10 Iconic Aircraft of World War II

“10 Iconic Aircraft of World War II is a fascinating look at ten airplanes that made a huge impact during the Second World War. From fighter planes to bombers, each aircraft played a crucial role in the war effort. This article explores their stories and how they changed the course of history through air combat and strategic missions.

World Wars 1 and 2 have been the most devastating in human history; the technology we are witnessing today in the War Machines is the result of these wars. One of the most crucial machines in any armed forces is the aircraft. And they have played a significant role in these wars. 

10 Iconic Aircraft of World War II

1. North American P-51 Mustang (USA)

10 Iconic Aircraft of World War II
North American P-51 Mustang

This single-seat fighter is not only considered by Americans to be the best fighter of World War II. It terrified the Germans in Europe and the Japanese in the Pacific.

Although it was initially supposed to be a machine designed for the British, the Americans later started making it. The original strategy of escorting the bombers and thus ensuring their protection proved to be unfortunate, as enemy machines had the advantage of the attack. 

Fortunately, the pilots realized that they could use the heavy bombers they were supposed to protect as bait and change the tactics of the attack. The changed strategy resulted in fewer bombers and more German fighters being destroyed. 

Technical data

• Crew: 1 pilot

• Span: 11.28 m

• Length: 9.84 m

• Height: 4.13 m

• Maximum speed: 705 km / h at an altitude of 7620 m

• Range:

• 1530 km or

• 3700 km with additional fuel tanks

Armament

• 6 × M2 Browning machine gun caliber 12.7 mm (2 × 400 and 4 × 270 rounds)

• Max. 908 kg bombs (two at 1000 pounds) on hangers under the wing

• 6 127 mm HVAR missiles

2. Focke-Wulf Fw-190 (Germany) 

10 Iconic Aircraft of World War II
Focke-Wulf Fw-190

RAF pilots learned a hard lesson when this single-engine fighter took to the skies. On September 1, 1941, they attacked a group of British Aircraft.

The surprise attack on the French Gravelines ended with four Allied Aircraft coming to the ground, while none of the Germans suffered any significant damage. The Focke-Wulf Fw-190 deserved such an entrée; in the hands of an experienced pilot, it was a top machine. 

Technical data type Fw 190 A-8

• Crew: 1

• Span: 10.51 m

• Length: 9 m

• Height: 3.95 m

• Maximum speed at optimal altitude: 645 km / h (1.42 ATA), 656 km / h (1.65 ATA) at 5500 m

• Range: 800 km

Armament in the basic version

• 2 × 13mm machine gun MG 131/13 with 475 rounds per gun

• 4 × 20mm cannon MG 151 / 20E with 200-250 rounds per gun (internal) and 130-140 rounds per gun (external) 

3. Supermarine Spitfire (United Kingdom)

10 Iconic Aircraft of World War II
Supermarine Spitfire

The Supermarine Spitfire is just the wave of air that washed the German Luftwaffe from the sky over Britain. 

If the phrase “World War II air combat” is used in the plan, the second plan reads “Spitfire,” an agile pilot whose prototype Supermarine Type 300 was completed on February 18, 1936, by designer Reginald J. Mitchell

The prototype with serial number K5054 first took off on March 5, 1936. The first machines came to the unit, from the 19th Squadron, until the end of 1938, when it became clear that Nazi Germany, under Hitler, was deadly serious about the war and the Millennium Empire. 

Technical data (Spitfire LF Mk. IXC)

• Crew: 1 (pilot)

• Span: 11.23 m

• Length: 9.54 m

• Height: 3.84 m

• Maximum speed (at the height of 6400 m): 650 km / h

• Cruising speed: 520 km / h

• Range: 698 km

Armament 

• Two cannons, British Hispano Mk.II caliber 20 mm (120 rounds per gun)

• Four Browning machine guns caliber 7.7 mm (350 rounds per gun)

4.

Messerschmitt Bf 109

(Germany)

10 Iconic Aircraft of World War II
Messerschmitt Bf 109

This type of German fighter was often compared to the Spitfire described above. The tactical advantage of the British in the Spitfires was the fights at low altitudes, which did not suit the Bf 109 pilots very well.

