Tag Archives: Dominican Republic P-51

The last of the wild Mustangs….

The P-51 was the Cadillac of the sky for about a decade. They swept the air over Europe from the Nazis, then went on to mix it up with Russian MIGs over Korea in the 1950s. The last operator of the P-51D was the Dominican Republic Air Force (or FAD- or Fuerza Aérea Dominicana) who did not retire it from service until 1984 – 40 years after its operational debut.

Dominican P-51s were brightly painted during most of their service with that country from 1948 until the 1970s.

Being formed in 1932 they flew just a handful of planes until signing the Rio Treaty in 1947. Then  the Dominican Republic received large quantities of aircraft, including 25 P-47D Thunderbolt fighter-bombers, 18 P-51D Mustangs,  and 30 AT-6 Texan trainers from the United States. To this were added 42 De Haviland Vampires acquired overseas.

The first Dominican P-51 was delivered on 29 September 1948. The first FAD Mustangs were flown by Brazilians mercenaries, veterans of World War II, who provided training to local pilots.

In 1948. The airplane did not carry any national emblems on the sides. This aircraft was used for spying and photo reconnaissance over the training camps of exiled Dominicans and the 'Legion del Caribe' (Caribbean Legion) opposing Trujillo in Cuba, Venezuela, and Guatemala. The fact that it was flown by Brazilian mercs added to the story...

The Dominican Republic received 32 more surplus P-51D’s from Sweden 1952/1953 as an addition to a few aircraft purchased from the U.S. during the late 1940’s, and kept them in continuous service for over 30 years until finally retired in 1984 ! During that long service-life, the aircraft saw several IRAN’s (Inspection and Repair as Necessary) and upgrading, mostly done by TFA / Cavalier at Sarasota, Florida.  A few aircraft were added from other sources to replace losses, and some aircraft were cannibalized for spare parts.

The last Mustang ever downed anywhere in the world in battle occurred during Operation Power Pack in the Dominican Republic in 1965. There a US military force shot down a FAD P-51.

The FAD P-47s were all retired by 1957. The Vampires, their jet engines worn out, by 1974. This left the last P-51 Mustangs flying in the world as combat aircraft as the FADs only armed fighters. It was then that the P-51s took on their camo warpaint.

FAD P-51 over the hills of Hispaniola in 1979.

P-40 style shark mouths were applied to some FAD P-51s.

The final combat operation took place in 1983 when a Cuban intelligence ship refused to leave Dominican waters and the Mustangs strafed it. In retaliation, Cuba sent MiG-21s to attack the Dominican airfield. Knowing the better part of valor, the Mustang pilots did not try to fight off the MiGs. As one Dominican pilot recalled, “We went inside and hid until they went away.”

After several Cuban MiGs humiliated the FAD, playing and taunting with the old Mustangs off the Dominican coast, the government requested US assistance. The A-37B Dragonfly attack jet was the only model cleared for the FAD, and suitable fighters, such as the supersonic F-5E Tiger II was not offered. However, the Dragonfly would go on to replace the tired Mustangs in the COIN and light attack role, with eight aircraft delivered. The Dominican Dragonflies had its first operational intercept in 1985, when one shot down a Beechcraft D-18 during an anti-narcotic operation.

The last FAD P-51s were retired in 1984, this picture was taken the year previous.

From the May 1999 issue of Aeroplane Magazine (article had the same picture I posted above):

“The last military operator of the Mustang was the Fuerza Aerea Dominicana, who proudly flew their aircraft until 1984. In this view, Coronel Rafael Diaz EI Diablo Rojo Bonilla pilots FAD 1912, with FAD 1916 flying wing. The FAD Mustangs participated in the last P·51 military operation when , in 1983, they strafed a Cuban intelligence-gathering ship that refused to vacate Dominican waters. Retribution was not long in coming, and a force of Cuban MiG-21s beat up the main Dominican P-51 base. The Mustangs did not rise for a final glorious interception. “We went inside and hid until they went away,” recalled one FAD pilot. Mustang FAD 1916 is the aircraft recently acquired by the Flying Heritage Collection, and is now with West Pac Restorations at Rialto, California, It is a significant machine because, as USAAF s/n 44-72364 , it flew with the 8th Air Force’s 353rd FG, 352nd FS, as Upupa Epops and scored several confirmed victories against the Luftwaffe. FAD 1912 is currently flying in the USA.”