Regarding the Mustang

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by IL2, Oct 2, 2009.

  1. IL2

    IL2 New Member

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    Was the P-51 all that? Or was it simply the right plane, at the right time, for the right mission?

    WW-ll had a host of great fighter planes but was the Mustangs big, big gas tanks the real reason for its success? And how would it have faired under more equal terms with the late war non-jet Luftwaffe? In other words, with all else being equal, would the P-51 still have ruled the skies over Europe?

    We had so much in our favor. From pilot training to quality fuel to numbers. But how good was the P-51 really?

    Thank you.
     
  2. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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    As discussed many many many times, the P-51 was like all the other top fighters of the war. It had advantages in some areas, and disadvantages in others. This all depended on flight conditions and each individual situation. It excelled the best at the areas where it was most required and that was at the higher altitudes the bombers flew at. It was the aircraft that took the war to the Luftwaffe.
     
  3. Colin1

    Colin1 Active Member

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    If it was the right plane, at the right time for the right mission - then it was all that, surely?

    WWII did have a host of great fighter planes but the P-51 was one of them. I think the premise for your argument is pretty flakey, arguing that the P-51 was only great because of it's range is a bit like saying the F-35 is only great because you can't see it; you can't complain that the only reason an aircraft is great is because of the very asset that makes it great.

    The P-51's range was its ace-in-the-hole, it enabled the Allies to put a top-of-the-line single-engined, single-seater fighter over the Reich to engage their interceptors and provide effective defence for the strategic bombing campaign all the way to the target and all the way back.

    The plane aside, you mention pilot training; in the same way that the F4F achieved acceptable results against the A6M series through tactics, the P-51 would have achieved the same against the Luftwaffe. One on one, it probably lacked the sharpness of a true interceptor but tactics and gunnery skills would make it at least comparable to the late-war, non-jet Luftwaffe.
     
  4. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    Both Colin and Chris made good points.

    Simply the Mustang had a better record against the LW than either the P-47 or P-38 and probably the Spit because the LW was forced to fight at the Mustang's best performance altitude and it was more or less equal at lower altitudes to the 109 and 190.

    Had the P-38L been available in large numbers in summer 1943 we might be talking about it in the same way relative to the Battle over Germany.

    It was more than range - it was equal or better performance to Fw 190 and Me 109 at bomber altitudes over Berlin - not France and Holland.
     
  5. vanir

    vanir Banned

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    On things like aircraft comparisons...well there's so many potholes to fall into.
    I'll add some pilot reports including some television interviews I've watched with the surviving aces from various nations. According to the men who flew, the Mustang was a long range fighter which could do everything well. That was intensely amazing, most often when you made a specialised a/c it could only do one job well and sort of got by on everything else, maybe even did some things badly.
    The Lightning was an excellent long range fighter, but again listening to the pilot reports it was slightly the victim of its own abilities, it was too stable for its own good in the dogfight and flew too high for its own good in the boom and zoom. But it was very fast with heavy armament, fantastic endurance and great reliability. And good piloting could work around its problems.
    Now don't take me wrong about "problems" most a/c had them. The Messer had its sore points, the FW, everything.
    But most pilots seem to agree the Mustang didn't really have any vices. It was great at everything and had as much or better endurance than a Lightning or late (modified) Thunderbolt.

    Okay of course on closer examination there were tactics to use against the Mustang. Firstly, the late war situation in Germany and associated production difficulties aside, let's talk fantasy land here, the Me-109G-10, K-4 and Fw-190A-9, D-9 are all powerful fighters en par with any late war Allied jobs over Germany, given a good production example of each.
    So comparing performance to the Mustang they've all got around the same speed capabilities at 6km, Fw's are better below this height for insta-power output, Messers are roughly equivalent from sea level to critical altitude but only for 5mins at a time where the Mustang will do its WEP for a good 20mins or so. But Messers have low speed acceleration and sustained climb over it for those 5mins (only).
    The Mustang can get caught between supercharger stages at about 12,000ft iirc and the Merlin has a real flat spot when that happens, losing a good ~200hp or in other words never get caught at that height. All a/c except the Messer has this problem and this factor is really what makes the Messer pretty dangerous. It has great medium range output and no supercharger lag at the cost of higher running temperatures (the hydraulic drive coupling makes oil temps in Messers a nightmare, it plagued their service life and was always a prob at the max power settings). Meanwhile the Dora has the same prob as the Mustang with flat spots, it has one at about ~3000m and the BMW motor about 2000m. Jumo engine also had reliability issues and a very wide array of setups were tried with it, so specs vary (Wright Field postwar testing rated it as a bit of a hack, barely airworthy, but great performance like a hotrod someone put together in the backyard).

