North American P-51 Mustang in New Zealand service – Wikipedia



A restored North American P-51 Mustang within the markings of the New Zealand Territorial Air Pressure’s No. 3 (Canterbury) Squadron

Evolved as a fighter interceptor, the North American P-51 Mustang was once extensively used all over the 2nd International Battle in each a fighter and fighter-bomber position. New Zealand ordered 130 Mustangs in early 1945 however the first 30 of those had been positioned in garage once they arrived within the nation later within the yr because of the tip of the warfare. The rest of the order was once cancelled. In 1951, the saved Mustangs had been assembled to be used by way of the New Zealand Territorial Air Pressure and supplied 4 of its fighter squadrons till withdrawn from provider in 1955. A couple of had been additionally operated by way of the Royal New Zealand Air Pressure till 1957. The surviving Mustangs had been offered off, maximum of them for scrap.


The P-51 Mustang was once evolved on account of an method, made in January 1940, to North American Aviation (NAA) by way of Sir Henry Self, who was once in control of the New York place of job of the British Buying Fee (BPC). This organisation sought to acquire army airplane to be used by way of the Royal Air Pressure within the 2nd International Battle. The BPC agreed to buy 400 examples of a fighter interceptor to be constructed by way of NAA and this resulted in a prototype, designated NA-73X, which first flew on 26 October. The manufacturing model of the airplane was once due to this fact designated ‘Mustang’ by way of the BPC, which larger the scale of its order to 700 examples. The USA Military Air Pressure (USAAF) additionally ordered 138 Mustangs the next yr.[4]

In the long run, the Mustang served with the air forces of a lot of international locations. Along with the RAF, examples additionally flew with the Royal Australian Air Pressure, the Royal Canadian Air Pressure, the Swedish Air Pressure, the French Armee de L’air, the Israeli Defence Pressure, and the Philippine Air Pressure amongst others.


A North American P-51 Mustang within the markings of the TAF’s No. 3 (Canterbury) Squadron

In early 1945 the New Zealand executive bought 130 P-51D Mustangs, to be delivered against the tip of the yr at a value of US$61,000 consistent with airplane plus transport bills.[6] The P-51D was once essentially the most a lot of of the more than a few Mustang fashions, a complete of 8,102 being constructed by way of the tip of the warfare.[4]

On the time in their acquire, the purpose was once for the P-51Ds to perform along, after which exchange, the F4U Corsair fighter bombers being utilized by the Royal New Zealand Air Pressure (RNZAF) within the Southwest Pacific theatre of operations, supporting United States forces all over the Solomon Islands marketing campaign. The Corsairs had been to then be phased out of provider in 1946, the P-51D being the major fighter airplane to be operated.[6]

The primary 30 Mustangs had been dropped at New Zealand in August-September, in conjunction with 12 spare Merlin engines. Via this time, the 2nd International Battle was once over, Japan having surrendered following the Atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Mustangs had been deemed to be surplus to necessities and the rest of the order was once cancelled. Then again, the airplane already in New Zealand may just now not be returned. They had been duly positioned at the RNZAF stock as NZ2401 to NZ2430, however put into garage at Hobsonville air base. Later, they had been moved to the shops depot at Te Rapa after which onto Ardmore.[6]

Operational historical past[edit]

Territorial Air Pressure[edit]

In overdue 1948, the lengthy dormant Territorial Air Pressure (TAF) was once reestablished as a part of the New Zealand executive’s strikes to fortify its skill to mobilise its army forces within the tournament of a plague of hostilities. Recruitment to the TAF was once gradual, now not helped by way of using the dated Tiger Moths and North American Harvards that to start with supplied the 4 TAF squadrons. Starting in August 1951, the Mustangs had been taken out of garage, assembled, and dropped at the TAF squadrons. The primary to obtain its allotment of 4 Mustangs was once No. 4 (Otago) Squadron. The next yr, every of No. 1 to No. 3 Squadrons gained 5 Mustangs.[11] The rest Mustangs, seven in overall, had been assembled and positioned in garage at Rukuhia to be referred to as upon as alternative airplane for the TAF.[12] All over meeting, one was once discovered to were broken, more than likely when its crate was once dropped when being disembarked on arrival in New Zealand. It and some other of the replacements had been due to this fact cannabilised for portions with out ever seeing provider.[13]

TAF Operators[14]
Squadron Territory Base Colors
No. 1 Auckland Whenuapai Blue & White
No. 2 Wellington Ohakea Black & Gold
No. 3 Canterbury Wigram Black & Purple
No. 4 Otago Taieri Blue & Gold

The Mustangs had been a herbal steel end when first assembled however then had nearly all of its higher and flight surfaces painted in silver; the rest of the airplane was once polished. Same old RNZAF roundels had been used, those being positioned over the celebrity of the USAAF markings and leaving the bars extending all sides. The bars had been later changed with a checkerboard development, the colors relying at the territorial colors of the squadron.[15]

