When it comes to WW2 American fighter planes, nothing can quite compare to their accomplishments in the war effort. These iconic planes helped give Allied forces air superiority during some of their toughest battles against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan; they were instrumental in ensuring victory for America and her allies.

The United States may have entered the Second World War later than the other great powers, but it quickly made its presence known through its superior industrial capacity. One of the most obvious ways that American influence was felt was through its airpower.

For the United States, airpower manufacturing allowed it to leverage its considerable capabilities in engine design and manufacturing. While the country had been an industrial leader before the war, factories were soon retooled to permit planes to be built in record time.

Because of the impressive array of factories and designers that the Americans could quickly bring to bear, as well as the fact that many supply chains for production were more secure than the other powers, it is no wonder that the United States designed a huge number of airplanes, many of which saw service.

In addition to the fighters fielded by every country, the Americans led the way in bomber production, as well as the design of some of the most ubiquitous utility aircraft of the war.

9. Brewster F2A Buffalo

Brewster F2A Buffalo
Editorial Team Brewster F2A Buffalo

Because World War 2 was such a global affair, it is not surprising that planes produced by American companies ended up in service all around the world. What is somewhat shocking is that the F2A Buffalo was used against one of America’s allies. The Finns bought a number of them before the outbreak of hostilities and used them to great effect against the Soviet Air Force.

For Americans, the plane was less popular. The 500 or so used by the United States were typically sent to the Pacific, where they were hated. Boxy and cumbersome, the Buffalo was sent to carrier service because it had an arrestor hook, which made it useful for naval service on aircraft carriers. However, it was so slow against the faster Zeros that some Marines took to calling it a flying coffin.

8. Vought F4U Corsair

Instead, the Pacific War saw much more widely-spread deployment of carrier-based aircraft. Despite weaknesses compared to traditional land-based fighters, the strategic ability of carriers to move with ease through the ocean made them a much better option. From 1942 until 1944, the most widely used carrier-based plane was the F4U Corsair.

The Corsair is most widely recognized for its folding wings and its plexiglass canopy, which made bailing out much easier. Nearly 13,000 of the planes were produced throughout the war, making it a common sight in the Pacific; the famous “Pappy” Boyington flew the plane in Guadalcanal.

However, matched against the Japanese Zero, the Corsair had a number of shortcomings, especially with regard to maneuverability. Additionally, the plane could stall at the low speeds needed for a carrier landing. As such, it became more commonly used as a US Marine fighter plane during the late years of the war.

7. Grumman F6F Hellcat

Replacing the Corsair on American carriers was the F6F Hellcat, designed by Grumman, which was designed with the slow speed needed for carrier landings in mind. More than 12,000 of these were made. Navy pilots loved the Hellcat, and the numbers back up their affection. With a kill ratio of more than 12:1 against the Japanese Zero, it is little wonder why it was so popular.

While the Hellcat was introduced in 1942, it became widespread in 1943 as the navy began to phase out planes like the Corsair. Also equipped with the folding wing design of the Corsair, the Hellcat was a natural carrier fighter. In fact, it claimed more than victories in the air than any other Allied carrier-based aircraft. Best of all, the Hellcat was cheap, costing only 70% of the cost of a P-51 Mustang.

6. Curtiss P-40 Warhawk

The P-40 Warhawk was one of the few American fighter planes of World War II to see active service with American pilots before the official start of hostilities. This is because it was actively used by the Flying Tigers, an all-volunteer unit sent to China to help fight the Japanese. As a ground attack aircraft, the Warhawk saw considerable success, and it was used as such well after other air superiority fighters were introduced.

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Air superiority betrayed the greatest weakness of the Warhawk, in that it was relatively underpowered in comparison to the best German fighters of the early years of the war. As such, while it could emerge victorious, it often took considerable losses in the process. To that end, it was used more in areas away from the European theater of the war. Still, with a relatively low price tag, it is not surprising that nearly 14,000 were built before it was phased out in 1944, all of which were built in Buffalo, New York.

5. Curtiss P-36 Hawk

While the Warhawk may have seen combat before the start of the war, it was the Hawk that won the first victories in the air, at Pearl Harbor. This plane, also built by Curtiss, was being phased out by the beginning of the war, but was used on December 7, 1941 in a limited counterattack against Japanese planes. Only 215 were built for the United States, and at $23,000, they were relatively cheap.

Instead, the P-36 found most of its success during the war as a result of the fact that it had been exported so widely. It was a primary plane of the French Air Force during the Battle of France, and was able to perform considerably well against the Germans. While the Hawk only made up around 13% of the French fighter forces, it won nearly a third of all engagements against the Germans.

4. Northrop P-61 Black Widow

Northrop P-61 Black Widow
Editorial Team Northrop P-61 Black Widow

While the majority of fighters listed so far performed best during the day, the Black Widow was designed from the start to fight at night. Designed by Northrop, only around 700 were built, and at a cost of $190,000 per plane, they were among the most expensive American fighter plane of World War II.

