The North American Aviation P-51 Mustang is a long-range, single-seat fighter aircraft that served with Allied forces in the middle years of World War II, becoming one of the conflicts most effective and recognizable aircraft. The P-51 flew most of its wartime missions as a bomber escort in raids over Germany to help ensure Allied air superiority from early 1944.
In late 1939, with the likelihood of full scale war in Europe a major concern, the British Royal Air Force (RAF) was looking for methods of quickly increasing its fighter strength. In April 1940, the British Air Purchasing Commission approached North American Aviation with the intent of having them build P-40s for the RAF. Since the P-40 design went back to 1933, James H. “Dutch” Kendelberger, president of North American, offered to build an entirely new advanced fighter. As well as being economical to produce, the Mustang was a fast, well-made and highly durable aircraft. The British agreed and the P-51 took its maiden flight on October 26, 1940.
The P-51D variant is considered the definitive Mustang. Ordered in 1943, it had a bubble canopy which provided the pilot with a valuable all-around view. It was also fitted with additional armament. The P-51D became the most widely produced version. Between 1941 and 1945, the US Army Air Force ordered 14,855 aircraft, 7,956 of which were P-51Ds. During the Korean War, the P-51D was used primarily for close support of ground forces until withdrawn from combat in1953.