Item description for P-51 Mustang: Development of the Long-Range Escort Fighter by Paul A. Ludwig...
Overview Looks at the design and development history of the P-51 Mustang fighter plane.
Not just another book on the P-51 Mustang, this detailed and controversial book forms an investigative analysis into the often - and little-known - troubled design and development history of America's premier piston-engined fighter aircraft. Supported by hundreds of rare photos and superb color artwork, author Paul Ludwig weaves a carefully crafted story.
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 1" Width: 9" Height: 12" Weight: 3.1 lbs.
Release Date Oct 27, 2003
Publisher Classic Publication
ISBN 1903223148 ISBN13 9781903223147
Reviews - What do customers think about P-51 Mustang: Development of the Long-Range Escort Fighter?
The title should be "The USAAF's Road to a Long Range Air Superiority Fighter during WWII" Aug 5, 2007
The title is a bit misleading. Only about half of this book is about the P-51. The other half is actually the story of the USAAF's tortured route towards finding a long range air superiority fighter for the European theater during WWII. The book pretty much stops in the spring of 1944, after the P-51 had successfully demonstrated that it could fill that role, but before it fully appeared in the large numbers that completely overwhelmed the Luftwaffe.
At the start of WWII, the USAAF had only the P-40 and P-39, and the requirements for building a successful long range "air superiority" fighter were unknown. Even the need for such a plane was unknown. It was only understood that there was a need for "pursuit" planes, as they were then called. It was not until U.S. bomber losses in Europe became overwhelming, and the looming invasion of Normandy demanded that the Luftwaffe be wiped out in order secure the beachheads that the specific features required for a long range air superiority fighter became apparent.
Both before and during WWII, the USAAF started a number of projects for pursuit planes and bomber escorts, hoping to find a winner in one of the designs. This book has fairly detailed descriptions of a number of designs that never made it to production. The origins of the P-47 and P-38 are also covered here, as well as the reasons that they failed at the long range air superiority role in Europe. Neither had the range, despite fiercely wishful thinking from the USAAF hierarchy, nor the maneuverability at altitude to match the ME-109. The P-38's Allison V-1710 engine had a tendency to blow up and its GE turbosupercharger could get stuck in either overboosted or underboosted mode. This occurred mainly when the P-38 was flown in the freezing cold above 30,000 feet, which was the standard situation in the European air war (this was why the P-38 was more successful in the Pacific - the weather was warmer and Japanese planes did not operate at such high altitudes, and this allowed the P-38 to operate at lower altitudes and still be able to attack using dive and climb tactics). Only when the P-38 and P-47 had both failed as escorts in Europe did the USAAF turn to the P-51.
Curtiss-Wright had a slew of hoped-for successors to the P-40 that either failed or were beaten to the punch by the P-51 - these included improved models of the P-40, the XP-37, XP-42, XP-46, XP-53, XP-55, XP-60, and XP-71. There is an interesting section in this book on Donovan Berlin's role in designing the XP-75 at GM/Fisher. Other interesting planes such as the McDonnell XP-67 Moonbat, Lockheed XP-58 Chain Lightning and XP-49, Brewster's XA-32, and the XB-38, XB-40 and XB-41 escort bombers are described. Some of these aircraft were even more revolutionary than the P-51, while others were late me-too concepts.
The P-51 was never written into any USAAF specifications. It was designed originally by North American Aviation for the British, and the British were the ones who came up with the idea of replacing its Allison engine with the Merlin engine. Packard's version of the Merlin engine featured additional improvements, and the Packard-Merlin engine was far superior to the Allison engine, which never overcame all of its flaws.
With its half-British heritage, there were strong institutional biases in the USAAF against the P-51, and the USAAF hierarchy showed little interest in the early Mustangs and even tried to kill off the plane. General Oliver Echols is particularly singled out for criticism.