The Messerschmitt Bf 109 and the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 formed the backbone of the Luftwaffe fighter forces. It is the most produced fighter aircraft and one of the most successful ones. 

Technical data

• Crew: 1 (pilot)

• Span: 9,924 m

• Length:

• Height: 2,6 m

• Maximum speed: 620-680 km / h depending on engine and equipment version

Equipment

• 2 × 13mm machine gun MG 131

• 1 × 20mm cannon MG 151/20 (or 1 × 30mm cannon MK 108, G-6 / U4)

• 1 × 300l additional tank or 1 × 250kg bomb or 4 × 50kg bomb (G- 6 / R1)

• 2 × War. Gr.21 missiles (G-6 with R2)

• 2 × 30mm cannon MK 108 under the wings (G-6 with R4)

• 2 × 20mm cannon MG 151/20 under the wings (G-6 with R6)

5. Mitsubishi A6M Zero (Japan)

10 Iconic Aircraft of World War II
Mitsubishi A6M Zero : Image credit: Kogo

When Americans met the Mitsubishi A6M Zero in the Pacific, they were surprised. This highly maneuverable Aircraft turned out to be an exceptional fighter jet.

Technical data

• Crew: 1

• Length: 9.05 m

• Span: 12.00 m

• Maximum speed: 533 km / h

• Range: 3105 km

• 2 × synchronized machine gun Type 97 caliber 7.7 mm in the hood. In later versions of the A6M, Type 97 was replaced by a large-caliber 13.2 mm machine gun, Type 3.

• 2 × 20 mm fixed cannons Type 99 in the wings.

• Bombs:

• 2 × 30 kg and

• 1 × 60 kg bombs or

• 2 × fixed 250 kg bombs

6.

Junkers 87 Stuka

(Germany)

10 Iconic Aircraft of World War II
Junkers 87 Stuka

Being a dive bomber, It was not so skilled to match the Spitfires in air combat, but in bombing accuracy, it was one of the most valuable Aircraft in the role of “flying artillery.” 

Technical data

• Crew: 2 (pilot, machine gunner-observer)

• Span: 13.8 m

• Length: 11 m

• Height: 4.23 m

• Maximum speed: 390 km / h

Armament

• Range: 500 km with a load of 500 kg bombs

• 2 × forward aiming machine guns MG 17 caliber 7.92 mm, 1 × backward machine gun MG 15 caliber 7.92 mm

• 1 × 250 kg bomb under the fuselage and 4 × 50 kg bomb, two bombs under each wing.

7. Ilyushin – 2 Sturmovik (Soviet Union)

10 Iconic Aircraft of World War II
Ilyushin – 2 Sturmovik

Soviets also have their own aviation legend. It’s a successful fighter against armored targets, especially tanks, Ilyushin – 2 Sturmovik

The Soviets built these heavy armored Aircraft in more than 36,000 units during the war. The prototype, initially designated CKB-55 (military designation BŠ-2), took off on October 2, 1939, and the first machines reached the units before the invasion of the USSR in May 1941. 

Pilots lacked experience during the Soviet invasion because there wasn’t enough time to retrain and fly crews. Later models had single- and two-seaters.

Technical data

• Crew: 1st prototype (CKB-55) – 1 pilot, 1 shooter, type Il-2 (1941-1942) – 1 pilot, type Il-2m3 (since the end of 1942) – 1 pilot, 1 shooter

• Length: 11.60 m

• Span: 14.60 m

• Altitude: 4.20 m (in some sources, it is stated as 3.40 m)

• Maximum speed: 414 km / h at an altitude of 3000 m

• Range: 640 to 720 km

 Il-2 had different variants of armament:

• 2 × 20 mm cannon ŠVAK in the wings with 500 rounds for each and 2 × 7.62 mm machine gun ŠKAS in the wings

• 2 × 23 mm VJa-23 with 300 rounds for each in the wings and 2 × 7.62 mm machine gun ŠKAS in the wings

