North American XP-51G

North American XP-51G

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North American XP-51G

The XP-51G was a development aircraft that combined the light weight airframe developed for the XP-51F with an experimental Rolls Royce RM-14SM engine, capable of producing 2,000hp at 20,000 feet. The new aircraft achieved a top speed of 495 mph, and a climb rate of 5,000 feet per minute, well over 1,000 feet per minute faster than the P-51D. However, the new Rolls Royce engine was too complex and did not always produce its best power. The last production version of the Mustang would be the P-51H, combining the light weight airframe of the XP-51F with a more powerful Merlin.

North American XP-51G - History

North American XP-51 &ldquoMustang&rdquo (NA-73)
World War II single-engine single-seat monoplane fighter

Archive Photos ¹

North American XP-51 (NA-73, AF 41-38, c/n 73-3101) on display (9/12/2003) at the EAA AirVenture Museum, Oshkosh, Wisconsin (Photo by John Shupek copyright © 2003 Skytamer Images)

  • North American P-51 Mustang
  • Role: Fighter
  • National origin: United States
  • Manufacturer: North American Aviation
  • First flight: 26 October 1940
  • Introduction: 1942
  • Status: Retired from military service 1984, still in civil use
  • Primary users: United States Army Air Forces Royal Air Force Chinese Nationalist Air Force numerous others
  • Number built: More than 15,000
  • Unit cost: US$50,985 in 1945
  • Variants: North American A-36 Rolls-Royce Mustang Mk.X Cavalier Mustang
  • Developed into: North American F-82 Twin Mustang North American A-36 Piper PA-48 Enforcer Rolls-Royce Mustang Mk.X

The North American Aviation P-51 Mustang was an American long-range, single-seat fighter and fighter-bomber used during World War II, the Korean War and several other conflicts. During World War II, Mustang pilots claimed 4,950 enemy aircraft shot down.

It was conceived, designed and built by North American Aviation (NAA), under the direction of lead engineer Edgar Schmued, in response to a specification issued directly to NAA by the British Purchasing Commission the prototype NA-73X airframe was rolled out on 9 September 1940, albeit without an engine, 102 days after the contract was signed and first flew on 26 October.

The Mustang was originally designed to use the Allison V-1710 engine, which had limited high-altitude performance. It was first flown operationally by the Royal Air Force (RAF) as a tactical-reconnaissance aircraft and fighter-bomber. The addition of the Rolls-Royce Merlin to the P-51B/C model transformed the Mustang's performance at altitudes above 15,000 ft, giving it a performance that matched or bettered the majority of the Luftwaffe's fighters at altitude. The definitive version, the P-51D, was powered by the Packard V-1650-7, a license-built version of the Rolls-Royce Merlin 60 series two-stage two-speed supercharged engine, and armed with six 0.50 caliber (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns.

From late 1943, P-51Bs (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 2 TAF 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 in service with Allied air forces in the North African, Mediterranean and Italian theaters, and saw limited service against the Japanese in the Pacific War.

At the start of Korean War, the Mustang was the main fighter of the United Nations until jet fighters such as the 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 World War II and the Korean War, many Mustangs were converted for civilian use, especially air racing.

Design and Development ²

In April 1938, shortly after the German Anschluss of Austria, the British government established a purchasing commission in the United States, headed by Sir Henry Self. Self was given overall responsibility for Royal Air Force (RAF) production and research and development, and also served with Sir Wilfrid Freeman, 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 coming close. The Curtiss-Wright plant was running at capacity, so P-40's were in short supply.

North American Aviation (NAA) was already supplying its Harvard trainer to the RAF, but was otherwise under utilized. NAA President "Dutch" Kindelberger approached Self to sell a new medium bomber, the B-25 Mitchell. Instead, Self asked if NAA could manufacture the Tomahawk under license from Curtiss. Kindelberger said NAA could have a better aircraft with the same engine in the air sooner than establishing a production line for the Curtiss P-40. The Commission stipulated armament of four 0.303 in (7.7 mm) machine guns, the Allison V-1710 liquid-cooled engine, a unit cost of no more than $40,000, and delivery of the first production aircraft by January 1941. In March 1940, 320 aircraft were ordered by Sir Wilfred Freeman who had become the executive head of Ministry of Aircraft Production (MAP), and the contract was promulgated on 24 April.

