Best Fighter Planes of World War II


August 4, 2015 - If you were a fighter pilot during WWII and you're going to fly over Europe and the Pacific, you will be in dog fights. You will as an escort for bombers over Europe, and air to ground support in both theatres. You will also strafe ground targets and ships.

Which plane would you want to fly?

Things to consider: Top speed and maneuverability at high and low altitudes. Durability. Visability out of the cockpit. Safety. Armament. Range and overall flying performance.

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The Top Ten

North American P-51D Mustang.
When introduced in larger numbers in early 1944, the Merlin engined Mustangs brought about a huge change in the daylight air offensive against Germany. For the first time, the Allies had a fast, maneuverable, high altitude single engined fighter, that could escort their heavy bombers to anywhere in Germany. This is What sets Merlin engined Mustangs apart from all other WWII fighters, others may have had similar performance, the Spitfire, the FW190D9, (The ME262 was a hundred mph faster. ) but none of these had the extreme range of the Mustang (except some early Japanese fighters which weren't even close to the Mustang in performance. ), which made the Mustang an offensive strategic fighter unlike the others. The P-51D was just like icing on the cake, with slightly better performance, range, and a bubble canopy. It literally changed the nature of strategic air warfare. A truly great fighter.
= Long-range, fast, maneuverable and easy to fly fighter. Superior visability for the dogfighter and ground attack fighter.
- = Fairly fragile. External fuel tanks explode.

TOP SPEED: 445 MPH. (486 MPH @ 30K feet)
ARMAMENT: 6-. 50cal machine guns.
ENGINE: 1,790HP Rolls-Royce Packard/Merlin, V-12 radial.
RANGE: Internal tanks - 1,140 miles. W/external: 2,200 miles.


The P-51 was fast, tough and in the right hands COULD and WOULD out turn the opposition.
It was NOT a point-defense interceptor like the spitfire nor a natural fighter-bomber like the P-47, it was an air superiority fighter that evolved into the perfect long-range escort fighter.
Some planes could climb faster or accelerate faster, some could turn tighter or climb higher (recon planes. ), but only one did it all with longer range and a greater kill record: The North American P-51 Mustang, the greatest fighter plane ever.
[Newest]Had longer range than any other plane of its time

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2Supermarine MKs 24 Spitfire
To talk about Rolls-Royce-engined Mustangs not coming on stream in numbers until 1944 is rather disingenuous.

Great Britain was at war with Germany in 1939, and the Royal Air Force needed fighter aircraft to compete against Messerschmitts. Thus it was that the Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Hurricane were borne.

In 1940, those two fighter aircraft between them, defeated the might of Germany's Luftwaffe in what became known as The Battle of Britain. The greatest air battle of the war.

That the outcome of the Battle prevented Hitler from invading Great Britain, which otherwise might have kept the USA out of the War, has to be the greatest point as to what was/were the 'best' fighter aircraft of World War Two.

It's not about speed, armaments, ceiling, range, or any other statistic; it's what the aircraft DID. And between them the Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Hurricane SAVED GREAT BRITAIN.
I really hate it when someone says that the P-51D is the beat fighter made, and their only argument is: 'BECAUSE IT HAD RANGE! '.

I won't deny that the Mustang was a great aircraft, but range is not the be all, end all of everything. Having the range doesn't matter if you are still going to get shot down in a dogfight or in regular combat, and admittedly all planes did get shot down.

When it comes to the best 'pure' fighter by pure combat performance, it hand's down goes to the Spitfire. It fought in WWII from almost day one right up to the end on nearly every single front. From Britain to South East Asia. It fought nearly every fighter the enemy threw at it and through a combination of adaptability and skill, the Spitfire was able to fight them. Including the boyfriend-109, the A6M Zero and the FW-190.

More Spitfires in all their variants were produced than any other allied fighter and was the allied fighter to continue to be produced throughout the entire war. The only fighter that can boast the same achievement and was produced in greater numbers was the boyfriend-109 and that was on the other side.

Even when the Spitfire faced it's first true rival, the FW-190, the Spitfire was adapted into a new variant, fighting the enemy plane on equal terms and eventually, outclassing the FW-190.

The Spitfire was ultimately able to outclass even the Mustang in performance, even as the H variants entered service. Especially as the Spitfires began to use improved Merlins and later, the even more powerful Griffon engine.