• 2 × 37 mm automatic anti-tank cannon 11-P-37 caliber 37 mm

• 1 × movable 12.7 mm machine gun UBT with 150 rounds controlled by the shooter

• 4 × 100 kg bomb in the bomber

• 2 × 100 kg or 250 kg bomb on the outer hangers under the wings

• 8 × unguided missiles RS-82 or RS-132 under the wings (in case he did not carry other suspended weapons)

• PTAB – cumulative bombs in magazines DAG-10

• torpedo

8. Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress (USA)

10 Iconic Aircraft of World War II
Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress

American four-engine strategic bombers, especially the Boeing B-17 (known as the Flying Fortress), greatly affected the events during World War II. This heavy, long-range bomber led a US Air Force attack in occupied Europe and bombed strategically to slow Nazi Germany’s industry. Daily German raids killed 47,000 pilots.

Technical data

• Crew: 10

• Length: 22.78 m

• Span: 31.93 m

• Height: 5.82 m

• Range: maximum range 7113 km with additional tanks; normal range 2575 km with a load of 2722 kg bombs

Equipment

• 13 × movable machine gun M2 Browning caliber 12.7 mm

• 7983 kg bombs in the fuselage bomb bay (capacity 4355 kg – usually six 726kg bombs, or eight 454kg bombs, or sixteen 227kg bombs) and two 1814kg bombs on external hinges

9. Vought F4U Corsair (USA)

10 Iconic Aircraft of World War II
Vought F4U Corsair

This American fighter distinguished itself not only in World War II but subsequently also in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Its production took place in the years 1940–to 1952, and 12,571 pieces were produced.

The planes began combat in 1943 from Guadalcanal. VMF-124 deployed its F4U-1 here on February 14. F4F Wildcat fighters fought the Japanese Zera in the Pacific and lost.

Technical data

• Crew: 1 (pilot)

• Span: 12.50 m

• Length: 10.26 m

• Height: 4.5 m

• Range: 1,617 km

• 6 × M2 Browning machine gun caliber 0.50 in (12, 7 mm), 400 rounds per gun

• 4 × cannon AN / M3 caliber 0.79 in (20 mm), 231 rounds per gun

• 8 × 12.7 cm missiles

• 1800 kg bombs

10. Messerschmitt 262 (Germany)

10 Iconic Aircraft of World War II
Messerschmitt 262

The Messerschmitt 262 is the last on this list, but that doesn’t mean it’s the worst. The Me-262 was revolutionary, and if German industry were able to produce much-needed numbers, the Luftwaffe would regain air superiority. 

No Allied fighter could match it when it was introduced in September 1944. The Swallow (Schwalbe) was supposed to be one of Hitler’s secret miracle weapons and could change the conditions in the war sky. Its development began before the war. 

Despite being developed before the war, not more than 200 were operational at a time.  Even Czechoslovakia had its Swallows. Immediately after the war, on May 27, 1945, an agreement was reached to complete several Me 262s for the Czechoslovak Air Force at the Avia factory in Čakovice. 

Technical data

• Crew: 1

• Span: 12.51 m

• Length: 10.58 m

• Height: 3.83 m

• Maximum speed: 870 km / h in 5400 m

• Range (at an altitude of 9000 m, with 1800 l. Fuel ): 1050 km

Equipment

• 4 × 30mm cannon MK 108 with a supply of 2 × 80 rounds per weapon (lower pair of cannons) and 2 × 100 rounds (upper)

• 2 bombs weighing 250 kg (each)

• 24 pieces of missiles R4M caliber 55 mm

Conclusion

In conclusion, 10 Iconic Aircraft of World War II provides a comprehensive look at ten airplanes that made a significant impact during the conflict. From the legendary Spitfire to the formidable B-17 Flying Fortress, each aircraft played a vital role in shaping the outcome of the war. By exploring their stories and the impact they had on air combat and strategic missions, this article highlights the crucial role aviation played in World War II.

World War II was a turning point in the evolution of military aviation. The conflict saw the introduction of iconic aircraft that changed the course of history. From the American P-51 Mustang to the German Messerschmitt Bf 109, these planes played crucial roles in air combat, strategic bombing, and reconnaissance.