North American P-51 Mustang

Based off the World War Two thriller Catalyst by Paul Byers
This is a brief history of the North American P-51 Mustang. The Mustangs flown by the 222nd in the WWII thriller, CATALYST were typical P-51Ds of the US 8th Army Air Force, flown out of bases throughout England as what Churchill referred to as an unsinkable aircraft carrier. CATALYST, though a work of fiction, is inspired by true events and is historically accurate.

Below, along with information about the P-51 are excerpts from CATALYST

…‘Come on, hot shot.’ He told himself. ‘Time to put your money where your mouth is.’ Stevens had the speed and soon closed to about 250 yards, then put the hammer down. He watched in amazement as bullets sparked and danced like a string of firecrackers on the 4th of July across the 190s wing. Bits and pieces of the wing were ripped away as the tracers moved along the outside of the wing toward the middle. They converged on the fuselage and a puff of gray smoke appeared as bullets hit the engine compartment. The trail of smoke quickly turned black as the engine ran out of oil and the propeller froze up. Stevens watched as the pilot struggled to get the canopy back, then saw him pound with both hands against the glass out of frustration when it wouldn’t budge. Stevens almost ran into the doomed fighter because he was so intent at watching the drama instead of paying attention. Quickly recovering, he pulled up and peered over his shoulder as the plane crashed outside a small village.

All of a sudden it hit him: he had just made his first kill! The thrill of combat was intoxicating, almost euphoric, and he could feel the adrenaline flowing through his bloodstream. But it was different, too. He was elated and yet somehow disappointed. It had all happened so fast. No great struggle, no heroics, just plain and simple. Still, it was a moment he knew he would remember for the rest of his life.

The P-51 Mustang was arguably the best allied fighter, if not the best fighter aircraft of WWII. It was fast and nimble and was the first allied fighter with the range to escort the B-17 and B-24 bombers deep into German territory and back, marking the end of the Luftwaffe’s rein in over the skies in Europe.

 

The history of the Mustang in WWII began back in 1939 and came about almost by accident. The British were looking for lead/lease fighters for the RAF to help supplement their Supermarine Spitfires and Hawker Hurricanes. The closest American fighter that met European standards was the Curtiss P-40 Tomahawk, the aircraft of General Claire Chennault and the famous Flying Tigers in China.

 

However, Curtiss was running at full production so the British went to North American to see if they could produce the P-40 under license. North American, realizing the opportunity before them, said they had a better aircraft and could produce it in faster time than it would take to set up the new production line. 178 days after the order was placed, they delivered the first of the soon to be legendary Mustangs.

As with all aircraft, the Mustang went through a series of growing stages. The early B and C fighter models had four guns, (several early British planes replaced the machine guns with four 20mm cannons) but the standard armament of the famous and most widely known D model was six, M2 Browning fifty-caliber machine guns.

There were 400 rounds for the two inboard guns and 270 rounds each for the four outboard guns for a total of 1880 rounds. This gave the Mustang enough firepower for thirty seconds of continual firing and could throw 154 pounds of lead at the enemy. With each gun spewing out 800 rounds a minute, when making a strafing runs, her guns were usually enough to silence most opposition in one pass. The sleek and versatile fighter could also be used as a dive-bomber, carrying the standard bomb load of two, 500 pound general purpose bombs. The typical 500 pounder was usually a fifty-fifty mix of TNT and Amatol and when it exploded, it shattered the bomb casing into more than 40,000 pieces.

…Where did the other one go? He twisted and turned in his cockpit, frantically searching for the missing enemy. "Check your sixes!" Adams shouted out the warning. "I only see one of the German fighters!"

Adams didn’t have to wait long to find out where the other German plane had gone. When he had turned to look, his hand dragged the stick over and the plane turned slightly, catching a flash of movement on his right side just under his horizontal stabilizer. It was just enough to see the flash of the camouflaged green Messerschmitt as it swept up underneath him. Underneath him! How did he get behind AND underneath him at the same time?

Adams yanked back on the stick for all it was worth. Like the stallion she was named after, his plane reared up as he pulled on the reins. The maneuver worked. He saw a volley of deadly cannon fire go streaking by, just inches from his canopy. The maneuver got his plane out of harm’s way, but also threw it into a dizzying, tight flat spin. He was now caught in a whirlpool spin that was sucking him out of the sky. "Stick with the bomber, that’s an order!" were the last words they heard from Colonel Adams.

