History Takes Flight

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Our civilian Heritage Flight pilots fly alongside modern USAF fighter/attack jets in the following vintage warbirds: P-51 Mustang, F-86 Sabre, P-38 Lightning, P-40 Warhawk, P-47 Thunderbolt and A-1 Skyraider. Learn more about these powerful fighters, their combat history and the war heroes of their cockpits below and see the Air Force teams that take to the skies with them.

P-51 Mustang

The legendary P-51 Mustang dominated the skies over Western Europe after it was introduced in World War II. The single-seat aircraft had a maximum speed of 437 miles per hour and could escort heavy bombers deep into the heart of Germany. The P-51 and the pilots that flew them were crucial to turning the tide of war in the Allies' favor.

The legendary P-51 Mustang dominated the skies over Western Europe after it was introduced in World War II. The single-seat aircraft had a maximum speed of 437 miles per hour and could escort heavy bombers deep into the heart of Germany. The P-51 and the pilots that flew them were crucial to turning the tide of war in the Allies' favor.

Date Deployed

1941

Armament

Six .50-caliber machine guns, up to 2,000 lbs of bombs or 10 rockets

Maximum Speed

425 mph

Cruising Speed

275 mph

Service Ceiling

41,900 ft

Range

1,000 mi

Span

37 ft

Length

32 ft

Height

8 ft, 8 in

Weight

12,100 lb

F-86 Sabre

The Sabre made its name in the skies over Korea where the swept-wing fighter destroyed nearly 800 MiG 15s during the Korean War. The jet, the first of its kind in the American arsenal, broke speed records throughout its evolution.

The Sabre made its name in the skies over Korea where the swept-wing fighter destroyed nearly 800 MiG 15s during the Korean War. The jet, the first of its kind in the American arsenal, broke speed records throughout its evolution.

Date Deployed

1950

Armament

Six .50-caliber machine guns, up to 2,000 lbs of bombs or 16 rockets

Maximum Speed

650 mph

Cruising Speed

-

Service Ceiling

45,000 ft

Range

1,000 mi

Span

37 ft

Length

37 ft

Height

14 ft

Weight

14,000 lbs

P-38 Lightning

The P-38 Lightning, dubbed the “fork-tailed devil” by terrified enemies, was one of the most influential fighters of WWII. The twin-engine plane was first conceived by Lockheed in 1937 and officially introduced in 1940. The P-38’s guns and supercharged engines that could power it to 400 miles per hour made it a formidable weapon in the American arsenal. P-38s went on to fly more than 130,000 missions over Europe, the Mediterranean, the Pacific, North Africa and the Aleutian Islands.

The P-38 Lightning, dubbed the “fork-tailed devil” by terrified enemies, was one of the most influential fighters of WWII. The twin-engine plane was first conceived by Lockheed in 1937 and officially introduced in 1940. The P-38’s guns and supercharged engines that could power it to 400 miles per hour made it a formidable weapon in the American arsenal. P-38s went on to fly more than 130,000 missions over Europe, the Mediterranean, the Pacific, North Africa and the Aleutian Islands.

Date Deployed

1942

Armament

Four .50-caliber machine guns and one 20 mm cannon

Maximum Speed

414 mph

Cruising Speed

275 mph

Service Ceiling

40,000 ft

Range

1,300 mi

Span

52 feet

Length

37 ft, 10 in

Height

12 ft, 10 in

Weight

17,500 lbs

A-1 Skyraider

The Douglas Aircraft Company's A-1 Skyraider was one of the most versatile and beloved aircraft in America's post-war arsenal. The Skyraider sprang from the Navy's decision to combine the jobs of dive-bombing and torpedo missions into one platform, but eventually became indispensable as a close-air support aircraft. WWII ended shortly after the first Skyraiders were ordered, but the aircraft was used in Korea and Vietnam and entered service for American allies across the globe.

The Douglas Aircraft Company's A-1 Skyraider was one of the most versatile and beloved aircraft in America's post-war arsenal. The Skyraider sprang from the Navy's decision to combine the jobs of dive-bombing and torpedo missions into one platform, but eventually became indispensable as a close-air support aircraft. WWII ended shortly after the first Skyraiders were ordered, but the aircraft was used in Korea and Vietnam and entered service for American allies across the globe.

Date Deployed

1946

Armament

Four 20 mm cannons and a 2,000 lb weapons load

Maximum Speed

325 mph

Cruising Speed

-

Service Ceiling

23,800 ft

Range

1,500 mi

Span

50 ft

Length

39 ft, 3 in

Height

15 ft, 8 in

Weight

24,872 lbs

P-47 Thunderbolt

The Thunderbolt was one of the heaviest and most heavily-armed fighters of WWII. Built by Republic Aviation, the P-47 was instrumental as a ground-attack aircraft as the allies made their push from the beaches of Normandy into Germany's heartland. The plane remained in service through the 1950s, with other countries continuing to utilize them for years.

The Thunderbolt was one of the heaviest and most heavily-armed fighters of WWII. Built by Republic Aviation, the P-47 was instrumental as a ground-attack aircraft as the allies made their push from the beaches of Normandy into Germany's heartland. The plane remained in service through the 1950s, with other countries continuing to utilize them for years.

Date Deployed

1942

Armament

Eight .50-caliber machine guns and 10 5-in rockets or 1,500 lbs of bombs

Maximum Speed

433 mph

Cruising Speed

260 mph

Service Ceiling

42,000 ft

Range

1,100 mi

Span

40 ft, 9 in

Length

36 ft, 1 in

Height

14 ft, 2 in

Weight

13,500 lbs

P-40 Warhawk

The Curtiss P-40 anchored America’s aerial arsenal during the early years of WWII. Recognizable thanks to the fearsome shark teeth painted around the air intake, the fighter was especially valuable in the China-Burma-India Theater, where it was made famous by Gen. Claire Lee Chennault’s “Flying Tigers.” The plane was upgraded throughout the war, but was eventually overtaken by newer aircraft like the P-51 Mustang and the P-38 Lightning.

The Curtiss P-40 anchored America’s aerial arsenal during the early years of WWII. Recognizable thanks to the fearsome shark teeth painted around the air intake, the fighter was especially valuable in the China-Burma-India Theater, where it was made famous by Gen. Claire Lee Chennault’s “Flying Tigers.” The plane was upgraded throughout the war, but was eventually overtaken by newer aircraft like the P-51 Mustang and the P-38 Lightning.

Date Deployed

1940

Armament

Six .50 cal machine guns, 700 lbs of bombs

Maximum Speed

362 mph

Cruising Speed

235 mph

Service Ceiling

30,000 ft

Range

850 mi

Span

37 ft, 4 in

Length

31 ft, 9 in

Height

12 ft, 4 in

Weight

9,100 lb

MODERN PLANES

F-16

Initial Operating Capability

1979

Primary Function

Multirole fighter

Speed

1,500 mph

Range

More than 2,002 mi ferry range

A-10

Initial Operating Capability

1977

Primary Function

Close air support, airborne forward air control

Speed

517 mph

Range

2,580 mi

F-22

Initial Operating Capability

2005

Primary Function

Air dominance, multirole fighter

Speed

Mach 2 with Supercruise ability

Range

1,850 mi

F-35

Initial Operating Capability

2016

Primary Function

Multirole fighter

Speed

Mach 1.6

Range

Over 1,350 mi