Despite its poor performance at higher altitudes the Mustang I had a long range and excellent low-level performance. As a result they were most effectively used for tactical reconnaissance and ground attack missions. For these types of missions, Mustang Is had two K-24 camera's installed: one just aft of the pilot's armor on the left side, pointing left and rear and the second just aft of the radiator, shooting straight down.
A reconnaissance Mustang with 2 K-24 cameras installed: one just aft of the pilot and one just in front of the tailwheel (pointing straight down)
A single gun camera was added near the left wing tip.
British Mustang Is were painted in a camouflage scheme with yellow stripes being added across the wings to keep them from being confused with the Luftwaffe's Bf-109s. In the heat of the fight one could easily confuse the Mustang with a Bf-109 (In fact there were occasions where a Messerschmitt pilot joined formation with a group of Mustangs before realizing they were actually not the friendly aircraft they thought they would be and vice versa)
The Mustang was the first Allied fighter with square wingtips and had the same sleek figure as the Bf-109. Some would claim this resemblance was a result of NAA's chief designer Edgar Schmued being employed with Messerschmitt before his immigration to the US . However, Schmued left Europe for Brazil in 1925 and arrived in the US in 1930, so he was unable to have worked on the Bf-109.
The RAF found that reconnaissance missions could also be combined with more aggressive actions. The Mustang proved to be an accurate bomber, was able to provide ground support, fight its way out of a jam and could take on a Messerschmitt Bf 109 or Focke-Wulf FW-190 on fair terms at low altitude.
The First RAF unit to receive the Mustang was No. 26 Squadron, based at Gatwick. They began to operate the fighter in February of 1942. In April, two more squadrons received Mustangs, and eight more followed in June.
The Mustang I made its combat debut on May 10th , 1942. An RAF Mustang I of No. 26 Squadron drew first blood on a reconnaissance mission over the French coast strafing hangars and destroying a supply train.
Following this mission, the RAF employed the Mustang in “reconnaissance and destroy” missions, called “rhubarbs” (attacking designated targets) or “rangers” (picking out targets of opportunity). Both involved sending out two Mustangs, one taking photographs and the second to give cover from enemy fighters.
The first operational mission took place on July 27th and the first Mustang air-to-air kill was on August 19th , 1942 during the Dieppe raid when officer Hollis Hills shot down an FW-190.
In October of 1942 the Mustang did what no other fighter could then do: taking off from an English airfield and fly straight into Germany to raid targets in the Ruhr area ( Dortmund-Ems Canal raid) . This was the first time that Allied fighter aircraft penetrated the German border.
By this time, the initial batch of 320 NA-73 Mustang Is had been delivered by NAA, as well as most of the second batch of 300. A total of 14 RAF squadrons were equipped with Allison Mustangs.
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