USAAF

A-36 A Apache Dive Bomber

The A-36 Apache was developed from the Mustang I in response to a US Army Air Force requirement for a high speed dive bomber. The A-36 fist flew in Oct. 1942 and production of 500 A-36 As was completed by March 1943 The high speed of the A-36 required that it incorporate air brakes in the wings to limit its dive speed to 390 mph to improve accuracy. The A-36 proved to be very successful in its service career flying 23,373 combat sorties and delivering over 8,000 tons of ordnance on targets in the Mediterranean theater. 84 enemy aircraft were shot down and 17 more strafed on the ground for a loss of 177 A-36's to enemy action. The loss of over 30% of the airframes built it is indicative of the dangerous and difficult missions it performed. In 1944 the A-36 was replaced by the P-51 and the P-47. This model shows a plane flown by 524th Fighter Bomber Squadron, 27th Fighter Bomber Group, Gela, Sicily in late 1944. Also see the El Salvadoran Air Force P-51 D and the USAAF P-51 B and the USAAF P-51 D and the Miss Van Nuys Racer and the Mustang group page.

North American A-36 A Apache Dive Bomber

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A-24 A Banshee Dive Bomber

The Douglas A-24 Banshee was a land based version of the US Navy's SBD-3 Dauntless dive bomber. The first A-24 was delivered to the Army Air Corps on June 17, 1941. The first operational A-24 unit was the new 27th Bombardment Group. The 27th BG was in the process of been shipped to the Philippines when the war broke out. The airmen were in the Philippines, but their aircraft were on their way via ship from Honolulu. The shipment was diverted to Australia. Some of the 27th BG pilots were evacuated from the Philippines to join their aircraft in Australia. Eleven A-24s flew up to Java in February of 1942 where they attacked enemy ships in the harbor and the Japanese air base at Bali, as well as Japanese ships in the waters near Java, damaging and sinking numerous enemy ships. After the loss of Java, the A-24 was used briefly in New Guinea. After the loss of 5 out of 7 aircraft on one mission, the A-24 was withdrawn from operational use and allocated to secondary training and support roles. Many were used as training aircraft or to tow targets for aerial gunnery training. Several A-24s were supplied to the Free French forces fighting in Africa and Europe beginning in 1943. The Mexican air force also received several A-24 which were used for antisubmarine patrols in the Caribbean beginning in 1944. These aircraft were later used as trainers and for border patrol. The last of the Mexican A-24s were retired in 1959. The A-24 Banshee was armed with 2 .50 cal. Forward firing Browning M2 machine guns in engine cowling and 2 .30 cal. Flexible mounted Browning machine guns in rear and could carry 2,250 lbs. of bombs. Also see the SBD-3 Dauntless

Douglas A-24 Dive Bomber

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P-38 F Lightning Fighter

The Lockheed P-38 Lightning was designed in 1937 as a high altitude interceptor. The first one built made its public debut on February 11, 1939 by flying from California to New York in seven hours. The Lightning went into low rate production for testing in 1939 and because of its unorthodox design, it required several years to perfect it for combat. The lightning did not go into mass production until September 1941. The P-38 was the only American fighter in production throughout WWII. The Lightning was a very distinctive aircraft with twin booms and a single central nacelle containing the cockpit and armament. It was also the first American fighter to make extensive use of stainless steel and smooth, flush riveted butt jointed aluminum skin panels and was also the first fighter to fly faster than 400 mph. Late in 1942, it went into large scale operations during the North African campaign where the German Luftwaffe named it "Der Gabelschwanz Teufel"--"The Forked-Tail Devil." Equipped with drop tanks, the P-38 was used extensively as a long range escort fighter in Europe, was very widely used in the Pacific and saw action in practically every major combat area of the world. The top American ace of WWII Richard Bong (40 victories) gained all of his kills with the P-38. Probably the most famous mission of the war flown by P-38s was the interception of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the architect of Japan's naval strategy in the Pacific including the attack on Pearl Harbor. When it was found out that he was flying to Bougainville Island, 16 Lightnings were sent to intercept him and his aircraft was shot down. The P-38 Lightning was used for dive bombing, level bombing, ground strafing and photo reconnaissance missions. By the end of production in 1945, 9,923 P-38s had been built. The P-38 was armed with 1 Hispano M2(C) 20 mm cannon and 4 Browning MG53-2 .50 cal. machineguns and could carry 3,000 lbs. of ordinance. This model shows a P-38 F Lightning flying with the 94th FS, 1st FG, "Bat Out of Hell", Capt. James Hagenback, commander of the 94th FS at Sardinia in early 1944.

