North American P-51D

The P-51D was the definitive version of the Mustang, being produced in greater numbers than any other version of the aircraft, and having the best combat performance of any Mustang.

North American P-51D,Lt Col Edward O. McComas, 118th TRS
North American P-51D,
Lt Col Edward O. McComas,
118th TRS

The biggest problem with the earlier models of the Mustang was poor visibility, caused by the razor-backed fuselage and greenhouse style cockpit canopy. In the P-51D the rear fuselage was cut down until it was level with the front fuselage, and the greenhouse replaced with a newly bubble canopy. This eliminated the massive blind-spot behind the pilot on earlier versions of the P-51, a massive advantage for a fighter aircraft.

The P-51D also had two extra .50 inch machine guns, located in the wings. It could also carry two 1,000lb bombs or 165 gallon fuel drop tanks under the wings. It was powered by the same Packard Merlin V-1650-7 engine as late production P-51Bs.

It had originally been intended to give P-51Ds built at Dallas the P-51E designation, but it was eventually decided to use manufacturer designations to separate the two aircraft, so aircraft produced in California were P-51D-NAs, while those produced in Dallas were P-51D-NTs. 6,502 aircraft were produced in California. 1,600 were produced at Dallas before production switched to the very similar P-51K.

The P-51D entered service with the 354th “Pioneer Mustang Group” in the spring of 1944. By the end of the war some 45 USAAF squadrons were using the P-51D, with around 1,500 aircraft operational. The P-51D remained in service with the USAAF after the war, eventually outliving the P-51H. A large number of P-51Ds found their way into National Guard units. They also had an unexpected lease of life during the Korean War, where their long range and endurance made them a better ground attack aircraft than the first generation of jet fighters that had replaced them.

Engine: Packard Merlin V-1650-7
Horsepower: 1,490
Speed: 437 mph
Ceiling: 42,000 feet
Span: 37 feet
Length: 32 feet 3 inches
Range: 1,000 miles

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (7 June 2007), North American P-51D, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_P-51D.html

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