World War II: The 15 Most Popular Fighter Planes
World War II was the most devastating large-scale conflict the world had seen since World War I. Indeed, war often brings out the worst in humanity, but sometimes it can also bring out the best. The latter includes advanced technological inventions, and the aircraft industry saw some of the best innovations during the war. Aviation revolutionized warfare to a great extent, with raids and bombing raids carried out mainly from the sky as during the Pacific War.
Both the Allies and the Axis powers have developed incredible fighter aircraft. Characteristics like great maneuverability, top speeds, long-range capabilities, heavy weapons and powerful engines, including the number of kills achieved by a fighter plane, make some of them the most popular fighter planes in World War II. Let us begin!
The most popular American fighter planes.
1. The P-51 Mustang
A North American Air Force P-51 Mustang, nicknamed Gunfighter. Property of the Commercial Air Force. In Brunswick, Georgia, United States (2022). Photo by Bubba73.Wikimedia Commons.
The North American P-51 Mustang was one of the most powerful fighters in the US Army Air Force during World War II. Originally designed and manufactured by North American Aviation for the British Royal Air Forces in 1940, the Mustang was a formidable long-range single-seat fighter-bomber. It was primarily equipped with the Allison V-1710 engine, but later models had the more powerful Merlin engine, giving it a significant advantage and making it a great match against Luftwaffe machines. One of his amazing qualities was his long distance ability.
It was equipped with 6 wing-mounted machine guns and could reach a top speed of 700 km/h. One of the most popular variants was the P-51D with better performance and speed. Production reached around 15,000, which is quite a high number. The Mustang had extreme range and was a strategic offensive fighter aircraft. It was used in the Pacific War against Japan. It was also used to escort heavy bombers in Germany and was a major contributor to Allied air superiority in World War II.
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2. Republic P-47 Lightning
Republic_P-47_Thunderbolt,_Imperial_War_Museum,_Duxford,_May_19_2018. There is a photo
Roland Turner.Wikimedia Commons.
Between 1941 and 1945, the Thunderbolt was produced by the American company Republic Aviation as a high-altitude fighter-bomber. It was one of the heaviest and largest propeller-engined fighter aircraft of its type, however this did not affect its high speed at high altitudes. With eight .50 caliber machine guns, four in each wing, the Thunderbolt was heavily armored and had impressive range. Thus, he had quite a bit of stamina in battle, an added benefit. It could easily engage ground targets, and the Allied powers also used it as a fighter escort. It was used by the US, France, Great Britain, and Russia. Thunderbolt played a major role in the Allied D-Day invasion of Normandy and was one of the most widely produced fighter aircraft with an average production run of around 16,200.
3. Bought F4U Corsair
Photo by Gerry Metzler.Wikimedia Commons.
The Vought F4U Corsair is widely regarded as one of the most capable American carrier-based fighter-bombers of World War II. It was originally manufactured by Chance Vought and used primarily by the US Navy, Marine Corps, and Royal Navy. More than 12,500 were built, making it one of the most produced aircraft of the war. The Corsair featured powerful 6.50 caliber weaponry, impressive maneuverability, and an extreme flight range of over 1,500 miles. Also considered one of the most dangerous in the air, the Japanese recognized their strong combat performance and speed at both low and high altitude, calling them "Whistling Death". He contributed significantly to the Allied exploits during the Pacific War. The British Royal Navy used it in 1943 and 1944. It would also see service in the Korean War before being retired in 1952.
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4. Curtiss P-40 Warhawk
A restored P-40M Warhawk lands at the Season Premier Airshow at Shuttleworth UK. Photo by Alan Wilson.Wikimedia Commons.
The P-40 Warhawk was the third most produced American aircraft of World War II, after the Mustang and Thunderbolt. It was a single-seat, single-engine, all-metal ground-attack fighter. It was manufactured by Curtiss Wright, first flew in 1938, and was used primarily by the US Army Air Force, UK, Canadian, and Australian Air Force. While it can't be said to be better than the German Mustang or Bf-109, the Warhawk played a significant role in supporting the Allies in various strategic wars, including Pearl Harbor. It was a durable, strong and robust aircraft capable of overtaking and going around enemy aircraft at medium altitudes. It saw action in the China-Burma-India, Mediterranean and Pacific theaters during World War II. By the end of the war he was credited with an impressive total of 2,225 aerial victories.
