A-36 Apache file photo [14151]

A-36A Apache

CountryUnited States
ManufacturerNorth American Aviation
Primary RoleGround Attack Aircraft


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 Apache aircraft were not withdrawn from that theater until 1945.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
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Last Major Revision: Dec 2011


MachineryOne Allison V-1710-87 liquid-cooled V-12 engine rated at 1,325hp at 3,000ft
Armament6x12.7mm .50 cal machine guns (2 in each wing, 2 in lower nose), up to 454kg of external bombs
Span11.28 m
Length9.83 m
Height3.71 m
Weight, Empty2,998 kg
Weight, Maximum4,536 kg
Speed, Maximum587 km/h
Speed, Cruising402 km/h
Service Ceiling7,620 m
Range, Normal885 km
Range, Maximum3,700 km


A flight of three A-36A Apache aircraft on a training flight near Savannah, Georgia, United States, 1942; the lead plane was destroyed in a landing accident 8 Jan 1943A-36 Apache ground attack aircraft, which was based on the P-51 Mustang fighter, date unknownA-36A Apache aircraft #42-83663, probably at North American Aviation plant at Inglewood, California, United States, 1942. Photo 1 of 2A-36A Apache aircraft #42-83663, probably at North American Aviation plant at Inglewood, California, United States, 1942; note barrage balloon and possible two SBD Dauntless in right background
See all 19 photographs of A-36A Apache Ground Attack Aircraft

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. J.d says:
15 Dec 2011 11:43:22 AM

only one is left in the world and only one man ever became a ace in the A36
2. Municipal Historian says:
20 Apr 2013 04:14:52 PM

Good afternoon. My name is Matt and I am a municipal historian in New York. I am trying to find the flight information for a WWII era plane. A newspaper from 1944 lists it as a P-51 mustang, however a couple of experts have expressed the belief that it is actually a A-36A. The only markings on it are "EarlVillain. The Village of Earlville raised $75,000 for it. We are doing an event in the fall and we are hoping to find the planes history but do not have a serial number. I have a PDF style photo of the newspaper information, if you think you have any information I can email it too you. Any help would be appreciated.
3. Anonymous says:
21 May 2018 08:33:41 PM

This A36A was was Donated By Chuck Doyle Sr. Of Rosemount, Mn.
4. Tom Griffith says:
5 Feb 2019 04:40:11 PM

NAA and USAAF never called this ANYTHING but "Mustang." I've got the historical documents to prove it.

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A-36A Apache Ground Attack Aircraft Photo Gallery
A flight of three A-36A Apache aircraft on a training flight near Savannah, Georgia, United States, 1942; the lead plane was destroyed in a landing accident 8 Jan 1943
See all 19 photographs of A-36A Apache Ground Attack Aircraft

Famous WW2 Quote
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Captain Henry P. Jim Crowe, Guadalcanal, 13 Jan 1943