Top 10 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, visibility out of the cockpit, safety, armament, range and overall flying performance.
The Top Ten
1 Supermarine Mk 24 Spitfire

The Spitfire's wing design meant that it gave ample warning of a stall and, even when in a stall, the ailerons were still effective, so comparing statistics is not the whole story. Young inexperienced pilots (that's most of them) could fly the Spitfire to the limit with confidence, whereas with most other aircraft, only a really experienced pilot would dare to take his aircraft to the limit.

Result: Spitfires could perform well irrespective of who flew them, other types were often not being flown to their full potential, unless in the hands of an expert. The horrific accident rates during the war shows the cost of young men in aircraft which were difficult to handle.

Each plane in Spitfire range had it's advantages/disadvantages and the evolution tended to mirror the needs of the time. For me the best Spitfire was the Mk 9 because it (just) matched or slightly exceeded the enemy threat of the time which was the early FW 190, but was easy to produce swiftly and in numbers whilst retaining the great handling of the earlier Mk's. Geoffrey Quill himself has stated the Mk. VIII was a superior fighting machine, BUT it wasn't available when needed. The Mk 24 May we'll have had a huge performance edge, but it's impact wasn't huge because it wasn't needed as desperately as the Mk. 9 at it's deployment.

Mitchell designed this plane based on seaplane entrants for the Schneider cup, which he won. He used this experience and knowledge of fast flying seaplanes to premiere a beautiful mobile and well flying plane, which is the only plane to have continued production from the start to the end of WWII. Emerging from the murk of an era of biplanes, this is the signature plane of the battle of Britain, which paired with the exquisite almost 2000 horsepower griffon Rolls Royce engines really pulled through. An icon of hope and a true masterpiece of British engineering at its prime.

This plane was definitely the best prop plane of WW2, combining agility, fire power and a powerful engine. american planes were usually slow and sluggish. German ones were reliable and had an excellent dive but in dogfights spitfire had the upper hand, french, Russian and Japanese planes aren't even worth putting on this list as they had major flaws, and the french were out of the war early on. Also it was incredible how it advanced from it early stages to what it became at the end of the war, 24 marks and many more sub versions in 6 years!

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.

As much as I like the looks and dogfight performance of the Spitfire, the all round abilities of the Focke Wulf 190 and the innovative Me BF 109, the P51D Mustang is still my favorite. It might not be quite as fast and good in a dogfight than the Spitfire, nor as legendary as the BF 109. But it was almost as fast as the Spit, almost as good in a dogfight, it had longer range and performed better at high altitude. It was also as pretty, if not prettier than the Spitfire, and it saved the B17 bombing Germany. It was equally adept at ground attack, and unlike its competitors it fought with some success in Korea. All things considered, definitely the best ww2 fighter.

It's the impact a plane has during the whole war that makes it a great plane. While the Spit did stayed off the Nazi during the battle of Brittain, if not for the Mustang, they would have still be fighting for their lives. Who knows how long that could have lasted. Mustang brought the fight to the enemy. If the Mustang did not appear, the Spit would have eventually did the job, but could have taken a very long time to win the war. Not to mention if the people of Brittain could have lasted that long or if their resources either. So while both planes are great, Mustang is a great looking plane, the Spit is a little better looking, but the game saver is the Mustang. The Spit saved an empire, the Mustang saved the world. Enough said.

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.

3 Focke-Wulf FW 190 D-9

FW 190 was a engineering marvel. It's nickname of butcher bird, was well earned. Amazing cooling design, control improvements were adopted by the Spitfire and Typhoon after a FW 190 was captured. Early P-51 were no match. It was rugged, reliable and capable of true multi-missions. Many aces of the time preferred it over the Me 109. Later version resolved high altitude performance issues. In short, this was an incredible fighter, which even new pilots could use very effectively.

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 (BF 110's) and BF 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.

Designed by Kurt Tank, this fighter/interceptor is among the very top most powerful and fastest single engine fighters of WWII. Nicknamed Dora cause of the D variant designation. The FW-190D were easily identified from other variants by its long nose. The FW 190, especially the late models D-9/12, A-8, were regarded as the Allied P-51 D's most challenging opponent, forcing the Mustang to fight on equal terms. It proved to have higher top speed and horsepower. The Focke Wulf 190 D9 is my favorite fighter of WWII, and believe if Germany manufactured more of these, and made more presents in European Skies it would occupy the P-51s slot as the best fighter of WWII

The P-51 was a great plane, but its' performance against German fighter planes is based mainly on escort duties. The German pilots were at a severe disadvantage, because they were under strict orders to go after the bombers and ignore their fighter escorts. Well, any fighter plane could wrack up impressive numbers, if your opponent can't fight back.