The design, known as the NA-73X, followed the best conventional practice of the era, but included several new features. One was a wing designed using laminar flow airfoils which were developed co-operatively by North American Aviation and the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). These airfoils generated very low drag at high speeds. During the development of the NA-73X, a wind tunnel test of two wings, one using NACA 5-digit airfoils and the other using the new NAA/NACA 45-100 airfoils, was performed in the 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 radiator design that exploited the "Meredith Effect", in which heated air exited the radiator as a slight amount of jet thrust. Because NAA lacked a suitable wind tunnel to test this feature, it used the GALCIT 10 ft (3.0 m) wind tunnel at Caltech. This led to some controversy over whether the Mustang's cooling system aerodynamics were developed by NAA's engineer Edgar Schmued or by Curtiss, although NAA had purchased the complete set of Curtiss P-40 and Curtiss XP-46 wind tunnel data and flight test reports for US$56,000. The NA-73X was also one of the first aircraft to have a fuselage lofted mathematically using conic sections this resulted in the aircraft's fuselage having smooth, low drag surfaces. 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 and first flew on 26 October 1940, respectively 102 and 149 days after the order had been placed, an uncommonly short gestation period. The prototype handled well and accommodated an impressive fuel load. The aircraft's two-section, semi-monocoque fuselage was constructed entirely of aluminum to save weight. It was armed with four 0.30 in (7.62 mm) M1919 Browning machine guns, two in the wings and two mounted under the engine and firing through the propeller arc using gun synchronizing gear.

While the United States Army Air Corps (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 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 to the USAAC for evaluation.

Operational History ²

U.S. Operational Service

Pre-war Theory

Pre-war doctrine of most bomber forces was to attack at night when the bombers would be effectively immune to interception. The loss in accuracy due to limited visibility was a high price to pay, protecting small targets from attack. The only targets that could be attacked were large ones, effectively whole cities. As "the bomber will always get through", the future of war was believed to consist of large fleets of bombers pounding each other's cities night after night. The Royal Air Force based its development policy on this concept, developing a series of dedicated night bombers.

There were those that dismissed this concept as immoral and continued to press for precision attacks on strategic targets as the most effective means of waging war. The RAF did attempt several long-range daylight raids early in the war using the Vickers Wellington, but suffered such high casualties that they abandoned the effort quickly. The Luftwaffe had the advantage of bases in France that allowed their fighters to escort the bombers at least part way on their missions. This strategy proved ineffective, as the RAF fighters ignored the escorts and attacked the bombers. The Germans abandoned day bombing and switched to night bombing during The Blitz of 1940–41. By the end of 1940, it appeared that daylight strategic bombing was ineffective.

American pre-war doctrine developed out of an isolationist policy that was primarily defensive. The B-17 had originally been designed to attack shipping at long range from U.S. bases. For this role it needed to be able to attack in daylight and used the advanced Norden bombsight to improve accuracy. As the bomber developed, more and more defensive armament was added to outgun the fighters it would face. In light of this heavy defensive firepower, the USAAC came to believe that tightly packed formations of B-17s would have so much firepower that they could fend off fighters on their own. In spite of evidence to the contrary from the RAF and Luftwaffe, this strategy was believed to be sound. When the U.S. entered the war they put this strategy into force, building up a strategic bomber force based in Britain.

Trial by Fire

The 8th Air Force started operations from Britain in August 1942. At first, because of the limited scale of operations, there was no conclusive evidence that the American doctrine was failing. In the 26 operations which had been flown to the end of 1942 the loss rate had been under 2%. This rate was better than the RAF's night efforts, and similar to the losses one would expect due to mechanical failure.

In January 1943, at the Casablanca Conference, the Allies formulated the Combined Bomber Offensive (CBO) plan for "round-the-clock" bombing by the RAF at night and the USAAF by day. In June 1943, the Combined Chiefs of Staff issued the Pointblank Directive to destroy the Luftwaffe before the invasion of Europe, putting the CBO into full implementation. Following this, the 8th Air Force's heavy bombers conducted a series of deep-penetration raids into Germany, beyond the range of escort fighters.

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. The Schweinfurt–Regensburg mission in August lost 60 B-17s of a force of 376, the October 14 attack lost 77 of a force of 291, 26% of the attacking force. Losses were so severe that long-range missions were called off.

The solution was understood - escorting fighters could break up attacks by fighters before they could reach the bombers. The Lockheed P-38 Lightning had the range to escort the bombers, but was only available in small numbers in the European theater due to its Allison engines proving difficult to maintain. It was also a very expensive aircraft to build and operate. The Republic P-47 Thunderbolt was capable of meeting the Luftwaffe on more than even terms, but did not at the time have sufficient range. The Luftwaffe quickly identified its maximum range, and their fighters waited for the bombers just beyond the point where the Thunderbolts had to turn Back.

P-51 Introduction

The P-51 Mustang was a solution to the clear need for an effective bomber escort. The Mustang was at least as simple as other aircraft of its era. It used a common, reliable engine and had internal space for a huge fuel load. With external fuel tanks, it could accompany the bombers all the way to Germany and Back. Enough P-51s became available to the 8th and 9th Air Forces in the winter of 1943–44. When the Pointblank offensive resumed in early 1944, matters changed dramatically. The P-51 proved perfect for escorting bombers all the way to the deepest targets. The Eighth Air Force began to switch its fighter groups to the Mustang, first exchanging arriving P-47 groups for those of the 9th Air Force using P-51s, then gradually converting its Thunderbolt and Lightning groups. The defense was initially layered, using the shorter range P-38s and P-47's to escort the bombers during the initial stages of the raid and then handing over to the P-51 when they turned for home. By the end of 1944, 14 of its 15 groups flew the Mustang.

