The American P 51 Mustang
The Finest Fighter Plane Of The Second World War??
The Mustang story began in 1940 when the British contacted North American Aviation with a request to build fighters for the RAF. North American was willing, and they offered to design and build a new fighter that would meet British requirements, and be easy to mass produce. In only 100 days NAA rolled out the first prototype Mustang. By November 1941 the first of over 600 aircraft produced under British contract were delivered to the RAF.
The new fighter incorporated some advanced ideas, in particular a laminar flow wing of thin cross section, which allowed the Mustang to avoid most of the “compressibility” dive problems that plagued many other high performance fighters of the time. Two of the first ten Mustangs built were taken to Wright Field, at Dayton Ohio, for testing by the AAF, which designated them XP-51.
The 1,150 hp. Allison F-series V-12 powered the early Mustang models. This resulted in poor high altitude performance, so the RAF used their Mustang I (P-51) and II (P-51A) models for low altitude ground attack and reconnaissance duties.
The Mustang I had a top speed of 370 m.p.h. at 15,000 ft. Best climb at 11,300 ft. was 1,980 ft./min. An assortment of .30 and .50 caliber machine guns were carried, but the Mustang IA was armed with 4-20mm cannon. Handling and maneuverability were good. Like the FW 190, the P-51 was a pilot’s airplane.
P-51A (Mustang II) production was divided between America and Britain. This model standardized armament as 4-.50 cal MG. (two per wing). There were ground attack versions of the P 51A in U.S. service, designated A-36A, which served the AAF in the North African campaign. There were also specialized photo reconnaissance versions of all major Mustang models, the F-6 series.
The decision was made to mass produce the outstanding Merlin engine under license in the United States. The P-51B and C models (Mustang III’s in Britian), which entered service in December of 1943, were powered by the new Packard-built version of the Merlin V-12, driving a four bladed propeller. At the same time, the airframe was strengthened, the radiator was re-designed, the ailerons were improved, and racks for long range drop tanks or bombs were added under the wings.
The 1,450 hp. Packard/Merlin engine (1,595 hp. war emergency rating) gave the P-51B-7 a top speed of 445 m.p.h. Best climb was 3,320 ft./min. at 10,000 ft. The new Mustang carried 4-.50 caliber MG (two per wing), and up to 1,000 lbs. of external stores. Its range was an astounding 2,200 miles with two 150 gal. drop tanks. Endurance with drop tanks was 8.7 hours.
The new engine completely changed the character of the Mustang, turning it into a high altitude fighter suitable for bomber escort missions. It came at a crucial moment for the AAF daylight bombing campaign. Luftwaffe fighters were taking such a toll of un-escorted heavy bombers that the losses were becoming unsupportable. The great range of the P-51B-7 allowed it to escort the heavy bombers all the way to their targets deep inside Germany. In March of 1944, Mustangs went to Berlin. Eighth Air Force bomber losses plummeted, while Luftwaffe fighter losses skyrocketed.
Great Planes | North American P-51 Mustang | Documentary
The North American Aviation P-51 Mustang is an American long-range, single-seat fighter and fighter-bomber used during World War II, the Korean War and other conflicts.
Top speed: 703 km/h
Wingspan: 11 m
Length: 9.83 m
Engine type: V12 engine
Unit cost: 50,985–50,985 USD (1945)
Designer: Edgar Schmued
Manufacturer: North American Aviation
Later in 1944 the famous P-51D model arrived. It sported a “tear drop” canopy for better all around vision and a more powerful 1,790 hp. version of the Packard/Merlin engine, along with many detail improvements. The armament was increased to 6-.50 caliber wing MG and all manner of external stores could be carried. Recognition of the D model is easy because of its teardrop canopy and the large fillet fin added in front of the vertical stabilizer. For the Luftwaffe, the end was at hand.
The final major production version of the Mustang was the P-51H. This re-designed model incorporated major improvements, as extensive in scope as those incorporated into the FW 190D or Spitfire Mk. 22.
Flight Characteristics of the North American P-51 Mustang: How to Fly the P-51 Fighter
This 1944 vintage World War 2 film covers all aspects of the theory & practice of P-51Mustang fighter flight operations, including takeoffs, landings, aerobatics, dive limits, and laminar wing airflow theory. Oscar nominee Lee J. Cobb plays Mustang designer “Dietz” in this detailed pilot training film.
Often called the best all around piston engine fighter of World War 2, Chuck Yeager became an Ace in the ’51. The Mustang’s very high speed and all ’round qualities as a fighter coupled with extreme range for use as a bomber escort and interdicting fighter bomber were crucial factors when the 8th Air Force turned the tide of the Air War over Europe.
In the H model, the structure was increased in strength by 10%, to allow higher “g” loads in combat maneuvers. No structural part was left in common with earlier models. Streamlining was improved to increase speed and stability was increased.
A new version of the Packard/Merlin, incorporating water injection, delivered over 2000 hp. These changes resulted in the finest American fighter of the war. Speed was 486 m.p.h. at 30,000 ft. best climb rate was 5,350 ft./min. at 5,000 ft. Service ceiling was 41,600 ft.
Unlike most other American piston engine fighters, which were withdrawn from service soon after the end of WW II, the Mustang fought on, doing valuable ground support work in the Korean War. It was adopted by many other nations, too numerous to list here, and remained in service in some countries into the 1960’s. For more information about the Mustang, see my article “The North American P-51 Mustang.” The following specifications are for the famous D model of 1944.
|Wingspan:||37 ft. 5/16 in.|
|Length:||32 ft. 3 5/16 in.|
|Height:||13 ft. 4 1/2in.|
|Wing area:||240 sq. ft.|
|Engine:||Packard/Merlin V-1650-7, 1,790 hp. at 11,500 ft.|
|Max speed:||443 m.p.h. at 25,000 ft., 438 m.p.h. at 30,000 ft.|
|Best climb:||3,320 ft./min. at 5,000 ft.|
|Climb to:||10,000 ft., 3.3 min; 20,000 ft., 7.5 min.|
|Service ceiling:||41,900 ft.|
|Range:||1,140 miles at max. cruise power at
10,000 ft. (normal internal fuel load)
|Endurance:||4.3 hours (normal internal fuel load)|
|Weight:||11,100 lb. with max. fuel|
|Armament:||6-.50 cal. MG (3/wing); up to 1,000 lb. of external stores on wing racks.|
To say P-51 Mustangs were successful would be an understatement. It is considered to be the best piston aircraft of World War II and became one of the world’s aviation elite.
P-51 Dogfights Over Japan (1945)
(Color, Silent) National Archives and Records Administration
ARC Identifier 65631 / Local Identifier 342-USAF-18486
A total of 14,819 Mustangs of all types were built for the USAAF. American Mustangs destroyed 4,950 enemy aircraft making them the highest scoring US fighter in the Europe Theater of Operations. They were used as dive-bombers, bomber escorts, ground-attackers, interceptors, for photo-recon missions, trainers, transports (with a jump-seat), and after the war, high performance racers.
And with this..let’s enjoy some music….
Wild Blue Yonder – United States Air Force Official Song
As we come to an end of this story on the American P 51 Mustang, its history, its amazing feats, if you havent read my earlier segments on the Spitfire, Messerschmitt Bf 109, the Japanese Mitsubishi A6M Zero…please feel free to click here.
until next time…..Cheers for now!