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North American Aviation P-51 Mustang

The North American Aviation P-51 Mustang was an American long-range single-seat fighter aircraft that entered service with Allied air forces in the middle years of World War II. The P-51 became one of the conflict's most successful and recognizable aircraft.

The 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 The Mustang began the Korean War as the United Nations' main fighter, but was relegated to a ground attack role when superseded by jet fighters early in the conflict.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 of the single-seat fighter was powered by the Packard V-1650-3, a two-stage two-speed supercharged 12-cylinder Packard-built version of the legendary Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, and (the P-51D) were armed with six of the aircraft version of the .50 caliber (12.7 mm) 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 after the fighter.[2]

The result of the MAP order was the NA-73X project (from March 1940). The design followed the best conventional practice of the era, but included two new features. One was a new NACA-designed laminar flow wing, which was associated with very low drag at high speeds.[4] Another was the use of a new radiator design (one Curtiss had been unable to make work) that used the heated air exiting the radiator as a form of jet thrust in what is referred to as the "Meredith Effect". Because North American lacked a suitable wind tunnel, it used the GALCIT 10-foot wind tunnel at Cal Tech. This led to some controversy over whether the Mustang's cooling system aerodynamics were developed by North American's engineer Edgar Schmued or by Curtiss, although historians and researchers dismiss the allegation of stolen technology; such claims are likely moot in any event, as North American had purchased Curtiss’ complete set of P-40 and XP-46 wind tunnel data and flight test reports for US$56,000.[5]

While the United States Army Air Corps could block any sales it considered detrimental or not in the interest of the United States, the NA-73 represented a special case. In order to ensure deliveries were uninterrupted, an arrangement was eventually reached where the RAF would get its aircraft in exchange for NAA providing two free examples to the USAAC for evaluation.

Design and development

The prototype NA-73X was rolled out just 117 days after the order was placed, and first flew on 26 October 1940, just 178 days after the order had been placed — an incredibly short gestation period. In general, the prototype handled well and the internal arrangement allowed for an impressive fuel load. It was armed with four .30 caliber Browning (7.62 mm) and two .50 M2 Browning (12.7 mm) machineguns in the wings and two .50 M2s in the chin.

P-51D and P-51K
P-51D My Girl takes off from Iwo Jima. From this base, fighters escorted B-29s on bombing missions to Japan in 1945.
P-51D My Girl takes off from Iwo Jima. From this base, fighters escorted B-29s on bombing missions to Japan in 1945.

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 canopies called "Malcolm Hoods." 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 late-model Spitfires, Typhoons and Tempests. 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 definitive Mustang.

A common misconception is that the cutting down of the rear fuselage to mount the bubble canopy reduced stability that required the addition of a dorsal fin to the forward base of the vertical tail. Actually, both earlier Bs and Cs and subsequent D/K models also 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. 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"

While some existing aircraft do not have the dorsal extension fitted, many were equipped at some point in their service or refurbishment with a taller tail, which provided a similar increase in yaw stability. Also, civilian-owned examples often have newer, lighter radios, an absence of external munitions and drop tanks, removed guns and armor plate and an empty or removed fuselage tank — reducing the need for the dorsal fin.
Ground crew arming the P-51 with six M2 machine guns and .50 caliber ammunition
Ground crew arming the P-51 with six M2 machine guns and .50 caliber ammunition

Among other modifications, armament was increased with the addition of another two M2 machine guns, bringing the total to six. The inner pair of machine guns had 400 rounds each, and the others had 270 rounds, for a total of 1,880. In previous P-51s, the M2s were mounted at angles that led to frequent complaints of jamming during combat maneuvers. The new arrangement allowed the M2s to be mounted in a more standard manner that remedied most of the jamming problems. The .50 caliber Browning machine guns, although not firing an explosive projectile, had excellent ballistics and proved adequate against the Fw 190 and Bf 109 fighters that were the main USAAF opponents at the time. Later models had under-wing rocket pylons added to carry up to ten rockets per plane.

The P-51D 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 IV to the D model and Mustang 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 models.

Concern over the USAAF's inability to escort B-29s all the way to mainland Japan resulted in the highly classified "Seahorse" project. In late 1944 Naval Aviator (and later test pilot) 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.

