After more than ten years of restoration, the Collings Foundation’s A-36A Apache (also known as the Invader) s/n 42-83738, N.A.A. s/n 15956 is complete. This is one of three in existence and one of two currently flying in the world. The quality in craftsmanship and attention to detail is, bar-none, some of the finest in the history of warbird restoration. We want to acknowledge the entire staff at American Aero Services in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Their great dedication and commitment to perfection is clearly evident in completing the restoration of this legendary aircraft.
The slotted dive brakes help distinguish Apaches from Mustangs.
The A-36 Apache was the ground-attack/dive bomber version of the P-51 Mustang. The Apache is very similar to the P-51A Mustang with the exception of the large slatted dive brakes above and below the wings. Manufactured by North American Aviation and designed by Edgar Schmued, the A-36 was introduced in 1942 and retired from service in 1945. 500 were built and served in the Mediterranean, North Africa, Italy and China-India-Burma theaters.
Between the war-bird enthusiast and historians, there is some confusion and misinformation about the correct name for the A-36. According to the research and findings of some like Joe Baugher, “names such as Invader and Apache have also been associated with the A-36, but the correct name is and always has been Mustang. There was a brief effort to change the name of the A-36 to Invader following the invasion of Sicily in order to distinguish it from the fighter versions in press coverage. The Army turned down the request, since they didn't want to reveal to the enemy that they were facing a dive-bomber version of the fighter. In addition, the name Invader had already been assigned to the Douglas A-26. There is a persistent myth that the A-36 was initially called Apache, which was the name that the Army had initially assigned to the very early P-51. However, this story has no basis in fact, and was in fact a myth that originated in the 1980s.”
The A-36 was used to replace/supplement the Curtiss P-40 Tomahawks already in service. In 1942, the A-36 began flying combat missions as a low-altitude reconnaissance and ground support aircraft with the RAF Army Squadrons. Immediately, the A-36 became a very effective and popular fighter/dive-bomber. Despite the limited high altitude performance from the Allison V-1710 engine, the RAF enthusiastically received the new aircraft.
The liquid cooled V12 Allison engine can produce approximately 1,325 hp generating a cruise speed of 250 mph. The maximum speed is 365 mph with a range of 550 miles and a service ceiling of 25,000 feet. The typical armament consisted of up to 1,000 pounds of bombs and 6 M2 Browning machine guns.
The A-36 proved to be a very effective weapon. The aircraft could be put into a vertical dive at 12,000 feet. Once in a dive the pilot would deploy the dive breaks that would limit the dive speed up to 390 mph. Depending on the target and conditions, the pilots would release the bombs between 4,000 ft and 2,000 feet. With proper technique, pilots were able to achieve extremely consistent and deadly results. The Apache also had an impressive number of aerial victories with 84 enemy aircraft shot down.
The Collings Foundation’s A-36 s/n 42-83738 flew state side as a trainer over 1943. In 1963 Sid Smith in Sheridan, OL, owned the aircraft. It was then transferred to Wings of Yesterday Museum in Santa Fe in 1975 and then to John Paul in 1980. The Collings Foundation acquired the aircraft in the late 80’s. Major restoration work started in 2004 when the aircraft was transferred to American Aero Services.
The Foundation’s A-36 is painted in honor of a 526 th FSB, 86 th FG aircraft named “Baby Carmen”. Two pilots flew the original aircraft: Lt. Gibson and Lt. Lucas. Mike Brown was the crew chief. “Baby Carmen” logged an astounding 200 combat sorties without an engine replacement. Painted US national insignia in four positions with red surround. A white rudder tab marked the 526 th and the ‘J’ for the squadron. Like the original “Baby Carmen” paint scheme, the Collings Foundation’s A-36’s insignia and nose art was finely rendered by hand.
Gravity always wins!