P51 Mustang During World War II
The very peak of piston-engine fighter development was attained in the North American P-51 "Mustang". The fighter plane was constructed as sleek low-wing single-seat metal stressed-skin fighter. The Mustang earned the title as the greatest American fighter aircraft of all time. No other aircraft had it’s mix of range, speed, maneuverability and firepower. The Mustang still holds the title for the world’s best. Even the newer jet fighters have not taken the title from the Mustang to date.
The P-51 proved to be the “death knell” to the Luftwaffe with it’s ability to escort bombers to Berlin and beyond. The American philosophy of taking the war to the enemy and beating him on his own turf was derived by the Mustang and the various models.
Most of the wartime missions were bomber escort in raids over Germany, the P-51 proved Allied air superiority as early as 1944. The fighter plane also saw service against the Japanese in the Pacific War. The Korean War began with the Mustang being the United Nations main fighter aircraft. Later the fighter was relegated to a ground attack role. Jet fighters early on took over the fighter aircraft position. But not before the P-51 shot down the first Mig-15. The Mustang remained in service by some air forces until the 1980s.
One of the most economical to produce, the Mustang was well made highly durable and very fast. The later models P-51D carried the Packard V-1650, a supercharged two-stage two-speed version of the Rolls-Royce Merlin. The armament consisted of 6 × 0.50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns; 400 rounds per inboard gun; 270 per outboard gun, 2 × hardpoints for up to 2,000 lb (907 kg) of bombs and 10 × 5 in (127 mm) rockets.
After World War II and the Korean conflict, many Mustangs were converted for civilian use for air racing. The Mustang gain such a reputation that, in the mid-1960s, the Ford Motor Company Designer John Najjar proposed the name for a for its new pony car.
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