4 Messerschmitt Bf 109K

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 BF-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 BF-109 was 1,491 miles. Max altitude of the BF-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 BF-109.

The 109h was superior to the mustang in every way (speed, firepower, and maneuverability). Yet, the mustang is heralded as the greatest ever. Pure bull, it was fast and had long range but up against a 109h with a German ace at the controls the p51 was as good as dead. Germany had the best pilots up to 1943 but after that attrition began to take it's toll and made the mustang seem better than it really was. It's pretty easy to shoot a messerschmitt out of the sky with a green scared kid at the controls barely able to fly formation or instruments.

The BF 109 was a high altitude fighter that relied on boom and zoom tactics, it was the best at what it did; and what it did really worked. You wouldn't expect the 109 to win a complete turn battle against a Spitfire and you wouldn't expect the spitfire to out climb the 109. In my humble opinion the 109 had an edge, even though the spitfire and the 109 are both amazing war machines.

If you were taking off from the same airfield in a 109k or 109h and from the same field a P-51 with equal pilots, then the 109 wins. By the end of the war a lot of Germany's best were 6 feet under. I agree this is the best aircraft, but was held back by the lack of experienced pilots at the end of the war and lack of fuel. The narrow under carriage was a liability however.

5 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.

Serving from WWII until the end of the Vietnam War, this aircraft was the best propeller driven-fighter. It could carry over 6,000 pounds of bombs, along with 8 Five-Inch rockets. It was the only plane other than the F-86 Sabre in the Korean War that an American became an ace in. In WWII, it had a 11.3 to 1 Kill ratio. Over 1,800 A6M Zeros for the loss of 186 Corsairs. The best dog-fighter example of the Corsair was the Goodyear made F2G

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.

Your own initial criteria was not used in selection on the spitfire. While it was a great plane to fly, it was not even in the top 5.
The Corsair was feared by the Japanese over the P-51D and P-38 they had faced (yes there were P-51's in the pacific theatre). It was the most powerful fighter in performance, speed both high and low altitude as well as heavily armored and heaviest firepower of any US fighter. While it could be out turned by lighter fighters, it could outdive anything to break away if needed. Head to head matchup with same skilled pilot will get you a Corsair victory.

6 Mitsubishi A6M Zero

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

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 BF-109 aren't fit enough to share airspace with a Zero.

The true zero killer was the F4F wildcat not the F6Fhellcat. The wildcat took out the very best fighter pilots the Japanese threw against them. The Japanese never put the same grade of airmen back into the war wants they were gone

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At the start of the war there was no better fighter on either side of the ocean. It had the Americans playing catch up. I've seen one of the few left in the world in Kure, Hiroshima. It was a beaut!

7 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.

There were 305 American pilots that became aces behind the stick of this aircraft, more than any other American fighter plane in history. It is credited with 5,000 + aerial victories. Need I say more?

Pleased the pilots, the crews, the engineers...AND the beancounters. Do your research to see how no other aircraft in WWII gave more bang for the taxpayer's buck than the F6F.

Granted, it was outperformed on various criteria...but in terms of cost/per, the F6F crushes them all (save for the DC-3).

8 Messerschmitt Me 262

Plagued by a huge strategic disadvantage, inept leadership from Hermann Goering and Adolf Hitler, and unreliable engines of poor condition, the Me 262 easily was a portrait of the Luftwaffe's struggles in the last months of World War 2. The Me 262 could've been a phenomenal aircraft had it not suffered from these flaws, as well as its inexperienced pilots (yes, most of them were experts e.g. Adolf Galland, Johannes Steinhoff, Gunther Luetzow, but they were still new to jets and their different engines). Had it been introduced earlier (its possible the 262 or another jet fighter could've debuted in 1942, not long after the Fw 190! ), its flaws could've been ironed out and its new technique mastered. The Me 262 was still a deadly opponent to bombers and fighters so long as its engines could survive.
It was most vulnerable at low altitude, where a P-51 or P-47 could dive on it, or a Hawker Tempest could easily catch up to it.

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.

So what are we really debated... there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that ME262 were lightyears ahead of anything the allies had. No doubt that it was the best fighter in the war.
The fact that it came too late when materials was scarse... and the fact that it came so late that it had no chance to make a real impact still doesn't mean that it wasnt the best fighter.. Its STUPID to bring in parametres like "biggest impact" or "ammount produced" when we are debating whats the best fighter...

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.

