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North American P-51D Mustang Ferocious Frankie

Image © Katsuhiko Tokunaga

Image © Katsuhiko Tokunaga

The P-51 was the most successful long-range fighter escort of World War II, but it was not an instant success. The P-51 was designed for the British in only 120 days to meet their requirement to purchase more fighters. The first P-51’s were built with Allison engines; these aircraft were remarkable at low altitudes, but were considered under-powered and disappointing at higher altitudes. In late 1942 the P-51 was transformed when, in the UK, Rolls Royce Merlin engines were tested in place of the Allison. The Merlin, as used in the Spitfire, was then license-built by Packard in the USA and in 1943 was installed in the P-51B & C models. The Merlin made the 1944 P-51D, with its bubble canopy and six-guns, possibly the most beautiful and potent fighter of the time.

The P-51D’s range was an incredible 2,055m (3,327km) with a level maximum speed of 437mph (703kph) at 25,000 feet; the max diving speed was 505mph (818kph). Its huge fuel capacity was 1,000 litres internally and 815 litres in drop tanks. It’s service ceiling was 41,900 feet (12,800m).