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The North American Aviation P-51 Mustang is an American long-range, single-seat
fighter
fighter
and
fighter-bomber A fighter-bomber is a fighter aircraft Fighter aircraft are fixed-wing A fixed-wing aircraft is a heavier-than-air flying machine, such as an airplane An airplane or aeroplane (informally plane) is a fixed-wing aircraft that ...
used during
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literatur ...
and the
Korean War The Korean War (see § Names) was a war fought between North Korea North Korea, officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), is a country in East Asia, constituting the northern part of the Korean Peninsula. It b ...

Korean War
, among other conflicts. The Mustang was designed in April 1940 by a team headed by James Kindelberger of
North American Aviation North American Aviation (NAA) was a major American American(s) may refer to: * American, something of, from, or related to the United States of America, commonly known as the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly ...
(NAA) in response to a requirement of the
British Purchasing CommissionThe British Purchasing Commission was a United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the ...
. The Purchasing Commission approached North American Aviation to build
Curtiss P-40 fighters
Curtiss P-40 fighters
under license for the
Royal Air Force The Royal Air Force (RAF) is the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for th ...
(RAF). Rather than build an old design from another company, North American Aviation proposed the design and production of a more modern fighter. The prototype NA-73X
airframe The mechanical structure of an aircraft An aircraft is a vehicle or machine that is able to fly Flies are insect Insects or Insecta (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic ...
was rolled out on 9 September 1940, 102 days after the contract was signed, and first flew on 26 October. The Mustang was designed to use the
Allison V-1710 The Allison V-1710 aircraft engine designed and produced by the Allison Engine Company was the only US-developed V-12 liquid-cooled engine to see service during World War II. Versions with a turbocharger gave excellent performance at high alt ...

Allison V-1710
engine, which had limited high-altitude performance in its earlier variants. The aircraft was first flown operationally by the RAF as a tactical-reconnaissance aircraft and
fighter-bomber A fighter-bomber is a fighter aircraft Fighter aircraft are fixed-wing A fixed-wing aircraft is a heavier-than-air flying machine, such as an airplane An airplane or aeroplane (informally plane) is a fixed-wing aircraft that ...
(Mustang Mk I). Replacing the Allison with a
Rolls-Royce Merlin The Rolls-Royce Merlin is a British liquid-cooled Liquid cooling refers to cooling by means of the convection or circulation (fluid dynamics), circulation of a liquid. Examples of liquid cooling technologies include: * Water cooling * Coo ...

Rolls-Royce Merlin
resulted in the P-51B/C (Mustang Mk III) model, and transformed the aircraft's performance at altitudes above (without sacrificing range), allowing it to compete with the
Luftwaffe The ''Luftwaffe'' () was the aerial-warfare branch of the German ''Wehrmacht The ''Wehrmacht'' (, ) was the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the German Army (1935–1945), ''Heer'' (army), th ...
's fighters. The definitive version, the
P-51D Over twenty variants of the North American P-51 Mustang fighter were produced from 1940, when it first flew, to after the Second World War, some of which were employed also in the Korean War and in several other conflicts. Numerous examples of the ...
, was powered by the Packard V-1650-7, a
license-builtLicensed production is the production under licence, license of technology developed elsewhere. It is an especially prominent Commerce, commercial practice in developing nations, which often approach licensed production as a starting point for indige ...
version of the two-speed, two-stage-
supercharged A supercharger is an air compressor that forced induction, increases the pressure or density of air supplied to an internal combustion engine. This gives each intake cycle of the engine more oxygen, letting it burn more fuel and do more Work ( ...
Merlin 66
Merlin 66
, and was armed with six
.50 caliber This article lists firearm A firearm is any type of gun A gun is a ranged weapon designed to use a shooting tube ( gun barrel) to launch typically solid projectiles, but can also project pressurized liquid (e.g. water guns/ cannons, ...
(12.7 mm) AN/M2 Browning machine guns. From late 1943, P-51Bs and P-51Cs (supplemented by P-51Ds from mid-1944) were used by the USAAF's
Eighth Air Force The Eighth Air Force (Air Forces Strategic) (8 AF) is a numbered air force A Numbered Air Force (NAF) is a type of organization in the United States Air Force that is subordinate to a List of Major Commands of the United States Air Force, ma ...

Eighth Air Force
to escort bombers in raids over
Germany ) , image_map = , map_caption = , map_width = 250px , capital = Berlin Berlin (; ) is the Capital city, capital and List of cities in Germany by population, largest city of Germany by both area and population. Its 3,769,495 inh ...

Germany
, while the RAF's
Second Tactical Air Force The RAF Second Tactical Air Force (2TAF) was one of three tactical air forces within the Royal Air Force "Through Adversity to the Stars" , colours = , colours_label = , march ...
and the USAAF's
Ninth Air Force Ninth Air Force (United States Air Forces Central Command) is a Numbered Air Force of the United States Air Force headquartered at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina. It is the Air Force Service Component of United States Central Command (USCEN ...
used the Merlin-powered Mustangs as fighter-bombers, roles in which the Mustang helped ensure Allied
air superiority File:Atmosphere gas proportions.svg, Composition of Earth's atmosphere by volume, excluding water vapor. Lower pie represents trace gases that together compose about 0.043391% of the atmosphere (0.04402961% at April 2019 concentration ). Number ...
in 1944.Gunston 1984, p. 58. The P-51 was also used by
Allied An alliance is a relationship among people, groups, or sovereign state, states that have joined together for mutual benefit or to achieve some common purpose, whether or not explicit agreement has been worked out among them. Members of an alli ...
air forces in the North African, Mediterranean,
Italian Italian may refer to: * Anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Italy ** Italians, an ethnic group or simply a citizen of the Italian Republic ** Italian language, a Romance language *** Regional Italian, regional variants of the ...
, and
Pacific The Pacific Ocean is the largest and deepest of Earth Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbour and support life. 29.2% of Earth's surface is land consisting of continents and islands. ...
theaters. During World War II, Mustang pilots claimed to have destroyed 4,950 enemy aircraft. At the start of the Korean War, the Mustang, by then redesignated F-51, was the main fighter of the United States until jet fighters, including North American's
F-86 The North American F-86 Sabre, sometimes called the Sabrejet, is a transonic Transonic (or transsonic) flow is air flowing around an object at a speed that generates regions of both subsonic and supersonic F/A-18F Super Hornet The B ...
, took over this role; the Mustang then became a specialized fighter-bomber. Despite the advent of jet fighters, the Mustang remained in service with some air forces until the early 1980s. After the Korean War, Mustangs became popular civilian
warbird A warbird is any vintage military aircraft now operated by civilian organizations and individuals or, in some instances, by historic arms of military forces, such as the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, the RAAF Museum, RAAF Museum Historic F ...
s and
air racing Air racing is a type of motorsport that involves airplanes or other types of aircraft that compete over a fixed course, with the winner either returning the shortest time, the one to complete it with the most points, or to come closest to a previ ...
aircraft.


Design and development

In 1938, the British government established a purchasing commission in the United States, headed by Sir
Henry Self Sir Albert Henry Self (18 January 1890 – 15 January 1975) was an English civil servant. Prior to and during the World War II, Second World War he was responsible for arranging the purchase of American aircraft to meet the requirements of the Roy ...
. Self was given overall responsibility for RAF production, research, and development, and also served with Sir
Wilfrid Freeman Air Chief Marshal Sir Wilfrid Rhodes Freeman, 1st Baronet, (18 July 1888 – 15 May 1953) was one of the most important influences on the rearmament of the Royal Air Force The Royal Air Force (RAF) is the United Kingdom The United ...
, the Air Member for Development and Production. Self also sat on the British Air Council Sub-committee on Supply (or "Supply Committee") and one of his tasks was to organize the manufacturing and supply of American fighter aircraft for the RAF. At the time, the choice was very limited, as no U.S. aircraft then in production or flying met European standards, with only the
Curtiss P-40 Tomahawk
Curtiss P-40 Tomahawk
coming close. The
Curtiss-Wright The Curtiss-Wright Corporation is an American, global diversified product manufacturer and service provider, incorporated in Delaware Delaware ( ) is a state in the Mid-AtlanticMid-Atlantic or Mid Atlantic can refer to: *The middle of ...
plant was running at capacity, so P-40s were in short supply. North American Aviation (NAA) was already supplying its
T-6 Texan The North American Aviation T-6 Texan is an American single-engined advanced trainer aircraft A trainer is a class of aircraft designed specifically to facilitate flight training of pilots and aircrews. The use of a dedicated trainer aircraf ...

T-6 Texan
(known in British service as the "Harvard") trainer to the RAF, but was otherwise underused. NAA President "Dutch" Kindelberger approached Self to sell a new
medium bomber A medium bomber is a military bomber Fixed-wing aircraft, aircraft designed to operate with medium-sized Aerial bomb, bombloads over medium Range (aeronautics), range distances; the name serves to distinguish this type from larger heavy bombe ...
, the
North American B-25 Mitchell The North American B-25 Mitchell is an American medium bomber A medium bomber is a military A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare ...

North American B-25 Mitchell
. Instead, Self asked if NAA could manufacture P-40s under license from Curtiss. Kindelberger said NAA could have a better aircraft with the same
Allison V-1710 The Allison V-1710 aircraft engine designed and produced by the Allison Engine Company was the only US-developed V-12 liquid-cooled engine to see service during World War II. Versions with a turbocharger gave excellent performance at high alt ...

Allison V-1710
engine in the air sooner than establishing a production line for the P-40. John Attwood of North American spent much time from January to April 1940 at the British Purchasing Commission's offices in New York discussing the British specifications of the proposed aircraft with British engineers. The discussions consisted of free-hand conceptual drawings of an aircraft with the British officials. Sir Henry Self was concerned that North American had not ever designed a fighter, insisting they obtain the drawings and study the
Curtiss XP-46 The Curtiss XP-46 was a 1940s United States prototype fighter aircraft. It was a development of the Curtiss-WCurtiss-Wright Corporation in an effort to introduce the best features found in European fighter aircraft in 1939 into a fighter aircraft ...

Curtiss XP-46
experimental aircraft and the wind tunnel test results for the P-40, before presenting them with detailed design drawings based on the agreed concept. North American purchased the drawings and data from Curtiss for £56,000, confirming the purchase with the Purchasing Commission. The Purchasing Commission approved the resulting detailed design drawings, signing the commencement of the Mustang project on 4 May 1940, firmly ordering 320 on 29 May 1940. Prior to this, North American only had a draft letter for an order of 320 aircraft. Curtiss engineers accused North American of plagiarism. The British Purchasing Commission stipulated armament of four
.303 in (7.7 mm)
.303 in (7.7 mm)
machine guns (as used on the Tomahawk), a unit cost of no more than $40,000, and delivery of the first production aircraft by January 1941.Delve 1999, p. 11. In March 1940, 320 aircraft were ordered by Freeman, who had become the executive head of the
Ministry of Aircraft Production Ministry may refer to: Government * Ministry (collective executive) In constitutional usage in Commonwealth realms, a ministry (usually preceded by the definite article, i.e., the ministry) is a collective body of government A go ...
(MAP) and the contract was promulgated on 24 April.Delve 1999, p. 12. The NA-73X, which was designed by a team led by lead engineer
Edgar Schmued
Edgar Schmued
, followed the best conventional practice of the era, designed for ease of mass manufacturing. The design included several new features. One was a wing designed using
laminar flow In fluid dynamics In and , fluid dynamics is a subdiscipline of that describes the flow of s—s and es. It has several subdisciplines, including ' (the study of air and other gases in motion) and hydrodynamics (the study of liquids in mo ...

laminar flow
airfoils, which were developed co-operatively by North American Aviation and the
National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) was a United States federal agency founded on March 3, 1915, to undertake, promote, and institutionalize aeronautical research. On October 1, 1958, the agency was dissolved and its assets ...
(NACA). These airfoils generated low drag at high speeds. During the development of the NA-73X, a wind tunnel test of two wings, one using NACA five-digit airfoils and the other using the new NAA/NACA 45–100 airfoils, was performed in the
University of Washington The University of Washington (UW, simply Washington, or informally U-Dub) is a public In public relations Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing and disseminating information from an individual or an organization ...

