The American P-51 Mustang fighter plane saw use as a long-range fighting jet and an escort plane, accompanying larger American jets overseas during World War II. The P-51 Mustang classifies as a small jet, making it suitable for traveling long distances and maneuvering quickly and accurately. The P-51 Mustang joined the fleet of United States Air Force fighter planes in the early 1940s, seeing the greatest use in missions through World War II and the Korean War.
British military officials and engineers receive credit for creation of the P-51. British forces introduced the small fighter to the U.S. Air Force in 1940. After accepting the design, the Air Force ordered over 50 P-51 jets in 1940 from Britain, ultimately making several revisions. The Air Force equipped all new fighters with new engines. These engines proved resilient to the stresses of long-distance flights at higher altitudes than previous engines. The Air Force also equipped small groups of P-51 jets with special features, making them suitable for different tasks. Attack jets, for instance, have dive brakes and racks for carrying missiles and bombs. Variations in physical design and structural layout exist among early and later models of the P-51, too. Later versions, dating back to the early 1980s, contain larger and more powerful engines than predecessors, enabling faster traveling speeds. Bubble top P-51s enjoyed immense popularity, giving pilots better vision and enhancing attacks with automatic ammunition feeds. Although useful in war, the Air Force phased out production in the late 1950s.
The P-51D Mustangs served in all of the World War II combat zones. The fighter planes next served in the Korean War, but were eventually phased out and replaced by jet fighters near the end of the conflict in 1953. After the Korean War, Mustangs were sold on the civilian market and to foreign nations, and the fighter planes served in the armed forces of more than 25 countries until the final Mustang was retired by the Dominican Air Force in 1984.