World War II Fighters - United States

01
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Curtiss P-40E Warhawk

Curtiss P-40E Warhawk. Photograph Coutesy of the US Air Force

Uncle Sam Takes to the Sky

At the outbreak of World War II the United States possessed a variety of fighters, many of which were inferior to their Axis opposition. As the war progressed, the American aviation industry designed and produced numerous new fighters which aided in gaining air superiority over Europe and the Pacific for the Allies. Several of these became iconic aircraft from the conflict.

Curtiss P-40 Warhawk

  • Nation: United States
  • Type: Fighter
  • Wartime Service Dates: 1941-1945
  • Range: 650 miles
  • Airspeed: 354 mph
  • Crew: 1
  • Armament: 6 × .50 in. M2 Browning machine guns, 250-1,000 lbs. of bombs
  • Power plant: 1 × Allison V-1710-39 liquid-cooled V12 engine, 1,150 hp
  • Notes: Most famously flown by the American Volunteer Group (Flying Tigers) in China, the P-40 saw extensive service in all theaters and flew in most Allied air forces.
02
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Bell P-39 Airacobra

Bell P-39 Airacobra. Photograph Courtesy of the US Air Force

Bell P-39Q Airacobra

  • Nation: United States
  • Type: Fighter
  • Wartime Service Dates: 1941-1945
  • Range: 525 miles
  • Maximum Speed: 376 mph
  • Crew: 1
  • Armament: 1 x 37 mm M4 cannon, 4 x .30 in. machine guns, 500 lbs. of bombs
  • Power plant: 1 × Allison V-1710-85 liquid-cooled V-12, 1,200 hp
  • Notes: Disliked by the USAAF as it lacked an efficient turbo-supercharger which limited it to low-altitude missions, the P-39 flew with great success with the Soviet Air Force.
03
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Lockheed P-38 Lightning

Lockheed P-38 Lightning. Photograph Courtesy of the US Air Force

Lockheed P-38 Lightning

  • Nation: United States
  • Type: Fighter
  • Wartime Service Dates: 1941-1945
  • Range: 1,300 miles
  • Maximum Airspeed: 443 mph
  • Crew: 1
  • Armament: 1 x Hispano M2(C) 20 mm cannon, 4 x Colt-Browning MG53-2 0.50 in. machine guns, 10 x 5 in. High Velocity Aircraft Rocket OR 4 x M10 three-tube 4.5 in or up to 4,000 lbs. in bombs
  • Power plant: 2 x Allison V-1710-111/113 liquid-cooled turbo-supercharged V-12, 1,725 hp
  • Notes: Though used in all theaters, the P-38 thrived in the Pacific where its long range was a vital asset. During the war, it downed more Japanese aircraft than any other USAAF fighter.
04
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Republic P-47 Thunderbolt

Republic P-47 Thunderbolt. Photograph Coutesy of the US Air Force

Republic P-47 Thunderbolt

  • Nation: United States
  • Type: Fighter
  • Wartime Service Dates: 1942-1945
  • Range: 800 miles
  • Maximum Airspeed: 433 mph
  • Crew: 1
  • Armament: 8 × .50 in. M2 Browning machine guns, up to 2,500 lb of bombs or 10 x 5" unguided rockets
  • Power plant: 1 × Pratt & Whitney R-2800-59 twin-row radial engine, 2,535 hp
  • Notes: One of the key American fighters in Europe, the P-47 was a large, rugged aircraft that excelled as a fighter and a ground attack aircraft.
05
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North American P-51 Mustang

North American P-51D Mustang. Photograph Courtesy of the US Air Force

North American P-51 Mustang

  • Nation: United States
  • Type: Fighter
  • Wartime Service Dates: 1943-1945
  • Range: 1,650 miles w/ external tanks
  • Maximum Airspeed: 437 mph
  • Crew: 1
  • Armament: 6 × 0.50 in. machine guns, up to 2,000 lb of bombs (2 hardpoints) or 10 x 5" unguided rockets
  • Power plant: 1 × Packard V-1650-7 liquid-cooled supercharged V-12, 1,490 hp
  • Notes: A superb fighter and one of the iconic aircraft of the war, the P-51 played a key role over Europe as a long-range bomber escort.
06
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Northrop P-61 Black Widow

