The Mustang Before The P-51 Mustang: North American A-36 Mustang
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Do you know that there was another Mustang in WWII that was technically different than the Mustang but effectively a Mustang? That was the case for the North American A-36 Mustang, aka the Apache or known by some as The Invader.
Ground-Attack/Dive Bomber Version
The A-36 was the ground-attack/dive bomber version of the P-51 Mustang. One of the significant differences between the two is the rectangular, slatted dive brakes above and below the wings.
In September 1942, the first A-36 model was completed, flying in October the next month.
A Solid Aircraft
The plane would first fly its combat missions in the prelude to the invasion of Sicily. In this engagement, the A-36 showed itself to be a very solid aircraft and despite initial concerns like dive bombing would be dangerous, this didn’t seem to manifest.
Not only did it prove itself to be a solid dive bomber, but a solid ground attacker as well.
In ground attack roles, pilots would still use dive brakes, not for mechanical use, but for psychological use.
Just like the Stuka that had a siren to terrify its targets, the dive brakes of the A-36 have the unintended effect of doing the same. The wind passing over the slotted metal produced a loud whistling sound like the Stuka, earning it another nickname, the Screaming Helldiver.
Disappearance From the Battlefield
In late 1944 and early 1945, the A-36 would just disappear from the battlefield due to several factors such as combat losses, general attrition, and the mass production of actual P-51 fighters.
Also, the initial order of 500 A-36 planes was never added on. This was because the A-36 was only made as a temporary measure until the new fiscal year rolled around, and there would be another set of budget for new fighters. When that money became available, the US Air Force ordered a lot of P-51 Mustangs instead.