5. Grumman F6F Hellcat
Grumann F6F-3 « Hellcat at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington. Photo by Stephane Gallay.Wikimedia Commons.
The Japanese had quite the advantage in the Pacific War with their powerful Mitsubishi A6M Zero until the F6F Hellcat came along. This carrier-based fighter was designed to counter the Zero while replacing the previous F4F Wildcat. It was used primarily by the US Navy, Marine Corps, Royal Navy, and the French Navy. Debuting in late 1943, it quickly established itself as a capable carrier fighter and soon surpassed the Zero.
In all, he was credited with a staggering 5,223 victories over enemy aircraft. An example of an impressive feat is the Battle of Leyte Gulf, where two Hellcat pilots single-handedly shot down 15 enemy aircraft. With powerful 2,000-hp engines and a long range, the Hellcat was the first American fighter to have a solid advantage over the Zero, and contributed to the superiority of the Allied powers in the second half of the Pacific War.
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The most popular British fighter planes.
6. Walking hurricane
LF363 Hurricane painted to represent 249 Squadron's Battle of Britain Hurricane "GN-F" on her port side. Photo by Cpl Phil Major.Wikimedia Commons.
Built by Hawker Aircraft Ltd for the British Royal Air Force and designed by Sidney Camm, the Hurricane was one of the RAF's most iconic fighter aircraft. It has been called the World War II workhouse. It was a single-seat fighter with incredible speed and easy cockpit controls, heavy armament of eight wing-mounted machine guns and a Merlin 12-cylinder in-line engine. It could fly at a top speed of 340 miles per hour with a range of 470 miles. Although the Supermarine Spitfire was most popular in the 1940 Battle of Britain, more than half of the German Luftwaffe's losses in the war are attributed to the Hurricane. Thus it was a significant aircraft contribution to the RAF. More than 14,000 of these were made between 1937 and 1944.
7. Supermarino Spitfire
Spitfire MH434 at the Shuttleworth Airshow 2018 Collection season premiere. Photo by Airwolfhound.Wikimedia Commons.
The Spitfire was designed as a high-performance interceptor for the RAF, although it was also used by other Allied powers. It was considered the main fighter of the RAF and the best British fighter, surpassing the Hurricane. It was created by R.J. Mitchell designed, with elliptical wings that allowed it to reach speeds faster than the Hurricane. It was powered by a Rolls Royce Merlin engine and was armed with 8 machine guns; a great addition to the Luftwaffe's aircraft, particularly the Bf 109. The Spitfire was most popular during the Battle of Britain, although most kills are attributed to the more numerous Hurricane aircraft. It could perform multiple roles as an interceptor, trainer, and fighter-bomber. Around 20,000 were produced, of which 70 are still airworthy.
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The most popular German fighter planes.
8. Messerschmitt Bf 109
Photo de Federal Archives.Wikimedia Commons.
The Luftwaffe was known for its state-of-the-art aircraft and the Bf 109 is one of its most powerful and manufactured combat aircraft. It could be used for attack, defense, counter-attack or reconnaissance missions. For much of the war, the Allied powers could barely match the Bf 109 in the skies. It possessed high speeds of up to 640 kilometers per hour, heavy artillery including machine guns, rockets, and bombs, great maneuverability, and combat resilience.
It had an all-metal monocoque, an enclosed canopy, retractable landing gear, and a liquid-cooled inverted V12 aero engine later modified on later models. The Bf 109 first saw action in 1927 during the Spanish Civil War and later saw battles in World War II, including the invasion of Poland and the Battle of Britain. It remains one of the largest and most popular Luftwaffe fighter aircraft of World War II.
9. Focke Wulf Fw 190
Fw-190 Photographed at the Auto und Technik Museum Sinsheim, Germany. Photo by Alf van Beem.Wikimedia Commons.
This was a single-engine, single-seat fighter aircraft widely used by the German Luftwaffe during World War II alongside its counterpart, the Bf 109. It was designed by Kurt Tank and manufactured by Focke-Wulf. It had an impressive speed of around 410 mph and heavy armament including nose-mounted machine guns, wing root cannons and two more in the center of the wing. These characteristics made it quite a formidable and dangerous combat aircraft to be part of the German arsenal. It could be used as a fighter-bomber or ground-attack aircraft. Respected by the allied forces for its high performance, the Fw 190 earned its place in the list of the best fighters of the war.
