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PA-48 Enforcer
Role Counter-insurgency aircraft
Manufacturer Piper Aircraft
First flight 29 April 1971
Retired 1984
Status Experimental
Number built 4
Developed from North American P-51 Mustang
Cavalier Mustang

The Piper PA-48 Enforcer is a turboprop powered light close air support/ground-attack aircraft built by Piper Aircraft Corp. Lakeland, Florida. It was the ultimate development of the original World War II North American P-51 Mustang. The Enforcer concept was originally created and flown by David Lindsay, owner of Cavalier Aircraft, in response to the United States Air Force PAVE COIN program, but Cavalier did not have the political clout or manufacturing abilities to mass-produce the Enforcer, so the program was sold to Piper by Lindsay in 1970.

Design and development[edit | edit source]

Piper PA48 Enforcer in USAF trials

In 1968, Cavalier Aircraft owner/founder David Lindsay began developing a highly modified version of the Cavalier Mustang for use as a counter-insurgency aircraft. Cavalier initially mated a Rolls-Royce Dart 510 turboprop to a Mustang II airframe. This privately funded prototype was also intended for the same CAS/COIN mission that the Mustang II was built for. The Turbo Mustang III had radically increased performance, along with an associated increase in payload and decrease in cost of maintenance, and was equipped with Bristol ceramic armor to protect the engine, airframe and pilot. Despite numerous sales attempts to the United States Air Force, neither the U.S. military nor any foreign operators purchased the Turbo Mustang III.

Seeking a company with mass production capability, the Turbo Mustang III, renamed the "Enforcer," was sold to Piper Aircraft in late 1970. Cavalier Aircraft Corp. was closed in 1971 so the founder/owner, David Lindsay, could help continue develop the Enforcer concept with Piper. Piper was able to lease a Lycoming T-55L-9 engine from the USAF (the engine Lindsay wanted initially) and flew the aircraft some 200+ hours. In 1984 with a $US12 million appropriation from Congress, Piper built two new Enforcers, giving the new prototypes the designation PA-48. These aircraft were evaluated by the USAF, but flown only by Piper test pilots.

In 1971, Piper built two Enforcers by heavily modifying two existing Mustang airframes, fitting them with Lycoming YT55-L-9A turboprop engines along with numerous other significant modifications. One airframe was a single seat (called the PE-1 and FAA registered as N201PE), the other a dual-control aircraft (the PE-2, registered N202PE). Prior to the Pave COIN evaluation, N202PE was lost in a crash off the Florida coast on 12 July 1971 due to flutter caused by a Piper-modified elevator trim tab. Although the Enforcer performed well in the 1971–1972 Pave COIN test flown by USAF pilots, Piper failed to secure a USAF contract.

Flight testing and evaluation[edit | edit source]

Piper PA48 Enforcer in the Research & Development Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force

For another eight years, Piper and Lindsay lobbied Congress to force the USAF to officially re-evaluate the Enforcer. Eventually in the 1979 defense bill $11.9 million was allocated for Piper to build two new prototypes and for the USAF to perform another flight evaluation. Since the Enforcer was never in the Air Force inventory, it was not given an official military designation and did not receive an air force serial number. Instead, it carried the Piper designation PA-48 and FAA registration numbers, N481PE and N482PE.[1]

By the time the PA-48s were completed, they shared less than 10 percent of their structure with the P-51, and were longer and larger. Essentially, the PA-48 Enforcer was a completely new aircraft.

The two PA-48s were tested during 1983 and 1984 at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida and Edwards Air Force Base, California. As in the Pave COIN tests of 1971, the PA-48s were found to perform well in their intended role, but the USAF again decided not to purchase the aircraft.

Survivors[edit | edit source]

Of the prototype aircraft produced, two of the four still exist. One of the PA-48s (N482PE) awaits restoration at Edwards Air Force Base. N481PE (pictured above) has been fully restored and resides in the "Prototype Hangar" at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio.

Specifications (PA-48)[edit | edit source]

Data from Jane's All The World's Aircraft 1982–83[2]

General characteristics

  • Crew: One
  • Length: 34 ft 2 in (10.41 m)
  • Wingspan: 41 ft 4 in[3] (12.60 m)
  • Height: 8 ft 9 in (2.67 m)
  • Wing area: 245 ft² (22.8 m²)
  • Empty weight: 7,200 lb (3,266 kg)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 14,000 lb (6,350 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Lycoming YT55-L-9 turboprop, 2,455 ehp (1,823 kW)


  • Never exceed speed: 402 mph
  • Maximum speed: 345 mph (300 knots, 556 km/h) at 15,000 ft (4,575 m)
  • Cruise speed: 253 mph (220 knots, 408 km/h)
  • Stall speed: 114 mph (82 knots, 183 km/h)
  • Combat radius: 460 mi (400 nmi, 740 km)with two 30 mm gun pods
  • Service ceiling: 20,000 ft (6,100 m)
  • Rate of climb: 5,000/min (26.1 m/s)


  • Hardpoints: Six underwing hardpoints with a maximum capacity of 5,680 lb (2,576 kg).

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. "Piper PA48 Enforcer." National Museum of the United States Air Force. Retrieved: 15 July 2011.
  2. Taylor 1982, p. 448.
  3. Including tip tanks

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

  • Darling, Kev. P-51 Mustang (Combat Legend). Shrewsbury, UK: Airlife, 2002. ISBN 1-84037-357-1.
  • O'Leary, Michael. "Enforcer." Mustangs: North American Aviation's P-51: Past, Present & Future, Warbirds International, Summer 2007.
  • Taylor, John W. R. Jane's All The World's Aircraft 1982–83. London: Jane's Publishing, 1982. ISBN 0-7106-0748-2.

External links[edit | edit source]

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