PLANES US AIR FORCE WW2
Torpedo Bomber -
P51 NORTH AMERICAN MUSTANG P-51
P51 - Mustang
The P51 was designed
as the NA-73 in 1940 at Britain's request. The design
showed promise and AAF purchases of Allison-powered
Mustangs began in 1941 primarily for photo recon and
ground support use due to its limited high-altitude
performance. But in 1942, tests of P-51s using the
British Rolls-Royce "Merlin" engine revealed
much improved speed and service ceiling, and in Dec.
1943, Merlin-powered P-51Bs first entered combat over
Europe. Providing high-altitude escort to B-17s and
B-24s, they scored heavily over German interceptors and
by war's end, P51 s had destroyed 4,950 enemy aircraft in
the air, more than any other fighter in Europe.
Mustangs served in nearly every
combat zone, including the Pacific where they escorted
B-29s to Japan from Iwo Jima. Between 1941-5, the AAF
ordered 14,855 Mustangs (including A-36A dive bomber and
F-6 photo recon versions), of which 7,956 were P-51Ds.
During the Korean War, P-51Ds were used primarily for
close support of ground forces until withdrawn from
combat in 1953.
The P-51D on display was obtained
from the West Virginia ANG in 1957 and was the last
prop-driven USAF fighter assigned to a tactical unit. It
is painted as the -D flown by Col. C.L. Sluder, CO of the
325th Fighter Group, 15th Air Force, in Italy in 1944.
The name of this aircraft, Shimmy IV is derived
from the names of Col. Sluder's daughter and wife; Sharon
Span: 37 ft. 0 in.
Length: 32 ft. 3 in.
Height: 13 ft. 8 in.
Weight: 12,100 lbs. max.
Armament: Six .50-cal. machine guns and ten 5 in.
rockets or 2,000 lbs. of bombs.
Engine: Packard built Rolls-Royce
"Merlin" V-1650 of 1,695 hp.
Serial Number: 44-74936
Displayed as (S/N): 44-15174
Maximum speed: 437 mph.
Cruising speed: 275 mph.
Range: 1,000 miles
Service Ceiling: 41,900 ft.
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It was quickly evident that performance, although
exceptional up to 15,000 ft (4,600 m), was markedly
reduced at higher altitudes. This deficiency was due
largely to the single speed, single stage supercharger of
the Allison V-1710 engine, where power diminished rapidly
above the critical altitude rating. Prior to the Mustang
project, the USAAC had Allison concentrate primarily on
turbochargers in concert with General Electric; these
proved to be exceptional in the P-38 Lightning and other
high-altitude aircraft, in particular, the Air Corp's
four-engine bombers. Most of the other uses for the
Allison were for low-altitude designs, where a simpler
supercharger would suffice. The turbocharger proved
impractical in the Mustang, and it was forced to use the
inadequate supercharger available. Still, the Mustang's
advanced aerodynamics showed to advantage, as the Mustang
Mk.I was about 30 mph (48 km/h) faster than contemporary
Curtiss P-40 fighters, using the same powerplant (the
V-1710-39 producing 1,220 hp (910 kW) at 10,500 ft (3,200
m), driving a 10 ft 6 in (3.2 m) diameter, three-blade
Curtiss-Electric propeller). The Mustang Mk.I was 30
mph (48 km/h) faster than the Spitfire Mk VC at 5,000 ft
(1,500 m) and 35 mph (56 km/h) faster at 15,000 ft (4,600
m), despite the British aircraft's more powerful
The first production contract was awarded by the British
for 320 NA-73 fighters, named Mustang Mk.I by the British
(the name being selected by an anonymous member of the
Purchasing Commission). Two aircraft of this lot
delivered to the USAAC for evaluation were designated
XP-51. About 20 Mustang Mk.Is were delivered to the
RAF, making their combat debut on 10 May 1942. With their
long range and excellent low-level performance, they were
employed effectively for tactical reconnaissance and
ground-attack duties over the English Channel, but were
thought to be of limited value as fighters due to their
poor performance above 15,000 ft (4,600 m).
A second British contract called for 300 more (NA-83)
Mustang Mk.I fighters. In September 1940, 150 aircraft,
designated NA-91 by North American, were ordered under
the Lend/Lease program. These were designated by the
USAAF as P-51 and initially named Apache, although this
was soon dropped and the RAF name, Mustang, adopted
instead. The British designated this model as Mustang
Mk.IA. The Mustang Mk IA was identical to the Mustang Mk
I except that the wing-mounted machine guns were removed
and replaced with four long-barrelled 20 mm (.79 in)
Hispano Mk II cannon.
