The A-36 Apache can be considered as a United States Army version of the successful North American P-51 Mustang piston-engine fighter. The USAAF bought this version first, but full priority was later given to the fighter version, and no more than 500 A-36’s were built. It was unofficially known as ‘Invader’. Its development, in response to a USAAF requirement for a high-speed dive bomber, began in 1940 and the A-36 grew out the program, first flying in September of 1942. Although “Apache” was its official name but it was rarely used. FL. The A-36A’s first combat action happened in June of 1943. The A-36 Apache owned by the Collings Foundation is one of the few known to exist. It is currently under restoration in New Smyrna Beach.
The A-36 Apache because of its resemblance with the P-51 Mustangs retained much of the looks. The cockpit was covered in framed canopy which is called “the bird cage” sometimes. It had a high-back upper rear fuselage. Wings were styled as low-monoplanes and they were fitted to a streamlined fuselage crowned at the front with its inline engine and conical spinner. It had a three-blade propeller which derived power from a single Allison V-1710 engine capable of delivering 1,325 horsepower. The undercarriage featured a tail wheel and 2 main landing gears. Armament consisted of the traditional P-51 arrangement of 6 x 12.7 mm air-cooled Browning heavy machine guns – two were mounted in the upper fuselage nose and four were affixed to either wing. Externally, up to 1,000lbs of bombs could be carried. It could attain a top speed of 365 miles per hour with a cruising speed of roughly 250 miles per hour. A range of 550 miles and a ceiling of 25,100 feet were attainable.
In June 1943, the plane went into action from North Africa. During the Italian campaign, A-36A pilots flew bomber escort and strafing missions as well as ground support bombing attacks. A-36As also served with the 311th Fighter Bomber Group in India and worked for RAF. It featured dive brakes in the wings which gave it better stability in a dive, but they were sometimes wired closed due to malfunctions. In 1944, AAF A-36A was replaced by P-51 and P-47 which proved better as high-altitude fighters when they were equipped with bomb racks.
|365mph (587kmh; 317kts)
|25,098ft (7,650m; 4.8miles)
|1 x Allison V-1710 inline engine delivering 1,325 hp
|2 x 12.7mm M2 Browning air-cooled machine guns in upper fuselage nose
4 x 12.7mm M2 Browning air-cooled machine guns in wings
Provision for 1,000lbs of external stores.