University of Washington
Kirsten Wind Tunnel. The results of this test showed the superiority of the wing designed with the NAA/NACA 45–100 airfoils. The other feature was a new cooling arrangement positioned aft (single ducted water and oil radiators assembly) that reduced the fuselage drag and effects on the wing. Later, after much development, they discovered that the cooling assembly could take advantage of the Meredith effect: in which heated air exited the radiator with a slight amount of
jet thrust A jet engine is a type of reaction engine discharging a fast-moving jet (fluid), jet that generates thrust by jet propulsion. While this broad definition can include Rocket engine, rocket, Pump-jet, water jet, and hybrid propulsion, the term ...

jet thrust
. Because NAA lacked a suitable wind tunnel to test this feature, it used the
GALCIT The Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology The California Institute of Technology (Caltech)The university itself only spells its short form as "Caltech"; other spellings such a"Cal Tech" and "CalTech" are ...
wind tunnel at the
California Institute of Technology The California Institute of Technology (Caltech)The university itself only spells its short form as "Caltech"; other spellings such a"Cal Tech" and "CalTech" are incorrect. The Institute is also occasionally referred to as "CIT", most notably ...
. This led to some controversy over whether the Mustang's cooling system
aerodynamics Aerodynamics, from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is appr ...
were developed by NAA's engineer or by Curtiss, as NAA had purchased the complete set of P-40 and wind tunnel data and flight test reports. The NA-73X was also one of the first aircraft to have a fuselage mathematically using
conic section In mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and calculus, change (mathematical analysis, analysis). ...
s; this resulted in smooth, low-drag surfaces.Jackson 1992, p. 4. To aid production, the airframe was divided into five main sections—forward, center, rear fuselage, and two wing halves— all of which were fitted with wiring and piping before being joined. The prototype NA-73X was rolled out in September 1940, just 102 days after the order had been placed; it first flew on 26 October 1940, 149 days into the contract, an uncommonly short development period, even during the war. With test pilot
Vance Breese Vance Breese (1904–1973) was an American Aeronautical engineer, aviation engineer and test pilot. Early years Vance Breese was born in Keystone, Washington, on April 20, 1904. His education, in his own words was: "various engineering extension c ...
at the controls, the prototype handled well and accommodated an impressive fuel load. The aircraft's three-section,
semi-monocoque The term semi-monocoque refers to a stressed shell structure that is similar to a true monocoque Monocoque (), also called structural skin, is a structural system in which loads are supported by an object's external skin, similar to an egg shell. ...
fuselage was constructed entirely of aluminum to save weight. It was armed with four .30 caliber (7.62 mm) s in the wings and two .50 caliber (12.7 mm) AN/M2 Browning machine guns mounted under the engine and firing through the propeller arc using gun-synchronizing gear. While the USAAC could block any sales it considered detrimental to the interests of the US, the NA-73 was considered to be a special case because it had been designed at the behest of the British. In September 1940, a further 300 NA-73s were ordered by the MAP. To ensure uninterrupted delivery, Colonel Oliver P. Echols arranged with the Anglo-French Purchasing Commission to deliver the aircraft and NAA gave two examples (41-038 and 41-039) to the USAAC for evaluation."P-51 History: Mustang I."
''The Gathering of Mustangs & Legends''. Retrieved: 26 March 2009.
The Allison engine in the Mustang I had a single-stage supercharger that caused power to drop off rapidly above . This made it unsuitable for use at the altitudes where combat was taking place in Europe. Allison’s attempts at developing a high-altitude engine were underfunded, but produced the V-1710-45, which featured a variable-speed auxiliary supercharger, and developed at . In November 1941, NAA studied the possibility of using it, but fitting its excessive length in the Mustang would require extensive airframe modifications and cause long production delays. In May 1942, following positive reports from the RAF on the Mustang I's performance below 15,000 ft, Ronald Harker, a test pilot for
Rolls-Royce Rolls-Royce (always hyphenated) may refer to: * Rolls-Royce Limited Rolls-Royce was a British luxury car and later an aero-engine manufacturing business established in 1904 in Manchester Manchester () is the most-populous city and metr ...
, suggested fitting a Merlin 61, as fitted to the Spitfire Mk IX. The Merlin 61 had a two-speed, two-stage, intercooled supercharger, designed by
Stanley Hooker Sir Stanley George Hooker, CBE, FRS, DPhil, BSc, FRAeS, MIMechE, FAAAS, (30 September 1907 – 24 May 1984) was a mathematician and jet engine engineer. He was employed first at Rolls-Royce Limited, Rolls-Royce where he worked on the earli ...
of Rolls-Royce. Both the Merlin 61 and V-1710-39 were capable of about war emergency power at relatively low altitude, but the Merlin developed at versus the Allison's at , delivering an increase in top speed from at ~ to an estimated at . Initial flights of what was known to Rolls-Royce as the Mustang Mk X were completed at Rolls-Royce's airfield at Hucknall in October 1942. At the same time, the possibility of combining the P-51 airframe with the US license-built Packard version of the Merlin engine was being explored on the other side of the Atlantic. In July 1942, a contract was let for two prototypes, briefly designated XP-78, but soon to become the XP-51B. Based on the Packard V-1650-3 duplicating the Merlin 61's performance, NAA estimated for the XP-78 a top speed of at , and a service ceiling of . The first flight of the XP-51B took place in November 1942, but the USAAF was so interested in the possibility that an initial contract for 400 aircraft was placed three months beforehand in August. The conversion led to production of the P-51B beginning at North American's Inglewood, California, plant in June 1943, and P-51s started to become available to the 8th and 9th Air Forces in the winter of 1943–1944. Conversion to the two-stage supercharged Merlin 61, over heavier than the single-stage Allison, driving a four-bladed Hamilton Standard propeller, required moving the wing slightly forward to correct the aircraft's
center of gravity In physics, the center of mass of a distribution of mass Mass is the physical quantity, quantity of ''matter'' in a physical body. It is also a measure (mathematics), measure of the body's ''inertia'', the resistance to acceleration (change ...
. After the USAAF, in July 1943, directed fighter aircraft manufacturers to maximize internal fuel capacity, NAA calculated the P-51B's center of gravity to be forward enough to include an additional fuel tank in the fuselage behind the pilot, greatly increasing the aircraft's range over that of the earlier P-51A. NAA incorporated the tank in the production of the P-51B-10, and supplied kits to retrofit it to all existing P-51Bs.


Operational history


United Kingdom operational service

The Mustang was initially developed for the RAF, which was its first user. As the first Mustangs were built to British requirements, these aircraft used factory numbers and were not P-51s; the order comprised 320 NA-73s, followed by 300 NA-83s, all of which were designated North American Mustang Mark I by the RAF. The first RAF Mustangs supplied under
Lend-Lease#REDIRECT Lend-Lease The Lend-Lease policy, formally titled An Act to Promote the Defense of the United States (), was a program under which the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S ...
were 93 P-51s, designated Mk Ia, followed by 50 P-51As used as Mustang Mk IIs. Aircraft supplied to Britain under Lend-Lease were required for accounting purposes to be on the USAAC's books before they could be supplied to Britain. However, the British Aircraft Purchasing Commission signed its first contract for the North American NA-73 on 24 April 1940, before Lend-Lease was in effect. Thus, the initial order for the P-51 Mustang (as it was later known) was placed by the British under the " Cash and Carry" program, as required by the US Neutrality Acts of the 1930s. After the arrival of the initial aircraft in the UK in October 1941, the first Mustang Mk Is entered service in January 1942, the first unit being 26 Squadron RAF. Due to poor high-altitude performance, the Mustangs were used by Army Co-operation Command, rather than Fighter Command, and were used for tactical reconnaissance and ground-attack duties. On 10 May 1942, Mustangs first flew over France, near
Berck-sur-Mer Berck (), sometimes referred to as Berck-sur-Mer (, literally ''Berck on Sea''), is a commune in the northern French department of Pas-de-Calais. It lies within the Marquenterre regional park, an ornithological nature reserve. Geography Situa ...

Berck-sur-Mer
. On 27 July 1942, 16 RAF Mustangs undertook their first long-range reconnaissance mission over Germany. During the amphibious
Dieppe Raid Operation Jubilee or the Dieppe Raid (19 August 1942) was an Allies of World War II, Allied amphibious attack on the German-occupied port of Dieppe, Seine-Maritime, Dieppe in northern France, during the Second World War. Over 6,050 infantry, pred ...
on the French coast (19 August 1942), four British and Canadian Mustang squadrons, including 26 Squadron, saw action covering the assault on the ground. By 1943–1944, British Mustangs were used extensively to seek out
V-1 flying bomb The V-1 flying bomb (german: Vergeltungswaffe 1 "Vengeance Weapon 1") was an early cruise missile and the only production aircraft to use a pulsejet for power. Its official aircraft designation was Fi 103. It was also known to the Allies as t ...

V-1 flying bomb
sites. The last RAF Mustang Mk I and Mustang Mk II aircraft were struck off charge in 1945. Army Co-operation Command used the Mustang’s superior speed and long range to conduct low-altitude “
Rhubarb Rhubarb is the fleshy, edible stalks ( petioles) of species and hybrids (culinary rhubarb) of '' Rheum'' in the family Polygonaceae The Polygonaceae are a family In human society A society is a Social group, group of individuals ...
” raids over continental Europe, sometimes penetrating German airspace. The V-1710 engine ran smoothly at 1,100 rpm, versus 1,600 for the Merlin, enabling long flights over water at altitude before approaching the enemy coastline. Over land, these flights followed a zig-zag course, turning every six minutes to foil enemy attempts at plotting an interception. During the first 18 months of Rhubarb raids, RAF Mustang Mk.Is and Mk.Ias destroyed or heavily damaged 200 locomotives, over 200 canal barges, and an unknown number of enemy aircraft parked on the ground, for a loss of eight Mustangs. At sea level, the Mustangs were able to outrun all enemy aircraft encountered. The RAF gained a significant performance enhancement at low altitude by removing or resetting the engine’s manifold pressure regulator to allow over-boosting, raising output as high as 1,780 horsepower at 70" Hg. In December 1942, Allison approved only 1,570 horsepower at 60" Hg manifold pressure for the V-1710-39. The RAF also operated 308 P-51Bs and 636 P-51Cs, which were known in RAF service as Mustang Mk IIIs; the first units converted to the type in late 1943 and early 1944. Mustang Mk III units were operational until the end of World War II, though many units had already converted to the Mustang Mk IV (P-51D) and Mk IVa (P-51K) (828 in total, comprising 282 Mk IV and 600 Mk IVa). As all except the earliest aircraft were obtained under Lend-Lease, all Mustang aircraft still on RAF charge at the end of the war were either returned to the USAAF "on paper" or retained by the RAF for scrapping. The last RAF Mustangs were retired from service in 1947.


