The North American P-51 “Mustang” was a single-engine, air-superiority fighter and bomber escort which served the Army Air Corps during World War II in all theaters. It is one of only two aircraft to have been named after an animal. The name comes from its resemblance to the head and neck movements of a horse when it gallops. It has also been called the “Flying Horse” or “Horseman of the Skies” because of this characteristic movement.

Why is the P51 called a Mustang? When the P-51 entered service in 1942 , it became known by its nickname “Mustang”. It was named after the horse breed because the first prototype looked like one.

In addition to its military service, the Mustang saw extensive use as civilian transport for many years following WWII.

North American P-51D-30-NA Mustang (A19600300000) at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. Photo taken by Mark Avino. Photo taken on April 25. 2017. (P-51D_0005) (A19600300000-NASM2018-10347)

North American P-51D-30-NA Mustang (A19600300000) at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. Photo taken by Mark Avino. Photo taken on April 25. 2017. (P-51D_0005) (A19600300000-NASM2018-10347)

P-51 “Mustang” name

Why is the P-51 called a Mustang ? The name “Mustang” was given to this aircraft by its first pilot, Lieutenant Colonel John W. Mitchell of the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1935. He named it after his favorite horse and because he thought that the plane’s performance would be similar to that of an unbroken thoroughbred racehorse. In fact, the P-51 had been designed as a fighter/bomber for use against ground targets but proved so versatile that it became one of the most important American.

Who built the P-51 Mustang?

North American P-51 Mustang

North American P-51 Mustang: Credits

When World War II began, Henry Ford had already begun building airplanes. He wanted to make sure his workers could build planes as well as cars. To help them learn how to build planes, he sent many of his employees to flight schools. These people learned about airplane construction while working under supervision. Henry Ford used these same techniques to train other factory workers.

His training program produced some of America’s best pilots.

There were two different models of P-51 made by Ford Motor Company. One was called the “A” series and the other was called the “B”. Both types served throughout World War Two. They differed mainly in minor details.

In 1942, the U.S. Army purchased 1,200 B-series Mustangs from Ford. These were designated P-51Bs. Later, the British Purchasing Commission acquired 300 more P-51Bs. This group became known as the RAF’s No. 151 Squadron.

German Luftwaffe P- 51 D

After Germany surrendered at Stalingrad in February 1943, Hitler decided to use every available airplane against the Soviets. At least 10,000 obsolete fighters were pressed into service. The Luftwaffe also received some newer P-51As from the USAAF.

These included the following units:

• Jagdgeschwader 54

• JG 26, based near Berlin

• Fliegerstaffel 511.

All three groups flew mostly single seaters. Only a few twin engine P-51Ds existed.

The German Luftwaffe P-51 D didn’t capture any intact P-51s. There were only 2,000 built total, and most of them were destroyed in combat. Most of the others were lost due to accidents or crashed into mountainsides.

Some of the pilots who flew the P-51D were former members of the Royal Netherlands Air Force. Dutch pilot Hans van den Broek piloted a P-51D named De Ruyter until its crash landing in 1944. Van den Broek later joined the Luftwaffes elite squadron, Jagdverband 44.

What were the major components of the P-51 Mustang?

1) Engine : This engine generated 1,500 hp at 1350 rpm. Its maximum speed was 575 mph.

2) Wingspan: 51 feet 6 inches long; wing area: 971 sq ft.

3) Length: 42 feet 8 inches; height: 12 feet 4 inches; weight: 3,200 lb.

4) Wing loading: 0.63 lbs./sq foot

5) Maximum ceiling: 40,000 ft.

6) Armament: Two 20 mm Hispano cannon mounted on either side of the fuselage. One gun fired forward and the other aft. Each gun weighed 2 pounds. They each held 100 rounds of ammunition.

7) Fuel capacity: 7 gallons.

8) Range: 500 miles with full fuel tanks.

9) Service life: 10 hours per tankful of gas.

10) Crew: Pilot, co-pilot, navigator, radio operator, engineer, bombardier, tailgunner, mechanic, etc.

11) Cost: $12,400-$14,600 depending upon options selected.

How did the P-51 compare to previous fighters?

