The P-51 Mustang, designed in 1940 after Great Britain requested that North American build P-40 Warhawks for the Royal Air Force, was at first ignored by U. S. officials. However, the design showed such promise that in 1941 the Army Air Forces took delivery of P-51A's powered by the Allison V-1710 engine. These early Mustangs were restricted to reconnaissance and ground attack due to the limited performance of the Allison engines. Tests in 1942 with the Roll-Royce "Merlin" engine showed a marked increase in performance. By the end of 1943, Merlin powered P-51Bs entered combat with the 354th Fighter Group in England. Eighth Air Force Mustangs provided long range escort to B-17s and B-24s and scored heavily over German interceptors. By the war's end, P-51s had destroyed 4,950 enemy aircraft in the air, more than any other U. S. fighter in Europe.
Providing high altitude escort to B-17s and B-24s during World War II, the Mustang scored heavily over German interceptors, and by the end of the war, the P-51s destroyed over 4,950 enemy aircraft in the air, more than any other Army Air Force fighter in Europe. The F-51 (a redesigned P-51) achieved status as the first USAF fighter to participate in the Korean War. The Mustang measured 32 feet three inches long, 13 feet eight inches high, and weighed 11,600 pounds. Equipped with six 50-caliber machine guns, the $54,000 P/F-51D attained a maximum speed of 379 MPH, a range of 826 nautical miles, and a top ceiling 41,900 feet.
Mustangs served in nearly every active combat zone, including the Pacific where they escorted B-29s from Iwo Jima to Japan. Between 1941 and 1945, the Army Air Force ordered 14,855 Mustangs (including A-36A dive bomber and F-6 photo-reconnaissance versions), of which 7,956 were P-51Ds with the "bubble" canopy and heavier armament. During the Korean Conflict, P-51Ds were used primarily for close support of ground forces until withdrawn from combat in 1953. P-51s served with Reserve and National Guard units until 1957.
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