P-51D Mustang

General characteristics

* Crew: 1
* Length: 32 ft 3 in (9.83 m)
* Wingspan: 37 ft 0 in (11.28 m)
* Height: 13 ft 8 in (4.17 m)
* Wing area: 235 ft² (21.83 m²;)
* 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)
* Powerplant: 1× Packard Merlin V-1650-7 liquid-cooled supercharged V-12, 1,695 hp (1,265 kW)
* Zero-lift drag coefficient: 0.0163
* Drag area: 3.80 ft² (0.35 m²;)
* Aspect ratio: 5.83


* Maximum speed: 437 mph (703 km/h) at 25,000 ft (7,620 m)
* Cruise speed: 362 mph (580 km/h)
* Stall speed: 100 mph (160 km/h)
* Range: 1,650 mi (2,755 km) with external tanks
* Service ceiling 41,900 ft (12,770 m)
* Rate of climb: 3,200 ft/min (16.3 m/s)
* Wing loading: 39 lb/ft² (192 kg/m²;)
* Power/mass: 0.18 hp/lb (300 W/kg)
* Lift-to-drag ratio: 14.6
* Recommended Mach limit 0.8


* 6 × 0.50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns; 400 rounds per gun for the two inboard guns; 270 per outboard gun
* 2 hardpoints for up to 2,000 lb (907 kg)
* 10 × 5 in (127 mm) rockets


The 99th was ready for combat duty during some of the Allies' earliest actions in the North African campaign, and was transported to Casablanca, Morocco, on the USS Mariposa. From there, they travelled by train to Oujda near Fes, and made their way to Tunis to operate against the Luftwaffe. The flyers and ground crew were largely isolated by racial segregation practices of their initial command, the 33rd Fighter Group and its commander Col. William W. Momyer, and left with little guidance from battle-experienced pilots beyond a week spent with Col. Phillip Cochran. The 99th's first combat mission was to attack the small but strategic volcanic island of Pantelleria in the Mediterranean Sea between Sicily and Tunisia, in preparation for the Allied invasion of Sicily in July 1943. The 99th moved to Sicily while attached to the 79th Fighter Group,[5] whose commander, Col. Earl Bates, fully involved the squadron, and the 99th received a Distinguished Unit Citation for its performance in Sicily.
Tuskegee Airmen in front of a P-40.
Tuskegee Airmen in front of a

However, Col. Momyer told media sources in the U.S. that the 99th was a failure and its pilots cowardly, incompentent or worse, resulting in a critical article in Time magazine. In response, a hearing was convened before the House Armed Services Committee to determine whether the Tuskegee Airmen "experiment" should be allowed to continue. Momyer accused the Airmen of being incompetent—-based on the fact that they had seen little air-to-air combat during their time in theatre. To bolster the recommendation to scrap the project, a member of the committee commissioned and then submitted into evidence a "scientific" report by the University of Texas which purported to prove that Negroes were of low intelligence and incapable of handling complex situations (such as air combat). Col. Davis forcefully refuted the committee members' claims, but only the intervention of Col. Emmitt "Rosie" O'Donnell prevented a recommendation for disbandment of the squadron from being sent to president Franklin D. Roosevelt. General Hap Arnold decided an evaluation of all Mediterranean Theatre P-40 units would be undertaken to determine the true merits of the 99th. The results showed the 99th FS to be as good or better than the other American units operating the fighter.

Shortly after the hearing, three new squadrons fresh out of training at Tuskegee embarked for Africa. After several months operating separately, all four squadrons were combined to form the all-black 332nd Fighter Group.

The Tuskegee Airmen were initially equipped with P-40 Warhawks, briefly with P-39 Airacobras (March 1944), later with P-47 Thunderbolts (June-July 1944), and finally with the airplane that they would become most identified with, the P-51 Mustang (July 1944).

On 27 January and 28 January 1944, Luftwaffe Fw 190 fighter-bombers raided Anzio, where the Allies had conducted amphibious landings on January 22. Attached to the 79th Fighter Group, eleven of the 99th Fighter Squadron's pilots shot down enemy fighters, including Capt. Charles B. Hall, who claimed two shot down, bringing his aerial victory total to three. The eight fighter squadrons defending Anzio together claimed 32 German aircraft shot down whilst the 99th claimed the highest score among them with 13.[6]
Col. Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., commander of the Tuskegee Airmen 332nd Fighter Group, in front of his P-47 Thunderbolt in Sicily.
Col. Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., commander of the Tuskegee Airmen 332nd Fighter Group, in front of his P-47 Thunderbolt in Sicily.

