1⁄1P-51D "The Rebel"
The North American Mustang found its beginnings when Sir Henry Self, head of the British purchasing commission in America approached North American about producing the P-40 under license. North American felt they could develop a superior aircraft in the time it would take to acquire the rights and dies to reproduce the Curtiss fighter. In March of 1940 the British government ordered 320 of the new aircraft sight-unseen. The Mustang's primary innovations were its laminar flow wings, and a cooling system featuring the Meredith effect. The former drastically reduced drag compared the traditional airfoils, and the latter harnessed air warmed by the heat exchanger to produce small amounts of thrust. This offset the drag incurred by cooling surfaces. A feature notably utilized by one of the Mustang's primary rivals, the FW-190. Throughout its service life the Mustang underwent two major changes. The original Allison V-1710 powerplant, although superb at low altitudes, was replaced by the higher flying Packard Merlin engine. And the conservative fared-in cockpit was replaced by a then state-of-the-art seamless bubble canopy. Ensuring the pilot unrivaled visibility. These later variants took on a much different role than their predecessors. The Allison engined variants found use primarily in reconaissance and attack. The later Packard aircraft were the definitive long-ranging dogfighter of the war. Finally providing truly effective daytime bomber escort. And allowing the USAAC to venture deep into German territory to destroy the Luftwaffe in the air as well as on the ground.
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