U.S. operational service


Prewar theory

Prewar doctrine was based on the idea "
the bomber will always get through "The bomber will always get through" was a phrase used by Stanley Baldwin in a 1932 speech "A Fear for the Future" given to the Parliament of the United Kingdom, British Parliament. His speech stated that contemporary bomber aircraft had the perf ...
".Miller 2007, p. 41. Despite RAF and Luftwaffe experience with daylight bombing, the USAAF still incorrectly believed in 1942 that tightly packed formations of bombers would have so much firepower that they could fend off fighters on their own. Fighter escort was a low priority, but when the concept was discussed in 1941, the
Lockheed P-38 Lightning The Lockheed P-38 Lightning is an American single seated, piston-engined fighter aircraft Fighter aircraft are fixed-wing aircraft, fixed-wing military aircraft designed primarily for air-to-air combat. In military conflict, the role of f ...

Lockheed P-38 Lightning
was considered to be most appropriate as it had the speed and range. Another school of thought favored a heavily up-armed "gunship" conversion of a strategic bomber.Miller 2007, p. 46. A single-engined, high-speed fighter with the range of a bomber was thought to be an engineering impossibility.


Eighth Air Force bomber operations 1942–1943

The
8th Air Force The Eighth Air Force (Air Forces Strategic) (8 AF) is a numbered air force A Numbered Air Force (NAF) is a type of organization in the United States Air Force The United States Air Force (USAF) is the Atmosphere of Earth, air military b ...

8th Air Force
started operations from Britain in August 1942. At first, because of the limited scale of operations, no conclusive evidence showed American doctrine was failing. In the 26 operations flown to the end of 1942, the loss rate had been under 2%. In January 1943, at the
Casablanca Conference The Casablanca Conference (codenamed SYMBOL) or Anfa Conference was held at the Anfa Hotel in Casablanca, French Morocco, from January 14 to 24, 1943, to plan the Allies of World War II, Allied European strategy for the next phase of World War I ...
, the Allies formulated the
Combined Bomber Offensive The Combined Bomber Offensive (CBO) was an Allied offensive of strategic bombing after the massive firebombing attack on the night of March 9–10, 1945, the single most destructive raid in military aviation history. The bombing of Tokyo in W ...
(CBO) plan for "round-the-clock" bombing – USAAF daytime operations complementing the RAF nighttime raids on industrial centers. In June 1943, the
Combined Chiefs of Staff#REDIRECT Combined Chiefs of Staff 220px, Combined Chiefs of Staff in Quebec – August 23, 1943. Seated around the table from left foreground: Vice Adm. Lord Louis Mountbatten, Sir Dudley Pound, Sir Alan Brooke">Dudley_Pound.html" ;"title="Lo ...
issued the
Pointblank Directive The Pointblank directive authorised the initiation of Operation Pointblank, the code name A code name, call sign or cryptonym is a code word or name used, sometimes clandestinely, to refer to another name, word, project, or person. Code names a ...
to destroy the Luftwaffe's capacity before the planned invasion of Europe, putting the CBO into full implementation. German daytime fighter efforts were, at that time, focused on the Eastern Front and several other distant locations. Initial efforts by the 8th met limited and unorganized resistance, but with every mission, the Luftwaffe moved more aircraft to the west and quickly improved their battle direction. In fall 1943, the 8th Air Force's heavy bombers conducted a series of deep-penetration raids into Germany, beyond the range of escort fighters. The
Schweinfurt–Regensburg mission The Schweinfurt–Regensburg mission was a strategic bombing mission during World War II carried out by Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bombers of the U.S. Army Air Forces on August 17, 1943. The mission was an ambitious plan to cripple the ...
in August lost 60 B-17s of a force of 376, the 14 October attack lost 77 of a force of 291—26% of the attacking force. For the US, the very concept of self-defending bombers was called into question, but instead of abandoning daylight raids and turning to night bombing, as the RAF suggested, they chose other paths; at first, bombers converted to gunships (the Boeing YB-40) was believed to be able to escort the bomber formations, but when the concept proved to be unsuccessful, thoughts then turned to the
Lockheed P-38 Lightning The Lockheed P-38 Lightning is an American single seated, piston-engined fighter aircraft Fighter aircraft are fixed-wing aircraft, fixed-wing military aircraft designed primarily for air-to-air combat. In military conflict, the role of f ...

Lockheed P-38 Lightning
. In early 1943, the USAAF also decided that the
Republic P-47 Thunderbolt The Republic P-47 Thunderbolt is a World War II-era fighter aircraft produced by the American aerospace company Republic Aviation from 1941 through 1945. Its primary armament was eight M2 Browning, .50-caliber machine guns, and in the fighter- ...
and P-51B be considered for the role of a smaller escort fighter, and in July, a report stated that the P-51B was "the most promising plane" with an endurance of 4 hours 45 minutes with the standard internal fuel of 184 gallons plus 150 gallons carried externally. In August, a P-51B was fitted with an extra internal 85-gallon tank but problems with longitudinal stability occurred so some compromises in performance with the tank full were made. Since the fuel from the fuselage tank would be used during the initial stages of a mission, the fuel tank would be fitted in all Mustangs destined for
VIII Fighter Command The VIII Fighter Command was a United States Army Air Forces The United States Army Air Forces (USAAF or AAF) was the major land-based aerial warfare service component of the United States Army and ''de facto'' aerial warfare service bran ...
.


P-51 introduction

The P-51 Mustang was a solution to the need for an effective bomber escort. It used a common, reliable engine and had internal space for a larger-than-average fuel load. With external fuel tanks, it could accompany the bombers from England to Germany and back.. By the time the Pointblank offensive resumed in early 1944, matters had changed. Bomber escort defenses were initially layered, using the shorter-range P-38s and P-47s to escort the bombers during the initial stages of the raid before handing over to the P-51s when they were forced to turn for home. This provided continuous coverage during the raid. The Mustang was so clearly superior to earlier US designs that the 8th Air Force began to steadily switch its fighter groups to the Mustang, first swapping arriving P-47 groups to the 9th Air Force in exchange for those that were using P-51s, then gradually converting its Thunderbolt and Lightning groups. By the end of 1944, 14 of its 15 groups flew the Mustang. The Luftwaffe's twin-engined
Messerschmitt Bf 110 The Messerschmitt Bf 110, often Messerschmitt Bf 109#Designation and nicknames, known unofficially as the Me 110, is a twin-engine (Destroyer, heavy fighter), fighter-bomber (''Jagdbomber'' or ''Jabo''), and night fighter (''Nachtjäger'') deve ...
heavy fighters brought up to deal with the bombers proved to be easy prey for the Mustangs, and had to be quickly withdrawn from combat. The
Focke-Wulf Fw 190 The Focke-Wulf Fw 190 (nicknamed ''Würger''; en, Shrike Shrikes () are carnivore, carnivorous passerine birds of the family Laniidae. The family is composed of 34 species in four genus, genera. The family name, and that of the largest genu ...

Focke-Wulf Fw 190
A, already suffering from poor high-altitude performance, was outperformed by the Mustang at the B-17's altitude, and when laden with heavy bomber-hunting weapons as a replacement for the more vulnerable twin-engined ''Zerstörer'' heavy fighters, it suffered heavy losses. The
Messerschmitt Bf 109 The Messerschmitt Bf 109 is a German World War II fighter aircraft that was, along with the Focke-Wulf Fw 190, the backbone of the Luftwaffe's fighter force.Nowarra 1993, p. 189. The Bf 109 first saw operational service in 1937 during the Spanis ...

Messerschmitt Bf 109
had comparable performance at high altitudes, but its lightweight airframe was even more greatly affected by increases in armament. The Mustang's much lighter armament, tuned for antifighter combat, allowed it to overcome these single-engined opponents.


Fighting the Luftwaffe

At the start of 1944, Major General James Doolittle, the new commander of the 8th Air Force, released most fighters from the requirement of flying in close formation with the bombers, allowing them free rein to attack the Luftwaffe wherever it could be found. The aim was to achieve
air supremacy Air supremacy is a degree of air superiority where a side holds complete control of air power Airpower or air power consists of the application of military aviation, military strategy and strategic theory to the realm of aerial warfare and ...
. Mustang groups were sent far ahead of the bombers in a "fighter sweep" to intercept German fighters. Bomber crews complained but by June supremacy was achieved. The Luftwaffe answered with the ''Gefechtsverband'' ("battle formation"). This consisted of a ''Sturmgruppe'' of heavily armed and armored
Fw 190 The Focke-Wulf Fw 190 (nicknamed ''Würger''; en, Shrike) is a German single-seat, single-engine fighter aircraft designed by Kurt Tank at Focke-Wulf in the late 1930s and widely used during World War II. Along with its well-known counterpart, ...

Fw 190
As escorted by two ''Begleitgruppen'' of
Messerschmitt Bf 109 The Messerschmitt Bf 109 is a German World War II fighter aircraft that was, along with the Focke-Wulf Fw 190, the backbone of the Luftwaffe's fighter force.Nowarra 1993, p. 189. The Bf 109 first saw operational service in 1937 during the Spanis ...

Messerschmitt Bf 109
s, whose task was to keep the Mustangs away from the
Fw 190 The Focke-Wulf Fw 190 (nicknamed ''Würger''; en, Shrike) is a German single-seat, single-engine fighter aircraft designed by Kurt Tank at Focke-Wulf in the late 1930s and widely used during World War II. Along with its well-known counterpart, ...

Fw 190
as they attacked the bombers. This strategy proved to be problematic, as the large German formation took a long time to assemble and was difficult to maneuver. It was often intercepted by the P-51 "fighter sweeps" before it could attack the bombers. However, German attacks against bombers could be effective when they did occur; the bomber-destroyer Fw 190As swept in from astern and often pressed their attacks to within .Spick 1983, p. 111. While not always able to avoid contact with the escorts, the threat of mass attacks and later the "company front" (eight abreast) assaults by armored ''Sturmgruppe'' Fw 190As brought an urgency to attacking the Luftwaffe wherever it could be found, either in the air or on the ground. Beginning in late February 1944, 8th Air Force fighter units began systematic strafing attacks on German airfields with increasing frequency and intensity throughout the spring, with the objective of gaining air supremacy over the
Normandy Normandy (; french: link=no, Normandie ; nrf, Normaundie; from Old French Old French (, , ; Modern French French ( or ) is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, ...

Normandy
battlefield. In general, these were conducted by units returning from escort missions but, beginning in March, many groups also were assigned airfield attacks instead of bomber support. The P-51, particularly with the advent of the K-14
Gyro gunsight A gyro gunsight (G.G.S.) is a modification of the non-magnifying reflector sight in which target lead Lead is a chemical element with the Symbol (chemistry), symbol Pb (from the Latin ) and atomic number 82. It is a heavy metals, heavy metal ...
and the development of "Clobber Colleges" for the training of fighter pilots in fall 1944, was a decisive element in Allied countermeasures against the ''Jagdverbände''. The numerical superiority of the USAAF fighters, superb flying characteristics of the P-51, and pilot proficiency helped cripple the Luftwaffe's fighter force. As a result, the fighter threat to the US, and later British, bombers was greatly diminished by July 1944. The RAF, long proponents of night bombing for protection, were able to reopen daylight bombing in 1944 as a result of the crippling of the Luftwaffe fighter arm.
Reichsmarschall (german: Reichsmarschall des Großdeutschen Reiches; ) was the highest military rank in the ''Wehrmacht The ''Wehrmacht'' (, ) was the unified armed forces A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed ...
Hermann Göring Hermann Wilhelm Göring (or Goering; ; 12 January 1893 – 15 October 1946) was a German politician, military leader and convicted war criminal. He was one of the most powerful figures in the Nazi Party, which ruled Germany from 1933 to 1 ...

