The P-51 Mustang is a legendary fighter of WWII well known for its exploits in the skies over Europe and those of the Pacific. This legendary fighter has returned to the IL-2 series in patch 3.201 for IL-2: Battle of Bodenplatte. How does the P-51D-15 Mustang measure up? Let’s have a look!
A brief history of the Mustang
Designed in 1940 by North American aviation in response to a British request to produce license-built versions of the P-40, the P-51 far surpassed the original goals and ended up being a key piece of the Allied aerial arsenal.
The combination of a Rolls Royce Merlin engine with the original P-51 design resulted in an aircraft that had speed, power, and range that could take it to Berlin and back and provide crucial escort to Allied bomber formations. The Mustang was used for far more than just long-range escort missions as it saw service flying tactical missions at lower altitudes, strafing targets, dropping bombs, and flying fighter sweeps and scramble missions.
In a famous engagement during the New Year’s Day raids that was Operation Bodenplatte, a Mustang flight scrambled and famously shot an attacking FW190 out of the sky before the landing gear had even fully retracted.
That’s the legend but how does the Mustang stack up in IL-2? I must admit that I was surprised by the result.
Cadillac of the simulated skies?
Flight simulators have often had a problem with the P-51 Mustang. The aircraft’s unique attributes make it and aircraft that is difficult to simulate, and it’s had a mixed experience in most sims that I’ve flown it in.
The original IL-2: Sturmovik’s P-51 changed many times over the years but there was always a sense of it being a bit hard to handle and not quite living up to the reputation. Some people could do wonders with it while others felt it was not quite right.
Prior to IL-2: Battle of Bodenplatte’s new patch, DCS World was offering the most recent iteration of the Mustang in a combat flight simulation. I enjoyed flying the TF-51D that comes free with all DCS World downloads and I have to say that the feel of the aircraft in Bodenplatte is quite close to its DCS World counterpart. There are no doubt some nuances that I’m missing but when I look at it versus say the one I’m familiar with in IL-2: 1946, Bodenplatte’s Mustang is close to the DCS version and that makes me think there is a bit of a consensus on how the Mustang really should be in the air courtesy of advanced flight modeling.
IL-2: Battle of Bodenplatte, the Mustang is extremely well balanced. It’s climb rate is middle of the pack, ahead of the FW190A-8 and behind the Bf109G-14 and K-4.
Roll rate and turn rate are also good but not excellent. That’s still good enough for the Mustang to be capable of a turn-fight against Bf109K’s and FW190D’s but it requires careful coordination on the rudder and elevators to make for the most effective turns and care should be taken to not let speed bleed off too much in those situations.
Speed is where the Mustang really shines with a default maximum sea level speed of 368 mph (592 km/h) and 446 mph (717 km/h) at 26,250 feet (8000 meters). Add the 150 octane fuel modification and sea level speed shoots up to 377 mph (607 km/h) all according to the specification tab in-sim. This makes it faster than both the FW190D-9 and Bf109K-4 at sea level with the 150 octane boost and faster than both of them at high altitude regardless of boost.
Everything I just said comes with one caveat – you must have the rear fuel tank empty for the Mustang to behave as a capable fighter. At full fuel, the Mustang’s center of gravity travels rearward making it unstable and unruly without a tremendous amount of care to coordinate rudders and elevators. As the fuel burns off (and you reach 67%) the Mustang becomes more and more capable.
Cockpit and exterior visuals
As much as we all want a high-quality flight sim experience when it comes to the flying, we also want an aircraft that looks the part. Once again 1CGS has done an excellent job here.
The Mustang exterior appears to have all the angles and curves of a shape that I’m very familiar with. Beautiful 4K textures give the aircraft a crisp exterior, readable notations on the side of the fuselage, and the metallic reflections that 1CGS added to the series really helps seal the deal. It looks like a Mustang through and through.
The cockpit is also quite good. I think it’s perhaps not quite as detailed as the one you’ll see in DCS World but I still think it’s excellent. Even without that, there is still plenty of detail. Wear marks make you feel like it’s a real aircraft that has been well used but not necessarily abused. Just about perfect for a war time fighter. I’d love to see 4K textures appear in IL-2 aircraft at some point in the future but as it is, 1CGS artists have made a good looking cockpit.
Overall visibility in the Mustang is superb. A thin canopy rail at the front is hardly obtrusive and the bubble canopy makes spotting really easy to do. That helps with overall situational awareness and it makes the Mustang a better, more competitive, fighter overall. The view in the Mustang is possibly one of the best in the series alongside the Yak-1B.
There are several skins available and 1CGS is currently at work producing a few more. For example, you can see the new blue nose Mustang from the 1CGS official Facebook page. Look forward to seeing Moonbeam McSwine, one of the 352nd’s “Blue-nosed Bastards of Bodney” come to IL-2 in the next patch.
Wild and ready to fight
The Mustang’s six Browning M2 .50cal machine guns that are the standard default armament are joined by a few other weapon combinations.
Two machine guns can be removed to bring the total down to four of the heavy machine guns with a commensurate reduction in weight.
The aircraft can also carry two 500lb or 1000lb GP bombs under the wings. At the same time it can also carry six M8 Bazooka rockets in two M10 launchers for added ground attack firepower.
I shouldn’t be too surprised but 1CGS has made sure that the Mustang would have plenty of ability in the fighter-bomber arena but it is a great thing to see come in as an option. IL-2: Battle of Bodenplatte is all about fighter-bombers and it is great to be able to turn it around and go from pure fighter to a ground pounding fighter-bomber. The original IL-2 never served the P-51 so well and so this is a real treat to see.
It whistles too
1CGS has added a really nice touch to their P-51D-15. It whistles!
The P-51 is known for making a whistling noise in some scenarios and there seems to be some argument over the exact cause of the noise. One suggestion is that it could be coming from airflow around the radiator. Another is that it could be caused by airflow flowing past the .50cal gun ports.
Whatever the cause, 1CGS has captured that unique piece of character and it makes itself heard during tight, high speed turns. Kudos for adding that little extra piece to make the Mustang special!
I was skeptical about how well the Mustang would be when it arrived in IL-2: Great Battles Series. I’ve come to expect that the Mustang would be a bit of a difficult to fly aircraft in combat and while the P-51D-15 in Bodenplatte rewards a competent pilot with a solid grasp of tactics, it’s not as difficult as I anticipated it might be.
Though the Mustang is not going to win turn fights at slow speeds, in most regimes of flight the aircraft is pleasant to fly (assuming that rear tank is empty). It’s very capable in combat against its prime opponents in the series. Importantly, 1CGS was able to mod the critical 150 octane fuel modification for the Mustang which should please just about everyone who was calling for the added boost to be available. That makes the Mustang a speed demon at low altitudes and puts it in the very top tier of fighters in the entire series.
I’m very pleased at what 1CGS was able to do here. Modelling a legend is difficult and this representation of the Mustang feels every inch the legendary fighter that we know from the history books.
It’s key to know how the P-51D-15 flies, where everything is in the cockpit, and what settings you need to use to get the most out of this Allied fighter. Fortunately, Requiem has a learn to fly the tutorial for the Mustang in IL-2: Great Battles and it’s incredibly helpful when it comes to getting to know the Mustang.
Sherrif’s Sim Shack has a great video of a raid on Aachen in the P-51. Great gameplay and visuals of the Mustang from inside and out.
Scharfi gets an ace in a flight in some P-51D Mustang battles.
Magz from MagzTV goes for a first flight in the P-51D as well. Great fun!
Finally, my first Me262 kill online came courtesy of the P-51D! Check it out in this Stormbird Quick Takes video.