    So in terms of a technical comparison against good examples of enemy contemporaries, the Mustang does really well at 7000m and at 3500m unless you're dealing with an A-series FW in which case, well try to draw him to medium altitude combat. At 5000m the D-9 and Messers are pretty tough to beat (Messers are pretty good at 6-7km too), and all German a/c are pretty tough under 3000m. The Messer you just need to extend from and wait 'till he overheats, like the way German pilots dealt with La5's, then he loses his WEP and you've still got yours. The Dora lost performance over 5km alt and had that flat spot at around 3500m.

    But Günther Rall for one flew a captured Mustang in comparative testing and he's a very experienced Messer ace. When asked in an interview about the Mustang's performance compared to a good late war Messerschmitt he said, well it had a nice cockpit. He was asked if it was a superior fighter plane, he said no, the German fighters were competitive, but what amazed him the most was how roomy the cockpit was, which made flying it easier. But then again Mustang pilots were in the cockpit for some 3hrs before engaging combat over Germany, so then fatigue was an issue for them.
     
  6. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    #6 tomo pauk, Oct 3, 2009
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2009
    Great post, Vanir.

    The late war prop jobs made in Germany (D-9, A-9, K-4) were really great, but P-51B was available almost a full year before them, it was available in numbers, and it had no vices. When we count in the enormous range, there is really nothing more to ask from a plane.

    As for Rall's comment on Mustang, well, I bet he'd give a 1st borne son to command a Jagdgruppe of Mustangs. No offense.
     
  7. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    You kind of garbled what Rall really said - at least in his biography "Gunther Rall"

    pg 174 - "But the P-51 was truly the star fighter in Europe because of its long range and manueverability"

    pg 243 - "How different these American planes were to our 109's. They could fly for seven hours; the Bf 109 just one hour and 20 minutes. But what really broke us during the war were the long range fighter escorts, P-51 Mustangs, P-47 Thunderbolts and P-38 Lightnings. Once they were fitted with auxiliary fuel tanks they could fly for about eight hours. I could really detect the tactical differences between the German, british and American planes.

    This gave me the greatest respect for the P-51Mustang and its extremely comfortable cockpit, great rear visibility, long-range, excellent manueverability and an electrical starting system".
     
  8. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    I think the only vice the "B" Mk had was its reduction in power at higher altitudes making it equal or less to the LW fighters. It wasn't a very good platform at those alt with the engine it had - hence the use of the model for ground-attack.
     
  9. Colin1

    Colin1 Active Member

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    Chris
    you don't mean the A variant here, do you?
    B/C-1s with the -3 had a service ceiling slightly over 40,000ft
    B/Cs and Ds with the -7 could only top that by about 1,000ft if I recall but both engine versions were more than capable of taking on the Luftwaffe at bomber altitudes.
     
  10. Civettone

    Civettone Active Member

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    #10 Civettone, Oct 3, 2009
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2009
    Everyone knows I'm a Luftwaffe nut. But I have never agreed with the negative criticism on the Mustang. Of course it was no superfighter. There's no such thing: like Adler said, it had, like any other, its strengths and weaknesses.

    But let me just add that not all strengths or vices are as important as others. At medium-high altitude and over Germany, the P-51 was superior to its adversaries because it beat the Germans on its own game: power fights at higher altitude. German pilots knew they could engage and disengage at will, which suited their Freie Jagd tactics to the fullest. Now came along a fighter which was a whopping 50+ kmh faster than its adversaries. Couple that with pilots with excellent training and tactics and you got a succes story. Even before the high numbers became excruciating.

    It's striking to see how it took the Germans over a year (!) to come up with a fighter (109K and 190D) which could match the speed of the P-51. By then new and faster versions of the Mustang were ready for production but the need didn't arise.