Hermann Göring
, commander of the German Luftwaffe during the war, was quoted as saying, "When I saw Mustangs over Berlin, I knew the jig was up."


Beyond Pointblank

On 15 April 1944, VIII Fighter Command began "Operation Jackpot", attacks on Luftwaffe fighter airfields. As the efficacy of these missions increased, the number of fighters at the German airbases fell to the point where they were no longer considered worthwhile targets. On 21 May, targets were expanded to include railways,
locomotive A locomotive or engine is a rail transport Rail transport (also known as train transport) is a means of transferring passengers and goods on wheeled vehicle A vehicle (from la, vehiculum) is a machine A machine is a man-made ...

locomotive
s, and other
rolling stock The term rolling stock in the rail transport Rail transport (also known as train transport) is a means of transferring passengers and goods on wheeled vehicle A vehicle (from la, vehiculum) is a machine A machine is a man-made de ...
used by the Germans to transport materiel and troops, in missions dubbed "Chattanooga". The P-51 excelled at this mission, although losses were much higher on strafing missions than in air-to-air combat, partially because the Mustang's liquid-cooled engine (particularly its liquid coolant system) was vulnerable to small-arms fire, unlike the air-cooled
R-2800 The Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp is an American twin-row, 18-cylinder, air-cooled radial aircraft engine with a engine displacement, displacement of , and is part of the long-lived Pratt & Whitney Wasp series, Wasp family of engines. ...

R-2800
radials of its Republic P-47 Thunderbolt stablemates based in England, regularly tasked with ground-strafing missions. Given the overwhelming Allied
air superiority File:Atmosphere gas proportions.svg, Composition of Earth's atmosphere by volume, excluding water vapor. Lower pie represents trace gases that together compose about 0.043391% of the atmosphere (0.04402961% at April 2019 concentration ). Number ...
, the Luftwaffe put its effort into the development of aircraft of such high performance that they could operate with impunity, but which also made bomber attack much more difficult, merely from the flight velocities they achieved. Foremost among these were the
Messerschmitt Me 163 The Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet is a German interceptor aircraft An interceptor aircraft, or simply interceptor, is a type of fighter aircraft designed specifically for the defensive interception role against an attacking enemy aircraft, pa ...

Messerschmitt Me 163
B point-defense rocket interceptors, which started their operations with
JG 400 Jagdgeschwader 400 (JG 400) was a Luftwaffe The ''Luftwaffe'' () was the aerial-warfare branch of the German ''Wehrmacht The ''Wehrmacht'' (, ) was the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the ...
near the end of July 1944, and the longer-endurance
Messerschmitt Me 262 The Messerschmitt Me 262, nicknamed ''Schwalbe'' (German: "Swallow The swallows, martins, and saw-wings, or Hirundinidae, are a family of passerine A passerine is any bird of the Order (biology), order Passeriformes (, Latin ''passer'' ( ...

Messerschmitt Me 262
A jet fighter, first flying with the -strength
Kommando Nowotny ''Kommando'' Nowotny was a Luftwaffe fighter aircraft, fighter ''Gruppe'' formed during the last months of World War II for testing and establishing tactics for the Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter, and was created and first commanded by Walter No ...
unit by the end of September 1944. In action, the Me 163 proved to be than to the Allies and was never a serious threat. The Me 262A was a serious threat, but attacks on their airfields neutralized them. The pioneering
Junkers Jumo 004 The Junkers Jumo 004 was the world's first production turbojet engine in operational use, and the first successful axial compressor turbojet engine. Some 8,000 units were manufactured by Junkers in Germany late in World War II, powering the Mess ...

Junkers Jumo 004
axial-flow An axial compressor is a gas compressor Gas is one of the State of matter, four fundamental states of matter (the others being solid, liquid, and Plasma (physics), plasma). A pure gas may be made up of individual atoms (e.g. a noble gas like ...

axial-flow
jet engine A jet engine is a type of reaction engine A reaction engine is an engine or motor that produces thrust Thrust is a described quantitatively by . When a system expels or in one direction, the accelerated mass will cause a force of ...
s of the Me 262As needed careful nursing by their pilots, and these aircraft were particularly vulnerable during takeoff and landing. Lt.
Chuck Yeager Brigadier General Charles Elwood Yeager ( , February 13, 1923December 7, 2020) was a United States Air Force officer, flying ace, and record-setting test pilot who in 1947 became the first pilot in history confirmed to have exceeded the speed o ...

Chuck Yeager
of the
357th Fighter Group The 357th Fighter Group was an air combat unit of the United States Army Air Forces during the Second World War. The 357th operated P-51 Mustang aircraft as part of the U.S. Eighth Air Force and its members were known unofficially as the Yoxford B ...
was one of the first American pilots to shoot down an Me 262, which he caught during its landing approach. On 7 October 1944, Lt. Urban L. Drew of the
361st Fighter Group The 361st Fighter Group was a World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a World war, global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved World War II by country, the vast majority of th ...
shot down two Me 262s that were taking off, while on the same day Lt. Col. , who had transferred to the Mustang-equipped 479th Fighter Group, shot down what he thought was a Bf 109, only to have his gun camera film reveal that it may have been an Me 262. On 25 February 1945, Mustangs of the 55th Fighter Group surprised an entire of Me 262As at takeoff and destroyed six jets. The Mustang also proved useful against the V-1s launched toward London. P-51B/Cs using 150-octane fuel were fast enough to catch the V-1 and operated in concert with shorter-range aircraft such as advanced marks of the
Supermarine Spitfire The Supermarine Spitfire is a British single-seat fighter aircraft Fighter aircraft are fixed-wing A fixed-wing aircraft is a heavier-than-air flying machine, such as an airplane An airplane or aeroplane (informally plane) ...

Supermarine Spitfire
and
Hawker Tempest The Hawker Tempest is a British fighter aircraft that was primarily used by the Royal Air Force (RAF) in the Second World War. The Tempest, originally known as the ''Typhoon II'', was an improved derivative of the Hawker Typhoon, intended to ad ...

Hawker Tempest
. By 8 May 1945,Glancey 2006, p. 188. the , 9th, and
15th Air Force The Fifteenth Air Force (15 AF) is a numbered air force A Numbered Air Force (NAF) is a type of organization in the United States Air Force The United States Air Force (USAF) is the Atmosphere of Earth, air military branch, service branch ...
's P-51 groups claimed some 4,950 aircraft shot down (about half of all USAAF claims in the European theater, the most claimed by any Allied fighter in air-to-air combat) and 4,131 destroyed on the ground. Losses were about 2,520 aircraft. The 8th Air Force's
4th Fighter Group The 4th Fighter Group was an American American(s) may refer to: * American, something of, from, or related to the United States of America, commonly known as the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the Unit ...
was the top-scoring fighter group in Europe, with 1,016 enemy aircraft claimed destroyed. This included 550 claimed in aerial combat and 466 on the ground. In air combat, the top-scoring P-51 units (both of which exclusively flew Mustangs) were the 357th Fighter Group of the 8th Air Force with 565 air-to-air combat victories and the 9th Air Force's 354th Fighter Group with 664, which made it one of the top-scoring fighter groups. The top Mustang ace was the USAAF's
George Preddy Major George Earl Preddy Jr. (February 5, 1919 – December 25, 1944) was a United States Army Air Forces The United States Army Air Forces (USAAF or AAF) was the major land-based aerial warfare service component of the United States Army ...

George Preddy
, whose final tally stood at 26.83 victories (a number that includes shared one half- and one third victory credits), 23 of which were scored with the P-51. Preddy was shot down and killed by
friendly fire Friendly fire is an attack by a military force on friendly or neutral troops while attempting to attack the enemy. Examples include misidentifying the target as hostile, cross-fire while engaging an enemy, long range ranging errors or inaccurac ...
on Christmas Day 1944 during the
Battle of the Bulge The Battle of the Bulge, also known as the Ardennes Counteroffensive, was a major German offensive Offensive may refer to: * Offensive, the former name of the Dutch political party Socialist Alternative (Netherlands), Socialist Alternative * ...

Battle of the Bulge
.


In China and the Pacific Theater

In early 1945, P-51C, D, and K variants also joined the
Chinese Nationalist Air Force Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most populous country, with a populat ...
. These Mustangs were provided to the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Fighter Groups and used to attack Japanese targets in occupied areas of China. The P-51 became the most capable fighter in China, while the
Imperial Japanese Army Air Force Imperial is that which relates to an empire An empire is a "political unit" made up of several territories and peoples, "usually created by conquest, and divided between a dominant center and subordinate peripheries". Narrowly defined, an empir ...
used the
Nakajima Ki-84 Captured Nakajima Ki-84 models fitted with engines exceeding 1,800 horsepower could surpass the top speeds of the P-47D Thunderbolt and the P-51D Mustang at . The is a single-seat Fighter aircraft, fighter flown by the Imperial Japanese Army Ai ...

Nakajima Ki-84
''Hayate'' against it. The P-51 was a relative latecomer to the Pacific Theater, due largely to the need for the aircraft in Europe, although the P-38's twin-engined design was considered a safety advantage for long, over-water flights. The first P-51s were deployed in the Far East later in 1944, operating in close-support and escort missions, as well as tactical photo-reconnaissance. As the war in Europe wound down, the P-51 became more common. With the capture of Iwo Jima, USAAF P-51 Mustang fighters of the VII Fighter Command were stationed on that island starting in March 1945, being initially tasked with escorting
Boeing B-29 Superfortress The Boeing B-29 Superfortress is an American four-engine propeller-driven heavy bomber Heavy bombers are bomber A bomber is a combat aircraft A military aircraft is any fixed-wing or rotary-wing aircraft An aircraft is a ...

Boeing B-29 Superfortress
missions against the Japanese homeland. The command's last major raid of May was a daylight incendiary attack on Yokohama on 29 May conducted by 517 B-29s escorted by 101 P-51s. This force was intercepted by 150
A6M Zero The Mitsubishi A6M "Zero" is a long-range carrier-based Carrier-based aircraft, sometimes known as carrier-capable aircraft or carrier-borne aircraft, are naval aircraft designed for operations from aircraft carrier An aircraft carrier ...

A6M Zero
fighters, sparking an intense air battle in which five B-29s were shot down and another 175 damaged. In return, the P-51 pilots claimed 26 "kills" and 23 "probables" for the loss of three fighters. The 454 B-29s that reached Yokohama struck the city's main business district and destroyed of buildings; over 1000 Japanese were killed.Hoyt (1987), p. 398 Overall, the attacks in May destroyed of buildings, which was equivalent to one-seventh of Japan's total urban area. The
Minister of Home Affairs An interior ministry (sometimes called ministry of internal affairs or ministry of home affairs) is a ministry (government), government ministry responsible for internal affairs, particularly public security, emergency management, civil registrati ...
, Iwao Yamazaki, concluded after these raids that Japan's civil defense arrangements were "considered to be futile". On the first day of June, 521 B-29s escorted by 148 P-51s were dispatched in a daylight raid against Osaka. While en route to the city, the Mustangs flew through thick clouds, and 27 of the fighters were destroyed in collisions. Nevertheless, 458 heavy bombers and 27 P-51s reached the city, and the bombardment killed 3,960 Japanese and destroyed of buildings. On 5 June, 473 B-29s struck Kobe by day and destroyed of buildings for the loss of 11 bombers. A force of 409 B-29s attacked Osaka again on 7 June; during this attack, of buildings were burnt out and the Americans did not suffer any losses. Osaka was bombed for the fourth time that month, on 15 June, when 444 B-29s destroyed of the city and another of nearby
Amagasaki is an industrial city A city is a large human settlement.Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: Penguin.Kuper, A. and Kuper, J., eds (1996) ''The Social Science Encyclopedia''. 2nd edition. London: Routledge ...

