The North American Aviation P-51 Mustang was a long-range single-seat World War II fighter aircraft. Designed, built and airborne in just 117 days, the Mustang first flew in RAF service as a fighter-bomber and reconnaissance aircraft before conversion to a bomber escort, employed in raids over Germany, helping ensure Allied air superiority from early 1944.The P-51 was in service with Allied air forces in Europe and also saw limited service against the Japanese in the Pacific War. The Mustang began the Korean War as the United Nations’ main fighter, but was relegated to a ground attack role when superseded by jet fighters early in the conflict. Nevertheless, it remained in service with some air forces until the early 1980s.
As well as being economical to produce, the Mustang was a fast, well-made, and highly durable aircraft. The definitive version, the P-51D, was powered by the Packard V-1650, a two-stage two-speed supercharged version of the legendary Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, and was armed with six .50 in (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns.
After World War II and the Korean War, many Mustangs were converted for civilian use, especially air racing. The Mustang’s reputation was such that, in the mid-1960s, Ford Motor Company’s Designer John Najjar proposed the name for a new youth-oriented coupe automobile after the fighter.
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