A number of aircraft from this lot were fitted out by the
USAAF as F-6A photo-reconnaissance aircraft. The British
would fit a number of Mustang Mk.Is with similar
equipment. Also, two aircraft of this lot were fitted
with Packard-built Merlin engines. These were
identified as the Model NA-101 by North American and
XP-78 by the USAAF, later redesignated XP-51B.
On 23 June 1942 a contract was placed for 1,200 P-51As
(NA-99s), later reduced to 310 aircraft. The P-51A was
the first version to be procured as a fighter by the
USAAF, and used a new Allison V-1710-81 engine, a
development of the -39, driving a 10 ft 9 in (3.3 m)
diameter, three bladed Curtiss-Electric propeller. The
armament was changed to four wing-mounted .50 in (12.7
mm) Browning machine guns, two in each wing, with a
maximum of 350 rpg for the inboard guns and 280 rpg for
the outboard. Other improvements were made in parallel
with the A-36, including an improved, fixed air duct
inlet replacing the moveable fitting of previous Mustang
models and the fitting of wing racks able to carry either
75 gal (284 l) or 150 gal (568 l) drop tanks, increasing
the maximum ferry range to 2,740 mi (4,410 km) with the
150 gal (568 l) tanks. The top speed was raised to 409
mph (658 km/h) at 10,000 ft (3,000 m). 50 aircraft were
shipped to England, serving as Mustang Mk.IIs in the
P-51B and P-51C
The Mustang Mk.X AM203
In April 1942, the RAF's Air Fighting Development Unit
(AFDU) tested the Mustang and found its performance
inadequate at higher altitudes. As such, it was to be
used to replace the Tomahawk in Army Cooperation Command
squadrons but the commanding officer was so impressed
with its manoeuvrability and low-altitude speeds that he
invited Ronnie Harker from Rolls Royce's Flight Test
establishment to fly it. Rolls-Royce engineers rapidly
realized that equipping the Mustang with a Merlin 61
engine with its two speed, two stage supercharger would
substantially improve performance and started converting
five aircraft as the Mustang Mk.X. Apart from the engine
installation, which utilised custom built engine bearers
designed by Rolls-Royce and a standard 10 ft 9 in (3.3 m)
diameter, four-bladed Rotol propeller from a Spitfire
Mk.IX , the Mustang Mk.X was a straight-forward
adaptation of the Mustang Mk.I airframe, keeping the same
radiator duct design. The Vice-Chief of the Air Staff,
Air Marshal Sir Wilfrid R. Freeman, lobbied vociferously
for Merlin-powered Mustangs, insisting two of the five
experimental Mustang Mk Xs be handed over to Carl Spaatz
for trials and evaluation by the U.S. 8th Air Force in
P-51B in flight showing wing planform.
The high-altitude performance improvement was
astonishing: the Mustang Mk.X (AM208) reached 433 mph
(697 km/h) at 22,000 ft (6,700 m) and AL975 tested at an
absolute ceiling of 40,600 ft (12,400 m).
The XP-51B prototypes were a more thorough adaptation of
the airframe, with a tailor-made engine installation and
a complete redesign of the radiator duct. The airframe
itself was strengthened, with the fuselage and engine
mount area receiving more formers because of the greater
weight of the Packard V-1650-3, 1,690 lb (770 kg)
compared with the Allison V-1710's 1,335 lb (606 kg). The
engine cowling was completely redesigned to house the
Packard Merlin which, because of the intercooler radiator
mounted on the supercharger casing, was 5 in (130 mm)
taller and used an updraught induction system rather than
the downdraught carburetor of the Allison. The new engine
drove a four bladed 11 ft 2 in (3.4 m) diameter Hamilton
Standard propeller which featured cuffs of hard molded
rubber. A new radiator, supercharger intercooler and oil
radiator installation in a new fuselage duct was designed
to cater for the increased cooling requirements of the
Merlin. Also, because of the choice of a four-bladed
propeller, the fuselage-mounted synchronized machine gun
armament was permamently deleted, due to the
near-impossibility of avoiding hits to the propeller
It was decided that the armament of the new, P-51B (NA
102) would be the four .50 in (12.7 mm) M2/AN Browning
machine guns (with 350 rpg for the inboard guns and 280
rpg for the outboard) of the P-51A and the bomb
rack/external drop tank installation (adapted from the
A-36) would also be used; the racks were rated to be able
to carry up to 500 lb (230 kg) of ordnance and were also
capable of carrying drop tanks. The weapons were aimed
using an N-3B optical gunsight fitted with an A-1 head
assembly which allowed it to be used as a gun or bomb
sight through varying the angle of the reflector glass.