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10. Messerschmitt Me 410 Hornet
Messerchmitt Me 410 Hornet at the RAF Cosford Museum. Photo by Tony Hisget.Wikimedia Commons.
This was a German high-speed heavy fighter and bomber introduced in 1943 for Luftwaffe service. Approximately 1,189 were produced by the end of 1945. The Me 410 had an enormous payload capacity for bombs and other weapons, including machine guns and rockets, making it a devastating encounter for enemy aircraft. Its production had undergone numerous adjustments and a new version featured a longer fuselage, a more powerful engine and automatic slats. It was used primarily as a night fighter for bombing raids against Britain and the Allied forces in the Mediterranean during World War II.
The most popular combat aircraft of the Soviet Union.
11. Yakovlev Yak-3
A Yakovlev Yak-3M on display at the Cavanaugh Museum of Flight at the Addison Airport in Addison, Texas. picture of
Miguel Barra.Wikimedia Commons.
The Yak-3 was a Soviet single-seat fighter and one of the lightest. Its high power-to-weight ratio helped it perform well in combat. It was also very easy to maintain, and the team loved it. Primarily used as a low-altitude tactical fighter, the Yak-3 was an integral part of the Russian arsenal. Marcel Albert, a French World War II ace, considered it superior to both the Mustang and the Spitfire. With a top speed of 401 mph and a combat range of approximately 340 miles, a 1,290-hp engine, and easy maneuverability, the Yak-3 was a powerful piston fighter during the war. It was used by the Soviet Air Force and later by the French and Polish Air Forces.
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12. Yakvolev Yak-9
Photo: Archives of the San Diego Air and Space Museum.Wikimedia Commons.
The Yak-9 is a single-seat, single-engine fighter aircraft used by the Soviet Union during World War II and the early stages of the Cold War. It was the last in production of the basic Yak-1 design and much more significant than its predecessors. It was lighter and allowed a greater load of fuel and weapons. Going into combat in 1942, it soon surpassed the Fw 190 in air superiority. It was faster and more maneuverable than the famous German Bf 109 fighter at low altitude. The Yak-9 entered service in the last two years of the war and is widely regarded as an instrument to reduce German influence on air superiority. Due to its extensive production, large numbers of this fighter aircraft took part in the Battle of Stalingrad.
13. Lawotschkin La-7
Lavochkin LA-7 at the Central Russian Air Force Museum, Monino. Photo by Alf van Beem.Wikimedia Commons.
The La-7, a Soviet fighter aircraft, was one of the most powerful aircraft in the Soviet Air Force during World War II. His model was based on an improvement of the La-5 with a more powerful Shvetsov engine. This gave him increased speed and impressive climbing abilities. It also had great maneuverability and firepower, making it a good addition to the Luftwaffe's air machines. Despite arriving late in the war, it turned out to be a formidable Soviet-built fighter plane.
The most popular Japanese fighter planes.
14.Mitsubishi A6M zero
Réplica del Mitsubishi A6M3 Zero Model 22 (NX712Z) (Conmemorative Air Force / American Airpower Heritage Flying Museum). Foto de Kogo.Wikimedia Commons.
This is one of the most popular Japanese carrier-based long-range fighter aircraft of WWII. It was originally manufactured by the Mitsubishi Aircraft Company and used by the Imperial Japanese Navy. It made its debut in 1939 and was in service until 1945 with a total production run of around 10,000. It is widely regarded as the most capable carrier-based aircraft of its time in the world, and indeed there was little the Allied forces could do to counter it in the early stages of the war. With incredible maneuverability, light weight, and extreme range, the Zero earned a reputation as the dominant aerial fighter until its characteristics were surpassed later in the war by sophisticated Allied fighters. It was used in the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
The most popular French fighter planes.
15. Dewoitin D-520
Dewoitine D.520, Air and Space Museum, Le Bourget, Paris. Photo by Roland Turner.Wikimedia Commons.
This was a French fighter plane that came pretty close to the air superiority of the Luftwaffe. It had incredible maneuverability and a good rate of climb. Powered by a 1000hp Hispano-Suiza engine and armed with a 20mm cannon and 4 machine guns, the D-520 outclassed the Italian Air Force. However, it was produced in small numbers and therefore could not have a massive impact on the war. He participated in battles on the Eastern Front and in North Africa.
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