top of page

North American P-51 Mustang

           Sketched out in a New York city hotel room in April 1940, the North American Aviation Corporation NA73X went on to become one of the best fighters to come out of World War 2. The U.S. Army Air Corps designated it P (for Pursuit) 51, and titled it the Apache. The British named it the Mustang.


           Long before anyone heard of a Mustang, the British planned to put a Rolls Royce Merlin engine into the airframe. The Merlin was powering some of the best warplanes in England; the Hurricane, Spitfire and the Avro Lancaster bomber. To develop a new engine for the P-51 would take considerable time, which they did not have.


           In September 1940, the British licensed the Packard Motor Company of the U.S. to produce the Merlin V-1650-1 engine in Detroit, Michigan. With a new supercharger drive, a new V-1650-3 was mated to the first P-51B.  10 aircraft were modified in the U.S. with the Merlin and these became the basis for the most successful fighter series of the war.


           Flying for the first time on 30 November 1942, the XP-51B was soon modified with a larger coolant radiator scoop, which actually increased its top speed by 50mph and gave it a higher ceiling by 10,000 ft. The addition of an 85 gallon fuel tank behind the seat increased the P-51B's already excellent range, and it could now escort the bombers all the way to the target and back. When Luftwaffe chief commander, Reichsmarshal Hermann Goering learned that P-51s were escorting B-17s bombers over Berlin he knew the Nazis had lost the war.

           P-51B Mustangs began arriving in England in September 1943 with the first Mustangs going to the 354th fighter group at Boxted, England, and ended the war with the most air to air victories. A total of 3,788 P-51B's were produced.


NOTE: the difference between the P-51B and P-51C is where they were built. B models were contructed at Inglewood CA and C models were constructed at Dallas TX. This definition was discontinued with the introduction of the D model. The P-51H is considered to be the last model of the Mustang.


NOTE: The H model looked like a P-51 but was a completely new design. (also see the Enforcer below) Almost all the parts from the D model were not usable in the P-51H. This was the P-51 with a complete overhaul. The landing gear was visibly smaller. The profile shows new lines with a taller tail. The fuselage was a bit more slender and the length increased. The wingspan stayed the same. The P-51H became the F-51, built strictly as a fighter. Therefore, when the Korean War broke out, the P-51D was chosen to provide close-air support, not the P-51H.

Also see A-36 Apache/Invader/Tank-buster


A test model of the P-51H. 550 P-51Hs were built but later titled F-51

       Of the several variations of the Mustang, the P-51-D is considered the definitive version and was the first to have the bubble canopy. More "D" models were built than any other variant, with over than 9,500 being produced of the 15,500-plus Mustangs built during WWII.


       Armed with six .50 caliber machine guns, three in each wing, with 400 rounds for each inboard caliber machine guns- three in each wing- and 270 rounds for the other four, plus under-wing pylons for long-range auxiliary fuel tanks, the Mustang was a true fighter pilots airplane. The P-51 Mustang's combat record is reported to be: 4,950 aerial victories with an 11:1 "kill ratio." 


       After the Korean Conflict, surplus P-51s were handed off to allies such as Australia, Canada and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Along with the F-51, a few were transferred to Air National Guard units in the U.S. for training purposes.

                                                                                             Source: Maxwell U.S. Air Force Base

                                                                                             Muir S. Fairchild Research Information Center

P-51D Cockpit
Joe Matlock landing a P-51D in 1987         Video by Wayne Nelson
Fun History
The Last Version of the Mustang - sort of
Click To Return

        The PA-48 Enforcer is a low-cost, ground-attack turboprop aircraft built by Piper Aircraft Corp. Lakeland, Fla. Because of the effectiveness of the P-51/A36 in World War II and Korea, the Enforcer concept is based on the Mustang. Although the airframe strongly resembles that of the P-51, the Enforcer is completely a newly designed aircraft.

        The U.S. Air Force tested the Enforcer in 1984, but decided not to order any.

      The Fairchild A-10 Thunderbolt II (nicknamed by its pilots the 'Warthog' or 'Hog') utilizes many ground attack concepts of both the P-47 Thunderbolt & the P-51 Mustang.

      Can you find them?

bottom of page