The Luftwaffe initially adapted to the U.S. fighters by modifying their tactics, massing in front of the bombers and then attacking in a pass through the formation. Flying in close formation with the bombers, the P-51s had little time to react before the attackers were already running out of range. To better deal with the bombers, the Luftwaffe started increasing the armament on their fighters with heavy cannons. The additional weight decreased performance to the point where their aircraft were vulnerable if caught by the P-51s. At first, their defensive tactic was to avoid prolonged dogfights.

Destroying the Luftwaffe

General James Doolittle told the fighters in early 1944 to stop flying in formation with the bombers and instead attack the Luftwaffe wherever it could be found. The Mustang groups were sent in before the bombers, forming up well ahead of the bomber formations in an air superiority "fighter sweep" manner, and could hunt the German fighters while they were forming up. The results were astonishing the Luftwaffe lost 17% of its fighter pilots in just over a week. As Doolittle later noted, "Adolf Galland said that the day we took our fighters off the bombers and put them against the German fighters, that is, went from defensive to offensive, Germany lost the air war."

The Luftwaffe answer was the Gefechtsverband (battle formation). It consisted of a Sturmgruppe of heavily armed and armored Fw.190s escorted by two Begleitgruppen of light fighters, often Bf.109s, whose task was to keep the Mustangs away from the Fw.190s attacking the bombers. This scheme was excellent in theory but difficult to apply in practice. The large German formation took a long time to assemble and was difficult to maneuver. It was often intercepted by the escorting P-51s using the newer "fighter sweep" tactics out ahead of the heavy bomber formations, breaking up the Gefechtsverband formations before reaching the bombers when the Sturmgruppe worked, the effects were devastating. With their engines and cockpits heavily armored, the Fw.190s attacked from astern and gun camera films show that these attacks were often pressed to within 100 yds (90 m).

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.190s brought an urgency to attacking the Luftwaffe wherever it could be found. 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 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 gun sight 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 US, and later British, bombers was greatly diminished by July 1944. Reichmarshal 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."

Mopping Up

On 15 April 1944, VIII FC began Operation Jackpot, attacks on Luftwaffe fighter airfields. As the efficacy of these missions increased, the number of fighters at the German air bases fell to the point where they were no longer useful targets and on 21 May, targets were expanded to include railways, locomotives and rolling stock 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 like other fighters using liquid-cooled engines, the Mustang's coolant system could be punctured by small arms.

Given the overwhelming Allied air superiority, the Luftwaffe put its effort into the development of aircraft of such high performance that they could operate with impunity. Foremost among these were the Messerschmitt Me.163 Komet rocket interceptors and Messerschmitt Me.262 jet fighter. In action, the Me.163 proved to be more dangerous to the Luftwaffe than to the Allies and was never a serious threat. The Me.262 was, but attacks on their airfields neutralized them. The jet engines of the Me.262s needed careful nursing by their pilots and these aircraft were particularly vulnerable during takeoff and landing. Lt. Chuck Yeager of the 357th Fighter Group was one of the first American pilots to shoot down a Me.262 which he caught during its landing approach. On 7 October 1944, Lt. Urban Drew of the 365th Fighter Group shot down two Me.262s that were taking off, while on the same day Lt. Col. Hubert Zemke, 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.

The Mustang also proved useful against the V-1's 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 like advanced marks of the Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Tempest.

By 8 May 1945, the 8th, 9th and 15th Air Force'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 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 Ninth Air Force's 354th Fighter Group with 664, which made it one of the top scoring fighter groups. Martin Bowman reports that in the European Theater of Operations, Mustangs flew 213,873 sorties and lost 2,520 aircraft to all causes. The top Mustang ace was the USAAF's George Preddy, whose final tally stood at 26.333, 23 scored with the P-51, when he was shot down and killed by friendly fire on Christmas Day 1944 during the Battle of the Bulge.

In China and the Pacific Theater

In 1943, P-51B joined the American Volunteer Group. In early 1945, P-51C, D and K variants also joined the Chinese Nationalist Air Force. 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 used the Ki-84 Hayate against it.

The P-51 was a relative latecomer to the Pacific Theater. This was due largely to the need for the aircraft in Europe, although the P-38s twin-engine 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: eventually, with the capture of Iwo Jima, it was able to be used as a bomber escort during B-29 missions against the Japanese homeland.

The P-51 was often mistaken for the Japanese Ki-61 Hien in both China and Pacific because of its similar appearance.

