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North American P-51 Mustang

North American P-51 Mustang

P-51 Mustang Instigated by the British

In 1940, the British Purchasing Commission approached the North American Aviation (NAA) to license build Curtiss P-40 fighters for the Royal Air Force. Four months after the contract was signed, the prototype NA-73X was built on September 9, 1940. However, North American offered to design a better fighter which flew as the NA-73X in October 1940. The name Mustang was named by the British, production of Mustang began the following year.

The North American Aviation P-51 Mustang was an American long-range fighter, single-seat fighter and fighter-bomber used during World War II, the Korean War and other conflicts.

Powered by the Rolls Royce Merlin 60 series engine

The Allison V-1710 engine was originally used to design the Mustang. This immensely limited its performance at high altitude which relegated them to the low-level tactical reconnaissance role with British Army Cooperation command (ACC). Also, the Mustangs could provide ground support. Even at lower levels the Mustang performed excellently.

In March, 1942, the USAAF accepted the first production of P-51A fighters. In April 1942, Ronald Harker, a British pilot who was impressed with the Mustang after he flew it, gave the suggestion that the new plane would be a natural fit with the Rolls Royce Merlin 60-series engine, which is well suited to high altitude.

This experiment was carried out in the United States and Great Britain. This combination became a huge success. One in the United States flew a remarkable 441 mph at 29,800 feet, about 100 mph faster than the P-51 at that altitude. This led to the mass production of the Merlin powered P-51B and P-51C.

The Many roles of the Mustang

It was first flown operationally by the Royal Air Force (RAF) as a tactical-reconnaissance aircraft and fighter-bomber (Mustang Mk I). The addition of the Rolls-Royce Merlin to the P-51B/C model transformed the Mustang’s to a decisive weapon bettering that of the Luftwaffe’s fighters.

P-51Bs were used by the USAAF’s Eighth Air Force to escort bombers in raids over Germany from late 1943, while the RAF’s 2 TAF and the USAAF Ninth Air Force used the Merlin-powered Mustangs as fighter-bombers, roles in which the Mustang helped ensure Allied air superiority in 1944. During World War II, Mustangs destroyed 4,950 enemy aircraft in the air, more than any other USAAF fighter in Europe.

The Mustang proved itself useful at the start of the Korean War as it fought alongside short ranged F-80 jet fighters. It continued flying with USAF, South Korean Air Force (ROKAF), South African Air Force (SAAF) and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) fighter-bomber units on close support until the F-86 jet fighter-bomber took over these roles.

Miss Helen, a P-51D in its wartime markings as flown by Capt. Raymond H. Littge of the 487 FS, 352 FG, on aerial display in 2007. It is the last original 352 FG P-51 known to exist.

Mustang retires early mid 1980s

The Mustang continued to provide support throughout the war, although the fighter jets made her secondary. Despite the advent of jet fighters, the Mustang remained in service with some air forces until the early 1980s.

After World War II and the Korean War, many Mustangs were converted for civilian use, especially air racing. More so, more than 15, 000 were built in different variations with the last of 555 P-51Hs completed in 1946. The Mustang was among the best and most well-known fighters used by the U.S. Army Forces during World War II.

WW2: North American P-51 Mustang Fighter
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