We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
The P51 was the most versatile fighter plane of WW2. It excelled at both ground level support of the troops and high altitude long range fighter cover for the heavy bombers. It was the equal of the best fighter planes in dog fights. It was also an accident of fate or timing rather than planning that it existed.
In late 1940 or early '41 Britain was desperately short of fighter planes of any sort and had sent some RAF people to the US to see what they could buy. Hoping for some P-40's they talked with Curtis Wright and found them booked up for the duration by the US govmt. They got a tip from Curtis Wright that North American Aviation had no contracts yet and was looking for business, and that Curtis Wright would licence North American to build P-40's if they worked out an agreement. When the RAF asked the North American small management crew if they would be interested their answer was Why do you wand to buy an expensive, high priced obsolete plane that would take well over a year to start any production when we have a new design worked out and can have a prototype ready for RAF test flights in 9 months if you can get us an engine for it from Allison. They were, they could and they did a deal and were very happy with the performance of the prototype, and placed a production order.
When this news worked its way through to the Army Air Force they decided to look into the possibilities and eventually ordered a production run that wound up as the A-36 low level fighter. The Allison V12 was the only non-radial combat aircraft engine built in the USA and, unlike the Rolls Royce Merlin engine and the German ME bf109, it did not have a supercharger which was essential for combat above 15,000 ft as well as top performance at lower altitudes. After the RAF had a few month's experience with the new plane, the RAF did the obvious thing and grafted a Rolls Royce Merlin engine from a Spitfire onto one of their "P-51's" (don't remember what the RAF called their version of the plane). At this time the RAF got the North American crew on board the update and they soon found out that Packard Motor Company in the US was building Rolls Royce engines for the PT Boats of the Navy. Packard was happy to add Merlin egines for NA to their production runs and the P-51 was officially launched.
One of the benefits of NA being small and nearly broke was that the design engineers had to do double duty as production engineers so they designed the plane for simple and fast as well as low cost production. At that time the conventional practice was to build the airframe and then have people crawl inside to string all the wires and cables together, and this more than doubled the assembly time and cost. NA designed the fuselage in two half shells and had the electrical, hydraulic and control cables, etc installed in each half prior to sewing the halves together. The P-51 cost about one third the cost of the P-38 and about half the cost of the P-47 or F6F Navy planes.
"The P-51 cost about one third the cost of...F6F Navy planes" I would hazard to guess that if NA had to build the P-51 to Navy specs for "controlled crashes" aboard their carriers, the price might have been much higher.
The Brits simply called them Mustang Mk.1 (or probably Mk.2 with the Merlin engine).
Yes Mike, the cost would have been higher for a carrier version. But not as much higher so as to match or exceed that of an F6F. Main difference would likely have been strengthened gear struts and main spars.
The P-51 cost about one third the cost of the P-38 and about half the cost of the P-47 or F6F Navy planes.
This claim really raised my hackles, so I did some quick research. It appears that Jim Brooks is a liar. The P-51 did not cost half as much as a Hellcat. According to their respective Wikipedia articles, a production F6F-5 Hellcat cost about $35,000, while a production Mustang cost about $51,000. Other sourcescorroborate those figures.
Even in WW2, carrier aircraft had to be considerably tougher than land-based. A combat-loaded Mustang could never have flown off a carrier for the simple reason that it was too heavy and required too long a takeoff roll. Even with catapults, it wasn't possible. Further, carrier-based aircraft needed an arrester hook, catapult hook, an engine with a high power-to-weight ratio, and an airframe that maximized strength, minimized weight, and also folded to a tight package for hangar stowage.
Brooks is also wrong to claim that "The P51 was the most versatile fighter plane of WW2." The P-38 could do everything a P-51 could do, and more.