Expert Opinions

Chief Naval Test Pilot and C.O. Captured Enemy Aircraft Flight Capt. Eric Brown, CBE, DSC, AFC, RN, tested the Mustang at RAE Farnborough in March 1944, and noted, "The Mustang was a good fighter and the best escort due to its incredible range, make no mistake about it. It was also the best American dogfighter. But the laminar flow wing fitted to the Mustang could be a little tricky. It could not by no means out-turn a Spitfire. No way. It had a good rate-of-roll, better than the Spitfire, so I would say the plusses to the Spitfire and the Mustang just about equate. If I were in a dogfight, I'd prefer to be flying the Spitfire. The problem was I wouldn't like to be in a dogfight near Berlin, because I could never get home to Britain in a Spitfire!"

Luftwaffe Experten were confident that they could outmaneuver the P-51 in a dogfight. Kurt Bühligen, the third-highest scoring German fighter pilot of the Second World War on the Western Front, with 112 victories, later recalled that "We would out-turn the P-51 and the other American fighters, with the (Bf) '109' or the (Fw) '190'. Their turn rate was about the same. The P-51 was faster than us but our munitions and cannon were better."

Post-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-engine 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 and P-84) jet fighters were introduced, the P-51 was also relegated to secondary duties.

In 1947, the newly-formed USAF Strategic Air Command employed Mustangs alongside F-6 Mustangs and F-82 Twin Mustangs, 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 (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-6D's). 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 (AFRES) and the Air National Guard (ANG).

From the start of the 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, and the Republic of Korea Air Force (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. Because of 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 (USN) Grumman F9F Panthers. Other air forces and units using the Mustang included the Royal Australian Air Force's (RAAF)'s 77 Squadron, which flew Australian-built Mustangs as part of British Commonwealth Forces Korea. The Mustangs were replaced by Gloster Meteor F.8s in 1951. The South African Air Force's (SAAF)'s 2 Squadron used U.S. built Mustangs as part of the U.S. 18th Fighter Bomber Wing, 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 and Air National Guard throughout the 1950's. The last American USAF Mustang was F-51D-30-NA (AF 44-74936), which was finally withdrawn from service with the West Virginia Air National Guard in late 1956 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, Florida, on 6 May 1957. This aircraft, painted as P-51D-15-NA (AF 44-15174), is on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson AFB, in Dayton, Ohio,

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 (MAP). These aircraft were remanufactured from existing original F-51D airframes but were fitted with new V-1650-7 engines, a new radio fit, tall F-51H-type vertical tails, and a stronger wing that could carry six 0.50 in (13 mm) machine guns and a total of eight underwing hardpoints. Two 1,000 lb (454 kg) bombs and six 5 in (127 mm) 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 (AF 67-14862/14866, AF 67-22579/22582 and AF 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 (AF 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 as chase planes. They were assigned the serials AF 68-15795 and AF 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 (AF 68-15795) was fitted with a 106 mm recoilless rifle for evaluation of the weapon's value in attacking fortified ground targets. Cavalier Mustang (AF 68-15796) survives at the Air Force Armament Museum, Eglin AFB, 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-1980's with smaller air arms. The last Mustang ever downed in battle occurred during Operation Power Pack in the Dominican Republic in 1965, with the last aircraft finally being retired by the Dominican Air Force (FAD) in 1984.

Non-U.S. service

After World War II, the P-51 Mustang served in the air arms of more than 55 nations. During wartime, a Mustang cost about $51,000 dollars, while many hundreds were sold postwar for the nominal price of one dollar to the American countries that signed the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, ratified in Rio de Janeiro in 1947. Following is a list of some of the countries that used the P-51 Mustang.

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. By this time, the Australian government had also decided to order Australian-built Mustangs, to replace its Curtiss Kittyhawks and CAC Boomerangs in the South West Pacific theater. The Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC) factory at Fishermans Bend, Melbourne was the only non-U.S. production line for the P-51.

In 1944, 100 P-51Ds were shipped from the U.S. in kit form to inaugurate production. From February 1945, CAC assembled 80 of these under the designation CA-17 Mustang Mark 20, with the first one being handed over to the RAAF on 4 June 1945. The remaining 20 were kept unassembled as spare parts. In addition, 84 P-51Ks were also shipped directly to the RAAF from the USA.

In late 1946 CAC was given another contract to build 170 (reduced to 120) more P-51Ds on its own these, designated CA-18 Mustang Mark 21, Mark 22 or Mark 23, were manufactured entirely in-house, with only a few components being sourced from overseas. The 21 and 22 used the American-built Packard V-1650-3 or V-1650-7. The Mark 23's, which followed the 21's, were powered by Rolls-Royce Merlin 66 or Merlin 70 engines. The first 26 were built as Mark 21's, followed by 66 Mark 23's the first 14 Mark 21's were converted to fighter-reconnaissance aircraft, with two F24 cameras in both vertical and oblique positions in the rear fuselage, above and behind the radiator fairing the designation of these modified Mustangs was changed from Mark 21 to Mark 22. An additional 14 purpose-built Mark 22s, built after the Mark 23's, and powered by either Packard V-1650-7's or Merlin 68s, completed the production run. All of the CA-17s and CA-18's, plus the 84 P-51Ks, used Australian serial numbers prefixed by A68.,/p>

3 Squadron was renumbered 4 Squadron after returning to Australia from Italy and converted to CAC-built Mustangs. Several other Australian or Pacific based squadrons converted to P-51s from July 1945, having been equipped with P-40's 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 (BCAIR) which was part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF) stationed in Japan from February 1946. 77 Squadron used its P-51s extensively during the first years of the Korean War, before converting to Gloster Meteor jets.