In 1944, the Mustang added another weapon to its arsenal, the HVAR. (High Velocity Aerial Rocket) Inspired by the British 3-inch rocket, this American Counter part (nick-named "Holy Moses") was six feet in length and carried a 5-inch warhead and weighed in at around 140 pounds. It had a range of roughly a mile and the armor-piercing version could penetrate an inch and a half of steel or four feet of concrete. When the Mustang volleyed off six rockets, it was the equivalent firepower of the broadside from a US naval destroyer.

In late 1944, the army airforce was so desperate for long range fighter cover (the Mustang had a range of 1600 miles with drop tanks) in the Pacific, top secret trials (code name Seahorse project) were carried out by testing modified Mustangs taking off and landing off the deck of US carriers. Plans were canceled for "Seahorse" after the Marines captured Iwo Jima, establishing a base the fighters could use to escort the B-29 Superfortress’ to Japan and back.

However, the Mustang excelled best at what it was designed to do, shooting down enemy aircraft. The top scoring fighter group during WWII was the 4th Fighter Group, racking up1016 kills, 550 aerial and 466 on the ground. In aerial combat, the top-scoring P-51 units were the 357 Fighter Group with 595 air-to-air combat victories, and the 354th Fighter Group with 701. Over all kills claimed by units flying the Mustang in Europe were 4950 shot down with another 4131 destroyed on the ground. The P-51 Mustang produced 275 aces (five or more kills) and 19 aces in a day (five or more kills in one mission) In Europe, the P-51 flew over 213,000 missions and lost around 2500 aircraft to all causes.

There were 15,875 of the P-51 Mustangs built, most being manufactured at plants in Inglewood, California and in Dallas, Texas, at a cost of just under $51,000 in 1945. In today’s dollar, that rounds out to be $595,000 apiece.

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1
  • 1
  • Length: 32 ft 3 in (9.83 m)
  • 32 ft 3 in (9.83 m)
  • Wingspan: 37 ft 0 in (11.28 m)
  • Height: 13 ft 8 in (4.17 m)
  • 13 ft 8 in (4.17 m)
  • Wing area: 235 ft² (21.83 m²)
  • 235 ft² (21.83 m²)
  • Empty weight: 7,635 lb (3,465 kg)
  • 7,635 lb (3,465 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 9,200 lb (4,175 kg)
  • 9,200 lb (4,175 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 12,100 lb (5,490 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1×Packard Merlin V-1650-7 liquid-cooled supercharged V-12, 1,695 hp (1,265 kW)

    Performance

    • Maximun speed: 437 mph (703 km/h) at 25,000 ft (7,620 m)
    • Cruise speed: 362 mph (580 km/h)
    • Stall speed: 100 mph (160 km/h)
    • Range: 1,650 mi (2,655 km) with external tanks
    • Service ceiling: 41,900 ft (12,770 m)
    • Rate of climb: 3,200 ft/min (16.3 m/s)
    • Wing load: 39 lb/ft² (192 kg/m²)

      Armament

      • 6 × 0.50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns; 400 rounds per gun for the two inboard guns; 270 per outboard gun
      • 2 hardpoints for up to 2,000 lb (907 kg)
      • 10 × 5 in (127 mm) rockets
CATALYST is an exciting WWII thriller inspired by true events: the fact that Germany had a plot to bomb New York City.  To go to Amazon.com and read more about the book and reviews, click on the picture, for more information about the author click on the website below. 

In the waning months of World War II, the allied armies advance upon the crumbling German war machine like a juggernaut. In a final desperate bid to save the Fatherland, a plan is conceived that could turn the tide of the war-the completion of an advanced jet-propelled bomber capable of delivering a deadly payload to shores of America.

Captain Griff Avery of the OSS has just botched the defection of a prominent German physicist, a man crucial to the Nazi end game, letting him fall into the hands of the rogue SS General masterminding the plot. But Avery's troubles have only just begun: overwhelming evidence points to the woman he loves as the German spy who foiled the defection.

Now under suspicion himself, Avery sifts through the lies and deceit, uncovering the treacherous German operation. Against orders and on the run, Avery is forced to wage a secret war of his own, recruiting the crew of a B-17 Flying Fortress and a reckless group of flyboys and their P-51 Mustangs to help him hunt down the secret SS cell and prevent the slaughter-no matter what the cost.

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