9 Republic P-47D Thunderbolt

Heard of the A-10 Warthog? Its less known nickname is Thunderbolt II, and its name is from the P-47. Known as the "Jug", the P-47 was one of the heaviest planes to fly by a single propeller engine, weighing around 5 tons when empty. However, it was incredibly fast at high altitude and in a dive, and had a fearsome armament. German pilots remarked it was something "you never wanted to be in front of." The P-47 was incredibly armored as well, with the ability to survive huge amounts of damage and fly home, and had an 18 cylinder R2800 engine, which could continue to work even with some cylinders completely destroyed. The P-47 could also perform ground attack roles, able to carry half the bombload of a B-17 in rockets and bombs. Its only flaws were poor maneuverability and decent range. Many pilots in Korea who flew P-51s for ground attack missions wished they could've flown the heavier and more armored P-47 instead, which was better suited for the role.

Did the most damage of any fighter of WWII. Escort, strafe, bomb and intercept. Best kill ratio, and best pilot retention. The "N" version even outperformed the 51 on long range escort. Climbed adequately after the new prop and dove like hell. Very tough and the R2800 might have been the best motor of the war, even able to take great damage and perform. Much better dog fighter than it looked like. I thought quad fifties were awesome. 47 had two of them.

The p_47 was built to last it had 8 50cal machine guns, long range and carried a impressive payload not to mention it was one if the biggest fighters that could take hits and still fly! The 262 doesn't deserve to be on top of p-47 because it was introduced to late in the war and it was supposed to be a bomber Hunter, the allies could take out the 262 easily when it turned because it lost so much speed, thus making it a bad "fighter".

People say that the P-51 was good because it had range and maneuverability. It also had a lighter armament than the P-47 and the P-47 didn't have a weak-spot, and was multi-role. The "Jug" had the ability to attack ground targets with an extensive array of ordnance, defend itself from an enemy, and get the pilot home safely. The Jug was used as an escort fighter earlier in the war, a ground attack, etc.

10 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

A superb dogfighter. As Flight Lieutenant Pete Brothers observed. It was only slightly slower than the BF 109E. He should know, he caught two BF 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).

While hurry WAS a fantastic plane you guys are missing THE great plane of ww2, the Mosquito, could and did it all fighter, bomber, pinpoint low level action, pathfinder, etc.

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

The Contenders
11 Lockheed P-38 Lightning

This thing was an amazing creature - used in all theaters and throughout the war it shot down and destroyed more Japanese fighters than any other aircraft.

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.

Lockheed P-38 hands down.

Look at air warfare like a boxing ring, and it comes down to a few deciding factors: how much damage you can take (short and long term), how hard and accurately you can punch, and how quickly you can evade your opponent; whether this is by quick dodges (aerobatics) or by escaping the fight to recover for a short time.

Now put the two best pilots of the war behind the controls, to make it an even fight, and pitch the P-38 against anything else in the skies. This thing could turn, dive, climb and shoot with the best of them. It puts most other fighters in the featherweight category.

It also had the advantage of having two engines fitted into the air frame, and there is a famous account of Lockheed test pilot Tony LeVier flying a P-38 upside down under the power of ONE engine - much to the entertainment of the rookie pilots watching him below.

Aside from the central nacelle being in a relatively exposed position, the pilot had ...more

Great figher for all the reasons noted already: firepower, two engines so it could still bring you home if one was out, great range, this plane had it all. Maybe not the best "pure fighter" but was much more adaptable than any fighter. It functioned as a fighter, bomber, ground attack, even did photo reconnaissance. This was such a great plane that even Charles Lindberg was able to score a kill in the Pacific theater, and he was not a trained combat pilot.
Top two American aces flew, P-51s. Before transferring to P-51s, Robin Olds shot down 5 German planes on two different occasions.

12 Fiat G.55 Centauro

Called the best Axis fighter overall in 1943 by the Luftwaffe.
Level speed was 417 with WEP; 590 mph dive. Very good high altitude handling, aerobatics, and performance. Critical altitude was 8 Km for speed.

Some had 5 Mauser 20mm cannons! Great for intercepting heavies.

More robust than the Re2005 and without it's vibration/flutter.
Best for mass production of the Italian type 5 fighters and most suitable to upgrade to the larger DB603 engine.

Good rear view unlike the BF 109.
It even had faster dive acceleration than the Gustav!

Chosen to be the standard ANR Italian fighter since the others were inferior at more altitudes.

Quoted best axis fighter until the end of 1943, and for good reason. And I chose this because I don't like German or English planes and American planes are not really as good as they say they are.

