P-51 Mustang is the nickname for the deadliest and greatest air-to-air fighter aircraft of World War II. At the beginning of World War II, England desperately needed some fighter aircraft and sought to buy several Curtiss P-40 "Warhawk" fighters from the United States. The United States, in dire need of fighter aircraft itself, was reluctant to release the fighters that were scheduled to go to the Flying Tigers in China. North American Aviation (NAA) saved the day by buying plans for a future design (XP-46) from Curtiss-Wright Aviation.NAA modified the design, which became the Mustang, and built and flew the P-51 in 102 days in an effort to meet the British request. The aircraft was an immediate success. The British modified the airplane by replacing the Allison engine with a Roll-Royce Merlin engine resulting in the creation of the best air-to-air fighter aircraft of World War II. By war's end, more than 5,000 enemy aircraft were destroyed by pilots of the P-51 "Mustang."
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Ammunition belts are loaded into the wing of a North American P-51 Mustang at Honnington, England, September 22, 1944.