Northrop P-61 Black Widow. Photograph Courtesy of the US Air Force

Northrop P-61 Black Widow

  • Nation: United States
  • Type: Fighter
  • Wartime Service Dates: 1944-1945
  • Range: 610 miles
  • Maximum Airspeed: 366 mph
  • Crew: 2-3
  • Armament: 4 × 20 mm Hispano M2 cannon in ventral fuselage, 4 × .50 in. M2 Browning machine guns (upper turret), 1,600 lbs of bombs or 6 x HVAR unguided rockets
  • Power plant: 2 × Pratt & Whitney R-2800-65W Double Wasp radial engines, 2,250 hp
  • Notes: A dedicated night fighter with onboard radar, a P-61 was credited with the final kill of the war on August 14, 1945.
07
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Brewster F2A Buffalo

Brewster F2A-1 Buffalo, 1942. Photograph Courtesy of the US Navy History & Heritage Command
  • Nation: United States
  • Type: Fighter
  • Wartime Service Dates: 1941-1945
  • Range: 1,000 miles
  • Maximum Airspeed: 301 mph
  • Crew: 1
  • Armament: 1 × 0.30 in. Browning AN machine gun and 1 × 0.50 in. M2 Browning machine gun in the fuselage. Additional 2 × 0.50 in M2s mounted in wings
  • Power plant: 1 × Wright R-1820-34 Cyclone 9, 940 hp
  • Notes: Used early in the war, the Buffalo was quickly found to be inferior to most Japanese fighters and was retired from combat service after the Battle of Midway in June 1942. Dubbed the "flying coffin," the aircraft was assigned to training duties.
08
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Grumman F4F Wildcat

F4F-3 Wildcats flown by Lt. Cmdr. John S. Thach and Lt. Edward O'Hare, April 1942. Photograph Courtesy of the US Naval History & Heritage Command

Grumman F4F Wildcat

  • Nation: United States
  • Type: Fighter
  • Wartime Service Dates: 1941-1945
  • Range: 770 miles
  • Maximum Airspeed: 354 mph
  • Crew: 1
  • Armament: 6 × .50 in. M2 Browning machine guns, 2 × 100 lb. bombs and/or 2 × 58 gallon drop tanks
  • Power plant: 1 × Pratt & Whitney R-1830-86 double-row radial engine, 1,200 hp
  • Notes: The backbone of the US Navy's fighter groups during the first half of the war, the rugged Wildcat bore the brunt of the fighting during the critical early campaigns in the Pacific when Japanese air power was at its peak.
09
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Grumman F6F Hellcat

Grumman F6F Hellcats. Photograph Source: Public Domain

Grumman F6F Hellcat

  • Nation: United States
  • Type: Fighter
  • Wartime Service Dates: 1943-1945
  • Range: 945 miles
  • Maximum Airspeed: 380 mph
  • Crew: 1
  • Armament: 6 × .50 in. M2 Browning machine guns, 6 x HVAR unguided rockets or 2,000 lbs. bombs
  • Power plant: 1 × Pratt & Whitney R-2800-10W "Double Wasp" with two-speed, two-stage supercharger, 2,000 hp
  • Notes: The design of the F6F Hellcat took into account the lessons learned while fighting the Japanese A6M Zero. It proved the most successful naval fighter of the war downing 5,271 enemy aircraft.
10
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Chance Vought F4U Corsair

F4U Corsair taking off from USS Boxer during the Korean War, 1951. Photograph Courtesy of the US Navy History & Heritage Command

Chance Vought F4U Corsair

  • Nation: United States
  • Type: Fighter
  • Wartime Service Dates: 1942-1945
  • Range: 1,015 miles
  • Maximum Airspeed: 425 mph
  • Crew: 1
  • Armament: 6 × .50 in. M2 Browning machine guns, 4× 5 in. HVAR rockets or 2,000 lbs. of bombs.
  • Power plant: 1 × Pratt & Whitney R-2800-8W radial engine, 2,250 hp
  • Notes: One of the most formidable American fighters of the war, the F4U Corsair struck fear in Japanese pilots. Retained after the war, the Corsair later saw service during the Korean War.