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The North American P-51 Mustang was a single seat fighter which was designed, developed and entered service all during the course of the Second World War. The origins of the aircraft came about in April 1940, when the British Purchasing Commission approached the North American aviation company to design a fighter to augment those already in service with RAF Fighter Command. The prototype first flew on October 26th 1940 and, after a highly successful test and evaluation period, 320 aircraft were ordered and the first production aircraft flew on May 1st 1941. Delivered to No.26 Squadron at Gatwick, the new American fighter was designated the Mustang Mk.I by the RAF. It was considered to be superior to any other American fighter at the time, particularly at low level. However, the 1100 hp Allison V-1710 engine had a poorer performance at high altitude, particularly above 15,000 feet which was above where the engine supercharger was optimized for. For this reason, the Mustangs were used in support of ground operations rather than in their intended original role as a fighter. The Mustang was very successful in this role and an additional order for a further 300 aircraft was placed. The new batch was modified by fitting self sealing fuel tanks and replacing the earlier Mustangs’ eight machine guns with a new armament of four 20mm cannon, to create the Mustang Mk.IA. The RAF’s successes with the Mustang led to a good deal of attention from the United States Army Air Force; after highlighting the fighter’s only serious shortcoming as its high altitude performance, enquiries were made into fitting the aircraft with a different engine. The British Rolls-Royce Merlin was selected for testing in five converted Mustangs, and the performance of the fighter increased dramatically. The airframe and wings were strengthened to harness the power of the Merlin engine, which also resulted in the fitting of under wing stores now being an option. Mustangs could now carry bombs, rockets or long range drop tanks. Now more than capable of competing across all altitude bands and boasting a particularly long range for a single engine fighter, the Mustang was rapidly evolving into one of the most capable air assets of the entire war. However, with British and American interest in the fighter still growing, future variants of the Mustang would show yet more improvements. Generally regarded as the greatest American fighter of the Second World War, Mustang pilots were to claim nearly 5,000 air-to-air kills by the end of the conflict. The Mustang would go on to serve the USAF in the Korean War, and was exported to over 50 foreign air forces.