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North American Mustang III

North American Mustang III

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North American Mustang III

The Mustang III was the British designation for the Merlin powered P-51B and P-51C. The aircraft was virtually identical to the American version, apart from the canopy (see below). 308 Mustang IIIs were aquired by the RAF through Lend-Lease. No. 19 and 65 Squadrons were first to go operational with the type, in February 1944. With No. 122 Squadron they formed No 122 Wing within Fighter Command.

The Mustang III featured one of the first attempts to improve the poor visibility of the aircraft. A number of RAF Mustang IIIs were equipped with the Malcolm hood, a Plexiglas bubble canopy, familiar from the Spitfire. This improved visibility to the sides, and increased headroom somewhat, slightly improving rear visibility. A number of Malcolm hoods found their way into US units, but they were always short in number. Some US pilots are said to have preferred the Malcolm hood to the bubble canopy adopted for the P-51D, presumably because it retained the original rear fuselage of the Mustang, which contributed to the aircraft’s stability in flight.

The Mustang III operated in an entirely different role to the earlier Mustang I and IIs, and only one squadron would fly both models of aircraft. While the earlier models had gone to army cooperation, fighter bomber and reconnaissance units, the new Mustang III was used by Fighter Command. Twenty two RAF and three SAAF squadrons would use the type.

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