April 1942 marked the first order of any P-51 variant by the US Army. 500
NA-97s were ordered. The U.S. serials were 42-83663 to 42-84162. The P-51 was never intended to be a dive bomber. Budgets for pursuit fighters were limited at that time, but there were funds available for dive bombers. NAA's President, Dutch Kindelberger, made proposals for a quick design modification to the P-51 and landed a contract for 500.
The name of the A-36 (strap in, it's a bumpy ride):
It has been published many times in books, magazines and web pages as A-36 Invader or A-36 Apache. Apache has been published as the USAAF official name. It is called A-36 Invader in USAAF wartime films. No official documents can be found to support these names. It has become a source of debate to some folks. Not for us. If you reference the A-36 Apache or A-36 Invader or A-36 Mustang, everyone knows which variant you are referring to.
The design was very similar to the Mustang I and P-51A. The powerplant was
the Allison V-1710-87. The A-36 was a dive-bomber so the addition of hard points
for two 500 lb bombs and dive brakes to slow the fast acceleration of the P-51 in
a dive were added. The belly scoop was now fixed at the front. Armament was 2 guns
in the nose and 4 in the wings, all .50 caliber.
The dive brakes were operated hydraulically and located on the top and bottom of each wing outboard of the guns. Plan was that they limit the dive speed to 250 mph but in practice the speeds were closer to 350 mph and higher. The angle of dive was reduced to 70 degrees because of high stress during pull-out.
The hard points for the bombs were also capable of holding 75 gallon drop tanks for extended range. The top speed of the A-36 was down from added weight to about 358 mph at 5,000 feet (without external stores).
Only one A-36 was sent to the RAF for evaluation as A-36 EW998 in March 1943.
The US used the A-36 in the Mediterranean theatre with first deliveries beginning
in early 1943. When not in the ground attack role, the
A-36 was essentially a low-altitude P-51A and was used as a fighter. The A-36
scored 101 air-air victories during WWII.
The A-36 proved to be a very stable platform for accurate weapons delivery. 177 were lost in action mostly due to the dangerous mission of low-level operations.
|Weight - empty||-||6087|
|Weight - normal T.O.||-||8600|
|Weight - max G.W.||-||10,700|
|Propeller||-||Curtiss 3-bladed electric 10'9"|
|Max Speed||-||356 @ 5k|
|Drop Tanks||-||2x 75 gal|
|Range||-||750 / 1375+|
|Guns||-||6x .50 cal|
|Bomb / Rockets||-||2x 500 lb bombs|