P-51 Mustang

P-51 Mustang animated P-51 Mustang animated

The greatest propeller fighter of all time -- the P-51 Mustang!

The P-51 was the most crucial weapon Americans had in Europe. Without the Mustang, air war over Nazi Germany would've been lost.

F-82 Twin Mustang animated gif


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impact of P-51 in World War II

The P-51 was the most crucial weapon Americans had in Europe. Without the Mustang, air war over Germany would have been lost. No doubt, Soviets could have defeated Germans without help, but war would have lasted longer. Like atom bomb in Japan, P-51 shortened war in Europe. At one time, US was near to deciding to abandon strategy of bombing Germany, as German fighters were rapidly destroying bombers much faster than US could replace them. Soon after P-51 was deployed, air superiority was established. Despite TV documentaries claiming it was "hopelessly outclassed", propeller P-51D Mustangs managed to catch and annihilate Germany's Me-262 jets (P-51 vs Me-262).

Mustang variants

variants by North American Aviation:

non-standard variants and replicas:

Please email if a variant is missing.

light-weight Mustangs

P-51F, P-51G, P-51H, P-51J

light-weight P-51H Mustang
light-weight P-51H Mustang flying
P-51D vs P-51H Mustang

XP-51F Mustang XP-51F weighed 1600lbs less than P-51D. 3-blade propeller. Top speed 466MPH.
XP-51G Mustang XP-51G had 2,200HP Rolls-Royce Merlin with 5-blade propeller. Top speed 495MPH.
XP-51J Mustang XP-51J had elongated canopy, Allison V-12 engine, carburetor scoop eliminated by integrating into radiator scoop, resulted in most streamlined Mustang ever. Top speed unknown because of engine problems.

North American experimented with 4 light-weight prototypes: XP-51F/G/H/J. Ultimately, production light-weight Mustang was based on XP-51H.


Improvements in P-51H:

Relative to P-51D, P-51H was shaped more angular. Test pilots comparing D and H noticed H's greater maneuverability, acceleration, climb-rate. In normal power settings, speed difference was marginal.

No P-51H Mustangs ever engaged in combat [ref: David McLaren], but NACA literature documents a few were (or were going to be) deployed to escort B-29s [ref: NACA, Reeder]. Prototype was being flight-tested in April 1945 when WWII Europe ended.

P-51H proved to be fragile. Tail-wheel was prone to collapsing, often ANG flew with tail-wheel locked down. Some had weak wing spars, ANG pilots were restricted to 2G.

When Korean War started, USAF choose to use P-51Ds and keep P-51Hs at home. In an odd reversal from its hand-me-downs policy, USAF actually gave newer/faster P-51Hs to ANG units in exchange for older/slower P-51Ds. Besides logistics, a reason was P-51D's reliability — P-51H gained speed by having a weaker frame, its wings were weaker, its tail-wheel was prone to collapsing. USAF may have wanted to keep the limited number of faster-but-fragile P-51Hs in reserve for homeland defense, since during early 1950s, the only fighter with long range was still the Mustang.

Only 6 P-51H models survive [ref: p51h.home.comcast.net]. At least 2 are airworthy.

P-51I designation was skipped (?). P-51K was just a P-51D with a different propeller.
[ref: North American P-51H Mustang by David McLaren]
[ref: NACA, Reeder]
[ref: p51h.home.comcast.net]

F-82 Twin Mustang

F-82 Twin Mustang

F-82 flight characteristics:

Although Twin Mustang was a strange-looking airplane, its flight characteristics were normal. Compared to P-51D, F-82 had better climb, heavier wing-loading.

Rolling felt normal and natural, neither co-pilot would become unusually dizzy. When Twin rolled (like any airplane), rolling motion is a cork-screw, with pivot being a point above airplane.

Rolling quickly back-and-forth was a prohibited maneuver since its tails would wobble. Its other prohibited maneuver was snap-roll.

A Twin Mustang doesn't look like it has a fast roll rate. However, a pilot said it would roll fast and was "aerobatic", mentioning ailerons were full width of wings.

Top speed of F-82B (Merlin) was 480MPH.
Climb rate of F-82B (Merlin) was 4,900ft/min.

[ref: Twin Mustang by Alan Carey]

Twin Mustang shot down a Yak-9 fighter in Korea:

Yak-9 was a very good propeller fighter, near to a Spitfire in performance. Yak-9 had a rearward radiator like a P-51. Although not truly swept-back, its wings were angled at front and back.

picture of Yak-9 Yak-9

F-82 Twin Mustang vs P-38 Lightning (Edgar Schmued vs Kelly Johnson)
turbo-prop Twin Mustang:

North American proposed to build a Twin Mustang powered by turbo-props. Cockpits were moved far forward. Drawings were made. Never built.

mid-engine Mustang

picture of a mid-engine P-51 Mustang   picture of a mid-engine P-51 Mustang
Mustang FTB mid-engine Griffon V-12

British engineers at Rolls-Royce built a Mustang prototype with a powerful Griffon V-12 engine mounted in middle with contra-rotating propellers, named "Mustang FTB" (Flying Test Bed). Potentially could have been the fastest, best handling, most maneuverable Mustang of all. Development stopped, never reached test-flight stage, because British decided to focus on jet fighters.

