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There is no fighter in history, before or after, equal to the multipurpose Mustang. Designed as a short-range fighter, the P-51 performed well as a long-range escort fighter, bomber fighter, photographic reconnaissance aircraft, air support aircraft and dive bomber, and enjoyed great success as a Cross Country & Pulon Racer.
Initially, the Mustang almost went down in history as an unsuccessful aircraft for lack of a suitable propulsion system, out of sight of USAAC purchasing channels. First, the Mustang I, the first production model, due to lack of flight altitude data (due to its Allison engine) was handed over to the British Army for air support for ground operations. Despite the difficulties with the engine, this was already a design far superior to its contemporaries in the United States. However, USAAC, despite the growing need for a good fighter for itself, showed no official interest. The reason was the unchanging attitude of the great Dutch Kindelberger, president of the NAA, regarding bribes in exchange for production, and the decision was postponed indefinitely. However, those who thought to block purchases could not defend their position due to the obvious advantages of the aircraft. P-51A was ordered in large quantities.
It took a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine to combine with a Mustang airframe to start a truly great warplane.
The life of the P-51B began in late 1942 as two prototypes of the XP-51B, powered by a V-1650-3 engine. The main difference between A and B was the introduction of a front firewall for the Merlin engine and the design of the cooling radiator - the cooling radiators were enlarged.
The increase in flight data turned out to be very significant. The speed was increased from 627.5 km/h on the P-51A to 709.6 km / h on the P-51B. The USAAF now had a machine that could match the flight performance of the latest Bf 109 and Fw 190. Production of the aircraft began at the end of 1942.
The basic structure of the fuselage, wing and tail, typical of all Mustangs, was inherent in the P-51B/C. The flashlight had the same opening scheme that appeared on the XP-51 and passed through all models until it was replaced by a "drop" on the D model. Perhaps the design of the flashlight was the only weakness in B and C. Significant discomfort was caused not only by limiting visibility. low profile silhouette. Pilots, even of small stature, were forced to fly with their heads extended over the visor to obtain adequate visibility during takeoff, landing and in aerial combat. Some relief in this situation was provided by the local installation of a semi-convex lantern designed by Malcolm.
P-51B (C) -1, B-5 and B-10 were equipped with a Rolls-Royce Merlin V-1650-3 engine, and the B-15, C-5, C-10 and C-11 series were equipped with V -1650-7. The maximum speed at 7620 m was within 706 km / h.
The armament consisted of four 12.7-mm machine guns with an approximate 1300 rounds of ammunition. Two under-dust bomb racks were designed for the suspension of a 227-kg bomb or a drop tank with a capacity of 284 to 568 liters each. The flight range was 2092 km.
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P-51A Mustang in the USSR
At the beginning of 1941, the serial NA-83 ("Mustang" I) already appeared, and soon began shipping them to Great Britain. After testing one of these machines in England in the summer of 1942, the Royal Air Force command concluded that the Mustang was not suitable for military operations in Europe, since due to the peculiarities of the V-1710-39 engine, its characteristics quickly dropped above 4000 m.
We began to look for where to put the cars that were already being built in large quantities. Some were used as high-speed low-altitude photo reconnaissance aircraft, and then as attack aircraft. And the British transferred a batch of ten aircraft to the Soviet Union.
The first two Mustangs went for loading on December 16, 1941, the last vehicles of this batch arrived in the USSR on May 14, 1942. One of the first aircraft in June-July 1942 passed the test program at the Air Force Research Institute. VE Golofastov flew. In short-term forced modes, the speed was quite high, although the pilot did not manage to cross the 600-kilometer line, like his American and British counterparts, but at nominal speeds the Mustang was inferior to the Yak-7B by 10-50 km / h. In terms of climb rate, the American fighter was much worse than both Soviet and German machines. In terms of the turn time at low altitudes and especially in the turning radius, he also lost. Plus, the Mustang could be supplied with powerful weapons — eight machine guns, of which four were large-caliber.
Most of the aircraft of this type received were sent to the 6th reserve brigade of Colonel Shumov. where they served for educational purposes. For example, in the summer of 1942, in the process of training the personnel of the 1st ferry division, which had to be introduced to the peculiarities of American aircraft, five Mustangs were used. Three fighters were in service in the brigade for a long time. They were based at the Ivanovo airfield.
Three "Mustangs" in August 1942 were sent for military trials to the 3rd Air Army, to the Kalinin Front. They were sent from Ivanovo on August 22. Two vehicles ended up in the 5th Guards Fighter Regiment, armed with LaGG-3. The regiment commander twice Hero of the Soviet Union V.A. Zaitsev flew on American planes, but pilots Popkov (later also twice Hero) and Onufrienko also tried these machines. According to Popkov's recollections, the impression of the American fighters was sharply negative. Although the machine was notable for its high speed, it was "heavy as an iron." Its maneuverability left much to be desired. I also did not like the prolonged take-off. Not a single combat sortie was made in Mustangs. Soon the propellers were damaged on both fighters and, for lack of spare, the planes were handed back.
One "Mustang" went to the training regiment of the Air Force Academy. Zhukovsky. It was operated back in 1946, and then served as an exhibit. Another car was on display at the TsAGI Bureau of New Technology.
The Germans write that at the end of April 1943, they allegedly shot down a pair of P-51s over Karelia, but this is just an error in recognizing the types, of which there were many in wartime.
F-6 (Mustang FR)
North American Mustang FR / F-6 Photomustang is a reconnaissance variant of the P-51 Mustang single-seat fighter. Single-engine all-metal cantilever monoplane with retractable landing gear. Created at the North American Aviation Design Bureau under the leadership of R. Rais. The prototype of the NA-73 fighter made its first flight on October 26, 1940. From June 1941 the aircraft was serially built in the USA, and from the spring of 1945 - in Australia. Mustangs have been in service with the British Air Force since February 1942, the United States since February 1943, and Australia since May 1945.
For the first time, Mustang fighters were converted into close-range photographic reconnaissance aircraft in the workshops of the British Air Force in the spring of 1942. Subsequently, in the United States, the North American factories in Inglewood and Dallas organized the production of F-6 photographic reconnaissance aircraft based on the P-51 of various modifications. A total of 480 copies were made.
British Air Force Mustang photo reconnaissance personnel first took pictures of German fortifications on the coast of the English Channel in May 1942. In October, British Mustangs crossed the German border for the first time. American aircraft used them in Tunisia in April 1943, and later in Italy. From the end of 1943, American F-6s began to regularly photograph the coast of the English Channel, flying from southern England, and did this until the Allies landed on the continent. British "Mustangs" from October 1944 participated in the search for V-2 missile launch sites. Both British and American vehicles conducted tactical reconnaissance in the directions of the allied armies' offensive until the very defeat of Germany.
F-6s of the US Army Air Force also fought in the Pacific Theater.