Arguably, one of the most successful fighters that emerged from WWII, was the North American P-51 Mustang. This advanced piston-engine fighter aircraft was built and operated on a large scale during WWII in all theatres of war. It was such exceptional aircraft that it became, next to the Corsair, one of the best American WWII built prop combat aircraft, also seeing use in the Korean War, starting 5 years later (1950-1953).
But that was not yet the end of the Mustang Story. After the war, the Mustang was exported to many more Air Forces around the World: from The Netherlands to Indonesia, from Taiwan to Canada, France, South Africa. Sweden, Australia, Israel, etc
Even the Swiss, always stingy, bought 130 P-51Ds for $ 4,000 each, which served until 1958, a Swiss steal!
Nearly all South American Air Forces received the Mustang as their standard fighter, the aircraft soldiered on well into the 1960s and beyond, the last one was operational until 1984!
Less known is the fact that the Mustang’s development did not stall after the war. In a remarkable mini-war, aka the Soccer War between Honduras and El Salvador, the last all-prop fighter battles were fought in 1969, with F-4U Corsairs engaged in dog fights with P-51D Mustangs.
Post-war Cavalier-built Mustangs were bought in the US Airshow circuit and ‘smuggled’ to Central America via the Banana Republic-route in order to circumvent the US ban on weapons export.
The Cavalier Mustangs had more payload, with hardpoints under the wings, higher tails, and optionally, wingtip tanksEven a Turbine Prop Mustang was developed with way more payload than the original P-51 ever had, later to become the Piper PA-48 Enforcer, but was never accepted by the USAF.
For more detailed information and photos about that Soccer-War and the Mustang’s post-war development, you should read my new e-book “The Beauty of Decay”.Now available via Amazon: