Curtiss Airplane Designs of World War II
After merging with the Wright company in 1929, the newly formed Curtiss-Wright Corporation quickly acquired 11 other companies, making it one of the largest airplane manufacturers in the world. This became a major factor in attaining profitable contracts in World War II. During the war, the company supplied the US military and Allies with 29,000 aircraft. Most notably, 3,000 Curtiss C-46 Commando transport airplanes, the precursor to today's C-130, and 7,000 SB2C Helldivers, known as the Big-Tailed Beast, a carrier-based dive bomber that helped win the war in the Pacific.
During this period, the company produced what may be its most famous Curtiss airplane, the P-40 fighter. This single-engine, single-seat aircraft could be used as both a fighter and ground attack vehicle. It was first implemented in 1938 with sales to Chinese National Army in the war against Japan. Over the course of the war, 13,738 P-40s were produced and sold to 28 Allied nations. Over the course of its life, the plane was given many different nicknames depending on the model: Warhawk, Tomahawk and Kittyhawk. The most famous group of pilots using the P-40 were based in China during the opening days of the war. Known as the Flying Tigers, the pilots painted shark mouths on the nose of the plane, designed to strike fear into Japanese pilots and ground crew. By 2010, an estimated 19 P-40s from World War II were still flying.
At the end of the war the Curtiss-Wright Corporation found itself the largest manufacturer of aircraft in the world. However, this was short-lived as the civilian market regained prominence in the postwar economy. Although the Curtiss airplane designs are considered some of the greatest of the World War I and World War II era, the company moved to primarily construct aircraft parts. It still operates today as a multi-billion dollar corporation.
Above right: P-40 Flying Tiger. (Supplied by the United Kingdom Government; Public Domain; http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/c/c1/TR_000978_kittyhawk.jpg)