Amagasaki
; 300,000 houses were destroyed in Osaka.Hastings (2007), p. 336 This attack marked the end of the first phase of XXI Bomber Command's attack on Japan's cities. During May and June, the bombers had destroyed much of the country's six largest cities, killing between 112,000 and 126,762 people and rendering millions homeless. The widespread destruction and high number of casualties from these raids caused many Japanese to realize that their country's military was no longer able to defend the home islands. American losses were low compared to Japanese casualties; 136 B-29s were downed during the campaign. In Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Yokohama, Kobe, and Kawasaki, "over 126,762 people were killed ... and a million and a half dwellings and over of urban space were destroyed."Miller (2001), p. 460 In Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya, "the areas leveled (almost ) exceeded the areas destroyed in all
German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizens of Germany, see also German nationality law * German language The German la ...

German
cities by both the
American American(s) may refer to: * American, something of, from, or related to the United States of America, commonly known as the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is ...
and British air forces (about )." P-51s also conducted a series of independent ground-attack missions against targets in the home islands.Russ (2001), p. 22 The first of these operations took place on 16 April, when 57 P-51s strafed
Kanoya Air Field is a military aerodrome of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force , also simply known as the Japanese Navy, is the maritime warfare branch of the Japan Self-Defense Forces, tasked with the naval defense of Japan. The JMSDF was formed following ...
in Kyushu. In operations conducted between 26 April and 22 June, the American fighter pilots claimed the destruction of 64 Japanese aircraft and damage to another 180 on the ground, as well as a further 10 shot down in flight; these claims were lower than the American planners had expected, however, and the raids were considered unsuccessful. USAAF losses were 11 P-51s to enemy action and seven to other causes. Due to the lack of Japanese air opposition to the American bomber raids, VII Fighter Command was solely tasked with ground-attack missions from July. These raids were frequently made against airfields to destroy aircraft being held in reserve to attack the expected Allied invasion fleet. While the P-51 pilots only occasionally encountered Japanese fighters in the air, the airfields were protected by antiaircraft batteries and
barrage balloon A barrage balloon is a large uncrewed tethered kite balloon . This sparless, ram-air inflated kite, has a complex bridle formed of many strings attached to the face of the wing. A kite is a tethered heavier than air flight, heavier-than-air o ...
s.Russ (2001), p. 24 By the end of the war, VII Fighter Command had conducted 51 ground-attack raids, of which 41 were considered successful. The fighter pilots claimed to have destroyed or damaged 1,062 aircraft and 254 ships, along with large numbers of buildings and railway
rolling stock The term rolling stock in the rail transport Rail transport (also known as train transport) is a means of transferring passengers and goods on wheeled vehicle A vehicle (from la, vehiculum) is a machine A machine is a man-made de ...
. American losses were 91 pilots killed and 157 Mustangs destroyed.Russ (2001), p. 25


Pilot observations

Chief Naval Test Pilot and C.O. Captured Enemy Aircraft Flight Capt. Eric Brown,
CBE The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is a British order of chivalry An order of chivalry, order of knighthood, chivalric order, or equestrian order is an order of knights typically founded during or inspired by the original Catho ...
,
DSC DSC may refer to: Academia * D.Sc., Doctor of Science Doctor of Science ( la, links=no, Scientiae Doctor), usually abbreviated Sc.D., D.Sc., S.D., or D.S., is an academic research degree awarded in a number of countries throughout the world. In ...
, AFC, RN, tested the Mustang at
RAE Farnborough Rae may refer to: People *Rae (given name), including a list of people with the given name *Rae (surname), including a list of people with the surname Nicknames for *Rachel (given name) *Rachelle *Raquel *Raven *Reema *Reena (disambiguation) *Re ...
in March 1944 and noted: The U.S. Air Forces, Flight Test Engineering, assessed the Mustang B on 24 April 1944 thus: Kurt Bühligen, the third-highest scoring German fighter pilot of World War II's Western Front (with 112 confirmed victories, three against Mustangs), later stated: German fighter ace
Heinz Bär The H. J. Heinz Company is an American food processing company headquartered at One PPG Place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The company was founded by Henry J. Heinz in 1869. Heinz manufactures thousands of food products in plants on six continen ...

Heinz Bär
said that the P-51:


After World War II

In the aftermath of World War II, the USAAF consolidated much of its wartime combat force and selected the P-51 as a "standard" piston-engined fighter, while other types, such as the P-38 and P-47, were withdrawn or given substantially reduced roles. As the more advanced (
P-80 The Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star was the first Jet aircraft, jet fighter aircraft, fighter used operationally by the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF). Designed and built by Lockheed Corporation, Lockheed in 1943 and delivered just 143 days ...
and ) jet fighters were introduced, the P-51 was also relegated to secondary duties. In 1947, the newly formed
USAF The United States Air Force (USAF) is the Aerial warfare, air military branch, service branch of the United States Armed Forces, and is one of the eight uniformed services of the United States, U.S. uniformed services. Initially formed as a ...
Strategic Air Command Strategic Air Command (SAC) was both a United States Department of Defense (DoD) List of former Unified Combatant Commands, Specified Command and a United States Air Force (USAF) List of Major Commands of the United States Air Force, Major Comm ...

Strategic Air Command
employed Mustangs alongside F-6 Mustangs and
F-82 Twin Mustang The North American F-82 Twin Mustang is the last American piston-engine fighter ordered into production by the United States Air Force The United States Air Force (USAF) is the Atmosphere of Earth, air military branch, service branch of ...
s, due to their range capabilities. In 1948, the designation P-51 (P for pursuit) was changed to F-51 (F for fighter) and the existing F designator for photographic reconnaissance aircraft was dropped because of a new designation scheme throughout the USAF. Aircraft still in service in the USAF or
Air National Guard The Air National Guard (ANG), also known as the Air Guard, is a Reserve components of the United States Armed Forces, federal military reserve force of the United States Air Force, as well as the militia (United States), militia air force of eac ...

Air National Guard
(ANG) when the system was changed included: F-51B, F-51D, F-51K, RF-51D (formerly F-6D), RF-51K (formerly F-6K) and TRF-51D (two-seat trainer conversions of F-6Ds). They remained in service from 1946 through 1951. By 1950, although Mustangs continued in service with the USAF after the war, the majority of the USAF's Mustangs had become surplus to requirements and placed in storage, while some were transferred to the
Air Force Reserve The Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC) is a MAJCOM, major command (MAJCOM) of the United States Air Force, with its headquarters at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia. It is the federal Air Reserve Component (ARC) of the U.S. Air Force, consisting of ...
and the ANG. From the start of the
Korean War The Korean War (see § Names) was a war fought between North Korea North Korea, officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), is a country in East Asia, constituting the northern part of the Korean Peninsula. It b ...

Korean War
, the Mustang once again proved useful. A "substantial number" of stored or in-service F-51Ds were shipped, via aircraft carriers, to the combat zone, and were used by the USAF, the South African Air Force, and the
Republic of Korea Air Force ) , colours = , colours_label = , march = ko, 공군가 ''Gonggunga'' "Air Force Song" , mascot = Haneuli and Purumae , anniversaries = , equipment = , equipment_label = , battles = * Korean War The Korean War (South Korean: ...
(ROKAF). The F-51 was used for ground attack, fitted with rockets and bombs, and photo reconnaissance, rather than being as interceptors or "pure" fighters. After the first North Korean invasion, USAF units were forced to fly from bases in Japan and the F-51Ds, with their long range and endurance, could attack targets in Korea that short-ranged F-80 jets could not. Because of the vulnerable liquid cooling system, however, the F-51s sustained heavy losses to ground fire. Due to its lighter structure and a shortage of spare parts, the newer, faster F-51H was not used in Korea. Mustangs continued flying with USAF and ROKAF fighter-bomber units on close support and interdiction missions in Korea until 1953 when they were largely replaced as fighter-bombers by USAF F-84s and by
United States Navy ), (unofficial)."''Non sibi sed patriae''" ( en, "Not for self but for country") (unofficial). , colors = Blue and gold  , colors_label = Colors , march = "Anchors Aweigh" , mascot = , equipment = List of equipment of the United St ...
(USN)
Grumman F9F Panther The Grumman F9F Panther is one of the United States Navy's first successful aircraft carrier, carrier-based jet fighters, as well as Grumman’s first jet fighter. A single-engined, straight-winged day fighter, it was armed with four Hispano-Suiz ...

Grumman F9F Panther
s. Other air forces and units using the Mustang included the
Royal Australian Air Force "Through Adversity to the Stars" , colours = , colours_label = , march = Royal Australian Air Force March Past (Eagles of Australia) , mascot = , anni ...
's 77 Squadron, which flew Australian-built Mustangs as part of
British Commonwealth Forces Korea British Commonwealth Forces Korea (BCFK) was the formal name of the British Commonwealth British may refer to: Peoples, culture, and language * British people The British people, or Britons, are the citizens of the United Kingdom of Grea ...
. The Mustangs were replaced by
Gloster Meteor The Gloster Meteor was the first British jet fighter Fighter aircraft are fixed-wing military aircraft A military aircraft is any fixed-wing or rotary-wing aircraft An aircraft is a vehicle that is able to flight, fly by gain ...

Gloster Meteor
F8s in 1951. The
South African Air Force "Through hardships to the stars" , colours = , colours_label = , march = , mascot = , anniversaries = , equipment ...
's 2 Squadron used U.S.-built Mustangs as part of the and had suffered heavy losses by 1953, after which 2 Squadron converted to the F-86 Sabre. F-51s flew in the
Air Force Reserve The Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC) is a MAJCOM, major command (MAJCOM) of the United States Air Force, with its headquarters at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia. It is the federal Air Reserve Component (ARC) of the U.S. Air Force, consisting of ...
and ANG throughout the 1950s. The last American USAF Mustang was F-51D-30-NA AF serial no. 44-74936, which was finally withdrawn from service with the West Virginia Air National Guard's in January 1957 and retired to what was then called the Air Force Central Museum, although it was briefly reactivated to fly at the 50th anniversary of the Air Force Aerial Firepower Demonstration at the Air Proving Ground,
Eglin AFB Eglin Air Force Base (AFB) is a United States Air Force The United States Air Force (USAF) is the Atmosphere of Earth, air military branch, service branch of the United States Armed Forces. It is one of the eight uniformed services of the ...
, Florida, on 6 May 1957. This aircraft, painted as P-51D-15-NA serial no. 44-15174, is on display at the
National Museum of the United States Air Force The National Museum of the United States Air Force (formerly the United States Air Force Museum) is the official museum of the United States Air Force The United States Air Force (USAF) is the air File:Atmosphere gas proportions ...

