The use and performance of newly developed weapons was one of the most critical factors in World War II. Naturally, army tactics and intelligence played an important role, but in a raucous battle, the quality and quantity of equipment mattered most. That is why the most powerful countries developed and manufactured weapon systems and platforms on an insane scale.
The planet had never seen so many weapons before. Some of the war’s most formidable vehicles, fighter jets, changed the battlefield once and for all. Fighters may have appeared years earlier, but none were even as advanced as those in WWII. With these new aircraft, skilled pilots can be a very dangerous problem for entire enemy units or fleets. Let’s see which are the ten most capable and successful fighters of World War II.
10 Supermarine MK’s 24 Spitfire
The Spitfire was the most strategically important British single-seat fighter of the war and the largest produced. Aside from the insane production numbers, the aircraft managed to receive more variants than any other fighter jet. The aircraft was a symbol of the Royal Air Force of the United Kingdom and was also operated by other Allies.
The first flight took place in 1936 and the aircraft was produced from 1938 to 1948. Until then, a total of more than 20,300 units had been produced. The Spitfire was retired in 1952 after a very successful career. RJ Mitchell designed the plane with elliptical wings that allowed it to reach greater speeds than its rival, such as the Hawker Hurricane. Its top speed was 378 mph and it was armed with six guns and two 250-pound bombs.
9 Soviet Yakovlev Yak-3
The Soviet Yak-3 did great things with just one engine and one pilot. The French, Polish and Yugoslav Air Forces, which were the main users along with the Soviet Air Forces, loved the plane because of the excellent design† AS Yakovlev Design Bureau built the fighter as a robust aircraft that was easy to maintain.
More than 4,800 units were built between 1944 and 1946, with 1952 being the last year of its career. The first Yak-3 was armed with a 20mm cannon and a 12.7mm machine gun. Then there were other versions of the Yak-3, such as the VK-107A with two Berezin B-20 20mm guns and the Yak-3K which was armed with a 45mm gun.
8 Republic P-47D Thunderbolt
The US Republic Aviation began production of the Thunderbolt in 1941. In the following four years, the American company managed to build more than 15,000 units. The fighter was exported to the United Kingdom, France, Peru and more. In 1966, the last operational Thunderbolts were withdrawn from the Peruvian Air Force.
The P-47D Thunderbolt (which shares names with the legendary A-10 Thunderbolt) had a total range of 1,900 miles and a top speed of 400+ mph. Often operating over the Pacific, the fighter was armed with 12.7mm guns and bombs or rockets.
7 North American P-51D Mustang
North American Aviation designed the P-51D as a long-range fighter that also had the capabilities of a bomber. The plane lived long enough to participate in the Korean War. The Dominican Air Force did not retire the aircraft until 1984, 44 years after its first flight.
More than 15,000 Mustangs were manufactured during the production phase. The Royal Air Force initially used the aircraft as a tactical reconnaissance aircraft and fighter-bomber. With six machine guns, great visibility and a top speed of 437 mph, the P-51D Mustang was one of the best fighters of the war.
6 Mitsubishi A6M Zero
The Japanese fighter is specially designed and built for use on aircraft carriers. One of the most important Japanese aircraft, the A6M, was produced by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries between 1939 and 1945. Nearly 11,000 fighter aircraft were built during that period.
When the Japanese A6M first appeared, it was certainly one of the most powerful and deadliest fighters to be piloted by aircraft carriers. In the last phase of the war, this masterpiece was also used in kamikaze missions.
5 Messerschmitt Bf 109K
The Bf 109K was a variant of the famous German Bf 109 fighter. Most of these planes, the last version of the Bf 109, had enough time to participate in dogfights. After so many modifications and new versions, the development and maintenance of the aircraft were expensive and complicated†
An interesting fact is that the K-4 model was the fastest 109 of World War II, with a top speed of over 444 mph. It reached such a speed at an altitude of 24,600 feet.
4 Lockheed P-38J Lightning
The P-38 served in three different roles: it was deployed as a fighter, as a fighter-bomber and as an aerial reconnaissance aircraft. Lockheed Corporation built more than 10,000 units for the United States, the French and other air forces. The fighter was retired from the USAF in 1949, 8 years after its introduction.
The Lightning had a total range of 450 miles, while its armament consisted of two 12mm MG 131 and three MG 151 20mm guns.
3 Grumman F8F Bearcat
F8F Bearcat was a single-seat, single-engine fighter deployed from United States Navy aircraft carriers. Redevelopment began in the middle of World War II, but the aircraft was not ready to operate until the final scenes of the war.
In 1946, the fighter broke the record for fastest climb, reaching 10,000 feet in just 94 seconds. When it comes to guns, it was armed with four Browning 12.7mm guns, but it could also carry bombs.
2 Focke Wulf FW 190 D-9
The D-9 was one of several versions produced for the FW 190 fighter. The specific model is designed for the operation against heavy bomber attacksalthough it flew only a few times.
Despite its very rare appearance in the air, the aircraft was very capable as it could fly at a maximum speed of 600 mph in a range of up to 395 miles. It also featured very good protection and a deadly set of weapons.
1 Chance Vought F4U-4 Corsair
The most capable fighter aircraft of World War II was the American fighter-bomber F4U-4 Corsair, designed and produced by Chance Vought. More than 12,500 aircraft were manufactured between 1942 and 1953.
The fighter combined good maneuverability, very dangerous armament (six .50 caliber guns and bombs/missiles), and a very impressive range of over 1,500 miles.