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Posted on Jan 5, 2005 in War College

Profile: North American P-51D Mustang

By Austin Vance


Manufacturer:  North American Aviation
Basic Model:  Long-range interceptor fighter
Designation:  P-51D (Later changed to F-51D)
Aliases:  Mustang
Entry into Service:  Early Summer of 1944
Total built:  7,956
Total production (Variants):  15,469
Cost:  $54,000


Length:  33 ft 3 in (9.83 m)
Height:  13 ft 8 in (4.16 m)
Wingspan:  (11.28 m)
Empty Weight:  7,125 Ibs (3,231 kg)
Gross Weight:  11,600 Ibs (5,261 kg)


Powerplant:  One Packard built Rolls-Royce "Merlin" V-1650 of 1,695 HP
Maximum Range:  1,000 miles (1,610 km) With two 110 gallon drop tanks
Maximim Speed:  437 mph (703 km/h)
Cruising Speed:  362 mph (582 km/h)
Service Ceiling:  41,900 ft (12,770 m)



Guns:  6 x 0.50-in wing Machine guns
Ordnance:  Up to 2,000 lbs (907 kg) of bombs or 8 x HVAR (High-Velocity Aircraft Rocket)


The P-51 was designed as the NA-73 in 1940 at Britain’s request. The design showed promise and AAF purchases of Allison-powered Mustangs began in 1941 primarily for photo recon and ground support use due to its limited high-altitude performance. But in 1942, tests of P-51s using the British Rolls-Royce "Merlin" engine revealed much improved speed and service ceiling, and in Dec. 1943, Merlin-powered P-51Bs first entered combat over Europe. Providing high-altitude escort to B-17s and B-24s, they scored heavily over German interceptors and by war’s end, P-51s had destroyed 4,950 enemy aircraft in the air, more than any other fighter in Europe.

Mustangs served in nearly every combat zone, including the Pacific where they escorted B-29s to Japan from Iwo Jima. Between 1941-5, the AAF ordered 14,855 Mustangs (including A-36A dive bomber and F-6 photo recon versions), of which 7,956 were P-51Ds. During the Korean War, P-51Ds were used primarily for close support of ground forces until withdrawn from combat in 1953.

The P-51D on display was obtained from the West Virginia ANG in 1957 and was the last prop-driven USAF fighter assigned to a tactical unit. It is painted as the -D flown by Col. C.L. Sluder, CO of the 325th Fighter Group, 15th Air Force, in Italy in 1944. The name of this aircraft, Shimmy IV, is derived from the names of Col. Sluder’s daughter and wife; Sharon and Zimmy

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