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What was the best fighter plane of WWII?

What was the best fighter plane of WWII?  

597 members have voted

  1. 1. What was the best fighter plane of WWII?

    • Supermarine Spitfire
      147
    • North American P-51 Mustang
      219
    • Focke Wulf FW-190
      38
    • Messerschmitt Bf 109
      39
    • Yakovlev Yak-3
      12
    • Mitsubishi A6M Zero
      6
    • Other (specify below)
      100
    • DH 98 Mosquito
      37


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On 9/28/2017 at 8:09 AM, Bruce Anderson said:

it would be a hard call .. spitty was the best fighter plane i feel but the 109 would have been as well but for the armour plating around the cockpit and the fixed pitch prop it could not perform at its best .. so to the fock wulf .. the mustang was a total was till the poms put the merlin engine in it .. the zero was built to perform and it did that quite well but it could not take hits ... the yak was a bit of a bulldozer of the skies but it was lacking in speed .. my pick rest on 4 planes .. the spit .. the pommy mustang .. the mosguito.. the lightning followed very closely by the tornadoe

Only the very early model BF-109's had a fixed pitch prop.  By the time the war started they were constant speed props.

 

 

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The best piston plane the Germans put out was the Focke Wulf 190.  The Mustang enabled long range escort of the bombers as long as they were not intercepted too early.  With the drop tank fitted the center of gravity was too far rearward and you could end up in a deep stall if you pulled too many G.  The Germans would try and bounce the Mustang as soon as it crossed the channel causing the pilots to jettison their drop tank drastically reducing their combat radius.  Two other negatives of the Mustang were the .50 cal machine guns and the NACA airfoil.  By the time of the Battle of Britain most nations considered machine gun caliber guns too small and were going to 20 MM and even 30mm cannon.  

 

With the Mustangs laminar flow wing, which gave it the range at altitude, any bump or blister destroys the laminar flow negating the NACA airfoil advantage so cramming a cannon into the wing was not an option.  Laminar airfoil wings have a viscous stall characteristic and if you end up in a spin you can loose a lot of altitude before you recover.

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It's got to be the P-51 Mustang because it was the only fighter that could escort the bombers to Germany and back. Just remember though the specification for this aircraft originated from the Ministry of Defence and, of course, the engine subsequently fitted to meet that spec was the Packard Merlin.

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5 minutes ago, John F Morris said:

It's got to be the P-51 Mustang because it was the only fighter that could escort the bombers to Germany and back. Just remember though the specification for this aircraft originated from the Ministry of Defence and, of course, the engine subsequently fitted to meet that spec was the Packard Merlin.

Actually it was the Rolls-Royce Merlin built under licence by Packard, the only difference was that Packard made it go backwards (ie the prop went the other way round)

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image.jpeg.6fcac277eb859a2206f00b727d34c37b.jpeg So, what you are looking at is four Browning .50 caliber machine guns with a sustained rate of fire of about 850 rpm (per machine gun) @ 2,756 fps and one 20 mm cannon with about 650 rpm @ 2,887 fps packed into a firing pattern of somthing around a three foot dia. and no need for interputer gearing, or 'fire convergence' angles, giving the P-38 a 'buzzsaw' that had a combined rate of fire of OVER 4,000 ROUNDS PER MINUTE. Thus explaining why out of the top four (American) aces of WW2, three of them flew P-38s. 

Edited by J Steve Allington

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1 hour ago, J Steve Allington said:

Impressive!  But..... How many Mosquito drivers had 40 CONFIRMED kills, and a staggering 105 kills split up between just THREE pilots? The P-38 did.

If memory serves Wing Commander "Bob" Braham was the leading Mosquito ace with 29 confirmed kills all obtained while operating in Europe.  Of the 40 confirmed kills with a P-38, none were against aircraft which carried armoured protection (the Japanese sacrificed protection for speed and manoeuvrability).  I do not know who the leading ace flying P-38's in Europe was, but I do know that Colonel "Gabby" Gabreski, the leading American ace in Europe with 28 kills confirmed, obtained all his victories flying a P-47.  With all respect and not taking anything away from the Pacific aces, victories in Europe were a lot more difficult to obtain.

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Kudos! And you are most correct. I might however point out two things, that this is about the best fighter during WWII, (which would inculde ALL theaters of operation) and if we're going to use the most concrete evidence avaiable (confirmed kills) you gotta go with the big numbers, and that's the big Lockheed, which flew in all three theaters. Even if most of the big numbers that the Lightining scored were against the lightly armored (but considerably more maneuverable) Mitsubishi Zero.

