Best Aircraft of the Second World War?



But both the Bf 109 and the Sturmovik are among the most produced aircraft ever.

Sure, it could be considered the “best infantry-support airplane,” especially the G model with the twin 37 mm cannons. I’ve heard mixed reports regarding the “Trumpets of Jericho.” But the Stuka wasn’t the only exceptional attacker. The Il-2 was great, as was the P-47 Thunderbolt and Typhoon.

Infantry support mission makes me think of a close-support craft. Dive bombers (like the Ju 87) were for pinpoint attack, as an extension of artillery. Things like the Hs 129 was a purpose crafted tank-killer. But the Hs 123 may have been one of the best infantry support aircraft, at least in Europe. It was a biplane, light, quick-turning, and decently rugged.

The concept of “infantry support,” where some poor soldier in a foxhole calls in an airstrike, didn’t really exist until '44. The P-47 and Typhoon strikes in France, as well as the close-support work of the F4U in places like Okinawa, brought about the modern idea as we know it.

That being said, the Ju 87G was deadly in the right hands. And those hands were Hans-Ulrich Rudel. - the most dangerous man in an airplane!. Seriously, he sank a battleship.


A COIN aircraft, before it became fashionable :wink:


Maybe… is this true of, say the Pacific? Could a counter argument be raised there for, say the Catalina?

And riffing on this theme, the Ju-88 for the Med?


Which was the best jet aircraft? Fighter, fighter bomber, and/or tactical bomber?
(Can we disregard Hitler’s demand that the Me-262 be a fighter bomber, and just call it a fighter?)


Q: “Bang for buck?” Which was the cheaper airframe, what was the maintenance like?

(I’m not a propeller head by inclination, but these are the questions which come to mind for me. It reminds me of the Sherman or T-34 vs Tiger or Panther arguments…)


Like most German “wonder weapons”, the Me-262 entered mass production at the wrong end of the war. It had a tremendous advantage of speed and maneuverability in a dogfight, but that was about the only place where it had an advantage. Fighting in a defensive war, its advantages were eclipsed by all of its disadvantages.

Jet engines were new and required precious resources and skill to produce and maintain. The engines had a MTBO (mean time between overhaul) measured in the low tens of hours as opposed to hundreds of hours for your average fighter or thousands for a transport airplane. Early jet engines also had poor throttle response, especially compared to piston engines of the era. This mean that a flat, slow, stable approach was needed for landing. In this phase of flight it was extremely vulnerable to attack. As Chuck Yeager is so fond of repeating, the first jet aircraft he ever saw he shot down. That’s because it was on final approach and was easy pickings for his P-51. Once on the ground it was as vulnerable as any other aircraft. Fighting offensively, none of its issues would have been serious. However, in 1944/45 they were fatal.


Yeah, some of these are quite relative and dependent on preferences (etc), much like the discussion of “best tank,” “best battleship,” “best rifle.” But hearing someone else’s perspective can be a good way to learn something new.

As for “bang for buck,” the Messerschmitt was probably cheaper at the onset, sans updates. This is due to being smaller, and having almost the entire production line of one engine dedicated to the frame.

In the field, though, the Focke-Wulf would have been able to get more flight hours in between servicing, thanks to wider landing gear and the radial engine. Better visibility, a better armament (generally), and better armor meant it was more versatile.

It’s all relative.


The 190 was at least 5 years newer though, at a time when 5 years counted for a lot. If you look at the installed engine power of fighters, over the lifetime of the 109 it goes from about 800hp to over 2000 and that has a big effect of fighter design allowing for big, heavy brutes like the 190 or the P-47 when the designers of older aircraft had to make some different design choices because they had a lot less engine power to play with.



You see this with the P-38, which was cutting edge in 1940, but outclassed by 1945, and out of inventory before 1948.

Japanese fighters that were “world beaters” in 1939 (A6M, Ki-43) were outclassed by 1943.

On the other hand, the Fairey Swordfish torpedo bomber, which was considered outdated before the first day of the war outlived its replacement (Albacore), and served alongside the replacement of the replacement (Barracuda).

The P-51, which was a slight improvement over the P-40, became a first-class fighter when re-engined with the Rolls-Royce.


Alright so this was a hard/odd question for me. There were several planes that had a massive impact on the war and I love them all equally.

Il-2 Shturmovik

With over 30k built it was an extremely successful close air support aircraft and capable of operating without air superiority, something the cumbersome yet terrifying Stuka lacked.


(I had a much longer post with 2 other aircraft, B-17 the backbone of allied bomber campaign and the P-61 Black Widow because it was really gnarly and had great interceptor capabilities.)


Like Stalin said: “Our Red Army now needs IL-2 aircraft like the air it breathes, like the bread it eats.” The club of “overall impactful” aircraft is relatively exclusive. P-51 Mustang, Bf 109, A6M, Spitfire, but they’re all fighters. Not this big, beefy, manly flying brickhouse of a tank.


When it comes to Fighters I believe its a two man battle between the FW-190 and the P-51B. Longevity/Impact vs Design/Innovation.


In a one-to-one battle, with all things considered equal, I’d say the FW 190 has the advantage thanks to the more resilient radial engine.

However, the P-51B is the best version of the P-51. And, yes, I know that some will consider that heretical. But the P-51B had a higher top speed, more fuel, and 50% more ammunition for the guns. (Technically the same amount of ammo, but spread of for 4 guns, instead of 6.) And when fitted with a Malcom hood, the B-model Mustang had better visibility compared to the D-model.

In the end, the F4U Corsair was superior. It had longevity (serving into the late 50s), impact (literally, in ground attack throughout the Pacific and Korea), design (clever wing design), innovation (used a new welding technique).


How about a change of pace?

Most everyone will agree that the B-17 Flying Fortress was one of the best and most effective bombers of the war.

But the Lancaster was superior. Agree? Disagree?


You’re right. My bad, i thought you said “aircraft” The Sturmovik was a CAS aircraft.
Then i’ll say the Yaks: over 36.000 made, between the Yak-1, 7, 9, and 3.
Which are as different between each other, if not less so, than the 109 A, B, C, D, E, F, G, K versions were. :wink:


For daylight formation bombing, B-17. For area bombing at night, Lancaster. How’s that?


The Lanc was also exceptional at heavy bombing (carrying the “block buster”), and busting dams.

Speaking of beautiful British birds, I am partial to the Mosquito. Because who doesn’t love a wooden speed demon able to do pretty much anything while making the head of the Luftwaffe rage with jealousy?