SQUADRONS! No.64: The North American Mustang Mk I & Mk II

When the war broke out in September 1939, the RAF rapidly found itself in desperate need of combat aircraft, manufacturers being unable to provide enough aircraft for local and overseas needs.Logically, the British saw the USA as a source of supply. Despite official neutrality, the US Congress authorised all belligerents (factually, only the future Allied nations) to purchase military equipment if it then left American shores in the holds of ships owned by the purchasing country. With this in mind, the French and British each sent a Purchasing Commission. Both countries had some common needs but were also looking to fill roles specific to their air arms. Among the fighters bought was the Curtiss P-40, ordered by both France and the UK in great numbers.This fighter had also been selected by the USAAC, so delivery dates were pushed back to the end of 1940.The British therefore decided to find another production line to speed up deliveries. North American was contacted but, instead of producing the P-40 under license, offered a new fighter which would use the same powerplant, the Allison V-1710. This was in January 1940 and, after intense discussion, the first letter of intent for 320 aircraft was signed on 10 April. The British set their conditions, among which was that the prototype had to make its first flight within eight months; North American had it ready in just 122 days (four months)! The maiden flight took place on 26 October 1940. Just a few weeks before, on 17 September, a second order for 300 more aircraft had been placed.
The Mustang as it was now called entered in RAF service early in 1942, not as a fighter but as a tactical reconnaissance; indeed, the RAF found that it could be only used at low altitude because of its engine. In all eighteen RAF squadrons were equipped with the Mustang Mk I or Mk II, a lend-leased delivery for the latter and one flight in the Med which used loaned aircraft from the USAAF. This book is illustrated with about 50 photos and 6 colour profiles.

ISBN: 978-2494471-12-2



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PDF version is available as 978-2494471-13-9