One guy said that the Spitfire was the best defensive fighter of the war, and Eric Brown stated that he would prefer to be in a Spitfire than the Mustang (provided they weren't over Berlin! ).

Sure, the Mustang was the best escort fighter, but in a fight the Spitfire would ultimately win in the hands of equal pilots.

The Spitfire and the carrier based Seafires and photo recon Spitfires proved that despite its age, the Spitfires had the ability to be adapted to nearly every role, expanding from the original role of air defense. This adaptability and dramatically increasing performance kept the Spitfire on the front line fighting through the entire war and flying for some years afterwards.

And of course, the Spitfire is the prettiest fighter of all time, and before the Mustang guys come in, well, Spitfires ended up having bubble or teardrop canopies too!
It was the prettiest but to me was flawed by it's lack of range and time over target. I was not aware it was faster than the P-51 I thought that the Me-109 had comparable speed with the Spirfire had the advantage of fuel injection and was superior in a climb. The P-51 was superior in range and altitude ( with the RR Merlin engine ) than either of the other two. Don't forget when Goering looked up and saw the P-51's over Berlin he stated the war is lost. My pick would have been the ME262 then the P51 then the Focke-Wulf 190. And in response to the American advantages you were doomed by being mesmerized by that Idiot Drug Addict all of you worshipped, hitler. If he let his generals free there may have been a different outcome. Fighting on two fronts because of this methed up psycopath did you in. Don't forget he did not want to be disturbed on D-Day and delayed releasing much needed Panzer reserves for about 24 CRUCIAL hours. So laugh. Best way to deal with getting your ass kicked
[Newest]The only plane to save a country from invasion. Best plane by far and by far the best looking.
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3Messerschmitt Bf 109K
Best single engine fighter of the war in every respect. speed, check. Maneuverability, check. altitude performance, check. firepower, check. durability, check. numbers, double check. fear factor, off the charts. The Kurfurst model presented, was faster at 460mph than the P-51D mustangs top speed of 437mph, was more maneuverable, thanks to it's lighter weight and leading edge slats, and had vastly superior firepower in the form of three 30mm cannons and two 13mm heavy machine guns, compared to the stangs six dinky 12mm machine guns. the only area in which the runstang was superior, was range, but that doesn't really matter, since both planes were designed for the exact opposite roles. The stang was a long range escort fighter, whereas the 109 was a defensive interceptor. The laminar flow wing of the stang was dangerous, and contrary to popular myth, made it a dangerous aircraft to fly, since laminar flow wings give next to no stall warning. It was hardly the "pilots airplane" as described. The 109's only real "flaw" was it's narrow undercarrige, but the Spitfire had the exact same style landing gear, and had little problems with it. Same goes for the 109. The only reason "historians" (paid armchair generals) make an issue of it, is merely a typical case of the victors writing history to make the losers look bad. In truth, the 109's landing gear was no more prone to failure than the Spitfire's, or any other aircraft for that matter. Even so, this "problem" was more than fixed in the fastest 109 variant, the "H" model, which had a more stable wide track landing gear, along with a top speed of 470mph. Not to mention the fact that it was BY FAR the most produced fighter of all time, with over 33,000 built, and was used well after the end of the war up until the 1960's at least. Last, but certainly not least, the German pilot Erich Hartmann, by far the highest scoring ace of all time, achieved all of his kills in the 109. All told, I'll take a 109 over all other single piston engine fighters ANY DAY. :P
The Mustang's advantages over 109 are a total myth. To compare the fastest versions that saw service during the war, the P-51D top speed was 437mph, while the boyfriend-109H was 470mph. Range wasn't much different either. P-51 max range with external tanks was 1,650 miles, while the range of the boyfriend-109 was 1,491 miles. Max altitude of the boyfriend-109H was 49,200 feet, while the P-51d's max altitude was 41,900 feet. Firepower isn't even remotely comparable. The mustang was armed with 6 miniscule 12.7mm machine guns, while the 109 was packing up to three 30mm cannons, and two 13mm machine guns. With it's higher maneuverability granted by it's lighter weight, and leading edge slats, along with it's greatly superior firepower, number of planes produced, adaptability, kill count, and service life, it's truly ridiculous that any human capable of critical thought would nominate the mustang as the greatest fighter of all time, when the facts clearly show that this honor goes to the boyfriend-109.
= Easy to fly, fast and heavily armed. Multi-role fighter.
- = Not improved throughout war. Poor speed @ acceleration. Slow response to commands.

