There is a tendency for experts and laypeople to think of military platforms and their performance largely in terms of hull forms, airframes and vehicle shells. However, it is often the case that one or more critical systems or even components can be the key to a warship, fighter or combat vehicle’s success in battle.

Take the amazing P-51 Mustang, the fighter plane that drove the Luftwaffe from the skies over Germany. It has a remarkable design and is a pilot’s dream to fly. But what enabled it to dominate the air domain over Europe was a particular engine.

When the original Allison power plant was replaced by the supercharged Rolls Royce Merlin engine, the Mustang’s full potential was realized. With the new engine, the P-51 operated better at higher altitudes, accelerated more rapidly and burned less fuel, the last point being particularly important for the long bomber escort missions over the continent.

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