Pilots were also given the option of having ring and bead
sights mounted on the top engine cowling formers. This
option was discontinued with the later Ds.
N3B gunsight with A-1 head assembly (in this case mounted
in a PBJ-1H.)
The first XP-51Bs started test flying in December
1942. After sustained lobbying at the highest level,
American production was started in early 1943 with the B
(NA-102) being manufactured at Inglewood, California, and
the C (NA-103) at a new plant in Dallas, Texas, which was
in operation by summer 1943. The RAF named these
models Mustang Mk.III. In performance tests, the P-51B
reached 441 mph/709.70 km/h (exactly ? supersonic speed
at altitude) at 25,000 ft (7.600 m) and the
subsequent extended range made possible by the use of
drop tanks enabled the Merlin-powered Mustang to be
introduced as a bomber escort.
The range would be further increased with the
introduction of an 85 gal (322 l) self-sealing fuel tank
aft of the pilot's seat, starting with the B-5-NA series.
When this tank was full the center of gravity of the
Mustang was moved dangerously close to the aft limit, as
a result of which maneuvers were restricted until the
tank was down to about 25 gal (95 l) and the external
tanks had been dropped. Problems with high-speed
"porpoising" of the P-51Bs and Cs with the
fuselage tanks would lead to the replacement of the
fabric covered elevators with metal covered surfaces and
a reduction of the tailplane incidence.
Despite these modifications the P-51 Bs and Cs and the
newer Ds and Ks experienced low speed handling problems
that could result in an involuntary "snap-roll"
under certain conditions of air speed, angle of attack,
gross weight, and center of gravity. Several crash
reports tell of P-51Bs and Cs crashing because horizontal
stabilizers were torn off during maneuvering. As a result
of these problems a modification kit consisting of a
dorsal fin was manufactured. One report stated:
"Unless a dorsal fin is installed on the P-51B,
P-51C and P-51D airplanes, a snap roll may result when
attempting a slow roll. The horizontal stabilizer will
not withstand the effects of a snap roll. To prevent
recurrence, the stabilizer should be reinforced in
accordance with T.O. 01-60J-18 dated 8 April 1944 and a
dorsal fin should be installed. Dorsal fin kits are being
made available to overseas activities"
These kits became available in August 1944 and were
fitted to Bs and Cs and to Ds and Ks. Also incorporated
was a change to the rudder trim tabs, which would help
prevent the pilot over-controlling the aircraft and
creating heavy loads on the tail unit.
P-51Bs and Cs started to arrive in England in August and
October 1943. The P-51B/C versions were sent to 15
fighter groups that were part of the 8th and 9th Air
Forces in England, and the 12th and 15th in Italy (the
southern part of Italy was under Allied control by late
1943). Other deployments included the China Burma India
Allied strategists quickly exploited the long-range
fighter as a bomber escort. It was largely due to the
P-51 that daylight bombing raids deep into German
territory became possible without prohibitive bomber
losses in late 1943.
A number of the P-51B and P-51C aircraft were fitted for
photo reconnaissance and designated F-6C.
One of the few remaining complaints with the
Merlin-powered aircraft was a poor rearward view. This
was a common problem in most fighter designs of the era,
which had only been recognized by the British after the
Battle of Britain proved the value of an all-around view.
In order to improve the view from the Mustang at least
partially, the British had field-modified some Mustangs
with fishbowl-shaped sliding canopies called
"Malcolm hoods" - much like those on Spitfires.
Eventually all Mk IIIs, along with some American
P-51B/Cs, were equipped with Malcolm Hoods.
A better solution to the problem was the
"teardrop" or "bubble" canopy.
Originally developed as part of the Miles M.20 project,
these newer canopies were in the process of being adapted
to most British designs, eventually appearing on
Typhoons, Tempests and later-built Spitfires. North
American adapted several NA-106 prototypes with a bubble
canopy, cutting away the decking behind the cockpit,
resulting in substantially improved vision to the rear.