ENGINE: A 1,760HP Daimler, Benz @ Junkers 14 cyl. V-12 inverted radial
ARMAMENT: 2-7. 9MM guns. 4-20MM cannons.
RANGE: 820 miles.


[Newest]Look at all these waste ass making these long ass comments

4Focke-Wulf FW 190 D-9
Have spoken to spitfire pilot from WWII who said it was the enemy plane theey 'had to look out for! '. He thought it was a better opponent than the 109 and compared well to the Spitfire.
Best balancing act between all the necessary attributes of a fighter plane (performance; durability; stability as gun platform; innovation in controls; weight of shot etc). The Dora corrected the altitude performance issues of the basic 190 design, which was already superlative.
The FW 190D9 in my option was the best fighter of WWII in the mid era. Superior to the spitfire in every way it dominated the air until the P51D came along in 1944.
[Newest]The facts speak for themselves. History man...

5Republic P-47D Thunderbolt
= Maybe the most armored and well-armed fighters of the war. Could take a lot of punishment and still fly. Duel dogfighter/ground attack plane.
- = Slow at turning and climbing. Early models were terribly slow.

ENGINE: Monster 2,535HP Pratt & Whitney R-2800 radial.
ARMAMENT: 8 - 12. 7MM guns. 2,500LBS of external-mounted bombs, rockets and other ordinance.
RANGE: 1,900 miles with tanks.


The P-47 is the only fighter that did everything well. What did fighters do in WWII? Air to Air, Air to Ground, escort. The Tbolt was very good at all of these. Then add firepower (not just guns but underwing stores), pilot protection, and ruggedness and it's no contest. Any plane could do 1 or 2 things better, but no plane could do them all as well as the P-47!
A solid built aircraft that pilots favored to be in. It made was to survive and and kill. It did exactly that. There is no other aircraft in the war that possessed a greater kill to death ratio. A great payload with a good range. The plane was the essence of the American spirit. Built strong and durable to last the fight.
[Newest]The p47 used by usa and paw patrol

6Chance Vought F4U-4 Corsair
A Marine pilot in a Corsair saved my father's life when their convoy was attacked by Kamikaze pilots late in the war. Dad was on the bridge manning the earphones and sending fire orders to the various stations when a Kate got through the flack and headed toward the bridge. The Corsair was up in the sun, belly painted gray and near invisible. It did and extreme dive and as he pulled up, cut the Kate in half with the 6 50cal guns. Only a part of the engine nacelle hit the side if the ship doing some minor damage. While all this was happening... My mother was at home in a defense plant... Inspecting riveting on wing sections... For F4U Corsairs. True story.
This was probably the best fighter plane of the war once it was in the air. Due to its incredible prop size which molded its wing design, it was considered too dangerous for carriers until the British came up with a proper approach solution. When it was in the air though, nothing had it beat. 'Whistling Death' was the nickname given to it by the Japanese, who feared it over any other plane in our arsenal, including the P51 and others that were believed to only be used in the European Theatre of the war.
An insanely powerful and big fighter with lots of firepower and armor.

SPEED: 415MPH. (435MPH @ 30K feet)
ENGINE: 2,325HP Pratt & Whitney R-2800-2,, 18 cylinder radial.
ARMAMENT: 6-50cal guns. 2,000lbs of bombs. 8-5inch rockets.
RANGE: 1,005 miles.


[Newest]Where is the grumman hellcat on the list
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7Messerschmitt Me 262
Limited discussion with people who have intensely studied the Me 262 have stated two strategic problems... Lack of critical engine materials and second slow start-up due to Hitler limited understanding of 20thCentury Air Superiority weaponry. It the title of best in what could have been... Earlier 42... No B-17's crossing the channel to attack Hitler Iron Fortress! Won the war no, delayed yes.
Excellent speed, armament and bomb load.
Full potential was never realized.
Well was the first of its kind,
[Newest]It was clearly superior to any aircraft the Allies were able to put up in the air.