It was faster than any existing Allied fighter.

Eighth Air Force bomber operations 1942–1943

By mid-1942, Eighth Air Force had been formed. It consisted of four bombardment wings that operated out of England. Their mission was to attack enemy targets deep within Europe.

They used modified Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bombers for their missions. In addition to bombing runs, they would escort American bombers over occupied France and Belgium.

The first unit assigned to Eighth Air Force was the 50th Bombardment Group. By late 1942, it had become operational.

This group began flying heavy raids across Occupied Europe. On December 11, 1942, this unit attacked an airfield outside Paris.

The World War Two Battle of the Atlantic

During 1939–45, the Allies fought two wars. These were known as the European Theater, which lasted from September 1939 through May 1945, and the Pacific Theater. PT started when Japan invaded China in 1937.

In 1941, the Japanese launched attacks on Pearl Harbor and Guam. After these events, America entered WWII.

During WWI, Britain and France declared war on Germany in August 1914. However, neither country sent troops overseas. Instead, both countries relied heavily on volunteers.

The Battle of the Atlantic involved naval warfare between Nazi Germany and Great Britain during WW II. The battle took place along the North Sea coast of Western Europe.

Air Combats

The P-51B was the original variant of the Mustang. Introduced in 1942, it featured a Pratt & Whitney R-2800 radial piston engine rated at 300 hp. It carried two.50 caliber machine guns mounted in the forward cockpit.

The B model was initially armed with four 20 mm Hispano cannon firing through the floor of the rear cockpit. Later variants added additional armament consisting of six 0.30 cal Brownings in each side gun bay.factories, airfields, railroads, bridges, harbors, shipyards, oil refineries, power plants, radar stations, and military installations.

They carried out their missions using medium bombers like the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and Consolidated B-24 Liberators.

The D version retained the same basic structure as previous models, although some minorsuch as modifications were made to improve handling characteristics. These improvements included a redesigned rudder surface, modified elevator trim tab, and a slightly longer vertical stabilizer.

P-51 Mustang’s efficiency

Why was the P-51 Mustang so good? It was fast! At speeds up to 400 mph, the P-51 could outrun any German fighters at the time. Its top speed of 450 mph made it faster than many bombers. And with a range of 1,000 miles, it could escort Allied bomber formations deep into enemy territory without refueling.

The P-51 also had excellent maneuverability thanks to its low wing loading – only 2.5 lb per square foot compared to 6 lbs on other planes. This allowed pilots to turn sharply while still maintaining altitude control.

It was easy to fly: The P-51 used automatic controls which meant no need for constant attention from the pilot. A single lever controlled everything needed to keep the plane flying straight or turning.

Its rugged construction included thick steel tubing and aluminum skinning. The fuselage was covered with plywood instead of fabric to reduce drag.

American Fighter Pilots The P-51 was built using standardized parts and assembly techniques. All components were interchangeable between different models. For example, if you replaced the engine, propeller, landing gear, wings, etc., they would fit every model.

This standardization helped make production more efficient. By 1944, over 100,000 Mustangs had been produced.

Aircraft design began in 1917 with the Wright Brothers’ Flyer I.

P-51 Mustangs were built under license in Japan and Germany. They differed mainly in their engines. Japanese versions used Rolls Royce Merlin engines, whereas Luftwaffe models used BMW 003s. Both types were capable of producing more power than the original engine.

Inefficiencies of the P-51 Mustang

However, they lacked reliability due to poor quality materials and manufacturing techniques.

The enemy could shoot at it. The Mustang was too slow to intercept incoming enemy raids before they reached friendly airfields. Another weakness was that the Mustang was vulnerable to flak guns mounted on ships and tanks.

The Mustang was difficult to land safely if you ran out of gas.

Another problem with the Mustang was its poor performance compared to German fighters like the Fw 190. The Mustang’s top speed was only around 400 mph whereas the Fw190 had a top speed of around 450mph. The Mustang was also less maneuverable than the Fw 190.

In addition, both designs – P51 B and P51 D – suffered from problems such as excessive vibration and high fuel consumption. The Mustang was its high fuel consumption. This meant that it needed frequent refueling. It also caused the engine to overheat easily.

