Since the 1960s several attempts have been made to interest the U.S. Air Force in a light-weight ground attack aircraft for use in low intensity conflicts and for counter insurgency operations. To date none of these efforts have resulted in the Air Force adopting such an aircraft. One of the attempts was begun in 1968 and ended in 1983 with the creation of the Piper PA-48 Enforcer.
In 1968, the Cavalier Aircraft Company proposed an updated version of the World War II era North American P-51 Mustang for the mission. The company modified two existing Mustangs with Rolls-Royce Dart turboprop engines which greatly increased the plane’s speed and carrying capacity. Testing showed that the aircraft could effectively perform the mission but the Air Force did not order any. In an effort to push the concept forward Cavalier sold the design to Piper Aircraft in 1979. Piper redesigned the aircraft essentially from scratch and changed the engine to a Lycoming YT-55-L-9A turboprop and while the plane still greatly resembles a Mustang it shares less than 10% of its parts with the World War II fighter. Two Enforcers were built and first flew in 1983. While they were evaluated by the U.S. Air Force and again proved quite capable of performing their mission the Air Force chose not to pursue the concept. Both aircraft were retired by the end of 1984.
Piper Aircraft Company, Lakeland, Florida, 1983
Pima Air & Space Museum