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North American P-51D Mustang

Image by Alex Layzell
History: A single of the most efficient, popular and lovely fighter aircraft of WWII, the P-51 was made to fulfill a British requirement dated April 1940. Since of the rapidly-mounting clouds of war in Europe, the UK asked North American Aircraft to style and create a new fighter in only 120 days. The NA-73X prototype was produced in record time, but did not fly until 26 October 1940. The initial RAF production models, designated Mustang Mk Is, underwent rigorous testing and evaluation, and it was found that the 1,one hundred-hp Allison engine was effectively suited for low-altitude tactical reconnaissance, but the engine’s power decreased substantially above an altitude of 12,000 feet, making it a poor decision for air-to-air combat or interception roles. Simply because of this, the RAF left its eight machine guns intact, but also fitted the Mustang with cameras. In this configuration, it served in at least 23 RAF squadrons, starting in April 1942.

At the identical time, the US Army Air Corps ordered a tiny quantity for tactical reconnaissance evaluation as the F-6A. Following the RAF found the aircraft’s functionality lacking, they tested a new engine, the 12-cylinder Rolls-Royce Merlin. This gave considerably-enhanced efficiency, and led to the USAAF fitting two airframes with 1,430-hp Packard-constructed Merlin V-1650 engines. These aircraft were re-designated XP-51B. Practically overnight, the aircraft’s potential began to grow.

Since the RAF had had very good accomplishment with the Mustang in a ground attack function, the USAAF purchased 500 aircraft fitted with dive brakes and underwing weapons pylons. These have been initially designated the A-36A Apache, but later retained the name Mustang. Practically simultaneously, they ordered 310 P-51As with Allison engines. Some of these were delivered to the UK as Mustang Mk IIs, and some became F-6B reconnaissance aircraft for the USAAF.

The first Merlin-engine versions appeared in 1943 with the P-51B, of which 1,988 were built in Inglewood, California, and the P-51C, of which 1,750 have been built in Dallas, Texas. Both new versions had strengthened fuselages and 4 wing-mounted 12.7-mm machine guns. Numerous of these new Mustangs were delivered to the UK as Mustang Mk IIIs, and others went to the USAAF as F-6Cs. The Merlin-powered Mustangs had been specifically what the Allied bombers in Europe desperately needed, and they became renowned for their long range and potent high-altitude escort capability. The most substantial variant, the P-51D, featured a 360-degree-view bubble canopy, a modified rear fuselage, and six 12.77-mm machine guns. 7,956 had been constructed, and once once again, numerous went to the UK as Mustang Mk IVs and others became USAAF F-6D reconnaissance aircraft. Subsequent came the P-51K, which was normally equivalent. A third of these became RAF Mustang IVs also, and more than a hundred became F-6Ks. Really late in the war, the P-51H appeared, despite the fact that only 555 of 2000 were completed before V-J Day triggered the cancellation of the order. US production totaled 15,386, but at least 200 far more had been constructed by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation of Australia with imported components and designated Mustang Mk 20/21/22/23. None of these saw service before the end of the war. Beneath the Lend-Lease plan, 50 P-51s have been supplied to China, and 40 far more were supplied to the Netherlands in the Pacific theater.

Right after the war, the P-51 remained in US service with the Strategic Air Command till 1949, and with the Air National Guard and Reserves into the 1950s. It became 1 of the very first fighters to see combat in the Korean War. The RAF’s Fighter Command used them till 1946. In addition, over 50 air forces about the planet acquired and utilised the Mustang for many a lot more years, some as not too long ago as the early 1980s. When the US Air Force realigned their aircraft designations in the 1950s, the Mustang became the F-51.

In the last 40 years, surplus Mustangs have been modified and employed extensively as civilian air racers, but the newest trend is for private owners to restore them to practically ideal, historically-accurate condition. As public appreciation for the Mustang has grown, the monetary worth of the couple of remaining examples has skyrocketed. War-surplus P-51s, as soon as auctioned from storage for much less than (US) 00, are now typically valued at 3-quarters of a million dollars or a lot more. The restoration of existing airframes has become a small market in the US, UK and Australia, and the total quantity of flyable examples, in spite of one particular or two accidents every year, is expanding. Several Mustangs have been or are at the moment being restored as two-seat, dual-control TF-51s, a trend which promises to guarantee that today’s operators are much better-trained than any previous generation of Mustang pilots.

Nicknames: Fifty One ‘Stang Peter-Dash-Flash

Specifications (P-51D):
Engine: One 1,695-hp Packard Merlin V-1650-7 piston V-12 engine
Weight: Empty 7,125 lbs., Max Takeoff 12,100 lbs.
Wing Span: 37ft. .5in.
Length: 32ft. 9.5in.
Height: 13ft. 8in.
Maximum Speed: 437 mph
Ceiling: 41,900 ft.
Variety: 1300 miles
Armament: Six 12.7-mm (.five inch) wing-mounted machine guns, plus up to two 1,000-lb bombs or six 127-mm (5 inch) rockets.

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