North American A-36 Apache


North American Aircraft produced a relatively unknown ground attack and dive bomber called the Invader or A-36 during World War II. This was a brother to the North American P-51 Mustang however it had rectangular, slatted dive brakes above and below the wing.

It served from 1942-1944 in North Africa, Mediterranean, Italy and the China-Burma-India theaters.

North American built 500 of the A-36 Apache which were used by the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) which were retired in 1945.

Design and Development

First a little background in the development North American A-36 Apache.  The North American P-51 Mustang and the A-36 Apache were essentially the same aircraft with the A-36 having bomb racks and dive brakes (upper and lower).  Some modifications brought some variation to the Apache such as modified wing to handle the dive brakes and bomb racks/mounts.

The Royal Air Force of England (RAF) ordered the first Mustang I from North America in February of 1942.  They begin their combat career as a recon and ground support aircraft supplementing the Curtis P-40 Tomahawk.

The Mustang/Apache first saw combat in August of 1942 on the Dieppe Raid.  The Apache shot down it’s first enemy aircraft, a Focke-Wulf Bf-190 on this raid.  The first Mustangs used Allison V-1710 that did not have supercharger and was limited to low altitude missions..  However the RAF loved it’s handling abilities and performance.

On the American side, the (USAAF) wanted the P-51 but fighter appropriations were cut off at the time.  However funding was available for attack aircraft.    On 16 April 1942, USAAF signed a contract for 500 A-36 Apaches.  The A-36A had the modified wing with bomb racks/mounts and upper and lower dive brakes and an Allison V-1710-87 engine with an three bladed Curtiss-Electric propeller.

It’s armament consisted of 2//M2 Browning 50 cal machine guns located in the “chin” synchronized to fire through the propeller and 4 wing mounted M1919 Browning 30 cal machine guns.

The USAAF later ordered 310 A-36 (P-51A) without Dive Brakes and using only the 4 wing mounted .50 cal Browning machine guns.

North American Aviation (NAA) used the Allison V-1710-81 which generated 1,200 hp and the same air scoop, thus the designation of A-36 Apache/Intruder, (although the the name of Apache or Intruder was rarely used).  The bomb racks remained to be used for drop tanks.

Operational History

North Africa-Mediterranean

The A-36’s first combat squadrons were based in French Morocco, North Africa.  They arrived in March 1943 and worked with Douglas A-20 Havoc squadrons.    In June of the same year, the A-36 and A-20 took part in the attack of the little known island of Pantelleria.  When this island was taken ,the A-36 were based there in preparation of the invasion of Sicily.

The Apache proved to be a potent weapon as a Dive Bomber.  When the Dive Brakes were deployed a nearly vertical dive could be made with the speed kept at 390 mph.  The dive began at 12,000 ft and bombs were released at 2,000-4,000 ft and an immediate pull-up was performed to end the maneuver.

In late May 1943, 300 A-36s had been deployed to the Mediterranean Theater and played a big role in the invasion of Sicily in wiping out enemy artillery positions.

A petition was circulated to make the name of this tough fighter to be Invader, but in the end, most combat reports it was still called  the “Mustang”  The Germans called the Apache “screaming helldivers”.

The A-36 did rack up 84 victories over enemy aircraft but lost 177 aircraft mostly to German artillery as the Apache missions tended to be at very low altitude attacking ground targets such as troop positions, artillery and rail yards.

The radiator/cooling system (inline engine, liquid cooled) proved to be one weakness of the A-36 and a major reason for losses.  Small arms fire could hit  the radiator and pretty much take the aircraft out of the sky.  In June of 1944, the Apache was being replaced by Curtis P-40s and Republic P-47s..  The A-36 did the job in the North African-Mediterranean area.

China-Burma-India Theater

In late summer of 1943, 2 A-36As were stanionded in Dinjan, India.  They were assigned recon, dive bombing attack and fighter missions.  The A-36 was outclassed by the Nakajima Kt-43, “Oscar” as the Nakajima was much more maneuverable then the A-36.  However it was lightly armed with little protection for the pilot and the aircraft fuel tanks.

The A-36 did have a disadvantage as they were assigned to high altitude and long range missions.  The Allison engine could not perform well at higher altitudes.

Despite the attacks from the Nakajima, the higher altitudes over the “Hump”, rendered the Apache on the losing end of statics in the CBI.  In 1944, the A-36 returned to the United States and was used as a training aircraft.


Overall Evaulation

The Apache/Invader’s relatevly short service should not deter the impact the aircraft had on the Allied war effort.   It was a suburb ground attack bomber.  It destroyed enemy gun emplacements, troop convoys, ammo dumps and rail yards in Italy with low level sweeps.

Later P-51 Mustang versions used the Rolls-Royce Merlin Liquid Cooled Inline engine.  The A-36 Apache never had that  engine is why the lower service altitude and slower speed then the P-51 Mustang.  But what it lacked in speed and altitude it made up for it in been a superb dive bomber and recon aircraft.


42-6371 (Airworthy) Comanche Warbirds, Inc.  Houston, Texas

42-83738 (Air Worthy) Collings Foundation Stow Massachusetts

4283665 (On Display) National Museum of the United States Air Force                                                         Dayton, Ohio

This is Just a Partial List of the A-36 on Display. Check With Your Local Air Museum for More Information.

Tech Specs for the A-36 Apache/Invader

Wingspan: 37 ft 0 in

Length: 32 ft 3 in

Height: 12 ft 2 in

Weight: 10,000 lbs Max  Gross Take-Off Weight (MGTOW)

Max Speed: 366 mph

Ceiling: 25,100 ft

Range: 550mi (combat)

Engine: 1/Allison V-1710-57 Liquited Cooled Inline Piston Engine rated at 1325 hp

Crew: 1



2 thoughts on “North American A-36 Apache”

  1. Maybe I’ve Commented before – I’ve done it on sooo0 many websites…so if it’s a duplicate, I apologize.

    Here’s an article I wrote earlier this year, and after it was published, I received even MORE documented proof – this time from the Boeing Historical Archivist (not that I needed it!) that this aircraft was NEVER called “Apache.”

    Also, in your article, among other problematic statements is that the Allison didn’t have a supercharger. It did, as did all of the Allisons (except those in USN Airships) have a gear-driven supercharger.

    And, the B&W photo of Mustangs on an assembly line – those are NA-91 aircraft, which strangely enough, WERE officially named “Apache” from late 1941 until July, 1942. They are the aircraft with the 20 mm cannons in each wing. BTW, after July, 1942, they and everything else made by NAA before and AFTER that date … if it looked like a P-51 fighter…then that would be its official name. The A-36A wasn’t built until after that date. The “petition to have the name changed to ‘Invader’ is true,” by the way.

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