Five reserve units from the Citizen Air Force (CAF) also operated Mustangs. 21 "City of Melbourne" Squadron, based in the state of Victoria 22 "City of Sydney" Squadron, based in New South Wales 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. The last Mustangs were retired from these units in 1960 when CAF units adopted a non-flying role.

In October 1953, six Mustangs, including A68-1, the first Australian built CA-17 Mk.20, were allotted to the Long Range Weapons Development Establishment at Maralinga, South Australia, for use in experiments to gauge the effects of low-yield nuclear atomic bombs. The Mustangs were placed on a dummy airfield about 0.62 mi (1 km) from the blast tower on which two low-yield bombs were detonated. The Mustangs survived intact. In 1967, A68-1 was bought by a U.S. syndicate, for restoration to flight status and is currently owned by Troy Sanders.

Nine Cavalier F-51D (including the two TF-51s) were given to Bolivia, under a program called Peace Condor.

Canada had five squadrons equipped with Mustangs during World War II. RCAF 400, 414 and 430 squadrons flew Mustang Mk.I's (1942-1944), and 441 and 442 Squadrons flew Mustang Mk.III's and Mk.IVs in 1945. Postwar, a total of 150 Mustang P-51Ds were 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 1960's.

The P-51 firstly joined the Chinese Nationalist Air Force during the late Sino-Japanese War to fight against the Japanese. After the war Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist government used the planes against insurgent Communist forces. The Nationalists retreated to Taiwan in 1949. Pilots supporting Chiang brought most of the Mustangs with them, where the aircraft became part of the island's defence arsenal. Taiwan subsequently acquired additional Mustangs from the USAF and other sources. Some Mustangs remained on the mainland, captured by Communist forces when the Nationalists left.

Historical Snapshot

Once the standard long-range, high-altitude escort fighter for the U.S. Air Force, the North American Aviation P-82 Twin Mustang was the climax of the famous World War II P-51 Mustang series.

North American produced 250 of the double-fuselage airplanes for the Air Force, embracing three versions of the Twin Mustang then in service, the P-82E, P-82F and P-82G. They were ordered too late for World War II, however.

The versatile P-82 made it potentially adaptable to a wide variety of roles&mdashfighter, long-range escort, long-range reconnaissance aircraft, night fighter, attack bomber, rocket fighter and interceptor.

With a speed of more than 475 mph (764 kph), the Twin Mustang had a combat range of more than 1,600 miles (2,574 kilometers) with full armament. Range could be extended by use of external drop tanks on the wings.

A radical departure from the conventional single-fuselage airplane, the Twin Mustang was formed by two fuselages joined by the wing and the horizontal stabilizer. With a pilot in each fuselage, it reduced the problem of pilot fatigue on ultra-long-range missions. The P-82F and G models carried a radar operator in the right cockpit instead of a co-pilot.

Both engine throttles and both propellers were controllable from either cockpit by manually operated levers. The pilot's cockpit on the left contained the normal flight and engine instruments, while the co-pilot on the right had sufficient instruments for relief and emergency operation. A simplified cockpit arrangement improved pilot comfort, including a tilting, adjustable seat to reduce fatigue during long flights.

The Mach 1 Whodunit

If you think Chuck Yeager, flying the Bell XS-1 on October 14, 1947, was the first pilot to fly faster than the speed of sound, you are absolutely right. If you are among those who believe that George Welch, flying the North American XP-86, beat Yeager to the punch—you are, I can say with conviction, wrong. I say it not only with conviction but with a little chagrin. In our December 1998/January 1999 issue, we published an excerpt from the book Aces Wild: The Race for Mach 1, which tells the story of Welch’s flights in the XP-86, the prototype of the formidable F-86 Sabre. That excerpt helped spread the story that during the XP-86’s maiden flight, on October 1, 1947, Welch became the first past Mach 1, even though we added an editor’s note reading: “Yeager was able to claim an official record because all airspeed, Mach number, pressure, and temperature data from test flights were tracked, recorded, and documented.… [C]laims that the North American XP-86 achieved Mach 1 are merely anecdotal.” In the 15 years since that article appeared, those “anecdotal” claims have spread to books, magazine articles, and dozens of websites.

