North American A-36 Apache Ground Attack Aircraft / Dive Bomber Aircraft
The North American A-36 Apache was based on an early-form P-51, though modified for the dive bomber and ground attack roles.
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The North American A-36 "Apache" was a United States Army Air Forces dedicated ground attack / dive bomber variant of the classic North American P-51 "Mustang" single-seat, single-engine fighter. The original Mustang was developed to a British specification but the line went on to find a majority of success in the hands of European- and Pacific-Theater-bound American airmen. Development had begun in 1940 and the A-36 grew out the original program, first flying in prototype form October of 1942. Its design is attributed to Edgar Schmued.
The A-36A was the only production mark of the Apache line, appearing with the 27th, 86th and 311th (India) Fighter-Bomber (Bombardment Groups (Dive)). First combat actions occurred in June of 1943 on the island of Pantelleria in the Mediterranean Theater. Called upon to drop conventional bombs on enemy targets via diving and climbing actions, the Apache also served as a bomber escort and general ground attack component of the Allies.
Externally, the A-36 Apache retained much of the form of earlier production Mustangs. The canopy of heavily framed and a dorsal spine apparent aft of the cockpit. Straight wing monoplanes were fitted low along the forward section of the fuselage. The empennage sported a single vertical fin with low-set horizontal planes. Power was from an Allison V-1710 inline piston engine developing 1,325 horsepower and driving a three-bladed propeller unit at the nose. The undercarriage was of a conventional tail-dragger configuration featuring a tail wheel and two main landing gears, the latter recessing towards fuselage centerline. Standard armament consisted of the traditional P-51 arrangement: 6 x 12.7mm air-cooled Browning heavy machine guns - two mounted in the upper fuselage (nose) and the remaining four buried within the wings (two per wing). Up to 1,000lb of conventional drop stores could be carried (externally).
Performance from the Allison powerplant allowed for a top speed of 365 miles per hour with a cruising speed of roughly 250 miles per hour. A range of 550 miles was possible with a service ceiling of 25,100 feet.
In all, 500 Apaches were built for the war effort. However, their service was short-lived for, by 1944, the series was already being replaced by the more capable Republic P-47 Thunderbolt and North American P-51 Mustangs equipped with bomb and rocket racks. These aircraft proved more than up to the task of close-support bombing actions while still retaining their inherent exceptional high-altitude performance. As such, the role and reach of the A-36 gradually dwindled as the war progressed.
Production of A-36s completed in March of 1943. Despite its limited use, the aircraft was well-received and, beyond its bombing capabilities, it also recorded 84 enemy air kills. The United Kingdom's Royal Air Force (RAF) received one copy of the aircraft in March of 1943 for testing and evaluation purposes. Few A-36's survive today as museum showpieces.
The A-36 Apache was unofficially known as the "Invader".