What if (maybe technical crossover): F-6H/RP-51H possible camera mounting areas?

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Staff Sergeant
Nov 3, 2022
Mansfield, Ohio, USA
I know that this is highly loaded, since F-6Hs never got made (and probably weren't even proposed by the time all but the first 555 batch got made and the rest cancelled post war), but given that there were F-6 versions of other P-51s, what would a F-6H fighter/recon Mustang would've been like?

Namely, where would the cameras have been carried? The sideways firing/oblique cameras are sort of obvious, but I'm wondering about carrying a vertical camera. Would it have to be mounted way back in the fuselage, or one not carried at all? This is because of how far the radiator exit duct reaches back/how it's fared into the fuselage compared to the other Merlin powered Mustangs.

I know that on the P-/F-82 it was proposed to use the old "gun pod" style attachment to carry vertical cameras, though that saw no actual use (though was tested). Would maybe if it can't fit in the fuselage, could a drop tank be used to carry a vertical camera?
:) There is probably a bunch more info on the internet somewhere, but here is a possible start:

From another post in "Allison and Merlin in a P-51"

I ran across an interesting bit of info re P-51D used as FR. It is from Wiki but seems to be accurate. It seems CAC (Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation) in Australia was contracted to build ~120x P-51D airframes post-war. The first of the batch were designated Mk 21:

"the first 14 Mark 21s were converted to fighter-reconnaissance aircraft, with two F24 cameras in both vertical and oblique positions in the rear fuselage, above and behind the radiator fairing; the designation of these modified Mustangs was changed from Mark 21 to Mark 22. An additional 14 purpose-built Mark 22s, built after the Mark 23s, and powered by either Packard V-1650-7s or Merlin 68s, completed the production run."
The Australian search for a new fighter to be built in Australia began in 1942 with the Mustang being selected in 1943. Originally the contract given to CAC was for 690 aircraft to be fitted with Packard Merlins (790 engines ordered). A pattern aircraft P-51D-5-NA 44-13293 was supplied in late 1944. In early 1945 the order was reduced to 350 with the first 80 to be delivered by Nov 1945. The contract was eventually cut back to just the 80 aircraft, the last of which was delivered in July 1946. These were all assembled from kits supplied by North American to help get the production line up and running and were designated CA-17 Mustang Mk.20.

At the end of 1946 an order with CAC was placed for 170 (later reduced to 120) Mustangs to be wholly built in Australia to keep the factory in work. These were to be designated CA-18 Mustang Mk.21. These were built as

1. first 14 of these aircraft that were completed at Mustang PR Mk.22,
2. the next 26 as Mk.21
3. the next 66 as Mk.23 powered by RR Merlin 70 engines
4. final 14 built at PR Mk.22

The last of these was not delivered until 1951. For clarity the PR Mk.22 carried a single camera looking to port and a single vertical camera. The side looking camera was fitted further forward than that on the F-6D seemingly leaving room aft for the vertical camera just ahead of the tailwheel as on the F-6D


The above were in addition to 214 P-51D and 84 P-51K delivered under Lend Lease in 1945.
Nice info, but none of it really answers my question. Overall, the Australian mods are broadly similar to the F-6D/K. The P-51H has a longer radiator exit duct the terminated further back than on the earlier Merlin models. Would that preclude running a vertical camera, or how would it be installed on a P-51H?
Looking at the H (and earlier light weight Mustangs), I doubt that they were (in spite of their performance) designed with being recon planes in mind. They can maybe mount an oblique camera or two, but I can't see how a vertical camera would work:

p-51H+ (2).jpg

In another thread, one P-82B was used to test being used as a long range recon plane, but it carried it's cameras in a pod under the center wing (similar to the radar on the night fighter variants, or the experimental gun pod).
The Australian Mustang order, the longer version.

