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P-51 Mustang Fighter Plane

P-51 Development History, Production, and Deployment

North American P-51 Mustang

P-51 Mustang

The North American P-51 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.

In 1939, the British Purchasing Agency came to America to buy aircraft for the war that had just started in Europe. Having experience with Curtiss P-40s, they purchased all that Curtiss could build them.

When they approached North American Aviation to build more P-40s, the company offered to build a new fighter using the same American-built Allison engine.

The British agreed, but on the condition the first aircraft had to be flying in no more than 120 days. 117 days later, the first P-51 flew!

North American P-51D Mustang, "The Brat III"

Surviving North American P-51D Mustang, S/N 44-72339, N251JC

The North American prototype, NA-73X, was first flown in October of 1940. At least eight versions of the P-51 were manufactured before production ceased.

Mustangs served in nearly every combat zone in WWII, including the Pacific where they escorted B-29 Superfortresses to Japan from Iwo Jima. Between 1941 and 1945, the AAF ordered 14,855 Mustangs (including A-36A dive bomber and F-6 photo recon versions), of which 7,956 were P-51Ds.

Following the war, the P-51 was retained as the USAAF's standard, piston-engine fighter plane. Redesignated the F-51 in 1948, the aircraft was soon eclipsed in the fighter role by newer jet planes.

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-51D planes could hit targets in Korea that short-ranged F-80 jet fighters could not. F-51s flew in the Reserve and ANG until they were finally phased out in 1957.

 

P-51 Mustang Specifications

P-51 Mustang TOPPS Card #5
P-51 Mustang TOPPS Card #5 (from the TOPPS Wings Friend or Foe collection)

Armament: Six .50-cal. machine guns and 10 5-in. rockets or 2,000 lbs. of bombs
Engine: Packard-built Rolls-Royce Merlin V-1650 of 1,695 hp
Maximum speed: 437 mph
Cruising speed: 275 mph
Range: 1,000 miles
Ceiling: 41,900 ft. 
Span: 37 ft.
Length: 32 ft. 3 in.
Height: 13 ft. 8 in.
Weight: 12,100 lbs. maximum 

Photographs of Surviving P-51 Mustangs

The P-51 remains a popular airplane today, and many are in airworthy conditon on the airshow circuits in the United States. Shown below are photographs of surviving P-51s..

P-51 Mustang "Betty Jane" of the Collings Foundation, seen at Tyler Pounds Regional Airport
P-51 Mustang "Betty Jane" of the Collings Foundation, seen at Tyler Pounds Regional Airport
Nose art on P-51D Mustang "Audrey" at Hill AFB near Salt Lake City
Nose art on P-51D Mustang "Audrey"
North American P-51D Mustang, S/N 46-3607, Seattle
North American P-51D Mustang, S/N 46-3607


P-51 "The Brat III"

North American P-51D Mustang, "The Brat III" of the Cavanaugh Flight Museum
North American P-51D Mustang, "The Brat III"
North American P-51D Mustang, "The Brat III" North American P-51D Mustang, "The Brat III"


P-51 "Ferocious Frankie"

P-51D Mustang "Ferocious Frankie", Robins Air Force Base, Georgia
P-51D Mustang "Ferocious Frankie"

Nose art on the P-51D Mustang "Ferocious Frankie"
Nose art on the P-51D Mustang "Ferocious Frankie"


P-51 "Moonbeam McSwine"

P-51D Mustang "Moonbeam McSwine" S/N 44-14570 on static display at the Global Power Museum at Barksdale AFB in Bossier City, Louisiana, October 24, 2013
P-51D Mustang "Moonbeam McSwine"

The other P-51D-25-NA Mustang "Moonbeam McSwine", Registration F-AZXS, shown here at Saint-Yan, France, June 8, 2013. The plane is now owned by the Warbird Heritage Foundation, based in Waukegan, Illinois, and registered as N51VL (in honor or Vlado Lenoch) (Photo by DELEHELLE Eric)
P-51D-25-NA Mustang "Moonbeam McSwine", Registration F-AZXS


P-51 "Nooky Booky IV"

P-51D Mustang, Registration F-AZSB, Rochefort, France in May of 2011 (Photo by DELEHELLE Eric)
P-51D Mustang, Registration F-AZSB, Rochefort, France in May of 2011
P-51D Mustang "Nooky Booky IV", Registration F-AZSB, Rochefort, France in May of 2011 (Photo by DELEHELLE Eric)
P-51D Mustang "Nooky Booky IV", Registration F-AZSB, Rochefort, France
P-51D Mustang, Registration F-AZSB, in flight over Rochefort, France in 2011 (Photo by DELEHELLE Eric)
P-51D Mustang, Registration F-AZSB, in flight over Rochefort, France



P-51 Photographs by Our Friends and Supporters

P-51 Mustang 412016 - Photo courtesy of Alaska Professional Photography
P-51 Mustang
P-51D Mustang, 44-74391 - Photo courtesy of Alaska Professional Photography
P-51 Mustang
P-51D Mustang 463684, "Double Trouble Two" - Photo courtesy of Alaska Professional Photography
P-51 Mustang
P-51C on display at the Warhawk Air Museum in Nampa, Idaho
(photo by Michael Hoschouer)
P-51C on display at the Warhawk Air Museum in Nampa, Idaho