|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 but actually pre-dated the large production runs for the fighter. North American Aviation's very first production run for fighters in this aircraft type, 152 airplanes, were called P-51 Apaches but by the time of the next production run, the A-36A attack aircraft, all variants of the airframe were officially known as Mustangs, including retro naming the first 152. Once deployed, some people tried to nickname the A-36A attack variant the Invader, but documents from the US Army Air Forces always listed them as Mustangs, like the fighters.
ww2dbaseThe A-36A shared the Mustang's airframe 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 A-36A was intended for use in the ground attack and dive-bombing roles and for this, the Allison was more than adequate.
ww2dbaseOutwardly, the A-36A was barely distinguishable from the P-51A Mustang. The A 36A had two more .50 caliber machine guns that were mounted inside the lower engine housing and shot through the propeller arc, the so-called “chin mounts” and hard points for bombs on each wing. The A-36A 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 made the plane a deadly accurate dive-bomber. The early Mustangs, including the A 36A, 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 nearly all other USAAF aircraft.
ww2dbaseA total of 500 A-36A 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 A-36A 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 A-36A distinguished itself in action in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy. The A-36A also saw service in the China-Burma-Indian Theater, flying from bases in Dinjan, India starting in late summer 1943. The A-36As were not withdrawn from that theater until 1945.
ww2dbaseWhile the A-36A's combat career may have been short, it should not be concluded that their contribution was small. A-36As in the Mediterranean theater alone flew a total of 23,373 combat sorties and delivered over 8,000 tons of bombs. Even though the A-36A was primarily a bomber and ground attack aircraft, they also had some air-to-air engagements. A-36As shot down total of 84 enemy aircraft in the air and produced the only ace using the Allison-equipped Mustang, Lt Michael T. Russo from the 27th Fighter-Bomber Group in the Mediterranean.
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.
North American Aviation
United States National Archives
The Boeing Company
USAAF Resource Center
Aviation History Online Museum
Last Major Revision: Nov 2019
|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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Joachim von Ribbentrop, German Foreign Minister, Aug 1939