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P-51 Mustang Fighter Plane

P-51 Development History, Production, and Deployment

North American P-51 MustangP-51 Mustang

The North American P-51 Mustang was among the best and most well-known fighters used by the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II. Possessing excellent range and maneuverability, the P-51 operated primarily as a long-range escort fighter and also as a ground attack fighter-bomber. The Mustang served in nearly every combat zone during WWII, and later fought in the Korean War.

In 1939, the British Purchasing Agency came to America to buy aircraft for the war that had just started in Europe. Having experience with Curtiss P-40s, they purchased all that Curtiss could build them. When they approached North American Aviation to build more P-40s, the company offered to build a new fighter using the same American-built Allison engine. The British agreed, but on the condition the first aircraft had to be flying in no more than 120 days. 117 days later, the first P-51 flew!

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

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

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

At the start of the Korean War, however, the Mustang once again proved its usefulness. After the initial invasion, USAF units were forced to fly from bases in Japan, and F-51D planes could hit targets in Korea that short-ranged F-80 jet fighters could not. F-51s flew in the Reserve and ANG until they were finally phased out in 1957.

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

The P-51 remains a popular airplane today, and many are in airworthy conditon on the airshow circuits in the United States.

P-51 Mustang Specifications

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


Original P-51 Photographs by the Airplanes of the Past Photographer

P-51 Mustang "Betty Jane" of the Collings Foundation, seen at Tyler Pounds Regional Airport
P-51 Mustang "Betty Jane" of the Collings Foundation, seen at Tyler Pounds Regional Airport
Nose art on P-51D Mustang "Audrey" at Hill AFB near Salt Lake City
Nose art on P-51D Mustang "Audrey"
North American P-51D Mustang, S/N 46-3607, Seattle
North American P-51D Mustang, S/N 46-3607
North American P-51D Mustang, S/N 46-3607
North American P-51D Mustang, S/N 46-3607
North American P-51D Mustang, S/N 46-3607
North American P-51D Mustang, S/N 46-3607
North American P-51D Mustang, "The Brat III", of the Cavanaugh Flight Museum,
at Tyler Pounds Regional Airport in Texas
North American P-51D Mustang, "The Brat III"
North American P-51D Mustang, S/N 44-72339, N251JC
North American P-51D Mustang, "The Brat III"
North American P-51D Mustang, "The Brat III"
North American P-51D Mustang, "The Brat III"
North American P-51D Mustang, S/N 44-72339, N251JC, "The Brat III
North American P-51D Mustang, "The Brat III"
P-51D Mustang "Ferocious Frankie", Robins Air Force Base, Georgia
P-51D Mustang "Ferocious Frankie"
Nose art on the P-51D Mustang "Ferocious Frankie"
Nose art on the P-51D Mustang "Ferocious Frankie"
P-51D Mustang "Moonbeam McSwine" at Barksdale AFB in Bossier City
P-51D Mustang "Moonbeam McSwine"
P-51D Mustang "Moonbeam McSwine"
P-51D Mustang "Moonbeam McSwine"
P-51 Mustang S/N 68-15796 at Eglin AFB, near Fort Walton, Florida
P-51 Mustang S/N 68-15796


P-51 Photographs by Our Friends and Supporters

P-51 Mustang 412016
Photo courtesy of Alaska Professional Photography
P-51 Mustang
P-51D Mustang, 44-74391
Photo courtesy of Alaska Professional Photography
P-51 Mustang
P-51D Mustang 463684, "Double Trouble Two"
Photo courtesy of Alaska Professional Photography
P-51 Mustang