Edited by J Steve Allington

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Both the P-38 and the Mosquito were very versatile planes used in a variety of different missions. I imagine that if these 2 planes had been used as fighters and bomber escorts only they would have very impressive kill numbers.  

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20 hours ago, Ray Hindle said:

What you see here is 4 × 20 mm (.79 in) Hispano Mk II cannon and 4 × .303 in (7.7 mm) Browning machine gunsmosquito_FB_VI_test_fire.jpg.4a1e0451ed8de54a9199a9845d88f6ee.jpg

Or, arguably, what you see is  de Havilland climbing aboard a bandwaggon already set in motion by Westland Aircraft (with the twin-engine "Whirlwind" - at the time the most heavily armed plane in the RAF) and the Bristol Aircraft Company whose  "Beaufighter" carried a similar level of armament. There was an early decision by the Air Ministry to fit the Beaufighter with the same Rolls Royce engines  as the Mosquito... Several were produced in that configuration, but they were significantly slower than the Beaufighters fitted with Bristol Engines, and mostly relegated to training. A Mosquito fitted with Bristol engines... now THAT would have been one HELL of a plane! FWIW, the Whirlwind's failure to shine was down largely to a ministerial failure to promote further development of its (Rolls Royce!) engine. The Whirlwind was created as an interceptor designed specifically to blast high-altitude bombers out of the sky, with its four nose-mounted cannon. Germany then failed to produce much for it to shoot at, and (after reaching squadron service) the project was effectively abandoned.

whirlwind.jpg

beaufit7.jpg

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A bit puzzling, the glowing praise for twin-engined fighters like the P-38 and Mosquito.  While being wonderfully versatile aircraft, they would struggle to hold their own in a dog-fight with Bf109s or Fw-190s, which I believe is why the P-47 and P-51 were chosen for escort missions. The later P-47 marks were exceptionally potent, having very good range and top speeds of 460-470 mph, easily the equal of Germanys best piston fighters.

 

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6 hours ago, Ron Walker said:

Or, arguably, what you see is  de Havilland climbing aboard a bandwaggon already set in motion by Westland Aircraft (with the twin-engine "Whirlwind" - at the time the most heavily armed plane in the RAF) and the Bristol Aircraft Company whose  "Beaufighter" carried a similar level of armament. There was an early decision by the Air Ministry to fit the Beaufighter with the same Rolls Royce engines  as the Mosquito... Several were produced in that configuration, but they were significantly slower than the Beaufighters fitted with Bristol Engines, and mostly relegated to training. A Mosquito fitted with Bristol engines... now THAT would have been one HELL of a plane! FWIW, the Whirlwind's failure to shine was down largely to a ministerial failure to promote further development of its (Rolls Royce!) engine. The Whirlwind was created as an interceptor designed specifically to blast high-altitude bombers out of the sky, with its four nose-mounted cannon. Germany then failed to produce much for it to shoot at, and (after reaching squadron service) the project was effectively abandoned.

whirlwind.jpg

beaufit7.jpg

The Peregrine engines were the final development of the old Kestrel, with limited scope for further refinement. Westland built the prototype Merlin-engined Welkin as a sucsessor to the Whirlwind,  never produced as the need for extreme high-altitude fighters diminished.

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Tornado.jpg.dc5a5e5d7c47cb5163f2dbabb07e61bc.jpg

Incorrect! The disastrous Rolls Royce VULTURE was the final development:two Kestrel engines turned into one massive "X" cylinder engine, which (probably because of its rushed development) never worked properly. Hawker intended that their replacement for the Hurricane would use the Vulture in the "Tornado" fighter and AVRO intended to use it in their "Manchester" bomber. Both were scrapped - the Manchester was redesigned with four Merlin engines and became the rather successful Lancaster, and the Tornado was built with a Napier engine and became the Hawker Typhoon - also rather successful. In the pic of the Tornado, you can clearly see the DOUBLE rank of exhaust outlets.

 

Avro_Manchester_ExCC.jpg

Edited by Ron Walker
wrong piccy!

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I built a model of that Westland Whirlwind and wondered why such a potent looking concept was so unknown? But if it didn't get the engine problems solved it of course didn't perform as good as it looked.

