DescriptionThe 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 1940 by North American Aviation (NAA) 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 (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 was rolled out on 9 September 1940, 102 days after the contract was signed, and first flew on 26 October.
At the start of the Korean War, the Mustang, by then redesignated F-51, was the main fighter of the United Nations 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.
Mustangs in the RAAF
The Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC) built two models of the Mustang for the RAAF.-
- CA-17 First Mustang production contract; 80 assembled from imported components (c/nos. 1326–1405, 1326–1345 also assigned North American c/nos. NA110-34366 to -34385).
- CA-18 Second Mustang production contract; 120 built, production of a further 50 cancelled (c/nos. 1406–1525).
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 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 jets.
Five reserve units from the Citizen Air Force 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; 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.8
For the P-51 story, click here.
- 1 crew.
- 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)
- Empty Weight:
- 3567 kg (7863 lb)
- loaded 4763 kg (10 500 lb).
- Fuel Capacity:
- 419 US gal (349 imp gal; 1,590 l)
- The Mk 21 and Mk 22 used the American-built Packard V-1650-3 or V-1650-7 engine and the Mk 23 (which followed the Mk 21) was powered by a Rolls-Royce Merlin 66 or Merlin 70 engine.
- Maximum speed: 440 mph (708 km/h; 382 kn)
- Cruise Speed:
- 362 mph (583 km/h; 315 kn)
- Stall Speed:
- 100 mph (161 km/h; 87 kn)
- 1,650 mi (1,434 nmi; 2,655 km) with external tanks
- Rate of Climb:
- 3,200 ft/min (16 m/s)