Owwww, that was a painful choice btw the P-51 and P-38.
I'd go with the 'Stang for the overall best performer and best looking. It was a trans-atlantic collaboration as well - just an ordinary fighter until mated with the mighty Rolls Royce Merlin.
Is there nothing as sweet-sounding as a Merlin-powered aircraft buzzing by at an airshow?
The P51 was a magnificent fighter and truly one of the decisive weapons of the war. My own first choice was the Spit as the eliptical wing of the Spit and the style and panache of the design are just beautiful, but the P51 would be a very strong contender for my No.2 choice.
You're an evil man, Justin, for making me choose between the P-51 and its glorious-sounding Merlin engine and the F4U Corsair, the bent-wing bird from Hell. Since I'm going to guess a lot of votes will go in favor of the Mustang, I'm picking the F4U Corsair as my favorite, with that long nose and inverted gull wings, there's no mistaking the Corsair for anything else. One of my favorite shows as a kid was Black Sheep Squadron and I've like the F4U since then. If they're good enough for Pappy Boyington and the Black Sheep, it's good enough for me!
Don't get me wrong, the Merlin on the Mustang is a match made in heaven, but those inline engines could get knocked out by shot right to the radiator. That's not an issue with the radials on the Corsair (or the Hellcat and Thuderbolt for that matter).
The Corsair looks just downright ugly to a lot, but I like it's brutish lines. Something to scare the piss out of a Zero pilot.
As far as Axis aircraft, my fav is the Fw190 D-9 (the Dora 9 variant) which could hold its own nicely against the Mustang and Spitfire. And it did lead to what I think was the best piston engined fighter the Luftwaffe ever fielded, the Ta152H.
I think in one to one combat, I'd always take a P51, P47, Spitfire, Tempest, Fw190 or Bf109 in preference to the P38, as in general the single engined fighters were more effective than any of the twin engined designs of the war where pilot skill was similar between opponents. In the European theatre the P38 wasn't so popular in the air to air role as other designs like the P51 proved much more successful against the Luftwaffe's fighter force. In terms of pilot success then the clear winner is the Bf109 as Eric Hartmann, the most successful fighter pilot of all time was a firm devotee of the Bf109, and would be followed by the Fw190 which was also flown by mega scoring aces.
I'm a huge fan of the F4U too, it just looks like a mean machine, something about just looks "right", the problem is there were so many magnificent designs it's a terrible job even choosing a top 3 Out of my list, the Spitfire, Hurricane, Tempest, P51, P38, P47, F6F, F4U, Bf109, Me262, Fw190, A6M , Ki84 and Yak9 are all justly considered wonderful designs and will live in the pantheon of great fighters forever. The Ta152 was an awesome aircraft, there was something about the in-line engine powered Fw190 family (D9 and Ta152 etc.) that looked right, wonderful machines Take care,
Viewing these relics in museums or at airshows is a real treat. The P-51 is a bit feline, whereas the P-47 is a massive brute. Corsairs look better in person, and the Lightning is simply massive. Very cool to stand between twin booms, tail, fuselage, and do 360's. The ME-262 has seductive lines, and the Bearcat (too late for WW2) has a domineering propeller. Possibly the most charismatic is the rare Grumman Tigercat (also late for WW2)
Perhaps the slickest medium-bomber was the Martin B-26.
Hi Scott, you may know the N1K as the "George", it was a conventional radial piston engined fighter. The N1K and Ki84 were both superb fighters but entered service at a time when Japan had lost most of their trained pilots and were short of fuel, so their combat statistics are not representative of the true value of these fine machines.
I chose the Spit just because it was a fully (just) operational fighter at the beginning of the war during the Battle of Britain. The P-51 Mustang my second choice was likewise a superb fighter especially when mated to the Merlin but it was introduced later. Kind of like comparing the BF109 to the FW 190. Both are beautiful fighters but the latter had the advantage of time and prior experience of the builders.
The Japanese certainly did have some sharp looking aircraft, my own favourite was the Ki46 Dinah, I thought that was one of the most beautiful aircraft ever built, a very elegant, graceful machine. WW2 really did produce a bumper crop of magnificent machines, the USA, UK and commonwealth, Germany, the USSR and Japan all produced many, many truly wonderful and classic aircraft,
Good choice Ed, I've always loved the P40, no aircraft ever carried sharks mouth nose art like the P40!! There is a difference between favourite and best, although often we choose favourites because they are the best, sometimes we choose favourites just because we like them more. For instance my favourite post war American jet fighter is the A4 Skyhawk, not the fastest, biggest or best, but I just love the Skyhawk
Originally posted by justin
The Japanese certainly did have some sharp looking aircraft, my own favourite was the Ki46 Dinah, I thought that was one of the most beautiful aircraft ever built, a very elegant, graceful machine...
