss P-40 line, the H-81 was faster than a P-40B and lighter than a P-40C. With a decent gun arrangement of two .50 cal machine guns in the nose and an additional four .30 cal guns in the wings, the H-81 could do well in low altitude fights where its performance profile was at its best.

Game Play

French pilots, inured to being outperformed by Luftwaffe fighters in the early tiers of a Battleground Europe campaign, gratefully climb aboard their shining new H-81’s in the knowledge that this fighter has the speed to draw close and the firepower to deliver.

While the H-81 lacks speed and climbrate at medium to high altitudes, it is quite a hot rod at low altitudes where its single stage supercharger works best. Equal in flat out top speed to its main opponent the Bf 109-E, the H-81 cannot however match the Messerschmitt’s best sustained climb rate. For this reason the H-81 pilot should always strive to open hostilities from a position of advantage and to use its overhead of speed for zoom climbs. This inferiority becomes even more pronounced as the Bf 109-F is encountered, though a veteran H-81 pilot can offset the performance disadvantage with tactical prowess and teamwork.

The Tomahawk likes to fight with a good overhead of speed and excels in diving attacks. Make the most of its powerful punch and excellent stability in fast slashing attacks from superior altitude, avoid pulling too heavily on the stick and you can regain most of the altitude you spent for a subsequent attack. Key to making the H-81 work for you is to treat it gently – it does not turn quite as well in the horizontal as the H-75 or D.520 to which you are accustomed, but it can nevertheless be hauled around quickly by using the vertical plane of manoeuvre and is especially well suited for rolling reversals such as the Lag Roll Attack. Be wary of using too much rudder however, especially when you are already low and slow, as the H-81 has a wicked departure characteristic that will send the careless pilot mushing and crashing to his death.

The H-81 is the first aircraft in Battleground Europe where the effectiveness of the Browning .50 caliber machine gun can be seen, a gun that went on to become the standard fighter aircraft armament on almost every American fighter of the war. Blessed with a high RoF (rate of fire) and a flat, consistent trajectory the M2 Browning’s enjoy a fitting reputation for tearing up enemy aircraft, an attribute that Tomahawk pilots truly relish.

The Tomahawk makes an excellent all-round fighter in all respects save extended climbing contests and co-altitude combats occurring over 7 km where its performance drops off considerably. It has the speed, guns and endurance to remain effective for up to an hour and a half, and it has a great trump in case of need in its stellar rate of roll. If set upon from above the H-81 pilot can simply point his nose down and fall like a ton of bricks while rolling to change his vector outside of that which his opponent can muster. The roll rate is important for hauling deftly around in Flat Scissors and for the ability to switch and draw lead on targets to your front.

As always, the wise pilot flies with a wingman with voice communication set up. A pair of Tomahawks or a flight of four working in concert is very bad news for the Luftwaffe, allowing the team to “drag and bag” threats and to “slice and dice” anything found below by sequential attacks.

Curtiss H-87 B3 (P-40F)

Ac fr hawk 87.jpg
Curtiss H-87 B3
Specifications
Type Fighter / Bomber
Armament 6 x .50 cal (12.7 mm) Browning machineguns
Crew 1 (Pilot)
Weight 3,622kg
Top Speed 589km/h
Armored Glass Windscreen  ?
Pilot Armor (back/head)  ?

History

The Curtiss Hawk 87, better known as the P-40F Warhawk, introduced the air combat world to "sic fiddies" (six fifty-caliber heavy machine guns) in American and British Commonwealth aviation.

Curtiss developed the Hawk 87 from its successful Hawk 81 that had been ordered by the French Air Force and was already serving in the USAAF as the P-40B and P-40C. Introduced as the P-40F in the USAAF, and Kittyhawk Mk.I in the RAF, the Hawk 87 was then further upgraded by fitting a Merlin engine in place of the original Allison. The H-87 B-3 modelled in Battleground Europe is this Merlin-engined variant, also known as the early, short-tailed P-40F model, or Kittyhawk Mk.II in the RAF.

