The North American Aviation P-51 Mustang was an American long-range single-seat World War II fighter aircraft. Designed and built in just 117 days to a specification issued to NAA by the British Purchasing Commission, the Mustang first flew in Royal Air Force (RAF) service as a fighter-bomber and reconnaissance aircraft before conversion to a bomber escort, employed in raids over Germany, helping ensure Allied air superiority from early 1944. The P-51 was in service with Allied air forces in Europe and also saw limited service against the Japanese in the Pacific War. At the start of Korean War the Mustang was the United Nations' main fighter but the role was quickly shouldered by jet fighters, including the F-86, after which the Mustang became a specialised ground-attack fighter-bomber. In spite of being superseded by jet fighters the Mustang remained in service with some air forces until the early 1980s.
As well as being economical to produce, the Mustang was a fast, well-made, and highly durable aircraft. The definitive version, the P-51D, was powered by the Packard V-1650, a two-stage two-speed supercharged version of the legendary Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, and was armed with six .50 caliber (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns.
After World War II and the Korean War, many Mustangs were converted for civilian use, especially air racing. The Mustang's reputation was such that, in the mid-1960s, Ford Motor Company's Designer John Najjar proposed a new youth-oriented coupe automobile be named after the fighter.