10 Fastest World War II Planes

World War II started with practical and simple equipment but ended with highly developed aircraft. Warbirds are still regarded as some of the most inventive aircraft ever designed.

In just five years, aerial warfare underwent a complete transformation, and modern aviation underwent a technological revolution.

In aviation, at least, the answer is speed—lots of it—to paraphrase Edwin Starr‘s famous song, “War, What Is It Good For.” World War II drove piston engines to ever-higher speeds as military gear designers sought ways to go faster.

10. Republic P-47 Thunderbolt

Top Speed: 443 miles per hour
Type of Aircraft: fighter-bomber
Manufacturer: Republic Aviation
 First flight: May 6, 1941

Republic P-47 Thunderboltphoto source: upload.wikimedia.org

The Republic P-47 Thunderbolt was a single-engine American fighter aircraft used during World War II. It was developed by the Republic Aviation Corporation and entered service in 1941.

The P-47 was a large, robust aircraft with a wingspan of over 40 feet and a maximum takeoff weight of nearly 17,000 pounds. It was powered by a Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp radial engine that produced up to 2,000 horsepower, and it was equipped with eight .50 caliber machine guns for armament.

The P-47 was used extensively by the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) in various roles, including air-to-air combat, close air support, and ground attack. It was known for its
durability and ruggedness were particularly effective in the ground attack role, where it was used to attack enemy ground targets and provide support for Allied ground forces.

Did You Know:

Republic P-47 Thunderbolt was used by the United States Army Air Forces, Royal Air Force, French Air Force, and Peruvian Air Force.

9. North American P-51 Mustang

Top Speed: 440 miles per hour
Type of Aircraft: Fighter aircraft
Manufacturer: North American Aviation
 First flight: October 26, 1940

North American P-51 Mustangphoto source: cdn.britannica.com

The P-51 Mustang is renowned for long-range, high-speed interception and escort operations over a dangerous area, much like its namesake, the road-going Mustang. Early versions, however, were not all that impressive, powered by mediocre Allison engines that experienced power decreases at altitudes greater than 15,000 feet.

By switching to Rolls-Royce Merlin engines with British design, the Mustang went from being merely good to one of the best fighters of World War II. It may not have been the fastest, but its versatility gave it a fearsome reputation. Mustangs had peak speeds of 440 mph and power outputs exceeding 1570 horsepower after World War II.

Did You Know:

North American P-51 Mustang, which left active duty in 1984 (Dominican Air Force). Warbirds and civilians both still utilize them for air racing.

8. Vought F4U Corsair

Top Speed: 446 miles per hour
Type of Aircraft: carrier-based fighter-bomber
Manufacturer: Chance Vought
 First flight: May 29, 1940

Vought F4U Corsairphoto source: upload.wikimedia.org

The F4U is easily recognized by its bent wing form, which alludes to dive-bomber duty. It was the fastest single-seater carrier-borne aircraft manufactured in the US during World War II. However, the Corsair’s distinctive wing configuration has more to do with its engine and propeller placement.

Choosing a radial Pratt & Whitney RB-2800 double wasp motor with 2000+ horsepower required a larger propeller; at 13 feet in diameter, considerable ingenuity was necessary for the folding wing design and ground clearance. More than 12,000 F4Us were made, with the fastest reaching a top speed of 446 mph.

Did You Know:

Vought F4U Corsairs performed admirably as fighter bombers in the Philippines and the Central Pacific. Marine pilots started to take advantage of the type’s impressive qualities in close support during amphibious landings in early 1944.

7. Supermarine Spitfire Mk.24

Top Speed: 454 miles per hour
Type of Aircraft: Fighter aircraft and fighter reconnaissance
Manufacturer: Supermarine
 First flight: November 27, 1941

Supermarine Spitfire Mk.24photo source: preview.redd.it

The Spitfire is a single-engine British fighter aircraft used during World War II. It was developed by Supermarine, a division of the Vickers-Armstrongs aerospace company, and
entered service with the Royal Air Force (RAF) in 1938.

The Spitfire was always a thoroughbred, with the later Mk.24s achieving a verified 454 mph, from the first operational variants powered by Rolls-Merlins until the introduction of more potent Griffon V12s.

The efficiency of the low-drag elliptical wing design, an outgrowth of Supermarine’s record-breaking S6B Schneider trophy winner, is further supported by postwar claims of 600 mph performance.

Did You Know:

The Spitfire is credited with winning this WWII battle, depending on how history interprets the Battle of Britain. The data, however, paint a different picture. Yes, the Spitfire’s superior high-altitude performance was crucial to the outcome, but the Hurricane’s larger deployment and higher kill rate were more critical.

6. Arado Ar 234 Blitz

Top Speed: 462 miles per hour
Type of Aircraft: Reconnaissance bomber aircraft
Manufacturer: Arado Flugzeugwerke
 First flight: June 15, 1943

Arado Ar 234 Blitzphoto source: i.ytimg.com

The Arado Ar 234 Blitz was a German jet-powered bomber used during World War II. It was developed by Arado Flugzeugwerke, a German aircraft manufacturer, and entered service with the Luftwaffe in 1944.

The Ar 234 was a sleek, streamlined aircraft with a wingspan of just over 50 feet and a maximum takeoff weight of around 17,000 pounds. It was powered by two BMW 003 turbojet engines that produced up to 1,984 pounds of thrust each, and it was equipped with various bombs and other ordnance for attacking enemy targets.

