P-51D/K In Foreign Service

Last revised January 5, 2003


A number of P-51D and K Mustangs were supplied to the RAF under Lend-Lease. An initial batch of 281 planes was delivered in 1944, and were designated Mustang IV by the RAF. They became standard equipment with Nos 19, 64, 65, 112, 118, 122, 154, 213, 149, 260, 303 (Polish), 306 (Polish), 442 and 611 Squadrons. 594 P-51Ks were also delivered to the RAF under the designation Mustang IV.

The serial numbers of the Mustang IVs supplied to the RAF were as follows: KH641/KH670 (P-51D), KH671/KH870 (P-51K), KM100/KM492 (ex-USAAF P-51K), KM493/KM743 (ex-USAAF P-51D), KM744/KM799 (not delivered), and TK589 (Ex USAAF P-51D 44-13332).

RAF Mustang IVs based in England were kept busy during the latter part of 1944 by the V-1 "buzz bomb" threat, destroying 232 of these missiles by September 5.

On April 16, 1945, Mustangs of 611 Squadron were the first RAF aircraft to greet their Russian allies over Berlin.

At the end of the war in Europe, the RAF took delivery of 600 Mustang IVs in India for use against the Japanese in Burma and beyond. However, Japan surrendered before these could be put to use, and most of these aircraft were scrapped.

After the war, a large number of the RAF's Mustangs were returned to the USA, but a few continued to serve with the RAF as late as May of 1947 when they were replaced by British-built equipment.


In late 1944, the first French unit began its transition to reconnaissance Mustangs. In January 1945, the Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron 2/33 of the French Air Force took their F-6Cs and F-6Ds over Germany on photographic mapping missions.


The Italian-based Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) No 3 Squadron had operated Mustang IIIs and IVs from November 1944 until VE Day. Most of the missions flown by this unit were ground support operations over northern Italy in pursuit of retreating German forces, and fighter sweeps over Yugoslavia.

In the Pacific theatre, the RAAF had been equipped with Spitfire VIIIs, but these possessed insufficient range for the missions that would now be required in the final push against Japan. In 1945, Australia was provided with 214 direct Lend-Lease P-51Ds and 84 P-51Ks. However, no RAAF Mustangs became operational until well after the end of the Pacific War.

In December of 1942, a technical evaluation mission was sent abroad by the Australian War Cabinet to look for military hardware. They chose the North American P-51 Mustang for the high-altitude interception role. The Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC) made arrangements to produce the P-51D under license in Australia. It was not until November of 1943 that arrangements were finalized so that 690 airframes and 790 Packard Merlin engines could be delivered through local assembly and manufacture. In order to get CAC started, NAA was to supply 100 kits from the P-51D-5-NA block and Packard was to supply 80 V-1650-3 engines. However, problems associated with the quality of the parts, plus difficulties in obtaining sufficient local manpower caused such massive delays that the first CAC-built Mustang did not fly until April of 1945.

Designated CA-17 Mustang 20, the first Australian-assembled Mustang flew for the first time on April 29, 1945. A total of 80 CA-17s were assembled from the US-supplied components, but only 17 were delivered by the end of the war, too late to take any part in the war against Japan. Serials were A68-1 through A68-80.

At the end of the war in the Pacific, the contract was reduced to only 120 examples to be manufactured from scratch at CAC. These were designated CA-18, and there were three different versions. The Mustang 21 was powered by the Packard Merlin V-1650-7, and 26 were built, with serials being A68-95 through A68-120. The Mustang 22 was a reconnaissance version with an F24 oblique camera mounted behind the pilot. 28 Mustang 22s were built, with serials being A68-81 through A68-94 and A68-187 through A68-200. The Mustang 23 differed in being powered by British-built Rolls Royce Merlin 66 or 70 engines. 23 Mustang 23s were built, with serials being A68-121 through A68-186. All of the engines used were built overseas, but were locally modified. Mustang 21s were later converted to Mustang 22 standards. The last CAC-built Mustang was delivered in April of 1952.