[ref: "Rolls-Royce and the Mustang" by David Birch]

Mustang with a ROCKET engine

rocket-powered P-51 Mustang  P-51 Mustang with rocket engine

During WW2, North American Aviation fitted a rocket engine to a P-51D near radiator exhaust. Speed was boosted to 513MPH for ~1 minute. 1000lbs rocket-fuel tank added drag and unbalanced plane. Test-pilot was almost killed after rocket-fuel fumes entered cockpit. North American and USAAF concluded this type of rocket-engine was too dangerous and not practical.

[ref: Mustang Designer by Ray Wagner, "Mustang" magazine]

Mustangs with RAM-JET engines

P-51 Mustang ram jet engines   pix may look fake but it was real!

P-51 with under-wing ram-jets   P-51D with German-influenced under-wing ram-jets

P-51 with wing-tip ram-jets   P-51D with Marquardt wing-tip ram-jets

Amazingly, two P-51 Mustangs and one F-82 Twin Mustang were fitted with jet engines of different types.

First P-51 had pulse jets, based on a German design, under wings. Info about speed boost and when it was made isn't available.

Second P-51 had US Marquardt ram jets on wing-tips. Speed was boosted by 50MPH and was made after WW2 in 1946.

[video: P-80 with ram-jets]
[ref: Marquardt (wikipedia)]

Mustangs with SWEPT WINGS

P-51 Mustang forward swept wings    North American designed a Mustang with forward-swept wings and piston/jet engines.

North American FJ-1 and FJ-2 Fury    Swept-wing F-86 Sabre was an evolution of Mustang. North American started F-86 in 1945, a (non-flyable) straight-wing F-86 prototype was made before WWII ended [photo in Ray Wagner's book]. Even earlier, Sabre's sibling, FJ-1 Fury, designed in 1944, was a Mustang evolved with a jet engine.

"Miss Ashley" was a replica racer with swept-back wings (from a Lear-jet IIRC).

P-51 Mustang Miss Ashley swept wings

[ref: Mustang Designer by Ray Wagner]

Mustang with FORWARD-SWEPT WINGS and PISTON/JET engines

P-51 Mustang forward swept wings pictures of forward-swept P-51 with piston/jet engines

P-51 Mustang forward swept wings drawing

North American designed a P-51 with forward-swept wings and piston/jet engines. Only a wind-tunnel model was built. Initial sweep angle was too great (wings would've bent off at high speed and AoA), was reduced to 15 degrees. Dihedral angle was great (to compensate for forward sweep, AFAIK).

Boeing's "Sweeping Changes" (PDF):   "In the quest for increased maneuverability, the top post World War II U.S. fighter, the P-51 Mustang, was selected for the new wing. Boeing predecessor company North American Aviation designed an FSW P-51 concept. However, during wind tunnel tests the rigid aluminum wings twisted asymmetrically, indicating potential loss of control. Further testing determined the wings had to be limited to 15-degrees forward sweep. Increased speed and high g-force turns would lead to structural divergence, or wing separation. The FSW P-51 was never built."

[ref: North American P-51 Mustang by Frederick Johnsen]
[ref: Boeing's "Sweeping Changes" (PDF)]

Nazi Mustangs

Germany captured a few P-51s, repaired them, flew them as recon planes painted with German markings (considered fair-use).

Nazi P-51 Mustangs, captured airplanes in German Nazi markings

Cavalier/Piper Mustangs

Piper Enforcer Mustang

Cavalier began refurbishing war-surplus Mustangs. When Merlin V-12 engine parts became scarce, Cavalier made conversions to turbo-props, named "Cavalier Turbo Mustang". But these conversions apparently were hacks, judging from misshapen nose and fuselage.

In 1984, USAF evaluated and rejected Piper Enforcer for close-air-support. Piper streamlined nose and fuselage, but turbo-prop exhaust was asymmetric which may have caused yaw instability. Despite having a turbo-prop engine, Enforcer was slow, ~350MPH. Fundamental problem was P-51's shape was designed solely for speed, sacrificing visibility required for close-air-support. Purpose-built A-1 Skyraider and A-10 Wart Hog with forward cockpits are better suited.


Mustang's design had influences on several other aircraft.

picture of a MB5 replica British Martin-Baker MB5, which had great potential, resembled a Mustang.
picture of CAC CA-15 Australia tried to develop their CAC CA-15 Kangaroo fighter which had strong resemblance.
Supermarine Spiteful model Supermarine Spiteful, although a derivative of Spitfire, evolved in direction of Mustang, with square laminar-flow wings and greater streamlining.

the Mustang -- evolved into a jet fighter

P-51 and F-86 similarities

P-51 --> F-86 --> F-16

North American FJ-1 and FJ-2 Fury   North American's FJ-1 straight-wing and FJ-2 swept-wing Fury jets

North American FJ-1 Fury   FJ-1 Fury jet shows its evolution from Mustang

Heritage Flight    P-51 Mustang and F-16 Viper

North American developed straight-winged FJ-1 Fury which was essentially P-51 with jet engine. Fury quickly developed into F-86 Sabre which still resembled Mustang. Even today, many vestiges of P-51 and F-86 still exist in F-16 Viper -- bubble canopy, jet's duct, and cranked vertical stabilizer.


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