During World War Two, Sweden remained a neutral country but, just as in the case of Switzerland, often interned allied aircrews which couldn't make it back to their bases in England and had to ditch in Sweden. The first P-51s in Sweden were "hostage" ones, but subsequently, Mustangs became standard swedish fighters and served the Flygvapnet until 1954...
The need for a modern fighter
Although Sweden remained neutral during the war, it needed a modern fighter to defend its soil in the midst of an international conflict. Saab had designed the SAAB-21A fighter, but the fighter was very slow to enter service, and the swedish industry could not rapidly cope with the Air Force's demand of fighter. Imported fighters, such as the Italian Reggiane Re 2000 (designed J 20 in the Flygvapnet) partly made up for this, but they were of mediocre design and their operational availability was terribly low (the F10 squadron in Angelhom could only service 25% of its Re 2000s in 1944).
Because of the arms embargo, Sweden could not purchase allied fighters, even though the huge allied aircraft production allowed the sale of surplus fighters. In 1943, the Flygvapnet initiated negotiations with, among others, the US for its supply of fighters. It was only in October 1944 that a delegation was allowed to go to England to examinate allied fighters. The US offered two designs: the P-47 Thunderbolt, and the P-51D Mustang. The delegation recommended the purchase of 70 fighters, and in February 1945, a preliminary contract was signed for 50 Thunderbolts or Mustangs, for a sum of about 40 million SEK (about $160,000 per aircraft). The aircraft were already stored in Great-Britain and had few flying hours. In March, the Mustang was finally chosen as the new Swedish fighter.
Mustangs and Crowns
At least ten Mustangs had already been interned in Sweden when they had crash-landed there (9 USAAC and 1 RAF) between April 15th, 1944 and April 19th, 1945. Of these, four (two P-51Bs and two P-51Ds) were still serviceable, and were included in the first batch of 50.
On April 23rd, a first delivery of 43 Mustangs was flown from Liverpool to Bromma Airfield in Stockholm by US ferry pilots. The flight encountered german Me 109s over the North Sea, and in the ensuing dogfight, at least one german fighter was downed. Another three Mustangs were ferried in on April 30th. The Mustangs were immediatly accepted by the Flygvapnet, rebaptized J26s (fighter type 26) and assigned to F16 in Uppsala.
The Mustang was a great improvement for the Swedish air force, not only in terms of armament and performance, but it was also the first fighter with a really good radio, which was tactically significant. Some of them were fitted with AN/APS-13 antennas in the fin. This wasn't used in Sweden, but the antennas were left in place. As the desert filter wasn't needed for Swedish conditions, some aircraft got the perforated plate replaced by a blank one.Range and endurance was far more than needed, therefore external tanks were seldom used, and some were converted into transport containers, potentially air droppable with rescue equipment.
In 1946, it was decided to equip another wing, F4 at froson, with Mustangs. A second contract was established for 90 fighters. The cost per fighter now being only $3,500 per aircraft, as the aircraft were not all in perfect condition, and the USA was now getting rid of all its wartime aircraft...
They were flown from depots in Germany, via Bremen, to Såtenäs, where 30 arrived in November and December 1946. They were refurbished and put in service at Frösön starting in April 1947. The remaining 60 were put in temporary storage at Såtenäs and gradually put in service until August 1948.
In 1948 a last batch of 21 Mustangs were purchased, and were put in service at F 16, the last one being accepted in March 1950.
Starting in 1949 a total of 17 J 26 Mustangs were converted into reconnaissance aircraft and thus designated S 26. The conversion consisted of one vertically mounted camera type Ska 10 in a well in front of the tail wheel. The fairing protuded slightly below the fuselage. Armament was retained. These aircraft's where all sent to F21 wing in Luleå where they served until 1952 as Sweden's only Mustang-based photo-recconnaissance Squadron.
In 1950 trials were made with arming the Mustangs with rockets and bombs, but they were found to be unsuitable for the role.
Retirement, or a new life
When in 1952 the Mustangs started being replaced by more modern fighters, namely the British de Havilland Vampire and the Swedish SAAB J29, Sweden had bought a total of 161 aircraft. Of these, four had never been intended to fly but were used for parts, 60 had crashed, and 8 had been scrapped.
Of the remaining 93 Mustangs, not a single one was kept in Sweden.
A total of 25 P-51s were sold to Israel, despite the arms embargo on that country, In June 1952, 25 Mustangs were sold to Israel. They were flown to Israel during the first part of 1953, and during the 1956 war they belonged to the "Line Cutter" squadron (cutting telephone wires with a weighted trailing steel cable) which operated in Sinai.
In late 1952 The Dominican Republic purchased 32 Mustangs, and in January 1953 a further ten. They were delivered disassembled in crates. The Aviacion Militar Dominicana had first intended to hire American technical staff along with the Mustangs, but ended up hiring an even dozen Swedish mechanics, which was in not in any way connected with the original purchase contract.
In 1953 Nicaragua signed a contract for 26 (some sources say 25, but this number seems to be the right one) of the Mustangs, which were delivered in Oct 1954.
Flygvapnet Mustang Colours and markings
This article was written by k51d. Artwork by Gaëtan Marie. Version 1.1. Any addition or correction is welcome.
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