Because of all these reasons, the P-51 became obsolescent by the end of the war. After World War Two ended, the US military decided not to continue production of the Mustang.

Despite these drawbacks, the P-51 remained popular throughout World War II.

Afterward, several improvements were introduced including better cooling systems, improved brakes, flaps, and ejection seats. These changes increased the life span of the airplane considerably.

Today, there are about 10,000 airworthy examples of the P-51 around the world. Most belong to private owners who restore them to showroom condition.

Why didn’t the Soviets like the P-51 Mustang

The Soviet Union also developed an aircraft similar to the Mustang. This plane was designed for use against German bombers. It was called the Yakovlev I-16 fighter. The Yakovlev design was based on the British Gloster Meteor jet fighters. Like the Mustang, the Yakovlev’s main advantage was speed. But unlike the Mustang, the Yak was much faster. Its top speed was 1,500 miles per hour compared with 500 miles per hour for the Mustang.

Which Tuskegee Airmen were P-51 Mustang pilots

There were two groups of African American men who flew Mustangs: those who trained at Tuskeegee University and those who trained at Kelly Field near San Antonio, Texas. Both groups fought in Europe and North Africa. They earned more than 200 medals including four Distinguished Flying Crosses.

Tuskegee Airmen

Pilots of the all-Black American 332nd Fighter Group (the Tuskegee Airmen)

Pilots of the all-Black American 332nd Fighter Group (the Tuskegee Airmen) at Ramitelli, Italy: From left, Lt. Dempsey W. Morgran, Lt. Carroll S. Woods, Lt. Robert H. Nelron, Jr., Capt. Andrew D. Turner, and Lt. Clarence D. Lester (Credits)

African Americans served in every branch of the armed forces during World War 2. There were many black officers and enlisted personnel serving in combat units. Some of them even received battlefield commissions after being wounded or killed. Many of the first blacks to fly airplanes did so because they wanted to be part of history. Others joined up to fight racism.

Black soldiers who volunteered for service in WWII faced discrimination when they tried to join the Army Air Corps. In 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 8802 which prohibited racial discrimination in federal government jobs. However, this order applied only to white people. Black servicemen continued to face prejudice until 1942 when Congress passed legislation requiring equal treatment for everyone regardless of race. Tuskegee Airmen

By 1943, the number of black pilots had grown substantially. At least one hundred black aviators were flying planes across the Atlantic Ocean. By 1944, most of the Tuskegee Airmen were fighting in Italy where their skills proved invaluable. Their success led to a change in policy toward black pilots. From then on, no matter what color someone’s skin might have been, he could become a pilot if he met certain requirements.

During the war years, some of the best known names among the Tuskegee Aircrew included Benjamin O. Davis Jr., Charles McGee, Robert Hite, William T. Ricks, James Ellington, Johnnie Johnson, George C. Williams, Thomas Ferebee, Edward L. Givins, Clarence W. Jones, Harold B. Martin, Joseph M. Robinson, Henry D. Taylor, Kenneth S. McElroy, and Eugene Bullard.

Did you know?

• More than 50 percent of all U.S. pilots during WW2 came from Alabama.

• The name “Mustang” comes from the state bird of Oklahoma.

• The P-51 Mustang is still used by the United States Air Force today.

What Happened To The P-51 After WWII?

During the war, the USAAF flew some 4 million hours in the Mustang. However, when hostilities ended, demand dropped dramatically. Only 5,500 new Mustangs were ordered in 1946. Production continued until 1952.

By then, the Korean conflict had begun and the USAF wanted a replacement for the aging North American FJ Fury. So, the last P- 51 rolled off the line in 1953.

The German Luftwaffe P-51 D didn’t capture any intact P-51s. There were only 2,000 built total, and most of them were destroyed in combat. Most of the others were lost due to accidents or crashed into mountainsides.

Most of the remaining aircraft went to museums where they remain today. Some have even become famous attractions like the one that appeared in Top Gun.

Present day price of the  P-51 Mustang

How Much Does an Airplane Cost Today?

An average price for a restored P-51 is $1.2 million dollars. That’s not cheap but it’s less expensive than buying a brand new fighter jet.

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