Aces Wild is a colorful portrait of post-World War II flight research, important for what it reveals about the era and place in which flight first went supersonic. The author, the late Al Blackburn, wasn’t there when pilots were attempting to break the sound barrier. Though a test pilot with North American Aviation, he didn’t join the company until 1954, but he portrayed the culture and personalities so vividly, readers feel as though they were there in the Mojave Desert in 1947.

The excerpt that appeared in Air & Space is a novelized account, complete with concocted dialogue, of Welch’s alleged Mach-busting flight and the reactions to it. But even Blackburn doesn’t insist that Welch did it before Yeager. In the book’s introduction, Blackburn gives readers a wink: “We know for certain that North American test pilot George Welch took the Sabre supersonic prior to November 13, 1947. Whether this occurred before the X-1’s historic flight of October 14, readers of the narrative may decide for themselves.”

Before making that decision, read the cover story of the British magazine Aviation Classics, issue 9, published on March㺘, 2011. The author, Duncan Curtis, notes that throughout the XP-86’s first flight, Welch struggled with the landing gear. Curtis quotes from the North American report to the Air Force, which describes Welch’s attempts to get the main landing gear up and, later, the nose gear down. (Welch was ultimately able to land safely.) Since the gear problem appeared immediately after takeoff, Curtis concludes that Welch had no opportunity to dive for Machف. For the next few tests, North American decided it would be safer to fly the XP-86 with the gear locked down, creating too much drag for Mach-busting. The next time the aircraft flew with the gear retracted was after Yeager had taken the X-1 supersonic (the Air Force dropped the “S” from the aircraft designation in 1948).

Blackburn’s other contention—“we know for certain” that Welch flew the XP-86 faster than Mach 1 before November㺍, 1947—is also controversial. Robert W. Kempel, a retired NASA flight test engineer who worked on the lifting bodies and the Highly Maneuverable Advanced Technology (HiMAT) vehicle, among other programs, doesn’t believe that the XP-86’s engine at the time, the J35, produced enough power to push the airplane past Machف. (Legendary pilot Bob Hoover, who flew chase on the first XP-86 flight, also doubts it.) Kempel’s reason: As an airplane approaches the speed of sound, shock waves form around it, producing wave drag, which disrupts the airflow around the airplane. In his book The Race for Mach 1, Kempel does the math: “At a Mach number of 0.929, at about 624 mph, [the XP-86] had overcome only about 18 percent of the airplane’s peak drag-rise. The climb was just beginning.”

North American Aviation aerodynamicist Ed Horkey, who witnessed the first XP-86 flight, disagreed about the J35’s limitations. In a speech he made in 1994 to the F-86 Sabre Pilots Association, he said that Welch hit Mach 1.02 on October 19, 1947, and that the speed was determined from tracking technology used by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics.

In the records of the National Archives, I found a reason to doubt Horkey’s recollection. One report indicates that the NACA didn’t help collect data on the XP-86 until January 1948. According to the report, North American worried that shock waves could be forming around the sensor on the XP-86’s wingtip boom, making the pressure measurements erroneous. To help the team correct the readings, the NACA performed calibrations, and the report, based on eight flights made between January 19 and February㺍, 1948, concludes, “The maximum Mach number obtained to date during descent from high altitudes (35-40,000 ft) and corrected negatively, as indicated above, is 0.937.”

The official Air Force position is that the XP-86 first passed Mach 1 in a dive on April 26, 1948. The achievement was not acknowledged at the time the Air Force had classified the flight test data on military aircraft, just as it had classified the X-1 program. Today, no one can find records documenting the flight, so details such as which engine the XP-86 used are lost. Was it the original J35, or, as Robert Kempel believes, an improved engine?

Duncan Curtis is convinced the J35 could power the XP-86 to climb the mountain to Mach 1 as proof, he offers the testimony of Roland Beamont, a Royal Air Force test pilot who is as famous in the U.K. as Chuck Yeager is in the U.S. In his autobiography, Testing Years, Beamont quotes from the report he submitted after the single flight he made in an XP-86, on May 21, 1948: “After zoom-climbing back to about 36,500 ft a steeper max power dive was made from 36,000 ft and, according to the M[ach]-meter, unity [Mach 1] or a little over was reached at 29,000 ft, partially trimmed with a slight lateral roll in evidence and with some minor buffeting at the tail.” Though Beamont complained about its “slow acceleration and deceleration and oversensitivity to throttle movement at all altitudes,” the engine that powered his flight was the J35.

In the National Archives, I found more evidence suggesting that the J35-powered XP-86 could have made it to Mach 1. In the final collection of flight reports North American submitted to the Air Force, company engineers hint that George Welch flew the XP-86 past Mach 1 on November 19, 1947, and again two days later. “The report [does] not present information [for flights] at Mach numbers above .919 in order that this report may be classified as confidential and be available to the majority of parties interested. (Data classified as secret [a higher level of security] will be presented in Appendix form under separate cover….)” In Progress Report 10, the company presents data “in accordance with the maximum Mach 1.0 limit.” Under the Air Force classification rule, North American couldn’t make the documentation of a Mach 1 flight public. So where is the “data classified as secret”?