Just read Goering...he said it was much better than other DB605 planes and much more robust, production was tiny in Italy so they were planning to mas produce it in Germany but DDay happened too soon...

It's just the G 55. what else?

13 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.

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.

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.

14 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.

Reliable, easy to fly and maintain, and lots of firepower in the lightest and most nimble fighter of the war. Same horsepower as a P-51D at roughly 2/3 the weight. The Yak-3's only weak spot is lack of range and lack of a second stage in the supercharger. But it was never intended to be a high altitude escort fighter.

The lightest fighter of the War, it was reported by Soviet pilots to be a dream to fly, and German pilots were routinely ordered not to engage it in any circumstance below 5km. When the top scoring French Ace of the war was given the option to choose any allied fighter plane, including the P-51 and Spitfire, he went with the Yak-3.

I would have to place the YaK-3 over the others simply for the sheer agility, high speed approaching that of the Mustang, and good armament. When it started to appear in noticeable numbers, it absolutely crushed the 109 and 190 in most encounters.

15 Blohm & Voss BV-238

Largest, and heaviest aircraft of WWII, and the best flying boat of its day.

16 Curtiss P-40 Warhawk

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.

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

A well rounded aircraft that allowed the U.S. to get newer aircraft in the air. Not the best but a durable aircraft

17 Heinkel He 280

The REAL "first" jet fighter, and the first aircraft to feature an ejection seat. With a top speed of 570 mph, 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.

Just amazing design

18 Bell P-39 Airacobra

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.

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

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

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

19 Macchi M.C.205V Veltro

A feared and respected adversary of allied pilots. Preferred over BF 109 by Jagdwaffe pilots. An Italian aircraft that excelled in speed, power and climb and also very nimble and maneuverable, allowing it to fight on equal terms with top allied fighters.

Extremely maneuverable at low altitude with adequate performance at high. High ate of climb, being able to outclimb every allied fighter.

Great climb ratio. A pair of 20mm cannons and a pair of 12.7mm MG. Extremely manuevreable at low altitude, even outpeforming the legendary P-51 Mustang. Just as good as the Mustang at high altitudes. It could fight on equal terms with the top Allied fighters.

A absolutely beautiful plain. One of the very few at the time that could take on the Mustangs.

20 Hawker Typhoon

Actually it was a very good fighter. Pierre Closterman rode her to fame as the best French born fighter pilot of the war. She was mas heavy, but made up for it with an engine that could pull a fully loaded bomber. And she carried enough armor to stop nearly everything fired into her. She had one drawback. The torque of her engine killed large numbers of its rookie pilots. Both take off and landing, the engine would simply roll the plane onto its back and dig her into the ground if the pilot wasn't aware applying hard opposite rudder. She killed more of her own pilots than the Germans shot down pilots flying the 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.

If you were a ground troop this is the fighter you would fear.

21 Junkers Ju 87

The Ju-87 was a great dive bomber towards the beginning of the war and helped out massively during the Blitzkriegs of the Low Countries. It was an amazing tank buster during the later years of the war and it was great from a psychological standpoint with the infamous "Jericho Trumpet".

Fantastic aircraft, obsolete as dive bomber, lethal as tank buster

22 Lockheed 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.

An average fighter with good long range and high altitude performance. She was slower by 50 mph than nearly every other fighter in the air at the time. She was less maneuverable than both the Messerschmidt and Focke Wulf families of aircraft, and the Ta-152 would have made toast out of her. She's more legend than fact.

This plane concept seems very good. It's a shame it doesn't get more notice.

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

23 Focke-Wulf Ta 152 H-1

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.

Simply the best piston engine fighter of the war. Faster than any Allied fighter by 50 mph. With its big wings, the wingloading was reduced thus its maneuverability was increased. It turned better than the P-38, Mustang, and Spitfire. It is an unrecognized masterpiece of engineering.

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.

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

24 Nakajima ki-87
25 IAR 80

An amazing plane, which although outdated in the second half of the war it still performed admirable.

A Luftwaffe major who tested it in March 1941 had this to say about the IAR 80

Takeoff and landing are very good. It's 20 30 km h slower than the BF 109E. The climb to 5000 meters is equivalent. In a dogfight, the turns are also equivalent, although the long nose reduces the visibility. In a dive it's outclassed by the BF 109E, because it lacks an automated propeller pitch regulator. It's a fighter adequate to modern needs.

It was one of the most important planes on the Eastern Front, but forgotten today.

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 BF 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

If you're adding the IAR-80 you have to add the Avia B.534 as it was rather good for its day.

Armed with nothing but death.

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