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 Ten

1 Supermarine MKs 24 Spitfire

After the war in Australia we had to make some purchases prior to the age of jets. Australia as you will know is a vast island continent and the only nation which inhabits an entire continent alone... but very sparsely populated and difficult to defend. Long range fighters were essential then and now. RAAF pilots had flown both mustangs and spitfires during the war and opinion amongst them was divided somewhat, generally dependent on which they had flown most. The spitifre was seen as a highly responsive sports car, like a ferrari, incredibly light on the controls and beautifully engineered. Like a sports car it was uncomfortable and cramped compared to American aircraft which took into consideration pilot comfort - as with all things American - and a bigger build of gentleman behind the stick. The mustangs were flown by Australians against the Japanese, not in Europe. Some pilots, like our greatest ace Clive Caldwell flew p40s, Spits and mustangs and so were in a good position to ...more

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

The spitfire is the most beautiful fighter aircraft to take to the sky hands down!

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2 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.

Not many people actually comment about what type of ammunition the p-51 had that was different than other planes of that era. The P-51 had the forward facing guns of anywhere from 4 to 8 guns depending on which version and country the plane was to be flown by. The one I am familiar with is the American flown version with 4,20mm guns. But back to the ammo, most planes had either just Armor piercing tracer rounds, or a mixture of non tracer Armor piercing and Tracer. The 20mm allowed for a non-tracer High Explosive round, which tended to take planes down rather quickly. The upside and downside of this is that you can shoot down the enemy quickly, but because there are no tracers at all the only indication that you are hitting the other plane is the other plane going down or catching on fire. Another upside is that the other plane, (Lets just say for instance a zero.) might not know you are there until it is too late.

= 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

When escorting our bombers range is critical. The Mustang had that over every other fighter in WWII.

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3 Messerschmitt 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

She is cool

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4 Focke-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.

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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.

worthy

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5 Messerschmitt 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.

Well was the first of its kind,

It was a jet!, I watched a documentary on this the only way they could kill this was by destroying it on the ground, they were unstoppable in the air apart from landing and take off.

The fastest fighter in WW2. Jet against prop aircraft are usually going to take them. Unfortunately for Germany, they hit the scene to late in the war to make a difference. Had more Me 262’s hit the theater earlier, they may have been able to control the skies in the European Theater.

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6 Republic P-47D Thunderbolt

My Uncle was part of the 354th Fighter Group that forcibly turned in their P-51s for P-47s in 1944 and he always said that the P-47 in the hands of an experienced combat pilot was every bit as good a fighter in actual air combat as the P-51. (He passed at 96 in 2015) Yes, the P-47 lacked Range, but when flown by an experienced fighter pilot, it "poured out lead" and could take a beating and continue flying. He didn't want to give up his Mustang, but soon was glad he did. He felt safer in a Jug because he knew it would get him home. Mustang's were the pretty boy's choice, but he loved the P-47 because it kept flying even after tremendous damage. He felt the lower kill ratio was due to many inexperienced pilots flying the Jugs, many who didn't even see the enemy until they were heavily damaged. The Mustang's rarely flew ground attack because they had a vulnerable belly.

The Jug was faster than a Mustang in a dive, and both the P-47 & P-51 had similar rates of climb and ...more

= 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

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.

Read "Thunderbolt" by Robert S. Johnson. You will vote for the "Jug" every time.

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7 Chance 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

Corsair is the best cause it's faster and more manouvrable than the p51 and got more kills like for example pappy boyington or ted Williams

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8 Mitsubishi 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.

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 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

Like the 109 ruled Europe, the Zero ruled Asia and the Pacific, finding no challenge except from some early American fighters such as the F4F, which it crushed easily. But like the 109 (but a more severe case), it fell out of the throne, and even could've been considered obsolete. After the Allied study of Akutan Zero and the introduction of the F6F Hellcat and F4U Corsair, the Zero's flaws, namely its poor armor, slow speed, and inability to retain any high speed well became apparent, and now its weaknesses could be fully exploited by the much faster Hellcat and Corsair. Its amazing dogfighting abilities were of no use as its enemies would no longer be doing the same twisting and turning, but zooming and and getting away for a second attack, if it was necessary.
I do not believe the Zero deserves a place in the list. By 1945 it was abysmal, being crushed by the US and British pilots, as it was far too slow to be effective. However, the Japanese land fighters of the late war, the ...more

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9 Soviet 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.