In Aces Wild, Blackburn writes that the North American Aviation records were loaded on rail cars for transfer to the U.S. Air Force. At the Air Force Test Center at Edwards, Wade Scogram of the history office says those documents were shipped to the Air Force Historical Research Agency at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. Do the agency’s 70 million pages of records include that top-secret appendix? When I asked about it, archivist Archangelo Difante checked the accessioned collection and found no flight reports.

If an XP-86 broke the sound barrier before the April date in the official Air Force histories, the record of that flight is gone.

In 2009, when he was the U.S. Air Force historian, Richard Hallion, the author of several books about test pilots and the history of supersonic flight, looked into the controversy over the first Mach 1 flight and wrote in a letter to the president of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots: “I have never seen any record or indication that George Welch, prior to his tragic death in a F-100 inertial coupling accident, ever publicly claimed in any forum (or, so far as I know, to anyone at all) that he exceeded Mach 1 prior to Chuck Yeager.”

Between the top secrecy surrounding early supersonic flight and the Air Force’s bad record-keeping, it’s still unclear if the J35-powered XP-86 got past Machف. There is no doubt that the X-1 did. Robert Kempel undertook his study in part to rebut recent challenges to the X-1’s accomplishment. “As I read Blackburn’s book, to me there was a thread of negativism toward the X-1 and Yeager,” he says. In Aces Wild, Blackburn makes fun of the X-1 team’s slow, steady pace, contrasting it to the XP-86 group’s swift, daring progress. But the rocketplane’s program engineers, intent on setting the stage for future flight research, gathered data carefully. “I knew those people on the X-1 program, and I knew how hard they worked,” says Kempel. “I didn’t get [to Edwards] until 1960, but those are the people who inspired me to go.”

If North American’s classified data ever shows up—and we’ll keep looking—it could prove that the XP-86 reached Machف on November 19, 1947. And that would finally convince doubters that Yeager was first…but not by much.

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Super-Rare XP-82 Twin Mustang Flies Again After Decade-Long Restoration

After ten years and over 200,000 man-hours, the two-headed warbird finally takes to the skies.

Of the five Twin Mustangs left in the world, two are on display in the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. Another is a gate guard at Lackland AFB in Texas. One is currently undergoing restoration. And one&mdashjust one&mdashis, at long last, ready to fly.

More than a decade of labor and an untold amount of money has gone into the restoration of airframe 44-83887 under the leadership of master aircraft restorer Tom Reilly of Douglas, Georgia. This Monday, New Year's Eve, Reilly's ultra-rare XP-82 made history and took to the skies for the first time in decades, becoming the only airworthy Twin Mustang in the world.

The F-82 aircraft, originally designated P-82, was developed as a long-range bomber escort for World War II that could fly beyond the range of the available P-51 Mustang and P-38 Lightning. Powered by a pair of Rolls Royce Merlin counter-rotating engines and based loosely on the P-51H, the F-82 was to accompany the B-29 Superfortress on missions longer than 2,000 miles.

By the time the Twin Mustang was ready to serve, though, the war was coming to an end. The U.S. Air Force would eventually accept 272 of these planes, and some saw action in the Korean War. Only 22 Twin Mustangs would be built with two fully equipped cockpits so the crew could alternate control on long flights. (Later, fighter versions would remove the conventional cockpit on the right side in favor of airborne radar operations equipment).

The Twin Mustang's heyday ended before it really got started. Most were retired in the early 1950s, and those planes were slowly cannibalized until the lack of spare parts made it impossible to keep the remaining airframes flying. The cool planes got rarer and rarer until just five remained, including the one that would become Tom Reilly's passion.

His particular airframe had a remarkable history even before the extensive decade-long restoration. Starting life as the second of two 1945 XP-82 prototypes, it went to the Army Air Force for use in official performance testing. After successful testing. it was transferred to the National Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), the forerunner of NASA, where it became a testbed for high-altitude flight.

On February 1950, while testing an experimental ramjet, the airplane received substantial damage after sliding off the runway during landing. The story could've ended there, with the plane finding its final resting place at a boneyard in the middle of Ohio. Instead, the aircraft was later cut in half, with the right fuselage and wing delivered to the Air Force for destructive testing.

When Tom stumbled across the partial Twin Mustang while doing an appraisal in Ohio, he knew it might well be his only chance to restore such an elusive specimen. And so the project began. He scrounged parts for a second set of controls while fabricating an entire wing and fuselage to replace the missing half of an airplane.

And all that seemed like a simple task compared to sourcing a left-turning Rolls Royce V-12 Merlin engine. One turned up in a shed in Mexico City. Its provenance is a mystery to this day. Another happy accident was locating the unique canopy, which was found in the possession of a woman in Tampa, for some reason.

