100 years (give or take) of Bite Me! Pulled from Vintage Wings, HERE!

Two the three-man crew of an A.E.G G.IV show off their shark mouth bomber in 1918.


Desert Sharks of the Royal Air Force’s North African war plough through the dust and heat—the first Allied aircraft to wear the shark mouth and the inspiration for Clair Chennault and the American Volunteer Group later in China. 112 Squadron appears to be the very first to employ the classic shark mouth that we all know and use today.


1st American Volunteer Group (AVG) of the Chinese Air Force that became the best known for the style, at least in America. Known as the Flying Tigers, the unit nonetheless utilized an obvious shark mouth on the noses of all their P-40 aircraft. Here P-40s of the 3rd Squadron Hell’s Angels line up in echelon right on a sixth P-40 flown by legendary AVG pilot Robert Tharp Smith. biteme21

Starboard engine air intake of a Tupolev Tu-22M Backfire biteme49

Shark mouthed A-10A Thunderbolt II Warthogs of the modern 23rd Fighter Group prepare for a training mission. The group can trace it lineage back to the Flying Tigers and P-40 operations in China and retains that name and symbol to this very day. biteme58

Captain Dan Cave, the Deputy Commander Carrier Air Group, USS George Washington, launches in his F/A-18E Super Hornet of VFA-27, the Royal Maces. biteme88

You can see more at Vintage Wings, including PT boats, Cannons on tanks, and ‘other’ things with shark’s mouths…

h/t JP


TBT… — 17 Comments

  1. RE: the tiger’s mouth on AVG P-40s. I’d always heard that it was one of the pilots that had asked permission to paint some nose art. General Chennault replied that if one, then all AVG aircraft should have the same livery. And an icon was born.

    Those are some great pics there.

  2. Incidentally, the B-25H “Mortimer” was one of the 1st AC gunships. Flight and ground crews conspired to create ever more lethal machines with a ‘sky’s the limit’ attitude and usually without approval from their superiors. Some of their efforts were more dangerous to the flight crews than the enemy. Somewhere around here I’ve got a book documenting through photographs and text the entire history of the ACs.

  3. Ed- Thank you!

    R- Yep, and not ALL of them were exactly the same. Depended on the plane captain…LOL If you find that book, please email me the title, I’d love to try to find a copy!

    CP- Yep! 🙂

    WSF- If you’re not ducking, I’d agree 🙂

  4. You can usually tell when something’s a good idea by how quickly (and often) it gets copied. Thank you for the historical tour. 🙂

  5. Clair Lee Chennault’s family still lives in and around Cloutierville, LA, a small farming communiity in Natchitoches Parish. The Tiger motif is old in Louisiana, tracing back to the Civil War, (and some say, prior to that). The brigade I retired from fought with Lee during the Civil War. Some say that Lee remarked “they fight like tigers” when describing the brigade.

    Of course, the 23rd Fighter Squadron was based at England AFB, LA before we lost it to the BRAC cuts after Desert Storm. They were our “home team” from just after WWII until the base closed in 1991, and we still mourn their loss.

  6. Rev- Excellent point!

    Paw- Now that you mention it, I remember being told that. I ‘think’ you meant 23rd Wing at England, that actually had the the 74th, 75th and 76th Tactical Fighter Squadrons, which later converted to A-10s.

  7. I was the head intel geek for an A-10 squadron, back in Sandbox I, and I’m pretty sure that if someone told those boys that the shark’s teeth had to go, they’d have been looking at a GAU-8 from the wrong end. (I learned all the A-10 jokes, and also learned that Warthog crew dogs (air and ground) were the ONLY ones who could tell them in public! Anybody else was about to have a really bad day!

  8. My very favorite nose art and classic fighter. Nothing like a P40 with teeth, except maybe a Super Hornet.

  9. RS- Yep, proud of the bird, proud of their jokes… 😉

    Rick- Glad you enjoyed them!

    Heath- Agreed!!!

  10. Now that’s interesting, the shark mouth on the Backfire. Never imagined that.

    BTW, for those of you who haven’t, you SHOULD pick up EACH and EVERY book by Mr Curtis in his Grey Man series, including:


    I have all of them. Highly recommended and, no, Jim didn’t pay me; I just think they’re well written and entertaining.


  11. to utilize it, and the rest is history. I recall reading that one of the AVG personnel found an illustration in some periodical showing a Brit P-40 with the shark mouth. He sought permission from Chennault to use it, and the rest is history.

    I think it interesting that the AVG use originated with the earlier model planes, the P-40B/C, called Tomahawks, as shown in the image above.) Dunno if the RAF painted it on any of those. All the photos of the RAF planes I’ve seen were Kittyhawks (what they dubbed the P-40E and subsequent models.) Later, after the USAAF absorbed the AVG, they continued the shark mouths, and most of those aircraft were P-40E and maybe later ones.

    I kinda kike the look of the shark design on the earlier, longer snout a/c better than on the later models.

    Great post, Sir.