The North American Aviation P-51 Mustang was an American long-range single-seat World War II fighter aircraft conceived, designed and built by North American Aviation.
The first production Mustangs were used by the Royal Air Force (RAF) as tactical-reconnaissance aircraft and fighter-bombers. From late 1943, P-51Bs (supplemented by P-51Ds from mid-1944) were used by the USAAF's Eighth Air Force as bomber escorts in raids over Germany, while the RAF's 2 TAF and the USAAF's Ninth Air Force used the Merlin-powered Mustangs as fighter-bombers, roles in which the Mustang helped ensure Allied air superiority in 1944. The P-51 was also in service with Allied air forces in the North African, Mediterranean and Italian theaters, and saw limited service against the Japanese in the Pacific War.
At the start of Korean War the Mustang was the United Nations' main fighter but the role was quickly shouldered by jet fighters, including the F-86, after which the Mustang became a specialized ground-attack fighter-bomber.
After World War II and the Korean War, many Mustangs were converted for civilian use, especially air racing. In spite of being superseded by jet fighters the Mustang remained in service with some air forces until the early 1980s.
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As Described In
Aces Over Europe: The Mustang was the outstanding American fighter of WWII. Its long-range performance ensured the continuation of the strategic bombing campaign in Europe and concomitantly dealt the death blow to the Luftwaffe.
Because of the laminar flow wing, the Mustang had very little drag, making it very fast, with the ability to quickly accelerate to its max speed. The plane possessed some nasty habits, however, and proved to be difficult to fly.
Against the Luftwaffe's finest, the P-51 stacked-up well. It could turn inside the Bf 109G and the Fw 190A, and could climb with both aircraft. Its main assets were its speed, maneuverability, and incredible range.