The Mustangs had been noticed as an important advance over the present airplane and helped fortify recruitment for the TAF. They had been used for coaching functions but additionally aerobatics and rocket and air-to-ground gunnery workout routines. Then again, the Mustangs suffered a slightly top price of incidents.[12] In 1955, two pilots had been killed flying Mustangs; one airplane of No. 1 Squadron crashed at sea on 20 March and the pilot’s frame was once now not recovered[16] whilst a Mustang of No. 3 Squadron broke up in midair over Springston on 23 April.[17]

The Mustangs had been withdrawn from TAF provider in August 1955. They had been experiencing an expanding quantity of technical issues of their undercarriage and coolant piping. Via this time, ten of the TAF’s Mustangs have been broken or destroyed. Two of the broken airplane had been due to this fact assigned to No. 4 Technical Coaching Faculty whilst the airframe of some other was once designated to be used as a goal of the Ohakea air base vary. It have been meant to exchange the Mustangs with De Havilland Vampires however this didn’t eventuate and the TAF squadrons operated Harvards till their disbandment in 1957.[12]

Royal New Zealand Air Pressure[edit]

Two Mustangs, a part of the primary staff of six airplane to be assembled, went to the RNZAF’s Central Flying Faculty.[11] In June 1952, those two Mustangs had been later transferred to Nos. 14 and 75 Squadrons and used for towing objectives for gunnery observe.[18] No. 42 Squadron gained a Mustang that was once transferred from one of the vital TAF squadrons.[18] Whilst the TAF ceased its use of the Mustang in August 1955, the closing operational flight of a RNZAF Mustang, this being NZ2423, was once on 30 Might 1957.[19]


Upon being withdrawn from provider, the Mustangs had been flown to Woodbourne and saved.[12] In August 1957, the nineteen surviving Mustangs had been post for delicate in conjunction with different surplus RNZAF airplane.[20] 3 had been offered as whole airplane and the remaining damaged up and offered for scrap.[12] One of the crucial whole Mustangs, bought by way of J. McDonald and R. M. Fechney, was once rebuilt and, with sponsorship from Mobil Oil, was once used on 4 February 1965 to wreck the air-speed report for the flight from Dunedin to Auckland. Its flight time of one hour, 48 mins was once 5 mins quicker than the former report flight, set in 1950 by way of a De Havilland Mosquito.[21] This case ceased flying in 1968 and was once later offered to a purchaser in america.[12]

A Mustang is gifted in RNZAF markings on the Air Pressure Museum of New Zealand. Then again, as no authentic airplane as utilized by the RNZAF continue to exist, the displayed airplane was once sourced from the Indonesian Air Pressure in 1985 and rebuilt as a P-51D.[22]

  1. ^ a b Anderson 1975, p. 1.
  2. ^ a b c Anderson 1975, p. 44.
  3. ^ a b Anderson 1975, p. 46.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Anderson 1975, p. 47.
  5. ^ Anderson 1975, p. 95.
  6. ^ Anderson 1975, pp. 45, 92.
  7. ^ Anderson 1975, p. 92.
  8. ^ “Mustang Pilot’s Loss of life”. Press. No. 27700. 2 July 1955. Retrieved 9 July 2022.
  9. ^ “Mustang Pilot Killed”. Press. No. 27642. 26 April 1955. Retrieved 9 July 2022.
  10. ^ a b Anderson 1975, p. 94.
  11. ^ Anderson 1975, p. 48.
  12. ^ “73 Planes to be Bought: Harvards and Mustangs”. Press. No. 28349. 7 August 1957. Retrieved 9 July 2022.
  13. ^ “Mustang units Document”. Press. No. 30667. 5 February 1965. Retrieved 9 July 2022.
  14. ^ “North American P-51 Mustang”. Air Pressure Museum of New Zealand. Retrieved 11 July 2022.


  • Anderson, Peter N. (1975). Mustangs of the RAAF and RNZAF. Sydney: A.H. & A.W. Reed. OCLC 1282505925.
  • Ethell, Jeffrey (1981). Mustang: A Documentary Historical past. London: Jane’s Publishing Corporate. ISBN 0-531-03736-3.
  • McClure, Margaret (2012). Combating Spirit: 75 Years of the RNZAF. Auckland: Random Space New Zealand. ISBN 978-1-86979-610-5.
  • McGibbon, Ian, ed. (2000). The Oxford Spouse to New Zealand Army Historical past. Auckland: Oxford College Press. ISBN 0-19-558376-0.
  • Wright, Matthew (1998). Kiwi Air Energy: The Historical past of the RNZAF. Auckland: Reed Books. ISBN 0-7900-0625-1.


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