North American P-51D Mustang
North American P-51D Mustang
The Mustang was among the best and most well-known fighters used by the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II. Possessing excellent range and maneuverability, the P-51 operated primarily as a long-range escort fighter and also as a ground attack fighter-bomber. The Mustang served in nearly every combat zone during WWII, and later fought in the Korean War.
Mustangs for the USAAF
In March 1942 the USAAF accepted the first production P-51A fighters. Although excellent at lower levels, the P-51A’s Allison engines severely limited performance at high altitude. The USAAF employed P-51As in the China-Burma-India theater, where most combat took place at low altitude.
In April 1942 the USAAF ordered an attack version equipped with dive brakes and bomb racks, the A-36 Apache. A-36s entered combat in June 1943 and served in North Africa, Italy and India.
A Winning Combination
In December 1943 the first P-51B/C Mustangs entered combat in Europe with the 354th Fighter Group “Pioneers.” By the time of the first U.S. heavy bomber strike against Berlin in March 1944, the USAAF fielded about 175 P-51B/C Mustangs. Along with P-38 Lightnings, these P-51s provided sorely needed long-range, high-altitude escort for the U.S. bombing campaign against Germany.
The P-51D arrived in quantity in Europe in the spring of 1944, becoming the USAAF’s primary long range escort fighter. The versatile Mustang also served as a fighter-bomber and reconnaissance aircraft. Few Luftwaffe aircraft could match the P-51D — by the end of the war, Mustangs had destroyed 4,950 enemy aircraft in the air, more than any other USAAF fighter in Europe.
P-51Ds arrived in the Pacific and CBI theaters by the end of 1944. In the spring of 1945, Iwo Jima-based P-51Ds started flying long-range B-29 escort and low-level fighter-bomber missions against ground targets in Japan.
With the last of 555 P-51Hs completed in 1946, the production run of the Mustang ended with over 15,000 of all types built.
At the start of the Korean War, however, the Mustang once again proved its usefulness. After the initial invasion, USAF units were forced to fly from bases in Japan, and F-51Ds could hit targets in Korea that short-ranged F-80 jet fighters could not. Mustangs continued flying with USAF, South Korean Air Force (ROKAF), South African Air Force (SAAF) and Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) fighter-bomber units on close support and interdiction missions in Korea until they were largely replaced by F-86F jet fighter-bombers in 1953.
- Crew: 1
- Length: 32 ft 3 in (9.83 m)
- Wingspan: 37 ft 0 in (11.28 m)
- Height: 13 ft 4½ in (4.08 m:tail wheel on ground, vertical propeller blade.)
- Wing area: 235 sq ft (21.83 m²)
- Airfoil: NAA/NACA 45-100 / NAA/NACA 45-100
- Empty weight: 7,635 lb (3,465 kg)
- Loaded weight: 9,200 lb (4,175 kg)
- Max. takeoff weight: 12,100 lb (5,490 kg)
- Maximum fuel capacity: 419 US gal (349 imp gal; 1,590 l)
- Zero-lift drag coefficient: 0.0163
- Drag area: 3.80 sqft (0.35 m²)
- Aspect ratio: 5.83
- Powerplant: 1 × Packard V-1650-7 liquid-cooled V-12, with a 2 stage intercooled supercharger, 1,490 hp (1,111 kW) at 3,000 rpm; 1,720 hp (1,280 kW) at WEP
- Propellers: constant-speed, variable-pitch Hamilton Standard, propeller
- Propeller diameter: 11 ft 2 in (3.40 m)
- Maximum speed: ~440 mph (383 kn, 708 km/h) at 25,000 ft (7,600 m)
- Cruise speed: 362 mph (315 kn, 583 km/h)
- Stall speed: 100 mph (87 kn, 160 km/h)
- Range: 1,650 mi (1,434 nautical miles (2,656 kilometres)) with external tanks
- Service ceiling: 41,900 ft (12,800 m)
- Rate of climb: 3,200 ft/min (16.3 m/s)
- Wing loading: 39 lb/sqft (192 kg/m²)
- Power/mass: 0.18 hp/lb (300 W/kg)
- Lift-to-drag ratio: 14.6
- Recommended Mach limit 0.8
- Guns: 6 × 0.50 caliber (12.7mm) AN/M2 Browning machine guns with 1,840 total rounds (380 rounds for each on the inboard pair and 270 rounds for each of the outer two pair)
- Rockets: 6 or 10 × 5.0 in (127 mm) T64 H.V.A.R rockets (P-51D-25, P-51K-10 on)
- Bombs: 1,000 pounds (450 kg) total on two wing hardpoints
- Each hardpoint: 1 × 100 pounds (45 kg) bomb, 1 × 250 pounds (110 kg) bomb or 1 × 500 pounds (230 kg) bomb)