Best Fighter Planes of World War II

corebare32
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.

The Top TenXW

1Supermarine 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.

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

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. ...more

It is a great plane and is one of my favorites.

V74 Comments
2North 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.
- corebare32

My uncle flew a P-51D and was shot down by ground fire over France when bombing a bridge a low altitude and bailed out. He was hidden by the Resistance but eventually was captured just short of the Allied lines and placed in a Luftstalag, from which he escaped twice, only to be recaptured both times. He flew almost every plane the Air Force (and AAF) had through early Vietnam. His favorite plane was the Mustang, hands down.

An interesting post script is that the French Resistance had buried his plane to keep it from the Germans (it actually crash-landed miraculously without being destroyed), then dug it up after the war and place it in a local museum (without my uncle's knowledge), honoring the Allied liberators. He was contacted in the 1990s by some of the French townspeople and they invited him to France for a 50 year anniversary parade and celebration. He was very touched by the outpouring of thanks for his and the service of all Americans in the liberation of France.

The mustang was superior to the spitfire

V59 Comments
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" ...more

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 ...more

= Easy to fly, fast and heavily armed. Multi-role fighter.
- = Not improved throughout war. Poor speed @ acceleration. Slow response to commands.

TOP SPEED: 354MPH
ENGINE: A 1,760HP Daimler, Benz @ Junkers 14 cyl. V-12 inverted radial
ARMAMENT: 2-7. 9MM guns. 4-20MM cannons.
RANGE: 820 miles. - corebare32

It was the greatest boyfriend 109 as the Germans had the design completely revised by this point in the war.

V22 Comments
4Focke-Wulf FW 190 D-9

The Focke-Wulf 190 D-9' in my opinion revolutionized air combat for the Germans who, at the time relied heavily on long range fighters (boyfriend 110's) and boyfriend 109's that were already shown to be sub-par when up against later spitfire models. It came at a time when Britain had control of the skies and brought the Germans back into the fight. The D-9 was highly effective and feared by the allied bomber formations and had a certain fear factor to it that played a part in combat. It was really a jack of all trades you might say. Its 30mm cannon had devastating effect on aircraft and ground targets and its great maneuverability gave it the edge in dog fighting less maneuverable bomber escorts like the P-38 and P-47. A wartime winner with a legacy that will live on.

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 facts speak for themselves. History man...

V17 Comments
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.

TOP SPEED: 433MPH
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. - corebare32

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.

AWESOME Fighter It kicked ASS - ReD_SteaLH

V18 Comments
6Messerschmitt 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.

If it was deployed in 1940, and all engine problems had been solved, maybe Germany would be the victor

It's engines explode because they're unstable.

V16 Comments
7Chance 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.

One of the best aircraft in history. Japanese pilots feared it more than any other aircraft. And in mock dogfights against F6f, P51 and captured FW190, Corsair was better or even with these other great aircraft.

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. - corebare32

One of the best Navy planes that had served.

V45 Comments
8Mitsubishi A6M Zero

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.

= 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.

TOP SPEED: 358 MPH
ENGINE: Sakae 14 cylider radial.
ARMAMENT: 2-7. 7mm guns. 2-20mm cannons.
RANGE: 1,844 miles. - corebare32

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.

Very good plane with very good firepower, good maneuverability, very reliable engine, but it had a very weak hull and could be shot down easily.

V7 Comments
9Soviet 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. - corebare32

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.

Russians had support from the allies this gave them time to make good plays. The yak-9 is arguable the best plane in world war two.

V8 Comments
10Lockheed P-38 Lightning

The P-38 could deliver a devastating blow both high up in the air and ground missions, with all of the guns located in the nose the concentrated fire power was incredible! Even the mighty Tiger tank's knew they were in trouble once they spotted the flying killing machines, just using the amazing concentrated guns turned those tanks in to twisted metal.

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.

Always one of my favorite planes.

V12 Comments

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 ...more

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

A superb dogfighter. As Flight Lieutenant Pete Brothers observed. It was only slightly slower than the boyfriend 109E. He should know, he caught two boyfriend 109s over Dover in a turning battle and shot them down.
Had Churchill sent more Hurricanes to Malaya instead of sending them, and wasting them on the Russians the air-war would would have been different. As Terence Kelly observed (258 Squadron) one used the technique developed by the 'flying tigers' and once things got sticky one could drop out of combat and the Japanese could not follow one down either in the Zero or the Ki 43 (falcon).

The Battle of Britain work horse.

V3 Comments
12Grumman F6F Hellcat

The arrival of this plane played a huge role in allowing America to turn the tide against Japan. It was the first American fighter to have a firm advantage over the Zero and was easier to fly than the Corsair. It also shot down more planes than any other Allied aircraft during the war and accounted for around 75% of aircraft downed during the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot of 1944.

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.

Another one of the best Navy planes and it had helped serve and help in many wars.

V18 Comments
13Kawanishi 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.

First rate fighter that was a match for anything the Americans could throw at it. Hellcat's, Corsair's, Mustang's, Lightning's, Thunderbolt's, all fell to it's cannon's when a competent pilot was at the stick.

In my opinion one of the best, if not the best, prop-fighters near the end of the war.

Under-rated. A match for a Hellcat (only when there was an expert pilot could it outmatch the Hellcat). Torn apart by the Corsair.

V2 Comments
14Junkers Ju 88

To be honest this is a bomber not a fighter

15Focke-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.

Superior to the Mustang in every way. During a low altitude flight test, Kurt Tank himself was bounced by a formation of Mustang's who attempted to shoot him down. He simply pushed the throttle forward and left them in the dust. :P

V2 Comments
16Hawker 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

Think of this plane as air borne artillery and an army asset rather than air to air combat - although could hold it's own in that fight as well.

Did the job it was asked to do, knock out tanks, very fast

V4 Comments
17Lockheed P-38J Lightning

Best over fighter of WWII. Excellent range, excellent overall performance, and as a fighter bomber 2nd to none. Not as good for pilot safety (armor) than a P-47 but safer than others 2 engines. More versatile armament than others. Pilots that flew both P-38 and P-51 seemed to side with the P-38 after the war. For some reason the P-38 seems to not have good press over the decades after the war which I cannot understand. And in pure scare factor nothing scared one as much as when a "forked tailed devil" attacked you.

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.
TOP SPEED: 426 MPH.
CLIMB RATE: 20k feet in 5. 9 secs.
ARMAMENT: 1-20mm cannon & 4-50cal guns.

- corebare32

Firepower, range, speed, in the right hands, a killing machine.

My dad flew one. It brought him back.

V4 Comments
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.

Held off superior aircraft until the allies could get the new aircraft in the air. Same is true of the Wildcat

19IAR 80

Armed with nothing but death.

V2 Comments
20Heinkel 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.

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Top Remixes (11)

1. Focke-Wulf FW 190 D-9
2. Messerschmitt Me 262
3. North American P-51D Mustang.
doctorstrangelove
1. Messerschmitt Bf 109K
2. Curtiss P-40 Warhawk
3. Republic P-47D Thunderbolt
6667
1. Supermarine MKs 24 Spitfire
2. Focke-Wulf FW 190 D-9
3. North American P-51D Mustang.
historyboss

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