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Early in World War II, the British requested North American to build P-40 Kittyhawk for service in the RAF. North American responded with a proposal to build a new aircraft, the Mustang. The USAAC & the RAF used the early production models (called the A-36) in limited roles of reconnaissance and dive bombing as they suffered poor performance due to the installed Allison engine. After the USAAC fitted Packard Merlins in the (renumbered) P-51B & C, the performance improved—however, the later P-51D with the bubble canopy was fitted with the Rolls Royce Merlin and it became an outstanding success as a long range fighter in the European theatre.

The P-51D developed into one of the great combat aircraft of World War 2. Although it saw only limited RAAF service in World War 2, the RAAF operated over 500 until 1959. The Mustang had exceptional range and endurance and the Rolls Royce Merlin engine enabled speeds of 380 knots up to high altitudes. 77 SQN operated the aircraft in Korea where it was employed effectively in ground attack missions, although not without some limitations. It remained in service with CAF squadrons until withdrawn.

The Mustang was armed with six .50 calibre guns and a combination of 227 Kg (500lb) bombs, 27Kg (60lb) HE and AP rockets, 118 Kg (250lb) fragmentation bombs and 455 litre napalm tanks. However, its vulnerability to ground fire, lack of performance against the MIG 15 and its poor navcom equipment resulted in the aircraft being replaced with the Meteor jet from Britain. While the Meteor performance was better, the navcom equipment was equally as poor.