Lockheed P-38 F Lightning Fighter

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P-39 Q Airacobra Fighter

The Bell P-39 Airacobra was one of America's first line pursuit planes in December 1941. It made its initial flight in April 1939 and by the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, nearly 600 had been built. Its unique engine location behind the cockpit caused some pilot concern, but this proved to be no more of a hazard in a crash landing than with an engine located forward of the cockpit. The Airacobra saw combat throughout the world, particularly in the Southwest Pacific, Mediterranean and Russian theaters. Because its engine was not equipped with a supercharger the P-39 performed best below 17,000 feet and it often was used at low altitude for ground attack missions. When P-39 production ended in August 1944, Bell had built 9,584 Airacobras of which 4,773 had been sent to the Soviet Union. Russian pilots particularly liked the cannon-armed P-39 for its ground attack capability. The P-39 also served Free French and British forces. The P-39 Q Airacobra was armed with 1 37 mm M4 cannon, 2  .50 cal. machineguns mounted in the nose and 2 wing mounted .50 cal machineguns. It could also carry 500 lbs. of ordinance. The model shows a P-39 Q Airacobra flying with the 93FS, 81FG in Tunisia during 1943.

Bell P-39 Q Airacobra Fighter

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P-47 M Thunderbolt Fighter

Nicknamed "Jug" the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt was one of the most famous USAAF fighter planes of WW II. Originally designed as a lightweight interceptor, the P-47 developed into a heavyweight fighter that was the largest, heaviest, and most expensive fighter aircraft in history to be powered by a single reciprocating engine. Making it’s first flight on May 6, 1941, the first production model was delivered to the USAAF in March 1942, and in April 1943 the Thunderbolt flew its first combat mission in Europe. Shortly afterwards, the Thunderbolt was flying in the Pacific and Mediterranean and began to rack up an impressive score. Used as both a high altitude escort fighter and a low level fighter bomber, the P-47 quickly gained a reputation for ruggedness. Its sturdy construction and air-cooled radial engine enabled the Thunderbolt to absorb severe battle damage and keep flying. The Thunderbolt was continually upgraded during its production run. All P-47s through the beginning of the D model had a razorback canopy configuration with a tall fuselage spine behind the pilot which resulted in poor visibility to the rear. In the Summer of 1943 a razorback D model was converted to use the new bubble top canopy. This was such an improvement that a subsequent production P-47s adopted the new canopy. The P-47 M was an attempt to come up with a higher performance version of the Thunderbolt to achieve comparable performance with the latest German aircraft. It was given a new more powerful engine, turbo supercharger and air brakes. The P-47 M had a top speed of 473 mph and went into limited production with 130 built. By the end of WWII, more than 15,600 Thunderbolts had been built. The P-47 M Thunderbolt was armed with 8 .50 cal. M2 Browning machineguns and could carry 2,500 lbs of bombs and 10 5 in. unguided rockets. The Thunderbolt flew with the USAAF, Bolivian Air Force, Brazilian Expeditionary Force, Chilean Air Force, Republic of China Air Force, Colombian Air Force, Cuban Air Force, Dominican Air Force, Ecuadorian Air Force, Air Force of El Salvador, Free French Air Force, French Air Force, Honduran Air Force, Imperial Iranian Air Force, Italian Air Force, Mexican Expeditionary Air Force, Fuerza Aerea de Nicaragua, Peruvian Air Force, Portuguese Air Force, Soviet Air Force, Turkish Air Force, Royal air Force, Venezuelan Air Force and the Yugoslav Air Force. Many of these air forces operated the P-47 until the late 1950s. This model shows a P-47 M Thunderbolt "Teddy" flown by Maj. M. Jackson flying with the 56th FG.

Republic P-47 M Thunderbolt Fighter Bomber

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P-51 B 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 mock up 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. In April 1942 the RAF tested the initial production Mustang and found its performance inadequate at higher altitudes. However it’s low altitude performance and maneuverability were so impressive that Rolls Royce's Flight Test establishment was invited to fly the Mustang. Rolls Royce engineers rapidly realized that equipping the Mustang with a Merlin 61 engine with its two speed two stage supercharger would substantially improve performance. Five aircraft were converted. Besides the engine change, a four bladed Rotol propeller from a Spitfire Mk IX was installed. The high-altitude performance improvement was remarkable. The Vice-Chief of the Air Staff, lobbied for Merlin powered Mustangs and insisted that two of the new Mustangs be handed over to Carl Spaatz for trials and evaluation by the USAAF 8th Air Force in Britain. The XP-51B prototype first flew on November 30, 1942 and production began in early 1943 and the P-51 B arrived in England in August 1943. The production P-51 B featured a complete redesign of the radiator duct, strengthened airframe, redesigned engine cowling and a four bladed Hamilton Standard propeller. The nose machineguns were removed and 4 four wing mounted .50 cal. M2/AN Browning machineguns were fitted. A new bomb rack / external drop tank installation was added that could carry up to 500 lbs. of ordnance or drop tanks. Later an improved canopy, the Malcolm Hood, was added that increased pilot visibility. The arrival of the Mustang changed the balance of power in the air over Germany. Also see the El Salvador P-51 D and the USAAF P-51 D and the A-36 Apache and the Miss Van Nuys Racer and the Mustang group page.

