P-82  Twin Mustang

Aus der endgültige Form und Ausstattung der P-51D Mustang wurde später die XP-82 (Twin Mustang) entwickelt. Die P-82 war ein Langstreckenjäger (3445 Meilen mit einem 450 Liter Drop-Tank!) sowie Aufklärer mit großer Reichweite und bestand aus zwei Mustang-Rümpfen. Sie wurde im Korea-Krieg für den Nachtangriff eingesetzt. Die P-82B stellte einen neuen Langstreckenrekord für Jagdflugzeuge auf.

Die beiden US-Piloten, Lieutenant John Ard  (im rechten Cockpit) zusammen mit dem am Steuerknüppel sitzenden Oberst Robert Thacker, flogen am 28. Februar 1947 vom Hickam Airfield (Hawaii) 7992 km (4968 Meilen) nach LaGuardia (New York). „Betty Joe“ landete nach 14 Stunden und 32 Minuten! Dazu wurde die Bewaffnung entfernt und das Flugzeug mit 4 Zusatztanks à 1364-Liter ausgerüstet. Damit  trug die P-82B (Seriennummer 44-65168)  9746 Liter Kraftstoff mit sich! Es wurden von dieser Variante lediglich 18 Stück (P-82Bs) gebaut. Es folgten die Varianten C und D.

Test-Flight über Kalifornien


Warfare against Japan's home islands posed many difficult problems to America's military planners. Invasion of an island nation could only come from the sea, and only after a large-scale bombing campaign. Neither the bombers or fighters on hand in 1943 were capable of adequately handling the task, primarily because of the great distances that would have to be flown. The B-29 was developed as the bomber that would meet these needs, but the USAAF wanted a fighter that was capable of escorting it to Japan where it was certain to meet fierce enemy opposition.

In January of 1944, the USAAF ordered four prototypes of the P-82 Twin Mustang. This unusual fighter would have a maximum range of 2,600 miles, which was 300 miles more than the P-51D, and over the Pacific Ocean every mile would be precious. More importantly, the P-82 carried two pilots who could relieve each other during missions that might last as long as nine hours. But it is interesting to note that only the pilot in the left fuselage had full IFR instruments. On such missions in the "soup," the second pilot would be able to provide little in the way of relief.

North American joined two modified and lengthened P-51H fuselages with constant cord center wing and tail sections. The outer wing panels remained similar to what was on the P-51H, although there were several noticeable differences. The six .50-caliber machine guns were moved to the center wing section to concentrate their fire, and the main landing gear folded into wells under the two fuselages.

Although the order was cut to only two XP-82 prototypes, work continued, and the first flight was made on April 15, 1945. It was powered by two Packard Merlin V1650-23 or -25 engines, and performance was equal to that of a P-51D. Although no P-82As were built, 500 P-828s were ordered in June 1944, long before either prototype flew. But the end of the war caused production to be cut to only 20 aircraft, and none of these ever saw combat.

The USAAF did see some promise in the design because a radar observer could replace the second pilot. This made the Twin Mustang a good candidate for all-weather and night operations. Accordingly, the USAAF ordered two of the P-828s to be converted to night-fighter prototypes. P-82B-1-NA, 44-65169 became the P-82C, and P-828-1-NA, 44-65170 became the P-82D. These first flew on March 27 and 29, 1946, respectively, and they served as developmental aircraft for the later P-82F, P-82G, and P-82H.

Meanwhile, the P-82E was developed as a long-range escort fighter. It was similar to the previous P-828, but it was powered with Allison 1710-143 or -145 engines. This Allison powerplant would be installed on all subsequent P/F-82 versions. One hundred P-82Es were built, and these became the Strategic Air Command's first long-range escort fighters for the B-29, B-36 and B-50. The 27th Fighter Escort Group (SAC) was the first unit to become operational with any Twin Mustang variant.

