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Published on Nov 16, 2007
The Mustang's achievements in WW2 with the USAAF tend to overshadow its work with the RAF, who of course took the aircraft in to combat before the Americans ever did. RAF operations can be grouped in to three types:
a. Army Co-operation including low level recce, naval strike using Allison engined P51A's or Mustang 1/ll's. Some also acted as low level interceptors against low flying German raiders.
b. Long range escort missions for coastal strike and bomber operations using Mustang lll's and lV's.
c. Ground attack and general fighter support using Mustang lll's and lV's.
The RAF loved the early Mustangs and it was very much missed when the production line closed in favour of the Merlin engined B's and C's. As a low level fighter the P51A had few equals in speed and range, even if its agility was exceeded by the low altitude cropped wing Spitfire Mk V's. Mustangs saw action all over Western Europe including Dieppe flying in ones and twos at ranges Spitfire's could only dream about in their armed versions. Mustangs had the standard day scheme of green/brown uppers and sky undersides later replaced by the green/Ocean Grey/Medium Sea Grey scheme. Markings were a standard mix of B roundels on the upper wings and C and C1's on the under sides of the wings and fuselage sides (A's on the green/Dark Earth versions). The RAF also had some of the 20mm cannon armed aircraft designated 1a's. The last Mustang 1/ll squadron kept their aircraft until 1945. All others having been replaced by other types or Merlin Mustang versions.
As North American ceased production of the Allison engined versions the RAF reequiped some of the squadrons with less well suited types such as the Spitfire Mk V. While the Spitfire is still the best fighter of WW2 in this role the early Mustangs were certainly the better aircraft as their long range and rugged construction were very useful operating at these altitudes and mission profiles. The RAF then shifted attention to the Merlin engined Mk lll's (the US B/C). The B/C were the same aircraft made by different factories with tiny differences between them, hence the RAF's use of the same designation. By late 1944 this version had established itself as a competent performer capable of doing all that was asked of it. RAF modifications gave the aircraft a bulged Malcolm canopy for improved visibility and cockpit access and the US modification to the ammunition feed resulted in an end to the gun jamming problems that beset the aircraft when it first entered service. Some authorities believe the Malcolm hooded C with the modified ammunition feeds to be better than the later P 51D due to the loss of lateral stability that resulted from removing the fuselage side area. These Mustangs roamed far and wide over Europe escorting RAF bombers as Bomber Command increasingly turned day light precision raids such as those carried out by 617 and 9 Squadron's using Tallboys and Grandslam earthquake bombs. Mustangs also carried out escorts for Mosquitoes and Beaufighters as far away as Norway for anti shipping strikes. Leonard Cheshire even used a Mustang for experimental target marking for 617 Squadron in place of the Mosquito he normally used. Almost all examples were green/Ocean Grey/Medium Sea Grey. Polish units often had colourful markings and large kill boards, 19 Squadron was quite well marked and its post war examples such as the well known Dooly Bird were almost gaudy. These Mustangs took part in the anti Diver patrols against the V1 and were very successful, even if the Tempest had the speed edge on the Mustang.
Specifications Length: 32' 3" 9.8 m Height: 12' 2" 3.7 m Wingspan: 37' 11.3 m Wingarea: 235.0 sq ft 21.8 sq m Max Weight: 9,000 lb 4,081 kg