North American P-51 B Mustang Fighter

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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. A total 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 .60 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 "Daddy's Girl" flown by 21.25 kills Ace Capt. Raymond S. Wetmore of the 359th FG, 370th FS in early 1945. Also see the El Salvador 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.

North American P-51 D Mustang Fighter

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P-40 E Warhawk Fighter

The Curtiss P-40 Warhawk fighter was the last of the famous Hawk line produced by Curtiss Aircraft in the 1930s and 1940s and it shared certain design elements with its predecessor, the Hawk 75 / P-36. Design work on the aircraft began in 1937 and the Warhawk first flew in 1938. An early prototype version of the P-40 was the first American fighter capable of speeds greater than 300 mph. While the P-40 was a rugged plane with good maneuverability at low and medium altitudes, its engine prevented it from doing well at higher altitudes. Because of this, the Warhawk did not see mush use in the Western European front. However, it played a critical role in North Africa, the Southwest Pacific, China, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, Alaska and Italy. In these areas the P-40 was used as a fighter, bomber escort and fighter bomber. Continuously improved throughout its production run, the P-40 went through 10 major variations and a host of minor ones over its production run of 13,738 making it the third most numerous US fighter of World War II. Besides the USAAF, the P-40 flew with Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt, Finland, France, Indonesia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, South Africa, Soviet Union, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. The P-40 E was an evolutionary development in the P-40 series. A larger more powerful Allison engine was fitted which required the distinctive chin air scoop to be enlarged. The canopy and fuselage were also modified. Armament was increase to 6 .50 cal. machineguns. The P-40 E served with the Commonwealth air forces as the Kittyhawk Mk IA and bore the brunt of air-to-air combat in early to mid 1942. The P-40 E played a major role in the defense of Australia and New Guinea in 1942 and with the Desert Air Force in fighting against the Luftwaffe and Regia Aeronautica in 1942. It was also used heavily by the Soviet air force. In North Africa the arrival of the Kittyhawk led to the early retirement of the ME-109 E and its replacement by the ME-109 F. The P-40 E was armed with 6 .50 cal. M2 Browning machineguns and could carry 2,000 lbs. on three hard points. 2,320 P-40 Es were produced. This model shows a P-40 E flown by Capt. Nelson Flack of the 8th FS, 49th FG in New Guinea in 1943. Also see the P-36 A and the Hawk 75 and the P-40 B and the Hawks group and the XP-37.

Curtiss P-40 E Fighter

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Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vc trop Fighter

The Supermarine Spitfire was Britain's premiere fighter throughout WWII. Its pilots found it to be agile and dependable, a fine combat plane capable of great speed and good high altitude performance. The Spitfire was continuously upgraded over 24 marks so that it would match or better the best fighters at the time and continued to be used until the late 1950s. The last Spitfire was produced in February 1948 for a total production run of 20,351 of all variants. The Spitfire was the only British fighter aircraft to be in continuous production before, during and after WWII. Probably the most famous of the Spitfire’s battles was the Battle Of Britain in 1940 where the Spitfire gained an enormous reputation as the premier fighter of the battle. However, the more numerous Hurricanes actually shouldered a greater proportion of the burden against the Luftwaffe. After the Battle of Britain the Spitfire became the backbone of RAF Fighter Command and saw action in the European, Mediterranean, Pacific and the Southeast Asian theaters. The Spitfire flew with Australia, Belgium, Burma, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Southern Rhodesia, South Africa, Soviet Union, Sweden, Syria, Thailand, Turkey, United States, and Yugoslavia.

The Mk.V Spitfire was designed as a high altitude pressurized version with a new engine. The Mk.Vb version became the main production version of the Mark V. Along with the new engine a new propeller was provided and a new wing was also designed with clipped win tips to improve performance.

The Spitfire Vc incorporated several improvements over the type V. The fuselage was strengthened, the wings were re-stressed and a new windscreen design was added. The landing gear was revised, a larger radiator and a larger oil cooler were added and more armor was added. The biggest visual change was the adoption of the Type C wing, the so called Universal wing. The tops of the wings featured large bulged fairings to provide clearance for the ammunition feed motors of two Hispano cannon. The Supermarine Spitfire Vc trop was armed with 4 20 mm Hispano Mk II cannon. The tropical variant of the Vc was equipped with modified air intakes and filters and desert survival gear. The majority of the Vc Spitfires were used either in North Africa and the Mediterranean or in the Far East. This model shows a Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vc trop flying with the 307th FS, 31st FG in Algeria in 1942 shortly after Operation Torch. Also see the Spitfire XIV and the Vb floatplane and the Mk.I.

Supermarine Spitfire Vc Trop Fighter

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