Australian Archives Series A5954 Control 809/1, pages 64 and 65 of the online copy. War Cabinet dated 14 April 1943. The Mustang order was 350 airframes from Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation plus spares equivalent to 70 airframes. The engine order was 408 Merlin 61, plus propellers plus spares. An additional order for 396 more Merlin, propellers and spares was authorised for another 340 Mustang airframes, less any local production of the items. Given the long lead times the idea was to allow progressive pre ordering of essential items and raw materials in a timely manner to enable a total program of 690 aircraft plus the equivalent of another 138 as spare parts if desired, but the actual order as of 1943 was 350 and the additional 340 were never ordered. The kit builds were designated the CA-17, while at least as early as March 1945 the Australian builds were CA-18 to commence at aircraft number 81.

In the US the order for 100 complete sets of airframes, AC-389 first appears in the 31 August 1943 RC-301 report, stating the Letter of Contract has been written and approved. It is part of the J PROGRAM, FISCAL YEAR 1944 (Approved June 1943), 83 of the kits had been accepted as of end April 1944.

The RAAF Chiefs of Staff report for week ending 16 July 1943 has the first mention of the Mustang order, 350 aircraft, first deliveries planned for June 1944, in September that became February 1944, but in November first deliveries were for late 1944. As of mid June 1944 first deliveries were late 1944 or early 1945. In November 1944 it was 20 aircraft scheduled by end July 1944, by end 1944 it was deliveries expected to commence in May 1945. In early May 1945 the first production example was under flight test, delivered in the first week of June.

As of end August 1945 deliveries were to be slowed to 2 per week until the first 80 were delivered. As of early September 1945 there were 269 V-1650-9A engines still to be delivered. The October 1945 production report has Mustang order of 350 now to be terminated at 250 aircraft, the RAAF Chiefs of Staff report for 12 October 1945 states Proposed to reduce programme to 80 by April then 4 per month. The cut from 250 to 200 Mustangs was done in July 1947 setting a new delivery rate of 2.5 per month.

Delivery of the first 80 F mark 20 completed in July 1946, then there is a long gap until the first FR mark 22 are delivered. There were a number of Mustangs flying but not officially accepted, the reasons for the delay varied, starting with 6 aircraft returned for rocket fittings found to have corrosion on under surfaces of main and tail planes. Deliveries to be held up pending installation of steel sleeves instead of Aluminium-bronze ones on hydraulic, fuel and instrument lines. No progress in flight hangar due to industrial trouble, radio noise level, radio interference with camera installation, more industrial trouble, loss of experienced tradespeople. After production resumed it continued until July 1951, in order 80 F.20, 14 FR.22 (Jun – Sep 47), 26 F.21 (Sep 47 – Aug 48), 66 F.23 (Aug 48 – Oct 50), 14 FR.22 (Nov 50 – Jul 51 plus 1 in April 1952). The problems with Merlin supply and the meant for Lincoln Merlin 85 problems meant in 1948 the RAAF stripped the Merlins from the Spitfires it still had, official Spitfire stock was 339 as of 1 June 1948, then down to 49 as of 1 July. However as of March 1947 the program to modify Merlins to make them suitable for Mustangs had already involved 39 engines but key parts needed to be ordered from overseas.
There's photos of the F-82B that was use to test a camera pod that was developed at Elgin AFB that did have a camera port in each each outboard lower fuselage behind the radiator exit. Not sure if it was used during testing or not, though.

View: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sdasmarchives/4562020870/in/photostream/

View: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sdasmarchives/4562020980/in/photostream/

View: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sdasmarchives/4561391401/in/photostream/

Not sure how this could be applied to the P-51H, or what type of camera available in the World War II era could be used in either the P-82 or P-51H in that position.
Well, I'm asking about a fighter recon plane, not a pure strategic recon platform. The P-51 family spawned the F-6/RP-/RF-51 armed fighter recon planes. And I'm wondering how the P-51H could've been adapted for a similar role. And the F-82 shown (apparently) did have provision for some form of angled oblique camera in the fuselage similar to the F-6D/K did. Of course, the only really big similarity that the F-82 had to the P-51H was the overall radiator duct design (as far as this discussion), as the rear fuselage as much shorter.