    We can talk about turn rate, roll rate, firepower and whatever. But the real strength of any fighter is the ability to dictate the fight. That the Mustang was able to do 500 miles from home and over German airfields is all the more impressive.

    Kris
     
  11. vanir

    vanir Banned

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    I was referring to his television recorded seminar included on the special features of the "WWII Fighter Aces" dvd from the ABC, where he says the comments I wrote in the character I suggested. He did also mention the electric starter. I remember clearly how he answered about the P-47, when asked by one audience member what he would do in a 109 if bounced by a Thunderbolt he looked confused for a moment and answered simply, "Shoot it down." He did then note you shouldn't follow one in a zoom climb because it has a good dive and picks up too much speed.
    He was asked repeatedly about Allied a/c versus the late war 109 and about the Mustang, he was quite clearly most impressed by its cockpit. I don't remember him saying anything about its manoeuvrability, if he mentioned it was remarkable at all I definitely would remember that. He liked the cockpit of the Mustang and thought the Thunderbolt had an good dive. He did mention his biggest vice with the 109 was its automatic leading edge slats, which he said would extend in tight manoeuvres on one wing and not the other, which would throw the a/c balance right out. You would have to straighten the wings and then turn in again when this happened. He also clearly mentioned the late war 109 was still competitive, which some of the audience members did not at first seem to appreciate (they were mostly functioning on the belief of Allied technical superiority causing Allied combat superiority). In private interview on the same dvd Galland took quite some pains to explicitly outline the numerical superiority of the Allies as the overwhelming factor from mid-44 onwards, and that even so according to him the Luftwaffe was "still capable of holding its own" right to the very last day of hostiliites, which he obviously considers quite an achievement. Indeed considering the state of Germany at that time, its occupation, the almost complete degeneration of its defence forces and military infrastructure, it is notable German aerial victories continued to the last day of hostilities, Hartmann himself scored a Yak-9 on May 8, Spitfires and Thunderbolts were being shot down on the 1st and 4th May.

    Was the biography you mention a compilated of edited/published statements given in seminars, or written by Rall himself? The rest of the dvd is personal interviews with surviving aces from most nations, Japanese, RAF BoB vets and German (including Hartmann which was very special, obviously filmed shortly before his death).
     
  12. fibus

    fibus Member

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    the comparisons of aircraft on this site are always enlightening and very interesting. I can add little.
    But I will suggest some food for thought. Any model P 40 below 15 thousand feet and speed less than 300 mph could turn inside any model P 51. The test evaluators at Wright-Pat considered the Yak 9 superior to the P 51.
    The French pilots that flew the Spitfire, P 51 and the Yak 9 preferred the Yak. I don't know which models of Spit and Mustang.
     
  13. VG-33

    VG-33 Banned

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    #13 VG-33, Oct 4, 2009
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2009
    I would say the Yak-9U with the Klimov 107 engine. The usual Yak-9 withe a Klimov 105 was to short, in performance matters.

    No Spit or Mustang were proposed to french pilots at Ivanovo in 1942-43. Only Hurricanes or P-39's and Yak-1.
    For sure the best aerobatic warbird in 45-46 years was the Normandie's Yak-3, beating even Ile de France's Spitfires IX and XVI on that point. Since very impressive in airshows, it was less appreciated than the sturdy and well protected La-7 in realfights by soviet pilots. French pilots asked for Lavotchkins for many and many times, with no result.

    I would add that Marcel Albert, the secund french ace is (not was, because he's still alive) not impressed neither from the Messerschmitt 109, neither from the FW-190A-8 flying qualities that he had tested in the STAé once the war ended. After - the "violent" Yak-3 reactions to commands, they feel heavy ans sluggish", viewed from the cockpit- he said, to a french virtual pilot's club.

    The" French" Mustang reached about 680 km/h from MAE datas. It's less than usual admitted numbers, but it was a serial aircraft with probably some wearing. Anyway all the american planes were much better manufactured than european one's. It's why they are much appreciated by collectors. And BTW very much closer to their theoretical performance numbers than the others. At the end of the war it was noticed a great fall of production quality of german planes both from french (allied?) and soviet accounts, and from german vet's that spoke to Jean Salis at la Ferte Alais center. It should be not ignored either.