Western media tend to ignore Soviet war machines, but the Yakovlev seies was probably the best single engined fighter of the war. Soviet pilots shot down more Germans than the West allied. And the Yak 3 was feared amongst the German pilots.

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10 Lockheed P-38 Lightning

The large two engined P-38 looks nothing like your typical World War 2 fighter, looking more like a heavy fighter, but the Lightning (namesake of the F-35 Lightning II), or Fork Tailed Devil to the Germans and Two Planes One Pilot to the Japanese was an extremely fast and maneuverable plane. With a heavy armament packed into the nose, getting hit by a P-38 would mean defeat or a serious problem. German pilots were told to "never go head on with a P-38." The P-38, while not as iconic as the P-51 or Spitfire, achieved many important things. It produced America's top ace, Richard Bong, and avenged Pearl Harbor when it shot down Admiral Yamamoto's transport plane.

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.

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.

Because the lockheed p-38 lightning was the best climber. so it could shoot down the enemy and then go way up in the clouds.

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The Contenders

11 Curtiss 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

Okay this wasn't the best of the best. It wasn't better than the Mustangs in some opinions. But it still held off the Japanese and was probably the most important American aircraft. Which aircraft responded at Pearl Harbor? Not the Mustang.

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

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.

12 Grumman 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.

I don't see why this is so low on the rankings. It turned the tide of ww2 by countering one of the top fighters with the zero

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13 Hawker 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

Awesome

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14 Kawanishi 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.

By far one of the best planes Japan ever produced. It was more than a match for anything america could throw at it. The N1K had a killer armament of 4x20mm cannons that would tear thru bombers and fighters alike. It also had one of the best climb rates out of any planes in ww2, with the high altitude performance to boot. With Japan's belief to keep the maneuverability of fighters high, so that they could out turn any American fighters, with the application of that belief to the N1K it only helped enhance it's killing abilities.

Personally, I think if I had the choice out of any prop plane to fly during ww2 it would be the N1K.

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

Absolutely the best Japanese naval fighter of the war, if the Shiden Kai was produced massively it could have probably changed the results of the war. Good firepower, not to mention the awesome maneuverability. This plane was hard to defeat in a P51, the second plane in this Top Ten. Definitely under rated.

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15 Fiat G.55 Centauro

This fighter is better than Spitfire

An outstanding fighter with high manoeuvrability even in high altitude, high speed and heavy fire power

It is very strong than spitfire

"The best plane of the axis" (german quote)

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16 Bell P-39 Airacobra

Made in america and flown mostly by soviets, is it any wonder this very capable fighter never got the press it deserved!

The Soviets mostly used this one and gave it the praise it deserved. Sometimes I think America made a mistake not using this one.

This plane and it's simaler counterpart the p-63, were very good planes indeed.

So beloved by Red Army fly boys and kept Soviets in the game early in the war. Roomy cockpit, very good competitive with Fritz at low altitude. Gave great punch with its 37mm cannon, 2 12.7 Brownings and 4 0.30 cal. or 2 12.7 under the wing.

17 Heinkel 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.

18 Junkers Ju 88

To be honest this is a bomber not a fighter

What is this thing doing here? It's a medium bomber.

Ya thia would count as a bomber more than a fighter even to the Germans!

Was used as night fighter. For this was good against hevy bombers. Speed, altitude, range, possible armament... alll good.

19 Blohm & Voss BV-238

Largest, and heaviest aircraft of WWII, and the best flying boat of it's day.

20 Focke-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 could beat the Mustang in every way. Unfortunately it is not well known and it doesn't get enough credit. It was not used properly because Germany was running out of resources.

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.

From its performance it should be no. 1. However with around 150 produced it played a minor or even no role at the end of the war. You can see as last evolutionary step of the FW 190 which is anyway among the top planes of the war.

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Top Remixes (14)

1. Supermarine MKs 24 Spitfire
2. North American P-51D Mustang.
3. Focke-Wulf FW 190 D-9
jkjlkj
1. Focke-Wulf FW 190 D-9
2. Messerschmitt Me 262
3. North American P-51D Mustang.
doctorstrangelove
1. Bell P-39 Airacobra
2. Curtiss P-40 Warhawk
3. Fiat G.55 Centauro
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