While still not the best in speed or climb above low/med altitudes, the H-87 B-3 did perform better than the earlier variants due to a two-stage supercharged Packard-built Merlin engine. Its rugged construction, good maneuverability, and incredible dive performance continued to serve it better than its performance on a stats sheet might suggest. Of course, part of this was the crushing lethality of six fifty-caliber machine guns on the structural integrity of enemy aircraft.

This model carries the "Sioux Head" markings of the La Fayette escadrille, which was made famous in WWI when American pilots flew for France as members of that unit. The French Groupe de chasse II/5, that had preserved these markings, flew P-40Fs of in combat over Tunisia and the Mediterranean.

Game Play

The H-87 Warhawk is a challenging fighter that requires a specific mind set to do well in. Heavier by about 1800 lb (816 kg) than its predecessor the H-81 on account of its heavier wing-mounted armament and associated ammunition, the H-87 behaves accordingly. The increased weight is offset by a more powerful engine and a destructive potential that earns the H-87 a nickname as the "poor man's P-47". Like the H-81 and the P-47 the Warhawk has a useful rate of roll and dives like a lorry loaded with bullion. Therein lies its forte, and recognizing this fact the H-87 pilot shuns extended horizontal turnfighting like the plague.

Coming down from above with six of the famed Browning "Ma Deuce" .50 cal heavy machine guns in the wings the H-87 is rightly feared by the opposition. It has the roll rate and initial turn performance to correct a guns solution on the way down, and retains its energy well following the dive if the pilot treats her gently and does not push the dive and subsequent extension too far. And anything caught before those “six fiddies” is history with just a brief touch of the trigger.

Because of its weight and relative sluggishness at low speeds and at high altitudes, the Warhawk thrives in the medium altitude band where it can fall upon lower prey and dive away from higher threats. If kept engaged for too long on the deck the H-87 is increasingly at a disadvantage because it has insufficient acceleration, speed and climb performance to disengage safely. All of these disadvantages are easily offset however by keeping it high and fast, and by reducing exposure to risk by sticking to "one pass, haul ***" tactics, preferably in the company of wingmen. That said, a blob of H-87’s down below, with a Spitfire or P-38 "roof" to protect them from surprise attack, can inflict calamituous damage on enemy air and ground units alike – it is all about the situation and realizing what you have to work with.

In single combat and given equal pilot skill, the H-87 is normally worsted by the Bf 109-E which can turn inside it with relative ease and use its superior climb performance to stay directly overhead as well – though given half a chance the H-87 may reach out with his guns and pluck down the careless Messerschmitt driver. The Bf 109-F is considerably more nimble and powerful in comparison to the H-87, requiring the latter to work extensively with rolling scissors and endeavouring to displace the circles so as to force high angle off, near head on situations. Against the Focke-Wulf 190, the H-87 has a somewhat better chance. The Warhawk has a smaller turn radius but lacks the speed to counter a FW 190 who keeps his energy intact, therefore the H-87 pilot must work to get inside the FW 190’s turn by lead pursuit and coax him to commit to a slow turning fight. Be very wary against FW 190s that use the vertical dimension to control separation and angles, and work to keep the fight in the horizontal as much as possible by extending when you have the chance.

The Warhawk is a formidable strafing machine with a plentiful ammunition allowance, making it a particularly well suited for the Close Air Support task. Although it lacks a bomb to deal with the heaviest targets it can nevertheless cause grief and disruption against all else including recon vehicles and light tanks. Avoid becoming slow and predictable below 1 km altitude however, as there are plenty of capable AA gunners around.


Air Units in Battleground Europe
Aircraft
Bf 109E-1 | Bf 109E-4 | Bf 109F-4 | Bf 109G-6/U4 | Bf 110C-4 | Bf 110C-4/B | Blenheim IF | Blenheim IV | C47 'Skytrain' | Dewoitine D.520 | Douglas DB-7 | Fw 190A-4 | Havoc Mk.I | Hawk 75 | Hawk 81 | Hawk 87 | Heinkel 111 | Hurricane Mk I | Hurricane Mk IIb | Hurricane Mk IIc | Junkers 52 | Junkers 87 'Stuka' | P-38 'Lightning' | P-39 | Spitfire Mk Ia | Spitfire Mk Ib | Spitfire Mk Vb | Spitfire Mk IXc