Dinah, the aircraft with the nice line-ah!
I voted for the A6M Zero. It's a well proportioned aircraft and a pleasure to look at. But I wouldn't want to pilot one with a Hellcat on my ass!
Nice to see another Zero fan The Ki46 truly was beautiful, I prefer the original nose but even the stepped nose was a beautiful design. I think this shows the problem in judging these machines, in the early phase of the war the A6M was the best fighter in the Pacific theatre, then later it was outclassed by the P51,P47,F6F and F4U, so it went from a decisive weapon to a totally outclassed machine in only 4 years. I think that is one of the greatest achievements of the Spitfire and Bf109, both these were in service in quantity in September 1939, and both were still considered front line fighters in 1945, a great achievement and testament to the "rightness" of both designs that they were both capable of constant improvement. Take care,
But I must point out that the F4U Corsair enjoyed a much longer production run than any other WWII fighter aircraft. If I'm not mistaken, Corsairs were still being delivered to the US Marine Corps during the Korean War, fresh off the production lines.The final fighter variant, the F4U-5, ended its production run in 1951. Technically, though, the last Corsair built was in 1953 and delivered to the French (these aircraft were designated F4U-7).
The Corsair's biggest failing was that it was a lousy aircraft to bring on deck, hence it's nickname, the "Ensign Eliminator". The Hellcat had less performance that the Corsair, but was a relatively easy fighter to land on a carrier. The bulk of the missions flown by Corsairs were flown from land bases during WWII.
The F4U was a very fine machine indeed!! One of those myths that never dies is that the propellor war plane was finished at the end of WW2, in spite of the evidence that piston engined combat aircraft served with distinction in Korea, Malaya, Indo-China, Vietnam and many other post war conflicts, and in some ways proved better suited to conditions than the newer jets, like the Skyraider's in Vietnam. The F8F Bearcat and Hawker Fury were two of the best propellor engined aircraft ever, but are now basically forgotten One thing I have always found odd about the F4U story is that it was the RN FAA who first took it to sea even though the RN's fleet carrier's were half the size of the USN carrier's like the Essex class. Take care,
I had to go with the Spit, the most elegant and poetic bird in the sky.
Honorable mention must go to all of the types in the poll as they were all winners.
My all time fav however is the Hawker Seafury, this puppy stops my heart everytime I see one.
My vote goes to F4U especially the F4U-5N version from the Korean war, and the Marine Corps AU-1 version. I watch Black Sheep Squadron whenever i can. (most of the corsairs on the show are -5s i think, a few earlier -4s, and -1s.
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I often wonder what Reginald Mitchell would have thought if he could see the impact his Spitfire had on history. I think it is one of the tragedies of aviation that the great man died of cancer before being able to see his greatest design come to fruition When he was dying, he used to go to Eastleigh airfield in Southampton to watch the test aircraft. I think for British people the Spitfire is much more than an aeroplane, as it represents the spirit of defiance when Britain and our friends in the Commonwealth and the Empire, aided by people who escaped from occupied Europe stood and decided to fight on in 1940, the Spitfire and Winston Churchill represent something special to us Brit's. I know it's sentimental and stuff, but in 1940 I believe the battle of Britain when a few hundred British, and Australian, Canadian, New Zealand, South African, Rhodesian, Czech, Polish, French, Irish fighter pilots and even American volunteers who came here of their own initiative when America was still neutral really was the RAF's finest hour. Although the Hurricane was the real backbone of fighter command, history has remembered the Spitfire, not really fair, but it does mean the spitfire is much more than an aeroplane here.
The problem with "what iff" is that you can speculate about every great design. If the P51 had been fitted with the RR Griffon you'd have a fighter with the engine power of an F4U and the aerodynamic efficiency of the P51, imagine the performance that would have had!!! The problem like I said before in judging the best is how to judge just what is meant by best. The best fighter to see service in quantity in WW2 was the Me262, there is no other contender really, yet other designs affected the war to a much greater extent. The A6M was the best fighter in the Japanese war for at least the first year of that war, the fact it was later outclassed shouldn't obscure that achievement. The P51 altered the outcome of the war by annihilating the German fighter force above Germany, so was one of the genuinley decisive weapons of the war. The Hurricane may not have been elegant, but by maintaining air superiority over the UK in the battle of Britain it again had a pivotal influence on the war. For what it's worth, in my opinion the best fighter in straight performance was;
Then the best designs in how they met theirt intended mission tasking requirements and relative to contempories would be a group of;
All of those are worthy additions to the list, the Machi 202 was a beautiful machine and every account I've every read says it was a wonderful machine to fly, very sweet handling. Another addition is the Ki100, this was a Ki61 with a Mitsubishi radial, the Ki100 with cut down fuselage and bubble canopy is rated as the best Japanese fighter of the war by most commentators, luckily for the allies only a handful saw active service.
