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North American P-51 Mustang

The North American Aviation P-51 Mustang is an American long-range, single-seat fighter and fighter-bomber used during World War II and the Korean War, among other conflicts.

The Mustang was designed in April 1940 by North American Aviation in response to a requirement of the British Purchasing Commission.

The Purchasing Commission approached North American Aviation to build Curtiss P-40 fighters under license for the Royal Air Force.

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 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 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 (Mustang Mk I).

Replacing the Allison with a Rolls-Royce Merlin resulted in the P-51B/C (Mustang Mk III) model and transformed the aircraft’s performance at altitudes above 15,000 ft (4,600 m) (without sacrificing range), allowing it to compete with the Luftwaffes fighters.

The definitive version, the P-51D, was powered by the Packard V-1650-7, a license-built version of the two-speed, two-stage-supercharged Merlin 66, and was armed with six .50 calibre (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 to escort bombers in raids over Germany, while the RAF’s Second Tactical Air Force and the USAAF’s Ninth Air Force used the Merlin-powered Mustangs as fighter-bombers, roles in which the Mustang helped ensure Allied air superiority in 1944.

The P-51 was also used by Allied air forces in the North African, Mediterranean, Italian, and Pacific theatres.

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, 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 warbirds and air racing aircraft.



1 Prototype


2 Prototypes

Mustang I

620 Built for RAF at Inglewood, California

North American A-36 Apache

500 Dive-bomber variant of P-51; also known as “Invader” or “Mustang”


150 Built at Inglewood, California.

93 were Lend-Leased to the UK, operated by RAF as the “Mustang Ia”.

57 were retained by the USAAF and fitted with Allison V-1710-39 engines.


310 Built at Inglewood, California.

50 Lend-Leased to the RAF as the “Mustang II”.


2 Prototypes of P-51B


1,987 Built at Inglewood, California.

First production version to be equipped with the Merlin engine.

308 supplied under Lend-Lease and operated by the RAF as “Mustang III”.


1,750 First P-51 variants to be built at North American’s Dallas plant.

Identical to P-51B.

Mustangs built by North American in Dallas were suffixed “-NT”.

636 were supplied under Lend-Lease to the RAF as the “Mustang III”.


3 Prototypes of P-51D


8,200 6,600 built at Inglewood and 1,600 built at Dallas.

100 P-51D-1-NA were sent unassembled to Australia.

282 under Lend-Lease served in the RAF as the “Mustang IV”.

XP-51F – 3

Lightweight version


2 Lightweight version; five-bladed propeller


555 Built at Inglewood, California


2 Allison engined lightweight development.


1,500 Built at Dallas, Texas.

Identical to the P-51D except fitted with a four-bladed Aeroproducts propeller.

600 Lend-Leased to the RAF as the “Mustang IVa”.

P-51M-NT – 1

Same as P-51D-25-NT and P-51D-30-NT, but with the non-water injected V-1650-9A engine for low-altitude operations and sharing the cuffless Hamilton Standard propeller.

It was intended to enter full production at Dallas, but the contract was later cancelled.

Total number built 15,588, Includes 100 sent unassembled to Australia





32 ft 3 in (9.83 m)


37 ft (11 m)


13 ft 4.5 in (4.077 m) tail wheel on ground,

Vertical propeller blade

Wing area

235 sq ft (21.8 m2)

Aspect ratio



NAA/NACA 45–100 

NAA/NACA 45–100

Empty weight

7,635 lb (3,463 kg)

Gross weight

9,200 lb (4,173 kg)

Max take-off weight

12,100 lb (5,488 kg) 5,490

Fuel capacity

269 US gal (224 imp gal; 1,020 l)

Zero-lift drag coefficient


Drag area

3.80 sqft (0.35 m²)


1 × Packard (Rolls Royce) V-1650-7,

Merlin 12-cylinder liquid cooled engine,

1,490 hp (1,110 kW) at 3,000 rpm.

1,720 hp (1,280 kW) at WEP


4-bladed Hamilton Standard constant-speed,

Variable-pitch, 11 ft 2 in (3.40 m) diameter


Maximum speed

440 mph (710 km/h, 383 kn)

Cruise speed

362 mph (583 km/h, 315 kn)

Stall speed

100 mph (160 km/h, 87 kn)


1,650 mi (2,660 km, 1,434 nmi) with external tanks

Service ceiling

41,900 ft (12,800 m)

Rate of climb

3,200 ft/min (16 m/s)



Wing loading

39 lb/sq ft (190 kg/m2)


0.18 hp/lb (300 W/kg)

Recommended Mach limit




6 × 0.50 calibre (12.7mm) AN/M2 Browning machine guns with 1,840 total rounds.


6 or 10 × 5.0 in (127 mm) T64 HVAR rockets (P-51D-25, P-51K-10 on)


1 × 100 lb (45 kg)


250 lb (110 kg) bomb


500 lb (230 kg) bomb on hardpoint under each wing.



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