The reason that the P-51 was able to finally emerge as the dominant fighter over Europe was that North American Aviation's engineers were willing and able to rapidly make the field modifications needed to make it work as a long-range escort fighter well before any of its competitors could be perfected. The replacement of its Allison engine with the Merlin engine was the first and most important idea adopted from the field, and ironically this was allowed to happen only because the P-51 was NOT originally a USAAF airplane (a similar attempt to fix the P-38's problems by installing Merlin engines was squashed by the USAAF after Allison protested). The final key modification was the addition of a large internal fuselage fuel tank to extend the range of the P-51B, a change proposed by a Colonel Mark Bradley. Additional modifications were also quickly made to solve several teething problems of the P-51B/C and P-51D models. The P-51 was thus successfully flying and fighting well before the USAAF was able to get one of its other more favored planes to function as a long range escort fighter.
Overall, this is an interesting book, especially so for a WWII fighter plane buff, since it has a lot of insights about the haphazard route of USAAF fighter development, especially the political aspects, that are not covered in any other book. It is particularly pungent about naming names and assigning blame for what would prove to be bad decisions.
If you are looking for a book that has more details about how the P-51 was actually designed, then the book "Mustang Designer", focused on chief designer Edgar Schmued, would be better. That book is particularly interesting for its insights into the corporate culture of North American Aviation during WWII, which is what allowed the P-51 to be so rapidly perfected based entirely on recommendations from field experience.
P-51 Mustang - #1 Escort Fighter Apr 25, 2006
A fascinating study of the development and deployment of the P-51 Mustang. Author Paul Ludwig did a superb job of research on this book. This is not just a rehash of the same old stuff that has been written about the Mustang for years but an objective look at the conditions and politics surrounding the birth of this great aircraft. If you are looking for the definitive book on the inception of the P-51 look no further. Great period photographs also enhance the story. A must read for Mustang fans (and what aviation enthusiast isn't!). Highly recommended.
The "war winner" that almost never was Mar 14, 2004
For those looking for "war stories" and pretty photos of P-51D's....this is not for you. For historians, however, this is an excellent book. There have been a few "blurbs'in other books about the politics of keeping the P-51 out of production, but this details the entire process and even includes Packard's struggle with the Allison (GM) loving top brass. No actual mention was made of paybacks or kickbacks...but read between the lines. There need not be a volume two. Once NAA and its few supporters overcame the system with the very good P-51A and the excellent P-51B the story was pretty much over...at least as far as the political infighting was concerned. Serious Mustang buffs....read it! You will not be disappointed.
Politics and a Great Fighter plane that almost wasn't Feb 22, 2004
Instead of a " In detail and scale " type of book I thought this was going to be, Mr. Ludwig has put forth quite an exhaustive look at the politics....and sometimes almost criminal aspects which almost kept the P-51 from front line combat in WW2. I thought there would be a more " nuts and bolts " look at the P-51, plus a performance aspect from a pilot's point of view. Instead...this is more like a 'year book' look at the history of the P-51....from the North American Aviation prototype...up to the mating of the mighty Merlin engine and the introduction of the P-51B into Europe, and escort duties. However that's it though....not much mention of the P-51D....or D models in the Pacific. This book could really use a Part 2! Along the way...there is a look at why the P-47 and P-38 didnt quite " make the grade " as long range escorts. And also many prototype failures the military minds of the time waisted time and money on, while the Mustang was pushed aside. Curious, there are alot of photo's of pilots and fighter groups, and aircraft side views but not much discusion of them. I guess from the readers perspective you get to see the planes and pilots who " got their hands " on the awesome Merlin/Mustang creation and took the fight to the Germans and helped turned the tide for the bombers. Alot of great details however are mixed in with all the politcs. How Packard automotive stoped making cars and focused on mass-producing British designed Merlins. The " secrets " of the NAA P-51, the Laminar flow wing, radiator scoop and other 'clean' aerodynamics of the Mustang. The fuselage fuel tank which added range but altered the CG. The Great drop tank debacle which affected all fighters in Europe. Etc. Etc. A ' dry ' but great read and a must for the library of any WW2 fighter enthusiast.