I feel that the P-38 was a fine fine plane....but what did it lack...a good engine ( or two for that matter)
The F-51 was a hunk of junk untill it got the Merlin engines...
why did the P-38 not get these well a story comes to mind about how pissed off that lockheed gave the Brits P-38s without counter rotating props......what did that mean? A lot of dead men and destroyed aircraft. too much torque on landing and take off..the plane simply flipped over....
hell I would have been pissed off too....screw the P-38 I would have said...
so they only gave the P-51 the betterengine and from that point on the P-51 became a dream machine...
What if the P-38 had these engines? think of the range..and the high level performance.. She would have been an escort's Babydoll..
A Merlin P38 has been one of those what iff's we all love to argue about, in some ways I'm surprised nobody ever tried it, I know a few people fitted RR Griffon's to P51's for the Reno air races and ended up with insane machines A few other what ifs;
-a RR Merlin powered Westland Whirlwind, the airframe of this fighter was considered sound but was hamstrung by poor engines, with Merlin's it could have been amazing
-a RR Griffon Mosquito, too fast to think about
-a He177 with a well engineered powerplant, most reports agree this was a sweet airframe capable of very useful performance apart from those disastrous engines.... If the DB610 installation had been better engineered this could have been a winner.
-a P39 with a better engine, maybe a Merlin, as the design had promise, when powered by a supercharged Allison it had good performance but for some reason many did not have the super charger
The Bf109 was a superb fighter. The 109 and Spitfire were the only two fighter designs to be first line fighters from the first to last day of the war, quite an achievement, especially given the incredible advances in technology over the course of the war! My favourite was the Bf109G with the Erla canopy.
The Griffon Spitfires were awesome machines, rate of climb was incredible, speed ballistic at all altitudes and they packed a heavy punch, but this came at the expense of the sweet handling of early Spitfires, and I think also at the expense of the elegant lines of the Merlin ones. The Griffon examples were a real handful on take off and landing, some Mk.21's were fitted with contra rotating props to improve this, which was very successful but came near the end of the fighters production life. The Mk.XIV saw service in WW2 in quantity and proved itself a superb fighter, not bad for a design that flew in 1936 and entered squadron service in 1938
All of the aircraft mentioned thus far are excellent in their own right, but I'm truly surprised to see that no one has yet mentioned the Dornier Do 335. While this machine was not manufactured in time to be delivered to the fighter units, it combines the power of two engines (top speed of 472 mph) with the manoeuvrability of a single engine design.
In many respects (except for the poor acceleration of the early jets) the Me 262 outclassed everything else. That said, the Ta 152 (and perhaps even its linear predecessor, the Fw 190 Dora series) likely outclassed anything one-on-one that the Allies could throw against it (Thank goodness for the overwhelming number advantage!). It is notable that whenever Dora-9's were flying top cover for the Me 262 bases (Due to their poor acceleration, they were very vulnerable during takeoff and landing.), no Me 262's were lost to Mustangs, Thunderbolts, Spitfires, or Tempests (or any other allied fighters).
Soon after the war ended the allies tested captured Luftwaffe aircraft mano-a-mano against their best. One such test pitted an Fw 190-D13 against a Hawker Tempest, with the Dora-13 emerging as the clear victor.
Thank goodness that Hitler's amphetamine addiction (along with his Parkinsonism after 1940) caused him to make so many extremely poor decisions during those war years!!
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How come de havilland Mosquito was not mentioned? Don't give the "it was a a light bomber" speech. It was a heck of a night figther plane, a bomber and other important roles as well. It was a good looking plane that did its part pretty well and more.
On the list above I like the p-51D the best. Then the Hurricane and spitfire. On the other guys I like the M-262.
Another formidable beast was the Germann Stuka.
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Mine is the Ta-152 (an FW-190D9 on steroids) If I remember correctly it could operate above 45,000 feet. If Germany had those in quantity in 1943, we would have been in trouble. The Zero is another favorite. Back in the 1970's I worked at the Planes of Fame museum in Chino,Ca. One afternoon shortly after we got the museums Zero in flying condition I had the fun of watching the Zero dogfight a Corsair over the airport! That's something you dont see everyday!