The airplane was first invented by the Wright brothers in 1903. Since then, aviation technology has rapidly advanced, with military aircraft playing a vital role in modern warfare. S
ome of the greatest aerial battles in history took place during World War II. The United States alone produced more than 300,000 airplanes for the war.
Here are some of the most iconic airplanes used in World War II.
The Supermarine Spitfire was a single seat fighter plane that was used by the Royal Air Force of Great Britain and other Allied forces during World War II. The Spitfire was by far the most produced British fighter plane produced for the war. It was designed to be a short range, high speed aircraft with excellent maneuverability. The Spitfire became an iconic plane due to its important role in winning the Battle of Britain, in which the entire Royal Air Force took to the air to counter a Nazi bombing campaign. After winning the battle, the Spitfire became the backbone of the Royal Air Force.
The Republic P-47 Thunderbolt was an American fighter plane produced by Republic Aviation from 1941 to 1945. It was equipped with .50 caliber machine guns and rockets for ground attacks. When fully loaded with bombs, this plane could weigh in excess of eight tons, making it one of the heaviest fighter planes used in the war. The P-47 became one of America’s top fighters in the war and it was also flown by several other Allied forces including Britain, France and the Soviet Union. The Republic was a versatile aircraft, effective for both high altitude air to air combat as well as ground attacks.
The Grumman F6F Hellcat was an American fighter plane which became the dominant US aircraft during the second half of World War II. The Hellcat was designed to compete with Japan’s Mitsubishi A6M Zero, which was the top fighter plane at the time. The Hellcat made its debut in 1943 and quickly gained a reputation for being tough, reliable and maneuverable. It was able to outperform the Japanese Zero and win America’s dominance in the pacific theater.
The Messerschmitt Bf 109 was a German fighter plane that was one of the most important aircraft in the Nazi’s air force. When the Bf 109 was first introduced in 1937, it was one of the most advanced fighter planes of its time. It featured a closed canopy, a metal monocoque construction and a retractable landing gear. The plane was powered by a liquid cooled V-12 engine. The Bf 109 was designed to be an intercepter, but later models were repurposed to serve various roles such as bomber escort, night bomber and reconnaissance plane.
The Focke-Wulf FW-190 was a single engine, single seat, German fighter plane used by the Luftwaffe of Nazi Germany. The FW-190, along with the Messerschmidt, made up the back bone of the Nazi air force and enabled much of their advancement in the war. The FW-190 began its operations over France in late 1941 and quickly out matched the British Spitfire planes in use at the time. The FW-109 become one of the most popular fighter planes of World War II, with many of the top fighter aces of Nazi Germany scoring their victories while piloting this aircraft.
The Lockheed P-38 Lightning was an American fighter plane used in various combat missions including bomber, night fighter and long range escort fighter. It quickly became the first choice of America’s top aces. The unique design used twin booms with a center housing containing the pilot’s cockpit and armaments. This distinctive design led to the P-38 being nick named “the fork tailed devil” by the Germans and “two planes, one pilot” by the Japanese. The P-38 was also used in an aerial reconnaissance role, with more that 90% of the aerial footage from World War II being filmed from this aircraft.
The Yakovlev Yak-9 was the best fighter plane used by the Soviet Union during World War II. The Yak-9 was introduced to the war during the battle of Stalingrad in 1942 where it played a vital role in a Soviet victory over the German Luftwaffe. The Yak-9 went on to help the Soviets win air superiority over the Germans again at the battle of Kursk. The Yak-9 was built using an all around vision canopy and a light weight design which allowed for more fuel and armaments. More than 16,000 Yak-9s were built for the war, making it the most produced Soviet airplane at the time.
The Mitsubishi A6M Zero was a Japanese fighter plane used by the Imperial Japanese Navy from 1940 to 1945. When introduced in 1940, it was considered the most capable fighter plane in the world due to its extremely long range and easy maneuverability. By 1943, the Allied powers were able to introduce more competitive aircraft that was able to exceed the firepower and speed of the Japanese Zero. The Japanese Empire continued using this plane for the duration of the war, producing more Zeros than any other aircraft. Of the 353 aircraft that attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, 79 of them were Zero fighter planes.