The P-51 Mustang Dominated World War II (And It Might Have Replaced the A-10 Warthog)

    Michael Peck


    The North American P-51 Mustang was one of the greatest fighters of World War II. And it could have been in service for much longer. 

    True, the PA-48 would have been cheaper, but this virtue is rooted in a time when human life was cheaper. America lost almost forty-four thousand Army Air Force (the precursor to the U.S. Air Force) aircraft overseas during the Second World War, plus another fourteen thousand in training accidents in the United States. More than forty thousand airmen were killed in combat theaters, and that figure was even worse for the Germans and Japanese. The P-51 was considered high-tech for its time. But World War II aircraft and their pilots were essentially flying bullets, to be expended like so much ammunition in a massive war of attrition. Even Operation Rolling Thunder in Vietnam cost more than nine hundred aircraft.

    The North American P-51 Mustang was one of the greatest fighters of World War II.

    Had life worked out differently, the Mustang could also have fought in Vietnam and flown against a Soviet invasion of Western Europe. In fact, it might even have replaced the A-10 Warthog.

    The Piper PA-48 Enforcer was a modernized version of the P-51. It was the brainchild of David Lindsay, founder of manufacturer Cavalier Aircraft, who bought the rights to the Mustang in 1956.

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    The P-51 eventually became the Turbo Mustang III. But in 1968, in response to an Air Force search for a counterinsurgency (COIN) aircraft to fight in Southeast Asia, Lindsay moved the Turbo Mustang III and himself over to Piper Aircraft, maker of popular aircraft such as the Piper Cub. What emerged in 1971 was the PA-48 Enforcer, Piper’s bid for the COIN contract.

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