This led to the production P-51D (NA-109), considered the
A common misconception is that the cutting down of the
rear fuselage to mount the bubble canopy reduced
stability requiring the addition of a dorsal fin to the
forward base of the vertical tail. In fact, as described,
stability problems affected the earlier Bs and Cs, as
well as the subsequent D/K models; this was partly
attributable to the 85 gal (322 l) fuselage fuel tank
which had been installed during production of the
P-51B-5-NA and caused a too-far-aft center of gravity
situation when filled. Other factors were the switch from
the three blade propeller of the Allison powered series
to the four blade propeller causing increased
destabilization due to the four-bladed propeller's
greater side area effect and, on the D and K the bubble
canopy causing some turbulence ahead of the fin.
Among other modifications, armament was increased with
the addition of two more M2 machine guns, bringing the
total to six. The inner pair of machine guns had 400 rpg,
and the others had 270 rpg, for a total of 1,880. In
previous P-51s, the M2s were mounted at an extreme side
angle to allow access to the feed chutes from the
ammunition trays. This angled mounting had caused
problems of congestion and jamming of the ammunition and
spent casings and links, leading to frequent complaints
of jamming during combat maneuvers. The new
arrangement allowed the M2s to be mounted upright,
remedying most of the jamming problems. The .50 in (12.7
mm) Browning machine guns, although not firing an
explosive projectile, had excellent ballistics and proved
adequate against the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 and Messerschmitt
Bf 109 fighters that were the main USAAF opponents at the
time. The wing racks fitted to the P-51D/K series were
strengthened and were able to carry up to 1,000 lb (450
kg) of ordnance. Later models had under-wing rocket
pylons added to carry up to ten rockets per plane.
The gunsight was changed from the N-3B to the N-9
before the introduction in September 1944 of the K-14B
Alterations to the undercarriage up-locks and inner-door
retracting mechanisms meant that there was a change to
the shape of the inner wing leading edge, which was raked
forward slightly, increasing the wing area and creating a
distinctive "kink" in the leading edges of the
The P51-D became the most widely produced variant of the
Mustang. A Dallas-built version of the P-51D, designated
the P-51K, was equipped with an Aeroproducts propeller in
place of the Hamilton Standard propeller, as well as a
larger, differently configured canopy and other minor
alterations (the vent panel was different). The
hollow-bladed Aeroproducts propeller was unreliable with
dangerous vibrations at full throttle due to
manufacturing problems and was eventually replaced by the
Hamilton Standard. By the time of the Korean war most
F-51s were equipped with "uncuffed" Hamilton
Standard propellers with wider, blunt-tipped blades. The
photo reconnaissance versions of the P-51D and P-51K were
designated F-6D and F-6K respectively. The RAF assigned
the name Mustang Mk.IV to the D model and Mustang Mk.IVA
to K models.
The P-51D/K started arriving in Europe in mid-1944 and
quickly became the primary USAAF fighter in the theater.
It was produced in larger numbers than any other Mustang
variant. Nevertheless, by the end of the war, roughly
half of all operational Mustangs were still B or C
Concern over the USAAF's inability to escort B-29s all
the way to mainland Japan resulted in the highly
classified "Seahorse" project, an effort to
"navalize" the aircraft. In late 1944, naval
aviator (and later test pilot) Lieutenant Bob Elder flew
carrier suitability trials with a modified P-51D. The
project was canceled after U.S. Marines secured the
Japanese island of Iwo Jima and its airfields, making it
possible for standard P-51D models to accompany B-29s all
the way to the Japanese home islands and back.
During 194548, P-51Ds were also built under licence
in Australia by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation.
X-P5 1F, X-P51 G and X-P51-J
The USAAF required airframes built to their acceleration
standard of 8.33 g (82 m/s?), a higher load factor than
that used by the British standard of 5.33 g (52 m/s?) for
their fighters. Reducing the load factor to 5.33 would
allow weight to be removed, and both the USAAF and the
RAF were interested in the potential performance boost.
A subtle change made in the lightweight Mustangs was the
use of an improved NACA 66 series airfoil and a slightly
thinner wing than that used by earlier Mustangs.