The first RAAF unit to received the Australian-serialled Mustangs were Nos 84 and 86 Squadrons based at Townsville in Queensland. The Mustang-equipped RAAF Squadrons No. 76, 77, and 82 participated in the occupation of Japan starting in 1946. They remained there until 1949, when Nos 76 and 82 Squadrons were withdrawn back to Australia, leaving only No. 77 Squadron still in Japan. No. 77 Squadron was in Japan when the Korean War began, and they immediately joined with the US Fifth Air Force, using their Mustangs as fighter-bombers in a desperate attempt to stem the North Korean advance. During the first six months of the Korean conflict, they flew 2600 sorties against tremendous odds. No 77 Squadron flew a total of 3800 combat sorties during the Korean War, losing 18 aircraft and 8 pilots. The Australian Mustangs were finally superseded by Gloster Meteors F.Mk 8 fighters in 1951.

Other squadrons equipped with the Mustang were Nos. 3 and 4, which were reconnaissance squadrons. The Mustang also served with the Citizen Air Force, which had one squadron based in each state capitol. All five of the squadrons were equipped with the Mustang--No 21 "City of Melbourne", No 22 "City of Sydney", No 23 "City of Brisbane", No 24 "City of Adelaide" and No 25 "City of Perth". These squadrons re-equipped with Vampires between 1952 and 1956, but No 24 stayed on with Mustangs until 1960. At that time, all five squadrons of the Citizen Air Force were disbanded.

The total number of Mustangs built in Australia was only 200, in comparison to the 690 which had originally been planned. The last RAAF Mustangs were withdrawn from service in late 1959, being replaced by the DH Vampire.

About 15 ex-RAAF Mustangs found their way onto the civil register after being struck off strength. A68-107 was struck off strength in 1958, and is still airworthy, flying as VH-AUB.


In 1945, the Royal New Zealand Air Force decided to acquire 370 Mustangs, which were to be used in the final battle against Japan. The first batch was to consist of 30 P-51D-25-NT aicraft, with the remaining being P-51Ms.

The end of the war in the Pacific made the acquisition of 370 Mustangs by New Zealand unnecessary, and the order was cancelled. However, the 30 P-51D-25-NTs were already en-route. These aircraft were not placed in service, but were stored in the event of a future need. In 1951, the New Zealand government decided to beef up the Territorial Air Force, a reserve component which had been revived after the war. The first four Mustangs entered service with No 4 Squadron of the TAF in late 1951. The Mustangs remained in service with the TAF squadrons until August 1955, whin problems with landing gear weakness and coolant system corrosion forced their withdrawal.


When the Korean War broke out, the South African Air Force commited its No 2 "Cheetah" Squadron to the United Nations effort. The "Cheetah" Squadron was issued with F-51Ds and was attached to the USAF's 18th Fighter Bomber Wing.

SAAF Mustangs began missions from K-9 airfield near Pusan on November 19, 1950. The "Cheetahs" then moved northward to K-24 airfield at Pyongyang. The Chinese entry into the war pushed the "Cheetahs" back to K-13 airfield at Suwon and then to K-10 airfield at Chinhae. This remained their permanent base, but air-to-ground missions were flown from forward locations at K-9, K-16 at Seoul, and K-46 at Hoengsong.

Out of the 95 Mustangs loaned to No 2 Squadron, 74 were lost, either in combat or in non-combat accidents. They flew 10,373 sorties in Korea, with 12 pilots being killed in action, 30 missing or captured, and four wounded. The "Cheetahs" re-equipped with F-86F Sabres in early 1953.


Canadian Mustang I squadrons had already re-equipped with Spitfires before the end of the war. In 1945, the RCAF purchased 100 ex-USAAF P-51Ds, and these equipped both regular and auxiliary fighter squadrons and training units until declared obsolete in 1956.


During the war, Sweden was neutral. During the war, at least ten Mustangs were interned when they made emergency landings in Sweden. Four of them (two P-51Bs and two P-51Ds) were placed in service with the Flygvapnet under the designation J26.

Early in 1945, there was a distinct possibility that Sweden might get involved in the war in Europe. In an effort to bolster its air defenses, Sweden purchased 50 P-51Ds from the USA.

The Swedish government had been planning to introduce the homegrown SAAB-21A as its frontline fighter, but its entry into service was slow and 90 more Mustangs were purchased from the USA as an interim stopgap measure until the SAAB fighter could be made available in greater quantity. These planes were also designated J26. The first examples arrived in April of 1945, and the last of 157 examples arrived in March of 1948. Twelve of them later became S26 photographic reconnaissance aircraft.