The squadron won its second Distinguished Unit Citation on 12 May-14 May 1944, while attached to the 324th Fighter Group, attacking German positions on Monastery Hill (Monte Cassino), attacking infantry massing on the hill for a counterattack, and bombing a nearby strong point to force the surrender of the German garrison to Moroccan Goumiers.

By this point, more graduates were ready for combat, and the all-black 332nd Fighter Group had been sent overseas with three fighter squadrons: the 100th, 301st and 302nd. Under the command of Col. Benjamin O. Davis, the squadrons were moved to mainland Italy, where the 99th FS, assigned to the group on 1 May, joining them on 6 June. The Airmen of the 332nd Fighter Group escorted bombing raids into Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary, Poland and Germany.

Flying escort for heavy bombers, the 332nd racked up an impressive combat record. Reportedly, the Luftwaffe awarded the Airmen the nickname, "Schwarze Vogelmenschen," or "Black Birdmen." The Allies called the Airmen "Redtails" or "Redtail Angels," because of the distinctive crimson paint on the vertical stabilizers of the unit's aircraft. Although bomber groups would request Redtail escort when possible, few bomber crew members knew at the time that the Redtails were black.[citation needed]
Pilots of the 332nd Fighter Group, "Tuskegee Airmen," the elite, all-African American 332nd Fighter Group at Ramitelli, Italy. From left to right, Lt. Dempsey W. Morgan, Lt. Carroll S. Woods, Lt. Robert H. Nelron, Jr., Capt. Andrew D. Turner and Lt. Clarence P. Lester
Pilots of the 332nd Fighter Group, "Tuskegee Airmen," the elite, all-African American 332nd Fighter Group at Ramitelli, Italy. From left to right, Lt. Dempsey W. Morgan, Lt. Carroll S. Woods, Lt. Robert H. Nelron, Jr., Capt. Andrew D. Turner and Lt. Clarence P. Lester

. A B-25 bomb group, the 477th Bombardment Group (Medium), was forming in the U.S. but completed its training too late to see action. The 99th Fighter Squadron after its return to the United States became part of the 477th, redesignated the 477th Composite Group.

By the end of the war, the Tuskegee Airmen were credited with 109 Luftwaffe aircraft shot down,[6] the German-operated Italian destroyer TA-23 sunk by machine-gun fire, and destruction of numerous fuel dumps, trucks and trains. The squadrons of the 332nd FG flew more than 15,000 sorties on 1,500 missions. The unit received recognition through official channels and was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation for a mission flown March 24, 1945, escorting B-17s to bomb the Daimler-Benz tank factory at Berlin, Germany, an action in which its pilots were credited with destroying three Me-262 jets, all belonging to the Luftwaffe's all-jet Jagdgeschwader 7, in aerial combat that day, despite the American unit initially claiming 11 Me 262s on that particular mission.[7] However on examing German records, JG 7 records just four Me 262s were lost and all of the pilots survived.[8] In return the 463rd Bomb Group, one of the many B-17 groups the 322nd were escorting, lost two bombers.[9] The 322nd themselves lost three P-51s during the mission.[10] The bombers also made substantial claims, making it impossible to tell which units were responsible for those individual four kills. The 99th Fighter Squadron in addition received two DUCs, the second after its assignment to the 332nd FG.[5] The Tuskegee Airmen were awarded several Silver Stars, 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 8 Purple Hearts, 14 Bronze Stars and 744 Air Medals.

In all, 992 pilots were trained in Tuskegee from 1940 to 1946; about 445 deployed overseas, and 150 Airmen lost their lives in accidents or combat.[11]

[edit] Controversy over the escort record

While it had long been said that the Redtails were the only fighter group who never lost a bomber to enemy fighters,[12] suggestions to the contrary, combined with Air Force records and eyewitness accounts indicating that at least 25 bombers were lost to enemy fire[13], resulted in the Air Force conducting a reassessment of the history of this famed unit in late 2006.

