The scientific tourist #72 — North American P-51D-25NA Mustang

Another photo from the San Diego Air & Space Museum:

North American P-51D-25NA Mustang

This particular Mustang was built in March, 1945 — too late to see combat in WWII. But in this sense, it’s a bit of an oddity — while the D variant was not the last type of Mustang, it was by far the most numerous — a total of 8,156 P-51Ds were built, making it the workhorse of Allied fighters in the waning years of WWII.

The Mustang was originally produced in the U.S. as an export fighter for the U.K., its original engine and even the plane’s name coming from the RAF. The Mustang was durable, light, and (thanks in no small part to its laminar flow wing) fast — perfect for escorting bomber groups over Europe. Subsequent variants would make it even lighter and faster, one of the fastest production prop-driven aircraft ever built.

But time and technology move on — while Mustangs saw service early in the Korean War, they were retired by 1953 when it was obvious that they just couldn’t compete with even the early jet fighters.

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