However, the Black Widow was worth it. Carrying a pilot, a gunner, and a radar operator, the Black Widow was much larger than other fighters. The radar operator signaled a major shift; in the past, radar was considered too important to fly. Because of this, the Black Widow excelled at night combat. The Black Widow entered service in 1944, making it a late entrant to the war. However, despite this it was credited with the last attack before VJ day.

3. Republic P-47 Thunderbolt

While the Buffalo may have been used by the Finns against the Soviets, at least one P-47 was used by the Germans against the Allies! With more than 15,000 Thunderbolts produced, it is not surprising that at least one of them was captured by the Germans and used for ground recon.

As for the other 15,635 Thunderbolts, each costing around $83,000, ground recon was only one of the many jobs pilots could be expected to do. Typically, the plane was used as a heavily armed high-altitude fighter, carrying eight 50 caliber machine guns. However, it could be fitted with a considerable bomb-load, meaning it soon found use as a tactical fighter-bomber.

2. Lockheed P-38 Lightning

The P-38 Lightning, designed by Lockheed, was one of the most distinctive looking fighters of the war. With a central cockpit suspended between two fuselages, it was definitely unique. However, it was also the only fighter built across the entire war, with more than 10,000 produced.

The P-38 had one glaring problem, however. It was expensive, costing twice as much as other American fighters. Still, the capabilities of the plane more than made up for it; its incredible range made it popular as a reconnaissance aircraft and bomber escort both in Europe and in the Pacific, and it had the wing strength to make a capable dive bomber.

The P-38 had an enviable reputation among its enemies, with the Germans referring to it as the fork-tailed devil. The 20 mm cannon and four .50 Caliber machine guns surely helped that reputation. High cost may have kept it out of serious contention in the war, but it was more than enough to make an impact.

1. North American P-51 Mustang

No American fighter plane was as widely loved or used as the P-51 Mustang. Designed by North American, more than 15,000 were built from 1942 on, and at around $50,000 per plane, represented no significant jump in cost.

The British-modified P-51 models, utilizing Rolls-Royce Merlin engines, emerged as the most proficient American wartime fighters. With the new engines, power increased from 1,200 hp (895 kW) to 1,620 hp (1,208 kW), and it increased top speed from 390 mph to 440 mph.

By far the greatest advantage of the P-51 Mustang was that it permitted the US Army Air Forces to provide long-range escorts to their B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberator bomber crews across Europe, something that was deemed unnecessary by pre-war doctrine, but the realities of combat soon made apparent.

In fact, the usefulness of the P-51 in Europe, as well as the fact that it was a land-based aircraft, meant that it was not introduced until the late stages of the war to the Pacific theater where they escorted B-29 Superfortresses bombers to Japan.

The P-51 proved to be one of the most enduring designs of the war, remaining as a fighter-bomber into the Korean War and continuing in active service of some militaries into the 1980s.


One of the fastest American planes in WW2 was the P-51 Mustang. With a top speed of over 440 mph, it was able to outmatch most enemy fighters at the time. Its long range also made it a valuable asset for escorting bombers and conducting long-range missions.

The P-51 Mustang was definitely one of the best fighter planes of WW2, but it’s difficult to say if it was the absolute best. It had a powerful engine and excellent maneuverability, which made it highly effective in combat. However, other American fighters like the P-38 Lightning and P-47 Thunderbolt also played crucial roles in the war effort.

The toughest plane in WW2 is often debated, as different planes excelled in different areas. However, one of the most notable tough planes was the Grumman F6F Hellcat. This carrier-based fighter could withstand a significant amount of damage and still remain operational, earning it the nickname “ace maker” for its high success rate in downing enemy aircraft.

Similar to the debate on the best fighter plane of WW2, there is also much discussion on the worst. One of the most commonly cited contenders for this title is the Brewster F2A Buffalo. Its slow speed and lackluster performance in combat made it an easy target for enemy planes, earning it a reputation as one of the least successful American fighters of WWII.

The plane with the most confirmed kills in WW2 is the German Messerschmitt Bf 109. With over 30,000 kills, it was the most widely used fighter by German pilots and was a formidable opponent for Allied forces. However, it’s important to note that kill counts can be subjective and vary based on different sources and criteria.

The Spitfire and Mustang are both iconic fighter planes of WW2, but it’s difficult to say which one was better. The Spitfire was a favorite among British pilots for its exceptional handling and performance, while the Mustang was renowned for its long-range capabilities and effectiveness in escorting bombers. Ultimately, both planes played crucial roles in the war effort and their strengths complemented each other in achieving air superiority over the enemy. So, it is safe to say that both planes were equally important and effective in their own ways.

Fighter jets were not used in WW2 as the technology had not yet been developed. Instead, propeller-driven fighter planes like the P-51 Mustang and the Spitfire were used by the United States and other countries during the war. It wasn’t until after WW2 that jet-powered aircraft became more prevalent and played a significant role in modern warfare.

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