 

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3 minutes ago, Harry Rönnberg said:

I built a model of that Westland Whirlwind and wondered why such a potent looking concept was so unknown? But if it didn't get the engine problems solved it of course didn't perform as good as it looked.

 

Apparently the bearings on the extra-long crankshafts routinely burned out. The air ministry decided that rather than messing around with a hybrid of two "small" engines, it would make more sense to stick with just one BIG one... which was the (war-winning!) Merlin. If Germany had had the sense to stick (more or less) to just ONE aero engine rather than reinventing the wheel for every new project... As I suggested before, one British exception was the Bristol plant (much later taken over by Rolls Royce, and which later provided the engines for Concorde) The Beaufighter was manufactured predominantly with Bristol designed "Hercules" engines, (also used in the Shorts Stirling) but under advice from the Air Ministry, also made three hundred or so powered by a pair of Rolls Royce Griffons. The Hercules -powered Beaufighters were both faster and more reliable... Which leads me to wonder what a Mosquito, powered by the same Bristol engines might have been like. Probably "like shit off a shovel"!

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26 minutes ago, Harry Rönnberg said:

I built a model of that Westland Whirlwind and wondered why such a potent looking concept was so unknown? But if it didn't get the engine problems solved it of course didn't perform as good as it looked.

Oops! You were talking about the Whirlwind, not the Tornado, sorry! According to the guys who flew the Whirlwind, it was a superb flyer, and seemed both able to mix it with whatever the Luftwaffe was throwing at it (Me109's, FW190's...) and do an excellent job as a ground attack aircraft, apparently specialising in destroying trains. It also served well in Coastal Command, and seems to have been a very popular plane with the pilots. One possible let-down was a relatively short range - far too short to act as an escort fighter.

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9 hours ago, Tore Heiret said:

Even though I personlly like the P-38 as the best fighter aircraft for WWII, it was not a dogfighter, and did not work out well in that  category, This in especially true when you compare the P-38 (414 mph max speed) to the much lighter and more maneuverabile Messerschmitt 109 (398 mph max speed) or the FW 109 Focke Wulf (426 mph max speed). The P-38 just couldn't out manuver either one. And in probally the worst things that could happen to a potential P-38 pilot, Lockheed only made a few two seater versions that could be used for trainer aircraft. And all of the ones built used a very awkward 'jump seat' tandom position just behind the pilot (and took the place of the radio!) and no controls for him to actully use in flight. Not sure what the thinking behind that was, but oh well.

 

Edited by J Steve Allington

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18 hours ago, Ron Walker said:

Tornado.jpg.dc5a5e5d7c47cb5163f2dbabb07e61bc.jpg

Incorrect! The disastrous Rolls Royce VULTURE was the final development:two Kestrel engines turned into one massive "X" cylinder engine, which (probably because of its rushed development) never worked properly. Hawker intended that their replacement for the Hurricane would use the Vulture in the "Tornado" fighter and AVRO intended to use it in their "Manchester" bomber. Both were scrapped - the Manchester was redesigned with four Merlin engines and became the rather successful Lancaster, and the Tornado was built with a Napier engine and became the Hawker Typhoon - also rather successful. In the pic of the Tornado, you can clearly see the DOUBLE rank of exhaust outlets.

 

Avro_Manchester_ExCC.jpg

 

18 hours ago, Ron Walker said:

Tornado.jpg.dc5a5e5d7c47cb5163f2dbabb07e61bc.jpg

Incorrect! The disastrous Rolls Royce VULTURE was the final development:two Kestrel engines turned into one massive "X" cylinder engine, which (probably because of its rushed development) never worked properly. Hawker intended that their replacement for the Hurricane would use the Vulture in the "Tornado" fighter and AVRO intended to use it in their "Manchester" bomber. Both were scrapped - the Manchester was redesigned with four Merlin engines and became the rather successful Lancaster, and the Tornado was built with a Napier engine and became the Hawker Typhoon - also rather successful. In the pic of the Tornado, you can clearly see the DOUBLE rank of exhaust outlets.

 

Avro_Manchester_ExCC.jpg

Incorrect?  The Peregrine was essentially the ultimate development of the Kestrel. The Vulture, although using modified Peregrine cylinder blocks on a common crankcase, was a completely different engine configuration.  Rolls Royce themselves wanted to terminate these engine programs together with the Exe in August 1940, however development was ordered to continue by the authorities, the Peregrine finally coming to an end in 1942, never acheiving an acceptable level of reliability.

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