8Soviet Yakovlev Yak-3
In the end it was the opinion of pilots that matter. When the German pilots were told to "avoid combat below five thousand metres with Yakovlev fighters lacking an oil cooler intake beneath the nose! ", it is obvious the Germans were terrified of this plane. When it came to most other planes they had a plan of attack which was effective, but against the Yak 3 it was simply: 'RUN! ' Additionally when the French pilots serving with the Soviet Air Force were offered any British, American or Russian airplane to fly and chose the Yak-3 over all others. Albeit I don't know if these pilots were the best ever, they may have developed bias for the plane they few in the soviet front, but it is still a great testimonial for the plane. Because of these reasons I will always consider the Yak-3 to be the best fighter of WW2.
Regarded as the best dogfighter on the Eastern front. Tight turn radius (it could turn inside most fighters) and highly maneuverable.
TOP SPEED: 412MPH. (428 @ 20k feet)
ENGINE: 1,600HP V-12 radial.
ARMAMENT: 1-20MM cannon. 2-. 50cal guns all in the nose.
RANGE: 558 miles.


The YAK-3 was reported by many to be the best handling and most maneuverable of WWII fighters. It was comparable to the rest of the best in other areas. From what I understand, maneuvering in air combat trumps all. I like it's look too.
[Newest]This plane was made of wood.

9Mitsubishi A6M Zero
= Very fast. Excellent range. A highly maneuverable and versatile fighter. It was a dogfighter, aircraft carrier weapon and bomber.
- = No armor. Made of wood. Very poor climb rate and dive speed.

ENGINE: Sakae 14 cylider radial.
ARMAMENT: 2-7. 7mm guns. 2-20mm cannons.
RANGE: 1,844 miles.


The fighter was *not* made of wood. It did possess an excellent rate of climb, though in absolute climb speed it was not that fast. It was a steep climber.
At the start of the war, not Allied plane could touch it either for maneuverability, firepower, or range. The most advanced plane of its time. It would be at the top of this list if this wasn't an English site. A Spitfire, Mustang or boyfriend-109 aren't fit enough to share airspace with a Zero.

10Lockheed P-38 Lightning
Great range and firepower, two powerful turbocharged engines and the best aerodynamics of any warplane make this plane a top choice. The kill ratio here is one of the very best. Limited only by altitude its superiority in the pacific was obvious.
Agreed with the description already rendered. Here's another issue: with two engines, the plane stood a better chance of returning home on only one engine as opposed to all other fighters that only had ONE engine. Max firepower, speed and maneuverability - this plane rocked like no other.
It took care of the Japanese. It made our top two aces of the war. It went to
The fight and came back. It took out the Japanese top commander of the war, the one who took out Pearl Harbor.
[Newest]No way top 5 for sure

The Contenders

11Hawker Hurricane
Due to the USA's late entry into WWII (in real terms not until 1942 - some months after Pearl Harbor), Americans are limited in their choice of what were the best fighter and bomber planes. Because unless they know that Britain's RAF destroyed Germany's mighty Luftwaffe in 1940 in the Battle of Britain, with their superb Hawker Hurricanes and Supermarine Spitfires, they are at a disadvantage. Americans will also not know that Britain's mighty heavy bomber, the Lancaster, was bombing German sites a full three-and-a-half-years before a US bomber saw service over Germany.
Of course, Americans MUST choose the Mustang as their favourite because it was the only really good fighter plane they had - even though it didn't see real service until 1944, because national pride enters the equation. The Mustang was indeed a brilliant long-range plane, built to a British Air Ministry requirement, but useless until the US-built engine was replaced with the matchless, British, Rolls Royce Merlin engine. The same Merlin that powered Great Britain's Lancaster bomber, and both the Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Hurricane fighters.

