The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia
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U.S. Air Force
North American P-51D
by 32’2.5” by
11.29m by 9.82m by 3.71m
|Wing area||233 square feet
21.6 square meters
|Maximum speed||440 mph (708 km/h) at 30,000
feet (9100 meters)
427 mph (687 km/h) at 20,000 feet (6100 meters)
388 mph (624 km/h) at 5000 feet (1500 meters)
|Cruise speed||343-244 mph
|Landing speed||100 mph
|Climb rate||48 feet per second
14.6 meters per second
|Service ceiling||41,800 feet
|Power plant||1 1620 hp (1208 kW) Packard-Merlin V-1650-3 engine driving a four bladed propeller.|
|Armament||6 0.50 Browning
MG53-2 fixed wing machine guns with 270 or 400 rounds each
|External stores||2 1000lb (454 kg) bombs, drop tanks, or rockets|
|Range||850 miles (1370 km) normal
1650 miles (2660 km) with drop tanks
(569 gallons with three drop tanks)
1420 liters (2154 liters with three drop tanks)
|Production||15,586 of all types to 11/45 at North American Aviation Incorporated, Inglewood CA and Dallas, TX, including:|
|1731||P-51A and other early models|
|200||Australian-built (Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation) P-51D/K equivalents known as Mark 20 through Mark 23, mostly produced postwar|
The P-51A used a 1200 hp (895 kW) V-1710-81
armed with 4 0.50 machine
The P-51B introduced the Packard engine.
The P-51C added two additional wing 0.50 machine guns. but lacked the bubble canopy and fuel capacity of the P-51D.
The P-51K was very similar to the D.
The A-36 Apache was a fighter-bomber
version with dive brakes. It saw limited service in Burma.
The P-51H was a lightweight version whose Merlin V-1650-9 engine had a war emergency boosted power of 2218 hp (1654 kW). It could reach a speed of 487 mph (784 km/h) at 15,000 feet (4600m). However, its range was reduced to 1160 miles (1870 km) with drop tanks.
Only the D and H models saw service in the Pacific.
With its great speed, maneuverability, and range, the P-51D Mustang was perhaps the finest fighter of the war. It gained its performance from a revolutionary laminar-flow wing and a Packard-built version of the excellent British Merlin engine. (Early versions of the Mustang, equipped with an Allison engine, were underpowered.) The bubble canopy used on later versions such as the P-51D provided excellent visibility.
The aircraft was designed to meet an urgent April 1940 British
requirement and the prototype was developed under a crash program,
first flying on 26 October 1940. Employed in the tactical reconnaissance role by the
British, the aircraft was found to lack high-altitude performance and
did not catch the eye of the U.S. Army Air Force until after war broke
out in the Pacific. The first American units, designated F-6A, were
used for photoreconnaissance, and additional units were ordered as the
A-36 Apache dive bomber.
These saw some success in North Africa.
The notion of mating an engine with better high-altitude performance
to the Mustang airframe was hit on almost simultaneously by Britain (in
October 1942) and the United States (in November). The results were
impressive, and the U.S. ordered quantity production starting in June
1943 as the P-51B. The definitive P-51D differed in some details of the
fuselage and in the use of the bubble canopy. The P-51D also had
increased fuel capacity, giving it its
The Mustang was the only fighter with the range to
bombers on their raids over Japan.
However, the combat record of the Mustang in this theater was not
nearly as outstanding as in the European theater. In return for
destroying 221 Japanese aircraft, the Mustangs suffered 114 combat
losses, 43 operational losses, and 107 lost pilots. Given the toughness of
the Superfortresses and the weakness of Japanese air defenses at this
stage of the war, this exchange rate is difficult to justify. The long
flights were so stressful on pilots
that they were rotated home after
as few as 15 missions, and it became customary to change all the spark
plugs out of the engines after every escort mission due to fouling
during the long, low-RPM cruises.
28% of Mustang squadrons were deployed to the Pacific.
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