National Museum of the United States Air Force
,
Wright-Patterson AFB Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB) is a United States Air Force The United States Air Force (USAF) is the Atmosphere of Earth, air military branch, service branch of the United States Armed Forces. It is one of the eight uniformed ...
, in
Dayton, Ohio Dayton () is the sixth-largest city in the state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspa ...
.Gunston, Bill. ''North American P-51 Mustang.'' New York: Gallery Books, 1990. . The final withdrawal of the Mustang from USAF dumped hundreds of P-51s onto the civilian market. The rights to the Mustang design were purchased from North American by the Cavalier Aircraft Corporation, which attempted to market the surplus Mustang aircraft in the U.S. and overseas. In 1967 and again in 1972, the USAF procured batches of remanufactured Mustangs from Cavalier, most of them destined for air forces in South America and Asia that were participating in the
Military Assistance Program The Mutual Defense Assistance Act was a United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Contiguous United States, primarily located in North America. It consists ...
(MAP). These aircraft were remanufactured from existing original F-51D airframes fitted with new V-1650-7 engines, a new radio, tall F-51H-type vertical tails, and a stronger wing that could carry six machine guns and a total of eight underwing hardpoints. Two bombs and six rockets could be carried. They all had an original F-51D-type canopy but carried a second seat for an observer behind the pilot. One additional Mustang was a two-seat, dual-control TF-51D (67-14866) with an enlarged canopy and only four wing guns. Although these remanufactured Mustangs were intended for sale to South American and Asian nations through the MAP, they were delivered to the USAF with full USAF markings. They were, however, allocated new serial numbers (67-14862/14866, 67-22579/22582 and 72-1526/1541). The last U.S. military use of the F-51 was in 1968 when the U. S. Army employed a vintage F-51D (44-72990) as a chase aircraft for the Lockheed YAH-56 Cheyenne armed helicopter project. This aircraft was so successful that the Army ordered two F-51Ds from Cavalier in 1968 for use at
Fort Rucker Fort Rucker is a United States Army, U.S. Army post located primarily in Dale County, Alabama, United States. It was named for a American Civil War, Civil War officer, Confederate States Army, Confederate General Edmund Rucker. The post is the pr ...
as chase planes. They were assigned the serials 68-15795 and 68-15796. These F-51s had wingtip fuel tanks and were unarmed. Following the end of the Cheyenne program, these two chase aircraft were used for other projects. One of them (68-15795) was fitted with a 106 mm recoilless rifle for evaluation of the weapon's value in attacking fortified ground targets. Cavalier Mustang 68-15796 survives at the Air Force Armament Museum,
Eglin AFB Eglin Air Force Base (AFB) is a United States Air Force The United States Air Force (USAF) is the Atmosphere of Earth, air military branch, service branch of the United States Armed Forces. It is one of the eight uniformed services of the ...
, Florida, displayed indoors in World War II markings. The F-51 was adopted by many foreign air forces and continued to be an effective fighter into the mid-1980s with smaller air arms. The last Mustang ever downed in battle occurred during
Operation Power Pack The Dominican Civil War () took place between April 24, 1965, and September 3, 1965, in Santo Domingo , total_type = Total , population_density_km2 = auto , timezone = AST , area_code_type = Area codes , area_code = 809, 829, 849 , pos ...
in the
Dominican Republic The Dominican Republic ( ; es, República Dominicana, ) is a country located on the island of Hispaniola in the Greater Antilles archipelago of the Caribbean region. It occupies the eastern five-eighths of the island, which it shares with ...

Dominican Republic
in 1965, with the last aircraft finally being retired by the Dominican Air Force in 1984.


Service with other air forces

After World War II, the P-51 Mustang served in the air arms of more than 25 nations. During the war, a Mustang cost about $51,000,Knaack 1978 while many hundreds were sold postwar for the nominal price of one dollar to signatories of the
Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance The Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (commonly known as the Rio Treaty, the Rio Pact, the Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, or by the Spanish-language acronym TIAR from ''Tratado Interamericano de Asistencia Recíproca'') is an agreem ...
, ratified in
Rio de Janeiro Rio de Janeiro (; ), or simply Rio, is the List of largest cities in Brazil, second-most populous city in Brazil and the Largest cities in the Americas, sixth-most populous in the Americas. Rio de Janeiro is the capital of the Rio de Janeiro (s ...

Rio de Janeiro
in 1947.Munson 1969, p. 97. These countries used the P-51 Mustang: ;Australia :In November 1944, 3 Squadron RAAF became the first Royal Australian Air Force unit to use Mustangs. At the time of its conversion from the P-40 to the Mustang, the squadron was based in Italy with the RAF's First Tactical Air Force. :3 Squadron was renumbered 4 Squadron after returning to Australia from Italy, and converted to P-51Ds. Several other Australian or Pacific-based squadrons converted to either CAC-built Mustangs or to imported P-51Ks from July 1945, having been equipped with P-40s or Boomerangs for wartime service; these units were: 76, 77, 82, 83, 84 and 86 Squadrons. Only 17 Mustangs reached the RAAF's First Tactical Air Force front-line squadrons by the time World War II ended in August 1945. :76, 77 and 82 Squadrons were formed into 81 Fighter Wing of the British Commonwealth Air Force, which was part of the
British Commonwealth Occupation Force The British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF) was the British Commonwealth British may refer to: Peoples, culture, and language * British people The British people, or Britons, are the citizens of the United Kingdom of Great Britain ...
stationed in Japan from February 1946. 77 Squadron used its P-51s extensively during the first months of the Korean War, before converting to
Gloster Meteor The Gloster Meteor was the first British jet fighter Fighter aircraft are fixed-wing military aircraft A military aircraft is any fixed-wing or rotary-wing aircraft An aircraft is a vehicle that is able to flight, fly by gain ...

Gloster Meteor
jets. :Five reserve units from the Citizen Air Force also operated Mustangs. 21 "City of Melbourne" Squadron, based in the state of
Victoria Victoria most commonly refers to: * Victoria (Australia), a state of the Commonwealth of Australia * Victoria, British Columbia, provincial capital of British Columbia, Canada * Victoria (mythology), Roman goddess of Victory * Victoria, Seychelles ...
; 22 "City of Sydney" Squadron, based in
New South Wales New South Wales (abbreviated as NSW) is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspape ...
; 23 "City of Brisbane" Squadron, based in Queensland; 24 "City of Adelaide" Squadron, based in South Australia; and 25 "City of Perth" Squadron, based in Western Australia; all of these units were equipped with CAC Mustangs, rather than P-51D or Ks. The last Mustangs were retired from these units in 1960 when CAF units adopted a nonflying role. ;Bolivia : Nine (including the two TF-51s) were given to Bolivia, under a program called Peace Condor. ;Canada :Canada had five squadrons equipped with Mustangs during World War II. RCAF
400 __NOTOC__ Year 400 ( CD) was a leap year starting on Sunday A leap year starting on Sunday is any year with 366 days (i.e. it includes 29 February) that begins on Sunday, 1 January, and ends on Monday, 31 December. Its dominical letters hence ...
, 414, and 430 squadrons flew Mustang Mk Is (1942–1944) and 441 and 442 Squadrons flew Mustang Mk IIIs and IVAs in 1945. Postwar, a total of 150 Mustang P-51Ds was purchased and served in two regular ( 416 "Lynx" and 417 "City of Windsor") and six auxiliary fighter squadrons (402 "City of Winnipeg", 403 "City of Calgary", 420 "City of London", 424 "City of Hamilton", 442 "City of Vancouver" and 443 "City of New Westminster"). The Mustangs were declared obsolete in 1956, but a number of special-duty versions served on into the early 1960s. ;Republic of China : The
Chinese Nationalist Air Force Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most populous country, with a populat ...
obtained the P-51 during the late Sino-Japanese War to fight against the Japanese. After the war,
Chiang Kai-shek Chiang Kai-shek (31 October 1887 – 5 April 1975), also known as Chiang Chung-cheng and romanized Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured syst ...

Chiang Kai-shek
's
Nationalist Nationalism is an idea and movement that promotes the interests of a particular nation (as in a in-group and out-group, group of people),Anthony D. Smith, Smith, Anthony. ''Nationalism: Theory, Ideology, History''. Polity (publisher), Polity, ...

Nationalist
government used the planes against insurgent Communist forces. The Nationalists retreated to
Taiwan Taiwan, officially the Republic of China (ROC), is a country in East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere, Eastern and N ...

Taiwan
in 1949. Pilots supporting Chiang brought most of the Mustangs with them, where the aircraft became part of the island's defense arsenal. ;People's Republic of China : The Communist Chinese captured 39 P-51s from the Nationalists while they were retreating to Taiwan.Gunston 1990 p. 39. ;Costa Rica :The Costa Rican Air Force flew four P-51Ds from 1955 to 1964. ;Cuba : In November 1958, three US-registered civilian P-51D Mustangs were illegally flown separately from Miami to Cuba, on delivery to the rebel forces of the 26th of July Movement, then headed by
Fidel Castro Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz (; ; 13 August 1926 – 25 November 2016) was a Cuban revolutionary, lawyer, and politician who was the leader of Cuba from 1959 to 2008, serving as the prime minister of Cuba from 1959 to 1976 and President of Cuba ...

Fidel Castro
during the
Cuban Revolution The Cuban Revolution ( es, Revolución cubana) was an armed revolt conducted by Fidel Castro Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz (; ; 13 August 1926 – 25 November 2016) was a Cuban revolutionary, lawyer, and politician who was the leader of ...
. One of the Mustangs was damaged during delivery and none of them were used operationally. After the success of the revolution in January 1959, with other rebel aircraft plus those of the existing Cuban government forces, they were adopted into the Fuerza Aérea Revolucionaria. Due to increasing U.S. restrictions and lack of spares and maintenance experience, they never achieved operational status. At the time of the
Bay of Pigs invasion The Bay of Pigs Invasion (; sometimes called ''invasión de playa Girón'' or ''batalla de Girón'', after the Playa Girón) was a failed landing operation Allied invasion of Sicily, 1943 A landing operation is a military A militar ...
, the two intact Mustangs were already effectively grounded at Campo Columbia and at Santiago. After the failed invasion, they were placed on display with other symbols of "revolutionary struggle" and one remains on display at the Museo del Aire. ;Dominican Republic : The
Dominican Republic The Dominican Republic ( ; es, República Dominicana, ) is a country located on the island of Hispaniola in the Greater Antilles archipelago of the Caribbean region. It occupies the eastern five-eighths of the island, which it shares with ...

