|Manufacturer||North American Aviation|
|Primary Role||Ground Attack Aircraft|
Contributor: David Stubblebine
ww2dbaseThe North American Aviation A-36A was an attack aircraft variant of the famed P-51 Mustang fighter. North American Aviation called this variant the Apache while others tried to nickname it the Invader, but documents from the US Army Air Forces always listed them as Mustangs, like the fighters.
ww2dbaseBased on the initial Mustang I, the Apache aircraft shared Mustang aircraft's laminar flow wing design but never had the upgrade to the Rolls Royce Merlin engine that the P-51B fighter had. The Mustang fighters gained their fame only after the Merlin upgrade because their original Allison V-1710 engines were found to underperform at altitude. The Apache aircraft was intended for use in the ground attack and dive-bombing roles and for this the Allison was more than adequate.
ww2dbaseOutwardly, the Apache aircraft was barely distinguishable from the P-51 and P-51A Mustang fighters. The Apache aircraft had two more .50 caliber machine guns that were mounted inside the lower engine housing and shot through the propeller arc. The Apache wings also had rectangular dive brakes top and bottom forward of the junction between the flaps and ailerons. The brakes limited the dive speed to 390 mph which improved bombing accuracy. Apache aircraft came from the factory with the tail numbers painted on the after fuselage in large numerals instead of across the tails as specified by Army regulations and as was the practice on all other USAAF aircraft.
ww2dbaseA total of 500 Apache aircraft were produced, all in a single production run. All were designated A-36A's; there were no A-36's or A-36B's. One Apache was provided to the British for evaluation and all the rest flew with US forces. First delivered to squadrons in French Morocco in April 1943, the aircraft remained in service in that theater until June 1944 when its role was taken over by the P-40 Warhawk and the P-47 Thunderbolt. In those 15 months of service, the Apache aircraft distinguished itself in action in North Arica, Sicily, and Italy. Apache aircraft also saw service in the China-Burma-Indian Theater, flying from bases in Dinjan, India starting in late summer 1943. Apache aircraft were not withdrawn from that theater until 1945.
ww2dbaseWhile Apache aircraft's combat career might have been short, it should not be concluded that their contribution was small. Apache aircraft in the Mediterranean theater alone flew a total of 23,373 combat sorties and delivered over 8,000 tons of bombs. Even though the Apache aircraft was primarily a bomber and ground attack aircraft, they also engaged in air-to-air engagements. Apache aircraft shot down total of 84 enemy aircraft and produced the only ace using the Allison-engined Mustang, Lt Michael T. Russo from the 27th Fighter-Bomber Group.
ww2dbaseAfter they were retired from combat service, nearly all were scavenged for parts or scrapped outright. Very few survived the 1940's and even fewer survive today.
USAAF Resource Center
Aviation History Online Museum
|Machinery||One Allison V-1710-87 liquid-cooled V-12 engine rated at 1,325hp at 3,000ft|
|Armament||6x12.7mm .50 cal machine guns (2 in each wing, 2 in lower nose), up to 454kg of external bombs|
|Weight, Empty||2,998 kg|
|Weight, Maximum||4,536 kg|
|Speed, Maximum||587 km/h|
|Speed, Cruising||402 km/h|
|Service Ceiling||7,620 m|
|Range, Normal||885 km|
|Range, Maximum||3,700 km|
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James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, 23 Feb 1945