The claim that no bomber escorted by the Tuskegee Airmen had ever been lost to enemy fire first appeared on 24 March 1945, in the Chicago Defender, under the headline "332nd Flies Its 200th Mission Without Loss." According to the 28 March 2007 Air Force report, however, some bombers under 332nd Fighter Group escort protection were shot down on the very day the Chicago Defender article was published.[14][15][16][17] The subsequent report, based on after-mission reports filed by both the bomber units and Tuskegee fighter groups as well as missing air crew records and witness testimony, was released in March 2007 and documented 25 bombers shot down by enemy fighter aircraft while being escorted by the Tuskegee Airmen.[18]
Tuskegee Airmen gathered at a U.S. base after a mission in the Mediterranean theater.
Tuskegee Airmen gathered at a U.S. base after a mission in the Mediterranean theater.

The controversy continued to attract news media attention in 2008. A St. Petersburg Times article quoted a historian at the Air Force Historical Research Agency as confirming the loss of up to 25 bombers. Disputing this, a professor at the National Defense University in Washington said he researched more than 200 Tuskegee Airmen mission reports and found no bombers were lost to enemy fighters. Bill Holloman, a Tuskegee airman who taught black studies at the University of Washington and now chairs the Airmen's history committee, was reported by the Times as saying his review of records did confirm lost bombers, but "the Tuskegee story is about pilots who rose above adversity and discrimination and opened a door once closed to black America — not about whether their record is perfect".[19]
Aircraft of the 332d Fighter Group; the "Redtails" of the Tuskegee Airmen. The nearest aircraft depicted is that of Lt. Lee Archer, the only ace among the Tuskegee Airmen.
Aircraft of the 332d Fighter Group; the "Redtails" of the Tuskegee Airmen. The nearest aircraft depicted is that of Lt. Lee Archer, the only ace among the Tuskegee Airmen.

One mission report states that on 26 July 1944: "1 B-24 seen spiraling out of formation in T/A (target area) after attack by E/A (enemy aircraft). No chutes seen to open." A second report, dated 31 August 1944, praises group commander Gen. Benjamin O. Davis Jr. by saying he "so skillfully disposed his squadrons that in spite of the large number of enemy fighters, the bomber formation suffered only a few losses.

the only little friends my grandfather liked
Add a Comment:
davbla Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2011  Hobbyist Artist
As a Pilot that has had the pleasure of flying a P-51C I have to say this is one remarkable craft. As a design that took just 102 days to complete its just astonishing how well this plane came together.
Cipher80 Featured By Owner Jun 29, 2011
Ah! The fighting Redtails! The only thing I HATED about the Mustang was its Liquid-cooled engine. One bullet through the radiator & your doomed!!
13aceofspades13 Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2011
the mustangs top speed is also 448mph under W.E.P and 367MPH at sea level
the Mustangs rate of climb is also 3,475fpm W.E.P with a full internal load
the Mustangs range is 2,000 miles with two larger drop tanks carrying around 108 gallons, around 2,500 for the H with the 165 gallon farry tanks.
the mustang has a maximum dive speed of around 601 to 602MPH

researcher42 Featured By Owner Mar 8, 2010
On the Military Cable Channel they
had a "Top Ten list
of the best fighter planes" in

The P-51 Mustang came in
at #1 on the list.

Before other planes like
F-18, F-4 Phantom, and F-22.

Now that is impressive.
I appreciate this tribute, as a Black Male who want's to be an Air Force Officer, I owe so much of what I want to be to them.
bagera3005 Featured By Owner Jan 11, 2010  Professional Interface Designer
i have full image muskegee airmen markings
Razgriz3 Featured By Owner Sep 30, 2008
The Mustang was the best of WW2, and the 332 the best outfit for the records they had. The 15 hour round trip escort to Berlin (After the other England based escorts were grounded by weather) was the longest of the war, and the 3 confirmed 262 kills / 4 damaged were a single day group record that not many other units had. i don't know if you've heard but the Red Tails have become the subject of an upcoming George Lucas movie by the same name "Red Tails"
R777man Featured By Owner Jun 14, 2008
According to the Military Channel, The P-51 is noted to be the best fighter of all time.
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