Fast forward to New Year&rsquos Eve 2018, when a fairly straightforward taxi test accidentally turns into a historic first flight. Test pilot Ray Fowler originally planned to perform only high-speed ground runs required for certification. But the extraordinary power-to-weight ratio of the Twin Mustang created a scenario in which the aircraft would not have room to stop. Without hesitation, Fowler advanced the throttle and proceeded to fly the aircraft. While only lasting about five minutes, the flight resulted in zero airframe issues and normal engine temperatures and pressures.

To be awarded official FAA approval, the airplane will need to garner a total of 15 hours test-flight time. So keep an eye out throughout the year. You may catch a glimpse of this one-of-a-kind airplane at an airshow near you.


The North American International Auto Show announced the show has been placed on pause for 2021. Instead, an auto-centric event, Motor Bella, will be held at M1 Concourse, Pontiac, MI, in September 2021. This new event will bring next-generation mobility and exciting vehicle debuts to media, show-goers and the automotive enthusiasts’ world in a never before experienced way while also addressing continued COVID-19 concerns about indoor events.

  • PRESS / 9.21-9.22
  • AUTOMOBILI-D / 9.21-9.22
  • INDUSTRY / 9.21-9.22
  • PUBLIC / 9.23-9.26

The Soplata Airplane Sanctuary

DESPITE HIS HUMBLE BEGINNINGS as the penniless son of Czech immigrants, my father, Walter Soplata, amassed an extraordinary collection of warbirds. He grew up fascinated by airplanes during the Great Depression, using whatever money he could scrape up to build balsa model aircraft. When World War II broke out, a stutter disqualified him from military service.

From This Story

Over the years, the family's property in Newbury, Ohio, became the stuff of legends. (Jim Harley)

Photo Gallery

Dad took a job in a Cleveland, Ohio scrapyard, junking thousands of warplane engines that were suddenly declared surplus. In this job, he foresaw the near extinction of the nation’s historic aircraft. He felt he had to take action.

On land in Newbury, east of Cleveland, he began his airplane collection in 1947 with a late-1920s American Eagle biplane. A Vultee BT-15 trainer was next, and then in the early 1950s the big iron: a Vought/Goodyear FG-1D Corsair followed by another but much rarer F2G Corsair. The second Corsair, with an experimental brute-power R-4360 engine, had taken first place in the 1947 Cleveland National Air Races. My father went for the rare types: a prototype North American XP-82 Twin Mustang, then an F-82E Twin Mustang with Allison engines, an early Jet Age Chance-Vought F7U Cutlass, and a prototype of the Douglas AD Skyraider series.

In the early 1950s, my parents had four daughters and me, the only child who would pursue a career in aviation. I started in general aviation, then became an Air Force pilot and, later, an airline pilot. I cut my teeth on a twin-engine T-50 Cessna Bobcat—the type Sky King flew in the early years of the eponymous TV series—that I helped my father dismantle and haul by trailer in 1961. But of all the aircraft we dragged home, I recall most clearly a down-and-out B-25: my father’s first bomber.

One day in 1964, Dad and I were glued to our black-and-white TV set watching Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, in which Spencer Tracy played Jimmy Doolittle leading 16 B-25 crews from the deck of the USS Hornet to bomb Japan. Dad was like a kid excited by a commercial for a toy he just had to have. He wanted a B-25.

When you consider that our home was constructed primarily of lumber from warbird engine crates discarded at a smelter where he’d worked a few years earlier, it was amazing he could think such a thing. That job had provided a meager income, and then he turned to carpentry. The housing market proved sporadic, but Dad had nonetheless managed to start an airplane collection that was already impressive. My sisters and I had the perfect clubhouse: a Fairchild C-82 Boxcar fuselage like the one in the original Flight of the Phoenix movie.

Dad rarely paid more than a few hundred bucks for an airplane. In the early 1960s, a warbird’s price was usually determined by whatever its weight would bring at the scrapyard. Regardless of our dismal financial situation, when Dad pined for a particular treasure, it was likely he would get one. Sure enough, before long a visitor touring Dad’s collection had a tip.

“There’s a B-25 down at Lunken Airport in Cincinnati that made a gear-up belly landing a few years ago,” he said. “I heard they’re going to cut it up and scrap it soon.”

Scrapped? To Dad, the thought was unbearable. He tracked down the owner who was going to scrap the B-25 and convinced the man to sell it to him for $500.

Now Dad faced the problem of getting the airplane home without destroying it. Since none of the aircraft Dad acquired was flyable, each one had to be hauled on a highway, so the size of each aircraft was a major consideration. Most of the airplanes he hauled were fighters or trainers—relatively small. Even though the B-25 was much smaller than, say, a B-17, it was still a big airplane.

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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. [124] 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. [125] 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, and Loehle 5151 Mustang. [126]

Watch the video: Faszination Wasser. Ganze Folge Terra X (July 2022).


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