I'm wondering if it's even possible to mount an oblique camera in a P-51H for fighter recon/tactical recon duties I've seen inside the XP-82's rear fuselage and there's a decent amount of room to mount an oblique camera, but I'm a lot less sure about a P-51H, or the other lightweight P-51s.
Simply not enough room in the P-51H's aft fuselage for any camera equipment.

Some aircraft, by virtue of their design, simply were not capable of mounting photo recon equipment.
Here's a cutaway (though I don't know how detailed) of a XP-51J, which used the same basic airframe as the Merlin powered F/G from the firewall on back. I don't know about a 90 degree or 45 degree oblique camera, but a vertical camera even here is a no go because of how long the radiator duct is. If a P-51B/D had a similar duct, you'd have the same problem, though an oblique camera could maybe still be carried.


Of course, this also does bring about the question of how to design a good fighter/tactical recon aircraft with a ventral radiator with advanced ducting (the XP-51F/G/J, P-51H and F-82 radiator ducts did make a positive thrust vs drag gain). Or, what could make a good tactical recon aircraft without a ventral radiator (nose radiator, or even a radial).
Also, I think why the F-82 camera pod was developed was that the F-82 was looked at during development to be a form of tactical recon platform (using a camera pod, namely a smaller version of what is pictured using mostly F24/K24 cameras), and an article I read hinted that the USAAF/USAF looked at it as a longer ranged alternative to the RF-80 Shooting Star, though the F-15/RF-61 Reporter was already in service for strategic recon/some tactical recon roles.

Strangely, the F-82, when fitted with the camera pod (or the radar pod of the night fighter variants) only knocked about 5 mph off the top speed of the aircraft, in spite of the pods' size.
Oblique, two choices. One (orange area) use a similar oblique installation as used for the post strike cameras fitted to some P-51Ds, fitted behind the pilot's seat armour under the bubble canopy. On the canopy, either mould with an optically 'flat' panel in the area where the camera lense would be, or fit within a framed section a pane of optically flat glass. Second choice (red area), from the cut away there would be space within the rear fuselage to fit a feusalage mounted rear oblique camera. Would likely require some replumbing and redirection of some controls and lines, but nothing that had not already been done for the P-51B/Cs and P-51Ds that were fitted with the fuselage mounted oblique cameras. Rear fuselage vertical (pink area), again, similar to what was done in the P-51B/C and P-51D, utilising the area in the bays immediately ahead of the tail wheel bay. Again would require some redirection and re-routing of control cables runs, but it had all been done before. The lens of the rear vertical would be just behind the radiator outlet and to protect it could have a small metal semi-circular 'eyebrow' guard to protect the lens from anything coming out of the radiator outlet and very likely have a lens cover that would be kept closed and operated by a control cable just before the start of the camera run.

If they don't want to go down the path of modifiying airframes, then there is always the option that was being experimented late in WW2 by the RAF of using modified drop tanks fitted with either forward facing, sideways oblique or vertical cameras - make use existing wing hard point mounts and reinforced areas to direct mount the modified drop tank to the wing rather than the usual drop tank or weapons hanger. Then you just need to run the power and camera control lines to the pod. Has some minimal impact on aircraft performance, put on when required, removed when not required.

When RAF was developing its oblique and vertical camera mounts on the Mustang Mk I, they were sending information to NAA on their proposals and showing how they could fit both oblique and vertical cameras and all their associated ancilliaries in locations which NAA said wouldn't work. And what's more, the RAF installations worked, didn't make the aircraft unsafe to fly, and then NAA developed their own over engineered versions of what the RAF had already done. If there is a requirement and the will, they would find a way to make it happen. Some of the best innovations in the oblique and vertical camera installations fitted to RAF Mustangs came not from the formal expermental design groups tasked with the activity, but from the engineering and maintenance staff on the Squadrons using the aircraft on a day to day basis who knew what would actually work 'in the field'.

Late P-51 Camera Options.jpg
While that diagram is well thought out, it begs the question of how much modifications would be needed to make it possible, since the P-51H was smaller than the P-51B/C/D?