Without the Supermarine Spitfire and the Hawker Hurricane, in 1940, Great Britain would no longer exist. And that's the only REAL test as to what were the best fighter planes of WWII
The Battle of Britain work horse.
It shot down more german planes than the spitfires and anti aircraft guns together.. Over 3000 were used by russian forces and the reliability was unmatched

12Kawanishi N1K-J Shiden
Most ww2 aviation enthusiasts talk about how outclassed Japanese fighters were near the end of the war, but there were quite a few that were more than a match for there American counterparts. The N1K Shiden was one of those fighters. It was fast, extremely maneuverable and very heavily armed, and armored. Many people talk about how the Hellcat was the Zero killer, but few know about the aircraft which was the hellcat killer. With a top speed in excess of 400mph, a heavy armament of four 20mm cannons, high maneuverability, and unlike most previous Japanese fighters armor protection for the pilot, along with self sealing fuel tanks made this aircraft a highly potent force to be reckoned with.
In my opinion one of the best, if not the best, prop-fighters near the end of the war.
Awesome fighter in the hands of a skilled pilot.
[Newest]A very under-rated fighter. I personally would have preferred to fly this aircraft over any of the listed.

13Grumman F6F Hellcat
This is the plane that took the US to the gates of Tokyo nothing else matters, you have to look at the rate of climb of the F8 Bearcat and its left side roll under high throttle, it will run rings around other planes.
The F6f was played a big role in the Marianas Turkey Shoot, where the Allies downed 243 Japanese planes while only losing 31, a kill ratio of about eight to one.
How about the F4F wildcat, it took out the very best the Japanese had to throw against them. Then came the hellcat to take the glory from them.
[Newest]This was the plane that beat back the Japanese and got the well deserved title of "Zero Killer".

14Lockheed P-38J Lightning
Big and fast. A great dogfighter and land-attack plane. It scared the hell out of the Germans.

ENGINES: TWO 1,325hp Allison w/ turbo superchargers.
CLIMB RATE: 20k feet in 5. 9 secs.
ARMAMENT: 1-20mm cannon & 4-50cal guns.


Its the girl I would take to the dance.
Firepower, range, speed, in the right hands, a killing machine.
[Newest]My dad flew one. It brought him back.

15Hawker Typhoon
While I do prefer the spitfire as it was just a legend, the typhoon were fewer and more deadly at the end of 1941 and throughout the rest of the war. Also because it could carry up to 12 7.7mm browning machine guns or 4 20mm cannons made it a challenge for most German planes. So year typhoon for the win
It is a sick plane! 1
[Newest]Did the job it was asked to do, knock out tanks, very fast

16Focke-Wulf Ta 152 H-1
Hitler failed to realize this majestic plane was built solely for high altitudes. The fighter made little to no impact on the war due its misuse in low altitude operations and lack of production.
This high altitude fighter is a beast. Master piece made by Kurt Tank. Fw190 D series was nothing but a stepping stone for this long nosed, large winged beauty. Shame that it was built in small number. It could have done way more if enough number was produced.
Anything that Dr. Kurt Tank touched turned into gold

17Junkers Ju 88

18Curtiss P-40 Warhawk
The p40 was the third most produced american fighter it severed important roles in Africa china middle east pacific it may not have been the best dog fighter but it was a great fighter bomber the p40 was great at bringing the pilots home it was very durable
The main land based fighter of the US until it was replaced by the P-51, P-47, and P-39. It played a big role in the defense in China and Burma as Chennault's well known Flying Tigers. The P-40 was the third most produced American fighter.

19Heinkel He 280
The REAL "first" jet fighter, and the first aircraft to feature an ejection seat. With a top speed of 570mph, it was faster than the ME-262, and the production version would have been more heavily armed, with 6 20mm cannons to the 262's four 30mm. It was also more maneuverable than the FW-190A, as proven during mock dogfights between the two. Range was the only advantage of the 262. Was also an incredibly rugged aircraft, that could take tremendous punishment.

20IAR 80
Armed with nothing but death.
The IAR 80 was a Romanian World War II low-wing, monoplane, all-metal monocoque fighter and ground-attack aircraft. When it first flew, in 1939, it was comparable to contemporary designs such as the German Messerschmitt boyfriend 109B, the British Hawker Hurricane Mk. I, and the American Curtiss P-40B/Tomahawk Mk. I and superior to the Dutch Fokker D. XXI and Polish PZL P.24. However, production problems and lack of available armament delayed entry of the IAR 80 into service until 1941. It remained in front-line use until 1944

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This list was created 5 years, 192 days ago and has been voted on over 1,000 times. This top ten list has been remixed 10 times and has been blogged about 2 times.

Updated Tuesday, August 04, 2015

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