Eventually, enough Swedish-built fighters became available, and the Swedish Mustangs were phased out of service or sold off as surplus. Following their replacement by de Havilland Vampires and SAAB J29 jet fighters, the Swedish J26s were disposed of. 25 of them went to Israel in 1952-53, 26 to Nicaragua in 1953, and 41 to the Dominican Republic in 1954.


The Swiss Air Force flew mainly German-built equipment during the war and immediately afterwards. With the defeat of Germany, the Swiss had to look elsewhere for arms suppliers, and they ordered a batch of jet-powered de Havilland Vampire FB Mk 6 fighters from Britain. However, deliveries of the Vampires were initially quite slow. While awaiting the Vampire deliveries, Switzerland bought 100 surplus F-51Ds as an interim type. Their arrival made it possible to retire the last of the Messerschmitt Bf 109Es that were serving with the Flugwaffe. These Mustangs were finally phased out of service in 1956.


The Chinese Air Force received three squadrons of P-51Ds in 1946. When Chiang Kai-shek's government was overthrown by Mao's Communists in 1949, most of the Nationalist P-51Ds fled to Formosa. However, a few were left behind and were incorporated into the People's Liberation Army Air Force. However, it is not known if these P-51Ds were ever used against United Nations forces in Korea.


Before V-J Jay, the Netherlands received 40 P-51Ds for use by the Netherlands East Indies Air Force. They were operated by Nos 121 and 122 Squadrons of the Netherlands Army Air Corps. When the war against Japan ended, Dutch Mustangs were used in a futile attempt to suppress the Indonesian nationalists. When Indonesia became independent on December 27, 1949, its air arm (the Angkatan Udara Republic Indonesia, or AURI) was slated to receive two squadrons of F-51D Mustangs from the departing Dutch. In June of 1950, the Netherlands East Indies Air Force was officially disbanded and the surviving Mustangs were transferred to the Indonesian Air Force. Indonesian Mustangs participated in several internal conflicts and remained in service with the IAF until replaced by Russian fighters in 1959.


After Italy quit the Axis and switched over to the Allies, the Italian air force was supplied with American equipment, including P-51Ds. By late 1948, Italy had 48 Mustangs in service, and they remained front-line equipment until replaced by Vampires and Sabres in 1953.


Two Mustangs turned up in Israel just before the War of Independence of 1948-49. They served with No 101 Squadron of the fledgling Israel Defense Force/Air Force and flew several dozen combat missions, scoring at least one aerial kill.

In spite of a Western-sponsored arms embargo, the new state of Israel managed to purchase 25 surplus F-51D fighters from Sweden in 1952. These replaced the Avia S.199 (Czech-built Bf-109G) fighters previously operated by Israel. The F-51Ds served with the Israel Defense Force/Air Force for several years. They saw action against Egypt during the Suez incident of October-November 1956. They were finally replaced by jets in the late 1950s.


The Republic of Korea Air Force were supplied with F-51D Mustang fighters in 1950 for use in opposing the North Korean attack. At first, they were used for defensive purposes, but they eventually went over to the offensive ground attack role. They began to be replaced by Sabres in 1955.


Some reports claim that under the terms of the Rio Pact of 1947, Cuba was supplied with F-51D Mustangs. These reports appear to be erroneous. However, after when Fidel Castro seized control of Cuba in 1959, Cuba's Fuerza Aerea Revolucionaria illegally acquired three ex-civilian Mustangs and they served with the Cuban air force until they were replaced with Russian-built equipment in the early 1960s.

The Dominican Republic was also a Mustang user. The first Mustangs were acquired in 1948, consisting of a mixed bag of six P-51As, P-51Cs, and P-51Ds. In 1952, the Cuerpo de Avacion Militar bought 44 surplus F-51Ds from Sweden. At the same time, 25 P-47s were acquired from the US government under the provisions of MAP.

Shortly thereafter, dictator Rafael Trujillo fell out of favor with the US government, and attempts to acquire F-86 Sabres to replace the Mustangs were blocked by the US government and the US also asked Britain to block the delivery of Hawker Hunter fighters to the Dominican Republic. After the fall of the Trujillo government, the US allowed the Cavalier company to rebuild some of the Dominican Mustangs. Both the P-51s and the P-47s were used in combat during the April 1965 uprising, and two were shot down by AAA fire. This marked the last combat use for the Mustang.