Did You Know:

Despite expectations that production would reach 500 per month by the end of 1945, the Ar 234 was only built in small numbers. This was partly because the aircraft had to compete with other models, like the Messerschmitt Me 262 fighter/fighter-bomber, for scarce jet engines and other essential components.

5. Dornier Do-335 Pfeil

Top Speed: 474 miles per hour
Type of Aircraft: fighter-bomber
Manufacturer: Dornier Flugzeugwerke
 First flight: October 26, 1943

Dornier Do-335 Pfeilphoto source: airandspace.si.edu

Another German departure from conventional aircraft design, continuing the odd and wacky theme, the twin-engined Dornier Do-335 attained an astonishing benchmark speed of 474 mph. One of the highest military piston/propeller aircraft is capable of that.

Given its twin-engine designation, you might anticipate a wing-mounted layout, but Dornier chose an odd pull-push layout with Daimler-Benz DB 603E V12 engines instead. Each engine’s 1800 horsepower drove three-bladed VDM props. Another highly inventive design that seemed to come too late to have any significant influence on how World War 2 turned out.

Did You Know:

In January 1945, delivery started. However, only 11 Do 335 A-1 single-seat fighter bombers and two Do 335 A-12 trainers had been finished when the United States Army seized control of the Oberpfaffenhofen facility in late April 1945.

4. Messerschmitt Me.262

Top Speed: 540 miles per hour
Type of Aircraft: Fighter aircraft and fighter-bomber
Manufacturer: Messerschmitt
 First flight: April 18, 1941

Messerschmitt Me.262photo source: warbirdsnews.com

The Messerschmitt Me.262 was a German jet-powered fighter aircraft used during World War II. It was developed by Messerschmitt, a German aircraft manufacturer, and entered service with the Luftwaffe in 1944.

Despite the Me.262’s tardy introduction, Luftwaffe pilots claimed it had killed more than 500 enemies. Its twin Junkers Jumo 004B turbojets also allowed it to outclimb its piston-engined competitors.

The Me.262 was susceptible at low speeds shortly after takeoff, but because turbojet technology was still in its infancy, Allied pilots rapidly learned this and used it to their advantage.

Did You Know:

The Me 262 was challenging to counter due to its high speed and slow rate of ascent. However, the Me 262’s engines, like other turbojet engines at the time, did not provide enough thrust at low airspeeds and had a slow throttle response, making the aircraft vulnerable to attacks in situations like takeoff and landing.

3. Heinkel He.162 Salamander

Top Speed: 562 miles per hour
Type of Aircraft: Fighter jet
Manufacturer: Heinkel
 First flight: December 6, 1944

Heinkel He.162 Salamanderphoto source: i.ytimg.com

The Heinkel He.162 Salamander was a German jet-powered fighter aircraft used during World War II. It was developed by Heinkel, a German aircraft manufacturer, and entered
service with the Luftwaffe in 1945.

The He.162 was designed as a “people’s fighter,” meaning it was intended to be easy to manufacture and operate, and it was intended to be used by pilots with minimal training.
However, it was produced in relatively small numbers, with only around 200 aircraft being built, and it saw limited action before the war’s end.

Did You Know:

The He.162 Salamander fuselage and wings were primarily made of wood, and a single turbojet with a thrust rating of 1760 lbs was mounted unusually. The aircraft was designed to be quickly assembled and simple to maintain.

2. Gloster Meteor

Top Speed: 598 miles per hour
Type of Aircraft: Fighter aircraft
Manufacturer: Gloster Aircraft Company
 First flight: March 5, 1943

Gloster Meteorphoto source: crewdaily.com

The Gloster Meteor was a British jet-powered fighter aircraft used during World War II and the early years of the Cold War. Gloster, a British plane, developed it
manufacturer, and entered service with the Royal Air Force (RAF) in the 1940s.

The Meteor uses an embedded engine design instead of underslung podded engines, which lowers weight and drag. Two Rolls-Royce Derwent 8 turbojets powered the plane, and it could travel at a top speed of 598 mph and produce a combined thrust of 7200 lbs. The Meteor was used sparingly during the final stages of World War II and remained in operation until 1980.

Did You Know:

This fighter jet’s development heavily relied on its turbojet engines, which were developed by Sir Frank Whittle and his company, “Power Jet Ltd.” As a result, the Gloster Meteor was the only jet fighter of Britain and the Allied forces to have ever participated in aerial combat operations during World War II.

1. Messerschmitt Me.163 Komet

Top Speed: 624 miles per hour
Type of Aircraft: Interceptor
Manufacturer: Messerschmitt
 First flight: September 1, 1941

Messerschmitt Me.163 Kometphoto source: ids.si.edu

Messerschmitt Me.163 Komet is the fastest World War II plane, with a top speed of 624 miles per hour. However, unwary Luftwaffe pilots ignited an explosive cocktail of hydrazine/methanol and held on for dear life, turning the aircraft into more of a manned missile than an aircraft.

The Komet’s general design objective was to quickly ascend to its highest point before gliding back to earth and firing shots at Allied aircraft. With just one Walter R-1-203 rocket motor, which produced 880 lbs of thrust in a light 4400 lbs airframe, the aircraft could reach a top speed of 623 mph.

Did You Know:

The Komet’s fuels were highly corrosive and would disintegrate organic matter (such as the pilot). The pilots would dress in unique asbestos fiber suits to prevent this.

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