The P-82F made its first flight on March 11, 1948, and three months later, the pursuit type was replaced by the fighter type as the U.S. Army Air Forces became the United States Air Force. All aircraft designated previously with a P prefix were changed to an F prefix. Thus, the P82 became the F-82, and the P-51 became the F-51.

Most F-82s were produced as all-weather night fighters, with the first being the F-82F. This version was equipped with the AN/APG-28 tracking radar, and a total of 91 were built. These were followed by 45 F-82Gs, which carried the SCR-720C search radar that had been previously proven in the P-61 Black Widow. In both types, the right cockpit was modified with the necessary controls and displays for operation of the radar. The last nine F-82Fs ordered (44-496 through 44-504) and the last five F-82Gs (44-384 through 44-388) were winterized for service in Alaska and redesignated as F-82Hs.

Although the Twin Mustang's service with the USAF was limited, it did leave some indelible marks on aviation history. A specially modified P-828 named Betty Jo establish a non-stop unrefueled distance record by flying from Hickam Field, Hawaii, to Mitchell Field, New York, in 1946. This record still stands today as the greatest distance flown by an unrefueled fighter.

On June 27, 1950, shortly after the beginning of the Korean War, an F-82G from the 68th F(AW)S of the 8th Fighter Bomber Wing shot down a North Korean Yak fighter near Kimpo Air Field north of Seoul. This became the first aerial kill of the war and the first scored by a pilot in the United States Air Force. The F-82G was flown by Lt. William Hudson, and the radar observer was Lt. Carl Fraser. In addition to this first, the Twin Mustang became the last propeller-driven fighter ordered into production by the United States Air Force.


Without question, the P-51 Mustang was one of the great aircraft designs of all time. It will forever be considered a classic among all aircraft ever built. But a disservice has been paid to it by those who would make unrealistic claims about its performance and contributions to the victory in World War II. Often, the world "best" has been attributed to the Mustang. But "best" must be qualified to the point that it becomes practically meaningless. When applied to a fighter aircraft, "best" is usually related to performance figures. Certainly, the Me-262 jet fighter was superior in many ways to the Mustang, so it is often written that the Mustang was the best propeller-driven fighter ever built. But the Germans had several types of propeller-driven fighters under development that were clearly superior, and the U.S. Navy's FBF Bearcat proved to be a much better fighter in almost every respect except range. So the claim is made that it was the best propeller-driven fighter that served in World War II, or sometimes this is even further qualified to state that it was the best propeller-driven Allied fighter of the war. Very justifiable arguments can be made that the P-47 Thunderbolt or the F4U Corsair were better in some respects or even overall, but it is really not possible to objectively call any one fighter the best of World War II.

Likewise, it has been written that the P-51 was the fighter that "won the war." This is also a ludicrous contention. Everyone from generals to the man on the street have claimed that one weapon or another won the war. Eisenhower said that the artillery won the war. Many have said that the atomic bomb won the war, or the aircraft carrier did, or the heavy bomber did. No weapon won the war. The war was won by people. This included the soldier with a rifle, the driver of a tank, the sailor on a ship and the pilot and crewmen in an aircraft. It included the people who built the machines and weapons of war and those who delivered this equipment to the ones who used them. It included the people who made the decisions and dictated the tactics, and it included the ones that carried them out.

The Mustang's combat record is generally considered to consist of: 4,950 air kills, 4,131 ground kills and 230 V-1 kills, with an 11:1 "kill ratio".

Of the machines and weapons of war, some played a more important part than others, and indeed, a few played a very critical part. But it was a combination of all of them that resulted in victory. No single weapon system decided the outcome of the entire war. Many credit the Mustang with winning the war in Europe because it had the range to escort the bombers all the way to their targets in the heartland of Germany. But this capability was always there, even before the P-51 became available. The fact that long-range fighters were not used earlier was a tactical decision rather than because such fighters did not exist.

Unless otherwise noted, the text of this section were excerpted from Bert Kinzey's P-51 Mustang In Detail & Scale volumes, published by Squadron/Signal.