North American Aviation's rapid and original design development of the P-51 resulted in success versus German and Japanese planes in World War II.
Not enough credit is given to Allison-engined variants of one of the world's most famous fighters. We now associate the name "Mustang" with the pretty bubble-canopied fighters which now grace our skies as war birds at Airshows around the world today. There is no doubt that the Merlin engine elevated the Mustang's performance from just being "very good" to "exceptional" and this, in many people's eyes, peaked with the P-51B and P-51C, not the more familiar and most produced version - the P-51D - which comprises the majority seen today.
From its inception in early 1940, the development of the fighter, which culminated in the prototype NA-73X launched in October, can only be described as rapid. Before the aircraft had even left the drawing board, the RAF had already placed an order for 320 units, such was the confidence in the design and need for a fighter at the time; from preliminary design to maiden flight had taken just 127 days!
By early January 1942, the Mustang was in service with the RAF, flying low-level armed reconnaissance operations over Northern France. This was to be the Mustang's hunting ground all the way up to D-Day and beyond. It had proved to be a highly capable aircraft in this role. While supporting Operation Jubilee over Dieppe, Mustangs were used in a more aggressive capacity for the first time and its first enemy kill was claimed - ironically, the pilot was an American volunteer! The RAF's Allison-engined Mustangs continued to prove their worth from late 1943, flying endless reconnaissance sorties in preparation for the Normandy invasion, and continuing to fly as the Allies slowly pushed eastwards towards Berlin. This was a remarkable service length and, despite later Merlin variants arriving in-theatre, the Mustang I, Ia and II served on the front lines until late 1944.
In American hands the Mustang entered service as a dive-bomber designated as the A-36 Apache/Invader. From late 1942 onwards, this type served with distinction in North Africa, both in the ground-attack role and in air-to-air combat, and would do so in the Far East as well. The complete fighter variant was the P-51A which, along with the A-36, served in North Africa and the Far East, excelling in Burma as part of LtCol P. Cochrane's 1st Air Command Group supporting the Chindits. Like their RAF colleagues, the Americans flew the type in the low-level photographic role, designated as the F-6A and F-6B when it continued to serve with the 9th Air Force until the war's end and beyond.
About the Author
Martyn Chorlton was born in the north Cambridgeshire fens during the late 1960s, joining the RAF as an Air Photographer in 1984. After tours in Germany and Northern Ireland, his service came to an end in 1997 and, a few years later, cut his writing teeth on an Airfield Focus. To date he has 14 published books under his belt. In 2004 he launched Old Forge Publishing, which has now produced another 17 books. That same year he also began freelancing for the aviation magazine fraternity and has continued this ever since. Currently, Martyn is a regular contributor to Aeroplane Monthly, Jets, Airfix and Aviation Classics.
Table of Contents
Design and Development 5
The NA-73X - birth of a legendary fighter
NAA designs and builds a fighter
The RAF order
The USAAF shows interest
Enter the P-51A (NA-99)
Reconnaissance birds, the F-6A and F-6B
Tech Specifications 27
Aircraft technical data - Allison - powered Mustangs
Operational History 37
RAF service begins
Dieppe and first blood
'A' for Attack! - The A-36 A into combat
P-51 in combat
Down and dirty with the 1st Air Command Group (ACG)
Rhubarbs, Rangers and Populars
D-Day, RAF operations
A host of units
Further Reading 63
What People are Saying About This
"...this is an excellent introduction to the first of North American's legendary Mustang family. And it heralds the start of a valuable new series from Osprey."
- Rachel E. Veres, www.cybermodeler.com
"This is the first book in Osprey's new Air Vanguard series and they have chosen a good one to start a new line. The book by Martyn Chorlton covers the developement and eventual unit operations of this aircraft in all theaters of operation. It is complete with a superb collection of period photos, a couple pages of full color profiles and other artwork. The back cover of the book is a fold-out that has has a cut-away drawing of the cannon armed Mustang Mk. IA. In all, a book I can highly recommend and I very much look forward to others in this series."
- Scott Van Aken, Modeling Madness (October 2012)
"Offers aircraft fans and military collections a fine, specific focus on the Allison-engined variants ... this provides an excfellent, detailed guide suitable for any military aircraft fan."
- James A. Cox, The Midwest Book Review