Best Fighter Planes of World War II

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.

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 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

The fighter that saved western civilization and brought down the myth of German technical superiority.

V68 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

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.

The P-51is the aircraft that secured air superiority over Europe. With out this aircraft their would not have been a d-day in 1944 and that would have allowed the Russians to take all of Europe!

V52 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.

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

No other fighter has conquered what the Me 109 has in terms of victories and performance!

V23 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.

The facts speak for themselves. History man...

V18 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.

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

V19 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.

Well was the first of its kind,

It's engines explode because they're unstable.

V18 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.

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. - corebare32

Scared the Japanese to death. In fact, they called it the "Whistling Death"

V43 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.

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.

Undoubtedly the best fighter for Pacific war conditions 1940-early 1943, mostly due to its long range which gave it so much strategic value over the pacific islands.

V10 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.

V12 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.

It has the best speed for a heavy fighter and guns

V13 Comments

The Newcomers

?Kawasaki Ki-61 ' Hien '

The Ki-61 proved to be a highly-effective fighter of the Japanese Army Air Corps. It was armed with 2X 20 mm cannons and 2X12.7 mm or 2X13.2 mm machine guns. It could outmaneuver the zero and could easily outmaneuver all American and British opponents. There was also an improvement in speed. It could outspeed the Ki-43 and the zero. The allied code name was ' Tony '.
Very underrated aircraft.

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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

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

V7 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.

Very good plane. Deserves at least number 4-2.

V19 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.

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.

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

V5 Comments
14Junkers Ju 88
15Lockheed 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.
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.

V8 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


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

It is a sick plane! 1

V6 Comments
17Focke-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

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.

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

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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List StatsUpdated 28 Nov 2015

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Top Remixes (11)

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

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