In 1943, North American submitted a proposal to re-design
the P-51D as model NA-105, which was accepted by the
USAAF. Modifications included changes to the cowling, a
simplified undercarriage with smaller wheels and disc
brakes, and a larger canopy. The designation XP-51F was
assigned to prototypes powered with V-1650 engines (a
small number of XP-51Fs were passed to the British as the
Mustang V) and XP-51G to those with reverse lend/lease
Merlin RM 14 SM engines.
A third lightweight prototype powered by an Allison
V-1710-119 engine was added to the development program.
This aircraft was designated XP-51J. Since the engine was
insufficiently developed, the XP-51J was loaned to
Allison for engine development. None of these
experimental "lightweights" went into
The P-51H (NA-126) was the final production Mustang,
embodying the experience gained in the development of the
XP-51F and XP-51G aircraft. This aircraft, with minor
differences as the NA-129, came too late to participate
in World War II, but it brought the development of the
Mustang to a peak as one of the fastest production piston
engine fighters to see service.
The P-51H used the new V-1650-9 engine, a version of the
Merlin that included Simmons automatic supercharger boost
control with water injection, allowing War Emergency
Power as high as 2,218 hp (1,500 kW). Differences between
the P-51D included lengthening the fuselage and
increasing the height of the tailfin, which greatly
reduced the tendency to yaw. The canopy resembled the
P-51D style, over a somewhat raised pilot's position.
Service access to the guns and ammunition was also
improved. With the new airframe several hundred pounds
lighter, the extra power and a more streamlined radiator,
the P-51H was among the fastest propeller fighters ever,
able to reach 487 mph (784 km/h or Mach 0.74) at 25,000
ft (7,600 m).
The P-51H was designed to complement the P-47N as the
primary aircraft for the invasion of Japan with 2,000
ordered to be manufactured at Inglewood. Production was
just ramping up with 555 delivered when the war ended.
Production serial numbers:
* P-51H-1-NA 44-64160 44-64179
* P-51H-5-NA 44-64180 44-64459
* P-51H-10-NA 44-64460 44-64714
Additional orders, already on the books, were cancelled.
With the cutback in production, the variants of the P-51H
with different versions of the Merlin engine were
produced in either limited numbers or terminated. These
included the P-51L, similar to the P-51H but utilizing
the 2,270 hp (1,690 kW) V-1650-11 engine, which was never
built; and its Dallas-built version, the P-51M or NA-124
which utilized the V-1650-9A engine lacking water
injection and therefore rated for lower maximum power, of
which one was built out of the original 1629 ordered,
serial number 45-11743.
Although some P-51Hs were issued to operational units,
none saw combat in World War II, and in postwar service,
most were issued to reserve units. One aircraft was
provided to the RAF for testing and evaluation. Serial
number 44-64192 was designated BuNo 09064 and used by the
U.S. Navy to test transonic airfoil designs, then
returned to the Air National Guard in 1952. The P-51H was
not used for combat in the Korean War despite its
improved handling characteristics, since the P-51D was
available in much larger numbers and was a proven
Many of the aerodynamic advances of the P-51 (including
the laminar flow wing) were carried over to North
American's next generation of jet-powered fighters, the
Navy FJ Fury and Air Force F-86 Sabre. The wings,
empennage and canopy of the first straight-winged variant
of the Fury (the FJ-1) and the unbuilt preliminary
prototypes of the P-86/F-86 strongly resembled those of
the Mustang before the aircraft were modified with
(credits: US Air Force History
P-51 flew most of its wartime missions as a
bomber escort in raids over Germany, helping
ensure Allied air superiority from early 1944. It
also saw limited service against the Japanese in
the Pacific War. The Mustang began the Korean War
as the United Nations' main fighter, but was
relegated to a ground attack role when superseded
by jet fighters early in the conflict.
Nevertheless, it remained in service with some
air forces until the early 1980s..
As well as being
economical to produce, the Mustang was a fast,
well-made, and highly durable aircraft. The
definitive version, the P51-D, was powered by the
Packard V-1650, a two-stage two-speed
supercharged version of the legendary Rolls-Royce
Merlin engine, and was armed with six .50 in
(12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns.
After World War II and the Korean conflict, many
Mustangs were converted for civilian use,
especially air racing. The Mustang's reputation
was such that, in the mid-1960s, Ford Motor
Company's Designer John Najjar proposed the name
for a new youth-oriented coupe automobile after
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