The Curtiss P-40 Warhawk first flew in 1938 as a modification of the Curtiss P-36 Hawk. Warhawk was the official U.S. designation while the name Tomahawk was used by the British Commonwealth and Soviet forces for the P-40B and C and Kittyhawk for P-40Ds and later variants. The P-40 was first used by British squadrons in North Africa and the Middle East in 1941. The P-40 lacked a two-speed supercharger making them inferior to German aircraft but was an adequate fighter in low altitude combat zones. Almost 12,000 P-40s were produced.
The original pilot of P-40N HU-E 'Black Magic' serial A29-575 (US 42-106386) was Flight lieutenant Denis R. Baker, DFC assigned to the RAAF 78 Squadron. Originally Baker was an aircraft mechanic but on November 14, 1944 received his pilot wings and was posted to 78 Squadron. He flew 95 operational sorties operating from bases in Noemfoor, Morotai and Tarakan. Baker was promoted to Flight Sergeant and later Warrant Officer. Baker scored the last RAAF victory of the New Guinea campaign. HU-E was later flown by Warrant Officer Len Waters, the first Australian Aboriginal military pilot.