Dominican Republic
was the largest Latin American air force to employ the P-51D, with six aircraft acquired in 1948, 44 ex-Swedish F-51Ds purchased in 1948, and a further Mustang obtained from an unknown source.Gunston and Dorr 1995, p. 107. It was the last nation to have any Mustangs in service, with some remaining in use as late as 1984. Nine of the final 10 aircraft were sold back to American collectors in 1988. ;El Salvador : The
Salvadoran Air Force The Salvadoran Air Force ( Spanish: ''Fuerza Aérea Salvadoreña'') is the air force component of the Armed Forces of El Salvador, and is an independent branch from the army and navy. Early history The Salvadoran Army Air Force ( Spanish: Fuer ...
(''Fuerza Aérea Salvadoreña'' or FAS) purchased five Cavalier Mustang IIs (and one dual-control Cavalier TF-51) that featured wingtip fuel tanks to increase combat range and up-rated Merlin engines. Seven P-51D Mustangs were also in service. They were used during the 1969 Football War against Honduras, the last time the P-51 was used in combat. One of them, FAS-404, was shot down by a flown by Cap. Fernando Soto in the last aerial combat between piston-engined fighters in the world.Gunston and Dorr 1995, pp. 109–110. ;France : In late 1944, the first French unit began its transition to reconnaissance Mustangs. In January 1945, the Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron 2/33 of the French Air Force took their F-6Cs and F-6Ds over Germany on photographic mapping missions. The Mustangs remained in service until the early 1950s, when they were replaced by jet fighters. ;Germany : Several P-51s were captured by the Luftwaffe as ''Beuteflugzeug'' ("captured aircraft") following crash landings. These aircraft were subsequently repaired and test-flown by the '' Zirkus Rosarius'', or ''Rosarius Staffel'', the official ''
Erprobungskommando An ''Erprobungskommando'' (EKdo) ("Testing-command") was a variety of Luftwaffe special-purpose unit tasked with the testing of new aircraft and weaponry under operational conditions. Similarly-named ''Erprobungs-''prefixed squadron ''(staffel)'' ...
'' of the Luftwaffe High Command, for combat evaluation at
Göttingen Göttingen (, also , ; nds, Chöttingen) is a college town, university city in Lower Saxony, Germany, the Capital (political), capital of Göttingen (district), the eponymous district. The River Leine runs through it. At the start of 2017, the ...
. The aircraft were repainted with German markings and bright yellow noses, tails, and bellies for identification. A number of P-51B/P-51Cs – including examples marked with Luftwaffe ''Geschwaderkennung'' codes T9+CK, T9+FK, T9+HK, and T9+PK (with the "T9" prefix not known to be officially assigned to any existing Luftwaffe formation from their own records, outside of the photos of ''Zirkus Rosarius''–flown aircraft)—with a total of three captured P-51Ds were also flown by the unit. Some of these P-51s were found by Allied forces at the end of the war; others crashed during testing. The Mustang is also listed in the appendix to the novel ''KG 200'' as having been flown by the German secret operations unit
KG 200 Kampfgeschwader 200 (KG 200) (in English "(Air) Combat Squadron 200") was a German Luftwaffe The ''Luftwaffe'' () was the aerial-warfare branch of the German ''Wehrmacht The ''Wehrmacht'' (, ) was the unified armed forces of Nazi ...
, which tested, evaluated, and sometimes clandestinely operated captured enemy aircraft during World War II. ;Guatemala : The
Guatemalan Air Force Guatemalan may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to the country of Guatemala Guatemala ( ; ), officially the Republic of Guatemala ( es, República de Guatemala, links=no), is a country in Central America Central America ( e ...
had 30 P-51D Mustangs in service from 1954 to the early 1970s. ;Haiti : Haiti had four P-51D Mustangs when President Paul Eugène Magloire was in power from 1950–1956, with the last retired in 1973–1974 and sold for spares to the Dominican Republic.Gunston and Dorr 1995, p. 108. ;Indonesia : Indonesia acquired some P-51Ds from the departing Netherlands East Indies Air Force in 1949 and 1950. The Mustangs were used against Commonwealth (RAF, RAAF, and RNZAF) forces during the
Indonesian confrontation Indonesian is anything of, from, or related to Indonesia Indonesia ( ), officially the Republic of Indonesia ( id, Republik Indonesia, links=yes ), is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania between the Indian Ocean, Indian and Pacific Ocean, ...
in the early 1960s, and was used to fight the
CIA The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA; ), known informally as "The Agency" and "The Company", is a civilian foreign intelligence service of the federal government of the United States The federal government of the United States (U.S. ...
-backed
PERMESTA Permesta was a rebel movement in Indonesia Indonesia ( ), officially the Republic of Indonesia ( id, Republik Indonesia, links=yes ), is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania between the Indian Ocean, Indian and Pacific Ocean, Pacific o ...
rebels. The last time Mustangs were deployed for military purposes was a shipment of six Cavalier II Mustangs (without tip tanks) delivered to Indonesia in 1972–1973, which were replaced in 1976. ;Israel : A few P-51 Mustangs were illegally bought by Israel in 1948, crated, and smuggled into the country as agricultural equipment for use in the 1947–1949 Palestine war, serving alongside upwards of 23
Avia S-199 The Avia S-199 is a propeller-driven Messerschmitt Bf 109G-based fighter aircraft built after World War II utilizing the Bf 109G airframe and a Junkers Jumo 211F engine in place of the original and unavailable Daimler-Benz DB 605 engine. It is ...
fighters (Czech-built Messerschmitt Bf 109Gs) in Israeli service, with the Mustangs quickly establishing themselves as the best fighter in the Israeli inventory. Further aircraft were bought from Sweden and were replaced by jets at the end of the 1950s, but not before the type was used in the
Suez Crisis The Suez Crisis, or the Second Arab–Israeli war, also called the Tripartite Aggression ( ar, العدوان الثلاثي, Al-ʿUdwān aṯ-Ṯulāṯiyy) in the Arab world and the Sinai War in Israel,Also known as the Suez War or 1956 War ...
, at the opening of
Operation Kadesh The Suez Crisis, or the Second Arab–Israeli war, also called the Tripartite Aggression () in the Arab world and Sinai War in Israel,Also known as the Suez War or 1956 War; other names include the ''Sinai war'', ''Suez–Sinai war'', ''1956 A ...
. In conjunction with a surprise parachute drop at the
Mitla Pass The Mitla Pass ( ar, ممر متلة, he, מיתלה) is a pass snaking in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt, wedged between mountain ranges to the north and south. It is located about east of Suez. It is the monotonous ride through here and Nek ...
, four P-51s were specially detailed to cut telephone and telegraph wires using their wings in extreme low level runs, which resulted in major interruptions to Egyptian communications. ;Italy : Italy was a postwar operator of P-51Ds; deliveries were slowed by the Korean War, but between September 1947 and January 1951, by MDAP count, 173 examples were delivered. They were used in all the AMI fighter units: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 51 ''Stormo'' (Wing), plus some employed in schools and experimental units. Considered a "glamorous" fighter, P-51s were even used as personal aircraft by several Italian commanders. Some restrictions were placed on its use due to unfavorable flying characteristics. Handling had to be done with much care when fuel tanks were fully used, and several aerobatic maneuvers were forbidden. Overall, the P-51D was highly rated even compared to the other primary postwar fighter in Italian service, the Supermarine Spitfire, partly because these P-51Ds were in very good condition in contrast to all other Allied fighters supplied to Italy. Phasing out of the Mustang began in summer 1958. ;Japan : The P-51C-11-NT ''Evalina'', marked as "278" (former USAAF serial: 44-10816) and flown by 26th FS, 51st FG, was hit by gunfire on 16 January 1945 and belly-landed on Suchon Airfield in China, which was held by the Japanese. The Japanese repaired the aircraft, roughly applied
Hinomaru The National Flag, national flag of Japan is a rectangular white banner bearing a crimson-red circle at its center. This flag is officially called , but is more commonly known in Japan as . It embodies the country's sobriquet: Land of the Rising S ...

Hinomaru
roundel A roundel is a circular disc used as a symbol. The term is used in heraldry, but also commonly used to refer to a type of national insignia used on military aircraft, generally circular in shape and usually comprising concentric rings of differe ...
s and flew the aircraft to the Fussa evaluation center (now
Yokota Air Base , is a United States Air Force (USAF) and Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) base in the city of Fussa, Tokyo, Fussa, a city in the Tama Area, or Western Tokyo. The base houses 14,000 personnel. It occupies a total area of and has a runway. ...
) in Japan. ;Netherlands : The
Royal Netherlands East Indies Army Air Force The Royal Netherlands East Indies Army Air Force ( nl, Militaire Luchtvaart van het Koninklijk Nederlands-Indisch Leger, ML-KNIL) was the air arm of the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army The Royal Netherlands East Indies Army ( nl, Konink ...
received 40 P-51Ds and flew them during the
Indonesian National Revolution The Indonesian National Revolution, or the Indonesian War of Independence, was an armed conflict and diplomatic struggle between the Republic of Indonesia and the Dutch Empire and an internal social revolution during Aftermath of WWII, postwa ...
, particularly the two '
politionele acties ''Politionele Acties'' (Dutch for "police actions") refers to two major military offensives undertaken by the Netherlands on Java and Sumatra Sumatra is one of the Sunda Islands of western Indonesia. It is the largest island that is fully with ...
':
Operatie Product Operation Product was a Dutch military offensive against areas of Java and Sumatra controlled by the Republic of Indonesia Indonesia ( ), officially the Republic of Indonesia ( id, Republik Indonesia, links=yes ), is a country in Southeast ...
in 1947 and
Operatie Kraai Operation Kraai (Operation Crow) was a Dutch military offensive against the newly formed Republic of Indonesia Indonesia ( ), officially the Republic of Indonesia ( id, Republik Indonesia, links=yes ), is a country in Southeast Asia and ...
in 1949.Kahin 2003, p. 90. When the conflict was over, Indonesia received some of the ML-KNIL Mustangs. ;New Zealand :New Zealand ordered 370 P-51 Mustangs to supplement its F4U Corsairs in the
Pacific Ocean Areas Pacific Ocean Areas was a major Allied An alliance is a relationship among people, groups, or sovereign state, states that have joined together for mutual benefit or to achieve some common purpose, whether or not explicit agreement has been ...
theater. Scheduled deliveries were for an initial batch of 30 P-51Ds, followed by 137 more P-51Ds and 203 P-51Ms.Wilson 2010, p. 42. The original 30 were being shipped as the war ended in August 1945; these were stored in their packing cases, and the order for the additional Mustangs was canceled. In 1951, the stored Mustangs entered service in 1 (Auckland), 2 (Wellington), 3 (Canterbury), and 4 (Otago) squadrons of the Territorial Air Force (TAF). The Mustangs remained in service until they were prematurely retired in August 1955 following a series of problems with undercarriage and coolant-system corrosion problems. Four Mustangs served on as target tugs until the TAF was disbanded in 1957. RNZAF pilots in the Royal Air Force also flew the P-51 and at least one New Zealand pilot scored victories over Europe while on loan to a USAAF P-51 squadron. ;Nicaragua : The Nicaraguan National Guard purchased 26 P-51D Mustangs from Sweden in 1954 and later received 30 P-51D Mustangs from the U.S. together with two TF-51 models from MAP after 1954. All aircraft of this type were retired from service by 1964. ;Philippines :The Philippines acquired 103 P-51D Mustangs after World War II, operated by the 6th "Cobras" and 7th "Bulldogs" Tactical Fighter Squadrons of the 5th Fighter Wing. These became the backbone of the postwar
Philippine Army Air Corps 220px, Ceremony at Camp Murphy in Rizal marking the induction of the Philippine Army Air Corps into the U.S. Army on 15 August 1941. Behind Lt. Gen. Douglas MacArthur, from left to right, are Lt. Col. Richard K. Sutherland, Col. Harold H. Geor ...
and
Philippine Air Force The Philippine Air Force (PAF; fil, Hukbong Himpapawid ng Pilipinas) is the aerial warfare Aerial warfare is the use of military aircraft and other flying machines in warfare. Aerial warfare includes bombers attacking tactical bombing, en ...
, and were used extensively during the
Huk Huk may refer to: People * HuK (born 1989), Overwatch League general manager and former professional ''Starcraft II'' player * Ihor Huk (born 2002), Ukrainian footballer * Tomáš Huk (born 1994), Slovak footballer Places * Huk, Isfahan, a ...
campaign, fighting against Communist insurgents, as well as the suppression of Moro rebels led by Hadji Kamlon in southern Philippines until 1955. The Mustangs were also the first aircraft of the Philippine air demonstration team, which was formed in 1953 and given the name "The Blue Diamonds" the following year. The Mustangs were replaced by 56 F-86 Sabres in the late 1950s, but some were still in service for COIN roles up to the early 1980s. ;Poland :During World War II, five Polish Air Force in Great Britain squadrons used Mustangs. The first Polish unit equipped (7 June 1942) with Mustang Mk Is was "B" Flight of 309 "''Ziemi Czerwieńskiej''" Squadron (an Army Co-Operation Command unit), followed by "A" Flight in March 1943. Subsequently, 309 Squadron was redesignated a fighter/reconnaissance unit and became part of Fighter Command. On 13 March 1944, 316 "''Warszawski''" Squadron received their first Mustang Mk IIIs; rearming of the unit was completed by the end of April. By 26 March 1944, 306 "''Toruński''" Sqn and 315 "''Dębliński''" Sqn received Mustangs Mk IIIs (the whole operation took 12 days). On 20 October 1944, Mustang Mk Is in 309 Squadron were replaced by Mk IIIs. On 11 December 1944, the unit was again renamed, becoming 309 ''Dywizjon Myśliwski'' "''Ziemi Czerwieńskiej''" or 309 "Land of Czerwien" Polish Fighter Squadron. In 1945, 303 "''Kościuszko''" Sqn received 20 Mustangs Mk IV/Mk IVA replacements. Postwar, between 6 December 1946 and 6 January 1947, all five Polish squadrons equipped with Mustangs were disbanded. Poland returned about 80 Mustang Mk IIIs and 20 Mustangs Mk IV/IVAs to the RAF, which transferred them to the U.S. government. ;Somalia : The Somalian Air Force operated eight P-51Ds in post-World War II service. ;South Africa :No.5 Squadron
South African Air Force "Through hardships to the stars" , colours = , colours_label = , march = , mascot = , anniversaries = , equipment ...
operated a number of Mustang Mk IIIs (P-51B/C) and Mk IVs (P-51D/K) in Italy during World War II, beginning in September 1944, when the squadron converted to the Mustang Mk III from Kittyhawks. The Mk IV and Mk IVA came into SA service in March 1945. These aircraft were generally camouflaged in the British style, having been drawn from RAF stocks; all carried RAF serial numbers and were struck off charge and scrapped in October 1945. In 1950, 2 Squadron SAAF was supplied with F-51D Mustangs by the United States for Korean War service. The type performed well in South African hands before being replaced by the F-86 Sabre in 1952 and 1953. ;South Korea :Within a month of the outbreak of the Korean War, 10 F-51D Mustangs were provided to the badly depleted
Republic of Korea Air Force ) , colours = , colours_label = , march = ko, 공군가 ''Gonggunga'' "Air Force Song" , mascot = Haneuli and Purumae , anniversaries = , equipment = , equipment_label = , battles = * Korean War The Korean War (South Korean: ...
as a part of the
Bout One Bout One Project was an operation undertaken during the Korean War by U.S. Air Force to train South Korean pilots to fly P-51 Mustang, F-51 Mustang fighters. On June 27, 1950, as part of the project, a special unit was formed in Japan under Major ...
Project. They were flown by both South Korean airmen, several of whom were veterans of the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy air services during World War II, as well as by U.S. advisers led by Major
Dean Hess Dean Elmer Hess (December 6, 1917 – March 2, 2015) was an American minister and United States Air Force The United States Air Force (USAF) is the Atmosphere of Earth, air military branch, service branch of the United States Armed Forces ...
. Later, more were provided both from U.S. and from South African stocks, as the latter were converting to F-86 Sabres. They formed the backbone of the South Korean Air Force until they were replaced by Sabres. :It also served with the ROKAF
Black Eagles aerobatic team The 53rd Air Demonstration Group, nicknamed Black Eagles, is the flight display team of the Republic of Korea Air Force ) , colours = , colours_label = , march = ko, 공군가 ''Gonggunga'' "Air Force Song" , mascot = Haneuli and Purumae , ...
, until retired in 1954. ;Sweden :Sweden's ''
Flygvapnet The Swedish Air Force ( sv, Svenska flygvapnet or just ''flygvapnet'') is the air force branch Image:Tree Leaves.JPG, The branches and leaves of a tree. A branch ( or , ) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany as a ramus) is a woody ...
'' first recuperated four of the P-51s (two P-51Bs and two early P-51Ds) that had been diverted to Sweden during missions over Europe. In February 1945, Sweden purchased 50 P-51Ds designated J 26, which were delivered by American pilots in April and assigned to the Uppland Air Force Wing (F 16) at
Uppsala Uppsala (, or all ending in , ; archaically spelled ''Upsala'') is the county seat of Uppsala County Uppsala County ( sv, Uppsala län) is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesC ...