Also, would it be worth the effort, since the PR versions of the P-51B/C/D were already in service, plus the PR P-38 and the PR P-61 "reporter"?
One, that's what I'm wondering (see the converted fighter vs dedicated recon aircraft thread).

Secondly, the P-51H was lighter than D, but not smaller dimensionally. It was actually over a foot longer (some of that was engine moved forward, some of it lengthened rear fuselage). It should be noted that the XP-51F/G/J were only about as long as the P-51D, but had a different engine position and other items (basically the Lightweights were almost an entirely new design).

From what I've seen with the P-51H cutaway I posted previously, the rear fuselage is more cramped than on the D, in part due to how long the radiator duct is and overall layout/dimensions. For that, I'd go with the modified drop tank to carry cameras instead of fidgeting with the rear fuselage and trying to pack cameras in there. The Swiss also for example converted DH Venom jet fighters into recon planes by converting drop tanks into camera pods, though the Venoms also had at least two cannons removed to fit an internal camera.

I wonder what some of the RAF camera pods looked like as far as adaptions to single seat/single engine fighters.
The RAF conducted experiments and trials on ways to mount reconnaissance cameras onto multiple aircraft types.

You need to differentiate between camera mounted for strategic reconnaissance, usually on dedicated Photographic Reconnaissance types with purpose designed and built camera installations, usually with multiple cameras. That is when you go down the path of the decicated PR variants of the Spitfire, Mosquito, to a lesser degree some in theatre modifications of types like the Hurricane, Buffalo and Maryland and much lesser known Hawker Typhoon PR.1b, along with night time PR variant of the Wellington. Mostly used for vertical overhead photography, some limited used for oblique photography, usually medium to high altitudes, and rarer use at low level of dedicated PR types. Different objectives, different types of reconnaissance photography, much broader area of operations dictated by target type and tasking, some overlap with camera and lens types. Typically larger camera bodies taking larger format film types using larger focal length lenses covering larger areas from higher altitudes. Usually individual aircraft operations.

You then go to the medium to low altitude reconnaissance, more typically referred to as Tactical Reconnaissance. To a large degree low level oblique photography, with some low to medium level vertical photography. You start out with Lysanders, then transition to the concept of fighter reconnaissance with the Curtiss Tomahawk, then North American Mustang Allison engine variants, Mustang Mk I, Mk IA and Mk II. Throw in a few more types as the Mustangs become scarce, the Spitfire FR.IX, Typhoon FR.1b, Spitfire FR.XIVb/e, plus local in theatre variants of the Hurricane and Spitfire (V and IX modified for Tac/R work. Different objectives, different types of reconnaissance photography, area of operations more confined and defined, variety of camera and lens types and numbers of cameras carried. Typically smaller camera bodies (usually the F-24 or K-24), taking smaller format film, using shorter focal length lenses because they are closer to the target, from lower altitudes. Also different operating methods and tactics, usually operating as a 'pair' - camera and cover/backup.

When the RAF experiments with modified drop tanks in WW2, primarily the modified 'slipper' tank of smaller size and capacity as usually used on the Spitfire. So used on Spitfire V, FR.IX and FR.XIV and even some trials and use with PR.XIX. Various camera configurations trialed including single and dual cameras, forward facing, oblique and vertical. Trials also done using modified Hawker Tempest drop tank with a forward facing camera, both still and cine camera for capturing 'linear' targets eg front line trace, roads, rivers, canals, beaches in high detail at low level. A form of this drop tank installation was used post-War by the RN-FAA on Hawker Sea Furies during the Korean War.
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Sorry to revive this thread, but between looking up a bit about the P-51 "Lil' Margaret" (A F-6D or K), and buying some HQ photos of the experimental camera pod equipped F-82 Twin Mustang that I bought from SDASM (I'd bet that the Gerry Belzer collection might have better versions, too, since they were used in the book that talked about the P-/F-82 and the XP-82 restoration), the P-51H might have been able to maybe mount an angled oblique camera, but not much more than that.

I guess it depends on how much more equipment and such is in the P-51H's rear fuselage vs a P-82s, also allowing the P-82 having a nearly 5 foot longer fuselage.


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