N.A. P-51 D Mustang Fighter
In late 1939 the British Royal Air Force was looking seriously at methods of quickly increasing its fighter strength. In April 1940, the British Air Purchasing Commission approached North American Aviation with the intent of having them build P-40's for the RAF. Instead, North American offered to build an entirely new fighter using the same Allison engine as the P-40. The British agreed only on the stipulation that a prototype be on hand within 120 days. The Allison-powered prototype NA-73 was assembled within the specified period. The P-51 was an immediate success. It outperformed even the Spitfire, but the Allison engine placed limitations on the performance. In England, a mockup was devised to use the Rolls Royce Merlin in the P-51 airframe. To say the Merlin Mustangs were successful would be an understatement. The P-51 became one of the aviation world's elite. The total numbers of 14,819 Mustangs of all types were built for the Army. American Mustangs destroyed 4,950 enemy aircraft in Europe to make them the highest scoring U. S. fighter in the theater. They were used as dive-bombers, bomber escorts, ground-attackers, interceptors, for photo-recon missions, trainers, transports (with a jump-seat), and after the war, high performance racers. The P-51 D Mustang introduced many changes from the P-51 B and C based on combat experience. The D introduced a bubble canopy to improve pilot visibility. A new simpler style of windscreen, with a bullet resistant windscreen, a dorsal fin at the forward base of the vertical tail, a four blade propeller, increased armament to 6 .50 cal. machineguns, strengthened wing racks and Zero Rail rocket pylons. Alterations to the landing gear also required a change to the shape of the inner wing leading edge which was raked forward slightly. The P-51 D became the most widely produced variant of the Mustang. This model shows a P-51 D Mustang flying with the El Salvadorian Air Force in 1969. Also see the USAAF P-51 D and the USAAF P-51 B and the A-36 Apache and the Miss Van Nuys Racer and the Mustang group page.