Eagles International EAG10006 USAAF North American P-51B Mustang Fighter - Maj. James Howard, "Ding Hao", 356th Fighter Squadron, 354th Fighter Group, 9th Air Force (1:48 Scale)
"Why should we have a navy at all? There are no enemies for it to fight except apparently the Army Air Force."
- General Carl Spaatz, Commander of the US 8th Army Air Force, after WWII
No other aircraft of WWII could fly as high, go as far, or fight as hard as the famed Mustang. Piloted by a record 281 Aces, this agile and ferocious dogfighter tallied more kills than any other Allied airplane. As the bombers of the Eighth Air Force fought their way deep into Hitler's Germany, it was the Mustang that cleared the skies of Luftwaffe fighters. The powerful Rolls-Royce Merlin engine gave the Mustang a speed of 445 mph. Re-styled with an aerodynamic bubble canopy for greater visibility, and outfitted with 6 fast-firing .50 caliber machine guns, the P-51 became the best fighter of the war.
In April 1942 the RAF's Air Fighter Development Unit (AFDU) tested the Mustang at higher altitudes and found it wanting, but their CO was so impressed with its manouevrability and speed that he invited Ronnie Harker from Rolls-Royce's Flight Test establishment to fly it. Rolls-Royce rapidly realized that re-engining the Mustang with a Merlin 61 would result in a phenomenal improvement in performance. Freeman drove the Merlin Mustang conversion hard, and insisted on two of the five Mustangs that were being re-engined with Merlin 61s to be handed over to Carl Spaatz for trials and evaluation by the US 8th Air Force in Britain.
The result was astonishing. The high altitude performance and range with the use of drop tanks, enabled the mark to excel as bomber escort. After sustained lobbying at the highest level, American production of the Mustang with this engine was started in early 1943, and P51Bs and Cs started arriving in England in August and October 1943, not before time.
The pairing of the P-51 airframe and the Packard-Merlin 68 engine was designated P-51B/C (B being manufactured at Inglewood, California, and C at Dallas, Texas). The new version was used in 15 fighter groups, that were part of the 8th and 9th Air Forces in England, and the 12th and 15th in Italy (the southern part of Italy was under Allied control by late 1943).
The main role of the plane was bomber escort. It was largely due to the P-51 that daylight bombing raids deep into German territory became possible without prohibitive bomber losses in the middle of 1944.
Pictured here is a 1:48 scale replica of a P-51B Mustang, nicknamed "Ding Hao," which was flown by Maj. James Howard of the 356th FS, 354th FG, 9th Air Force. Only 504 pieces produced. Sold Out!
Historical Account: "Ding Hao" - Lt. Col. James Howard flew a P-51B Mustang, nicknamed “Ding Hao!”, when he was Commanding Officer of the 354th Fighter Group. He flew with the American Fighter Group, known as the “Flying Tigers”, in China until the unit disbanded on July 4th, 1942. He then he joined the 356th Fighter Squadron, 354th Fighter Group, 9th USAAF, in England. While he was with the Flying Tigers, he was credited with 2.33 air-to-air and four air-to-ground victories, and his total of 8.33 air-to-air kills made him an Ace. On January 11th, 1944, he single-handedly defended a formation of B-17 bombers from the 401st Bomb Group against an estimated 30-40 German fighters northwest of Halberstadt, Germany. For his efforts on this mission, he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the only fighter pilot in northwestern Europe to receive the nations highest honor.