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NEWS | Oct. 26, 2022

P-51 Mustang: First flight of an Icon

By Jim Bono 502d Air Base Wing Public Affairs

No World War II fighter aircraft was more iconic than the bubble canopied P-51 Mustang.  So successful was the airframe that was deemed the most aerodynamically perfect pursuit plane in existence by the Truman Senate War Investigating Committee.

The North American Aviation P-51 Mustang, an American-made long-range, single-seat fighter and fighter-bomber used during World War II and the Korean War, made its maiden flight on this date in 1940.

The aircraft was first flown operationally by the Royal Air Force as a tactical-reconnaissance aircraft and fighter-bomber but lacked a high-performance engine capable of reaching the altitudes necessary for air-to-air combat at that time. From its first flight on October 26, 1940, through early 1944, the airframe continued to be refined by both the U.S. and British allies.

The Joint British/American designed P-51D model was outfitted with a supercharged engine capable of 440 miles per hour and could climb to over 28,000 feet. The redesign also included an 85-gallon external fuel tanks that extended the range of the aircraft to almost 1,400 miles, making it capable of bomber escort. The P-51 was armed with six .50 caliber Browning machine guns, along with rockets depending on the mission requirements.

More than 80 years later, the U.S. Air Force continues to develop innovative aircraft and tactics to ensure American victory in the skies.

The T-7A Red Hawk is an all-new advanced pilot training system designed for the U.S. Air Force that will train the next generation of fighter and bomber pilots at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas.

The Red Hawk builds off the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, who flew the P-51 Mustang as the all African American 332nd Fighter Group. The T-7, which was designed to emulate a fifth-generation fighter, will replace the venerable T-38 Talon trainer. It is estimated that within a decade, nearly 60% of the Air Force’s combat pilots will be flying fifth-generation fighters.

From the first flight of the renowned P-51 Mustang to the future implementation of the T- 7 Redhawk, the Air Force has demonstrated its commitment to innovation and the development of new technologies that support the warfighter as the U.S military faces the challenges of the future.