It has been estimated that during its service in the FAD up to 60 different examples of the P-51 were obtained from different sources and up to 45 for the P-47. The Dominican Air Force was the last operator of the P-51D when it retired the last 8 samples in 1984, selling them off to private owners for $300,000 each.


Earlier attempts by Guatemalan governments under Arbenz and Arevalo in 1950 and 1953 to acquire F-51s were rebuffed by the US government, which regarded the Guatemalan government as pro-Communist. A proposed purchase of surplus F-51Ds from Sweden was also blocked by American intervention. Instead, the American Central Intelligence Agency supported the Castillo Armas insurrection that was seeking to overthrow the Arbenz government, and clandestinely supplied a pair of F-51Ds to the rebels along with three F-47s. These aircraft proved to be decisive in the battle, and after the Armas victory a batch of three F-51Ds were quickly supplied to the Fuerza Aerea Guatemala, reaching the country on December 20, 1954. Batches of three and seven Mustangs followed from the USA, along with a single TF-51. In addition, the ex-Castillo F-51Ds were incorporated into the FAG.

Another 14 Mustangs, many of them former Canadian machines, followed from 1957 onward. The final count of Mustangs reaching Guatemala was officially 30, but additional F-51Ds may have been purchased from Israel.

The Guatemalan Mustangs were extensively employed in combat against guerillas. They were used operationally until about 1972. The surviving aircraft were bought and flown to Texas by Don Hull, and later sold to Wilson "Connie" Edwards.


Haiti purchased six P-51Ds just after the war, and some of them remained in service well into the 1960s. They were part of a composite squadron at Bowen Field at Port-au-Prince and were used for internal police work. The last example was retired in 1973-74 and was passed along to the Dominican Republic.


Nicaragua took delivery of a few F-51Ds in 1947, and some of them remained in service well into the 1960s.


Uruguay also got a few P-51Ds just after the war, and these remained in service until 1960, when they were replaced by F-80C Shooting Stars. 8 of the survivors were transferred to Bolivia.


A batch of Mustangs was acquired by Bolivia during July of 1954. In 1960, eight former MAP Mustangs from Uruguay were acquired, and in 1966 six more Mustangs were acquired on the civilian market to fight against Che Guevara's attempt to stir up a revolution. In 1967, nine remanufactured Cavalier Mustangs were acquired. These served until 1978, and the survivors eventually ended up on the US civilian market.


In 1955, the government of Nicaragua acquired 26 ex-Swedish F-51Ds, equipping one fighter squadron along with F-47D Thunderbolts. These planes were later augmented by some ex-USAF machines and some ex-ANG aircraft. Most Nicaraguan Mustangs were sold off in 1961, but a few were loaned to Cuban exile groups during the Bay of Pigs invasion (they were not used). Some Nicaraguan Mustangs were seen still flying as late as 1980 in Sandanista markings.


Four F-51Ds were acquired by Costa Rica from the Texas ANG in 1955. They were used very little, and spent most of their time in storage. The survivors were sold off in March of 1964.


El Salvador purchased some Cavalier remanufactured Mustangs in the early 1960s. These were used operationally during the July 1969 "Soccer War" with Honduras. Eleven more standard F-51Ds were acquired from various sources in the USA. Five Mustangs were lost during the combat, two in a mid-air collision, two to fuel starvation, and at least one was shot down by a Honduran F4U-5 Corsair. The last El Salvador Mustangs were sold off in 1974.


The Philippine Air Force received a number of P-51Ds in 1946. They saw action in the postwar campaign against the Hukbalahap ("Huk") guerillas. They were disposed of in the mid 1950s.


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  2. The American Fighter, Enzo Angelucci and Peter Bowers, Orion Books, 1987.

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  4. United States Military Aircraft since 1909, Gordon Swanborough and Peter M. Bowers, Smithsonian, 1989.

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  10. E-mail from Tulio Soto

  11. E-mail from Francisco J. Caro

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  13. E-mail from brauck on ROK use of Mustang.