Uppsala
as interceptors. In early 1946, the Jämtland Air Force Wing (F 4) at Östersund was equipped with a second batch of 90 P-51Ds. A final batch of 21 Mustangs was purchased in 1948. In all, 161 J 26s served in the Swedish Air Force during the late 1940s. About 12 were modified for photo reconnaissance and redesignated S 26. Some of these aircraft participated in the secret Swedish mapping of new Soviet military installations at the Baltic coast in 1946–47 (''Operation Falun''), an endeavor that entailed many intentional violations of Soviet airspace. However, the Mustang could outdive any Soviet fighter of that era, so no S 26s were lost in these missions. The J 26s were replaced by De Havilland Vampires around 1950. The S 26s were replaced by SAAB Tunnan, S 29Cs in the early 1950s. ;Switzerland :The Swiss Air Force operated a few USAAF P-51s that had been impounded by Swiss authorities during World War II after the pilots were forced to land in neutral Switzerland. After the war, Switzerland also bought 130 P-51s for $4,000 each. They served until 1958. ;Soviet Union : The Soviet Union received at least 10 early-model ex-RAF Mustang Mk Is and tested them, but found them to "under-perform" compared to contemporary USSR fighters, relegating them to training units. Later Lend-Lease deliveries of the P-51B/C and D series, along with other Mustangs abandoned in Russia after the famous Shuttle bombing, "shuttle missions", were repaired and used by the Soviet Air Force, but not in front-line service. ;Uruguay : The Uruguayan Air Force used 25 P-51D Mustangs from 1950 to 1960; some were subsequently sold to Bolivia.


P-51s and civil aviation

Many P-51s were sold as surplus after the war, often for as little as $1,500. Some were sold to former wartime fliers or other aficionados for personal use, while others were modified for air racing.Kyburz, Martin
"Racing Mustangs."
''Swiss Mustangs,'' 2009. Retrieved: 17 January 2012.
One of the most significant Mustangs involved in air racing was serial number 44-10947, a surplus P-51C-10-NT purchased by film stunt pilot Paul Mantz. He modified the wings, sealing them to create a giant fuel tank in each one; these "wet wings" reduced the need for fuel stops or drag-inducing drop tanks. Named ''Blaze of Noon'' after the film ''Blaze of Noon'', the aircraft won the 1946 and 1947 Bendix Air Races, took second in the 1948 Bendix, and placed third in the 1949 Bendix. Mantz also set a U.S. coast-to-coast record in 1947. He sold the Mustang to Charles F. Blair Jr (future husband of Maureen O'Hara), who renamed it ''Excalibur III'' and used it to set a New York-to-London (about ) record in 1951: 7 hr 48 min from takeoff at John F. Kennedy International Airport, Idlewild to overhead London Airport. Later that year, Blair flew from Norway to Fairbanks, Alaska, via the North Pole (about ), proving that navigation via sun sights was possible over the magnetic North Pole region. For this feat, he was awarded the Harmon Trophy and the Air Force was forced to change its thoughts on a possible Soviet air strike from the north. This Mustang now sits in the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. In 1958, the RCAF retired its 78 remaining Mustangs. RCAF pilot Lynn Garrison ferried them from their various storage locations to Canastota, New York, where the American buyers were based. Garrison flew each of the surviving aircraft at least once. These aircraft make up a large percentage of the aircraft presently flying worldwide. The most prominent firm to convert Mustangs to civilian use was Trans-Florida Aviation, later renamed Cavalier Aircraft Corporation, which produced the Cavalier Mustang. Modifications included a taller tailfin and wingtip tanks. A number of conversions included a Cavalier Mustang specialty: a "tight" second seat added in the space formerly occupied by the military radio and fuselage fuel tank. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the United States Department of Defense wished to supply aircraft to South American countries and later Indonesia for close air support and counterinsurgency, it paid Cavalier to return some of their civilian conversions back to Cavalier Mustang#Military Cavaliers, updated military specifications. In the 21st century, a P-51 can command a price of more than $1 million, even for only partially restored aircraft."P-51s for Sale."
''mustangsmustangs.net.'' Retrieved: 30 September 2010.
There were 204 privately owned P-51s in the U.S. on the FAA registry in 2011, most of which are still flying, often associated with organizations such as the Commemorative Air Force (formerly the Confederate Air Force)."Aircraft rides."
''Dixie Wing.'' Retrieved: 1 September 2010.
In May 2013, Doug Matthews set an altitude record of in a P-51 named ''The Rebel'' for piston-powered aircraft weighing . Flying from a grass runway at Florida's Indiantown, Florida, Indiantown airport and over Lake Okeechobee, Matthews set world records for time to reach altitudes of , 18 minutes and , 31 minutes. He set a level-flight altitude record of in level flight and an absolute altitude record of , breaking the previous record of set in 1954.


Incidents

* On 9 June 1973, William Penn Patrick (43) a certified pilot and his passenger, Christian Hagert, died when Patrick's P-51 Mustang crashed in Lakeport, California."The Crash at Farrell's Ice Cream Parlor in Sacramento, CA – September 24, 1972, Postscript."
''Check Six'', 2002. Retrieved: 8 February 2014.
* On 1 July 1990 at the National Capital Air Show (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada), Harry E. Tope was killed when his P-51 Mustang crashed. * On 16 September 2011 ''The Galloping Ghost (aircraft), The Galloping Ghost'', a modified P-51 piloted by Jimmy Leeward of Ocala, Florida, 2011 Reno Air Races crash, crashed during an air race in Reno, Nevada. Leeward and at least nine people on the ground were killed when the racer suddenly crashed near the edge of the grandstand.


Variants

Over 20 variants of the P-51 Mustang were produced from 1940 to after the war.


Production

Except for the small numbers assembled or produced in Australia, all Mustangs were built by North American initially at Inglewood, California, but then additionally in Dallas, Texas.


Accidents and incidents


Surviving aircraft


Specifications (P-51D Mustang)


Notable appearances in media

*''Red Tail Reborn'' (2007) is the story behind the restoration of a flying memorial aircraft.


Scale replicas

As indicative of the iconic nature of the P-51, manufacturers within the hobby industry have created scale plastic model kits of the P-51 Mustang, with varying degrees of detail and skill levels. The aircraft have also been the subject of numerous scale flying replicas. Aside from the popular radio-controlled aircraft, several kitplane manufacturers offer ½, ⅔, and ¾-scale replicas capable of comfortably seating one (or even two) and offering high performance combined with more forgiving flight characteristics. Such aircraft include the Titan T-51 Mustang, W.A.R. P-51 Mustang, Linn Mini Mustang, Jurca Gnatsum, Thunder Mustang, Stewart S-51D Mustang, Loehle 5151 Mustang and ScaleWings SW51 Mustang."P-51D Mustang Replica."
''SOS-Eisberg,'' 2012. Retrieved: 24 April 2012.


See also


References


Notes


Citations


Bibliography

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External links


"A Fighter From the Ground Up." ''Popular Science'', July 1943, one of earliest detailed articles on P-51A

"Wild Horses of the Sky," ''Popular Mechanics'', November 1943




* [http://www.wwiiaircraftperformance.org/mustang/mustang-I.html Allison-powered Mustang performance test reports; 1940, 1942, 1943, 1944]
P-51B Mustang performance test report, May 1943



NACA-WR-L-566 "Flying qualities and stalling characteristics of North American XP-51 airplane", April 1943. (PDF)

North American P-51 profile, photos and technical details for each mk
*

a 1942 ''Flight'' article

a 1942 ''Flight'' article

a 1942 ''Flight'' article

a 1944 ''Flight'' article
P-51 in Flight Over California (1942)
{{Authority control North American P-51 Mustang, 1940s United States fighter aircraft North American Aviation aircraft, P-51 Mustang Single-engined tractor aircraft Low-wing aircraft Aircraft first flown in 1940 Retractable conventional landing gear