Britain's most pressing need was for aircraft and in 1940, the British Purchasing Commission approached US aircraft manufacturer North American Aviation, to produce licence-built Curtiss P-40 fighters for the RAF. Slightly indignant at the prospect, North American officials proposed to build a totally new aircraft for the Royal Air Force, which would be superior to the P-40 and more suitable for their needs. So impressive was their pitch, the British agreed to their proposal and signed a contract for the new aircraft. Unfortunately, time was very much against the North American design team, as Britain desperately needed aircraft without delay.
Work on the new project began immediately. What North American Aviation achieved with their new aircraft design was nothing short of astonishing. Incorporating highly advanced new features and the very latest manufacturing techniques, the prototype aircraft (NA-73X) rolled out of their hangar on 9th September 1940, only 120 days after the contract had been signed. The first flight of the aircraft took place just 47 days later and other than the usual issues associated with a first flight, the aircraft showed great promise and was a clear vindication of the confidence North American Aviation had in their design capabilities.