    But regardless the Yak, La and Spit ability to outfight the Mustang on a dogfight, they were not able to protect strategic bombers or catch Me-262's deep inside the Reich territory.

    So yes, it was the right plane on the right place for allies!

    Regards
     
  14. Juha

    Juha Well-Known Member

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    #14 Juha, Oct 4, 2009
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2009
    Hello Vanir
    OT but anyway
    Quote:"I remember clearly how he answered about the P-47, when asked by one audience member what he would do in a 109 if bounced by a Thunderbolt he looked confused for a moment and answered simply, "Shoot it down." "

    Interesting when we remember that when he met P-47s he was shot down and wounded. He seemed to still have some of the fighter jockey's cockyness left even if when I saw him he was more like a modest but lively old gentleman.

    Juha

    ADDITION: The book, Meinen Flugbuch - Erinnerungen 1938 - 2004 is a memoirs writen by him and edited by Kurt Braatz. There is other Rall book arond, based on interviews made by an American woman, IIRC, and what I have heard, that one isn't particularly good. But IMHO Rall/Braatz book is a good one.
     
  15. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    The autographed copy I have was written by British author and Journalist Jill Amadio in close collaboration with Rall - 2002.

    In Rall's Introduction, he said "Working with the author, Jill Amadio, who has respected my wishes to have my recollections written from my own personal viewpoint, may go against the premise of a scholarly biography but I am grateful for her understanding that I have a lot to say as she researched the book and I wanted it said my way. I believe she has captured the essence of the man who is Gunther Rall, enabling readers to catch a rare glimpse into who I really am."

    It is an excellent book - completely blunt and honest.

    Whether or not the 109 had a tendency to snatch slats and pull him off the track in a turning fight or his statement that a Mustang can not stay with a 109 in a fast, steep climbing turn - those are his stated comments and opinions whether others agree or not.

    For what it is worth my father had the same impressions in his post war days of flying the two seat 109 aginst his fellow Mustang aces. I have zero notion how well maintained it was.

    For those who have not read this book - I highly recommend it

    Published by Tangmere Productions - a Virginia Bader Company
     
  16. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    8th Air Force perceived the P-38 to be a failure as a bomber escort. That allowed the P-51 to get the star role within the U.S. Army Air Corps. If the P-38 problems had been fixed by 1943 there is a reasonable chance the U.S. Army Air Corps would never have purchased a P-51 version powered by the Merlin engine.
     
  17. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    Dave - the Usaaf placed the first large order of P-51Bs in August, 1942 and converted an A contract to P-51Bs at the same time. This order started production even before the first NAA flight test of the merlin powered Mustang.

    Had they discontinued all P-51B contract's just before the P-38 equipped the 20th and 55th - there would have been enough B's (~ 1500 by September1943) to equip approximatly 20-25 Fighter Groups - at one half the cost of the P-38.
     
  18. DAVIDICUS

    DAVIDICUS Member

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    I don't know. It sounds awfully speculative to assign a "reasonable chance" to such an outcome. (perhaps there is some documentation supporting this?) The P-38 was much more expensive to produce, to maintain and much more difficult to fly on the edge.

    The Mustang just makes sense. I think the Mustang was a winner for the allies because its range brought the fight to enemy and with US production capability and low production time, material costs and maintenance requirements, it was available in numbers that absolutely overwhelmed a Luftwaffe that was already relegated to defense, also known as the "just a matter of time" doctrine.
     
  19. Juha

    Juha Well-Known Member

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    Hello Drgondog
    Yes, Amadio’s book was the one I was talking on. I never even leafed it over, so I have no personal opinion on it but heard opinions of some others, which were rather negative. I bought the Rall/Braatz book, or to be exact the Finnish edition of it when it was published in 2005, the German edition was published in 2004. Have you see the latter one?

    Juha
     
  20. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    No Juha. I'll see if I can find an English version.

    I found the Amadio book very informative, including post war Luftwaffe rebuilding as part of NATO.

    Rall is one of my favorite people. I feel very fortunate to have met him through my father and found him to be self depricating in his humor and, while confident (as all fighter pilots are), he was also humble. He reminded me very much of my father.
     
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