P-51D Mustang walk aroundPerhaps the "classic" Mustang, the P-51D was the major production version. Despite the improved visibility conferred by the Malcolm hood, even more was needed, and thus North American flew a pair of P-51Bs refitted with clear "teardrop" canopies as XP-51Ds. Virtually all the production P-51Ds also had a dorsal fin to help increase lateral stability, and some earlier models gained this feature as a retrofit. Later block P-51Ds had additional fuel tankage added aft of the cockpit, and the capability to carry rockets underwing. The tactical reconnaissance counterpart was the F-6D (RF-51D from 1948) while the RAF designated their P-51Ds as Mustang Mk.IVs. The P-51K was the Dallas-built counterpart to the P-51D, being fitted with a propeller from Aeroproducts. The F-6K/RF-51K was the reconnaissance version.
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Whereas surviving early Mustang models were rapidly retired at war's end, the P-51D (F-51D after 1948) would be in military service for decades (in foreign hands) after WWII, and were important throughout the fighting in Korea. Although supposedly outclassed by jets, the F-51 could operate from rougher strips than F-80s, and had much better endurance. The small number of South Korean Mustangs and aircraft brought out of storage in Japan took part in the brutal early fighting as UN forces were pushed southward, with the 51st FS (Provisional) controlling the American aircraft. In the US, 145 F-51Ds were rapidly recquisitioned from Air Guard units and ferried to NAS Alameda, where they were loaded aboard the USS Boxer. The carrier managed to to make Japan only eight days later, and the "new" aircraft were quickly unstored, serviced, and sent into the fight.
More Mustangs would arrive from the RAAF's No.77 squadron, and later in the year, the SAAF's No.2 Squadron. The Mustang's primary role over Korea was that of a fighter-bomber, striking at North Korean positions with gunfire, napalm, and HVARs. However, F-51 pilots were to account for eight Yak-9s, two Yak-3s, and single La-7s and Il-10s in air to air combat.