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"Best Fighter Aircraft of the 1940s" Topic

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Tgerritsen Supporting Member of TMP28 May 2022 2:34 p.m. PST

Continuing with a decade a day, we hit the main event- the best fighter aircraft of the decade from 1940-1949. This was an amazing decade with designs going from a gleam in a designer's eye to a fully operational aircraft in a time frame that would make modern aircraft designers cry. We start this decade with biplanes still in the air and end with jet aircraft taking the mantle from their propeller breathren.

If you want to go back and talk about earlier decades, you can do so here:

Best Fighter of the 1910s TMP link

Best Fighter of the 1920s TMP link

Best Fighter of the 1930s TMP link

I imagine there will be quite a few people pointing at the P51, The Cadillac of the Sky, or the Spitfire, which had a dazzling array of marks during this decade. For me, however, it has to be the Vought F4U Corsair. This gull wing beast was the plane that made me interested in combat aircraft and one of the most formidable radial fighters ever built. It took the Royal Navy to teach us yanks to use the Corsair as a proper carrier fighter, but prior to the the Marines were flying them from various island bases to tear up Japanese fighters and bombers all over the Pacific Ocean. You find several flying Corsairs to this day flying in air shows against P51s and Bearcats and holding their own. Decorated in World War Two and The Korean War, the Corsair was a great fighter and rough and rugged craft for its pilots.


Other aircraft I would point to as the best of the decade include:

The aforementioned P51-


Marry American industrial muscle to a British Merlin engine and you get one of the best propeller fighters ever created.

The FW-190D-9 and Ta-152
An evolutionary pair of Kurt Tank designs that were merciless at high altitude against fighters and bombers.



The A6M2 Zero has to be mentioned for its agility and incredible long range for a fighter. Though it was eventually studied and defeated, it terrified allied pilots all over the Pacific in the first two years of the war and beyond.


The Mosquito. It was a fighter, a bomber, an interceptor, a recon aircraft or whatever the hell you needed it to be. Twin Merlins and a wooden frame and you had an outstanding tactical aircraft.


Finally, special mention to both the MiG-15 and the F-86, which were operational in 1949 and thus fit the criteria above. Both aircraft were beneficiaries of the data collected from German engineers and scientists who had been developing new aircraft at the end of the war. These aircraft were surprisingly similar in some ways, though each had it's own advantages. The MiG-15 is noteworthy due to the fact that the Russians began the decade with at best middling fighter aircraft and were able to catch up and bypass other allied powers in aircraft design and production by the end of the decade (with a little help from the British, who gave them engines to copy). These aircraft were harbingers of the future of combat aircraft and symbols of just how far aircraft design had come in just one decade.



Father of Cats Supporting Member of TMP28 May 2022 5:04 p.m. PST

F8F Bearcat?

As for the Zero, by mid-war, the lesson was learned: speed kills. The Zero was a remnant from an earlier era.

Zephyr128 May 2022 8:03 p.m. PST

No love for the P38? It solved flight problems for the jets that not even the Germans were able to figure out…

Prince Alberts Revenge28 May 2022 8:29 p.m. PST

I will continue to talk about the prettiest…the P40 (even though it was produced in '39), the Cr42 (again, even though it was produced in '39) and the FW-190.

Personal logo Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP29 May 2022 1:12 a.m. PST

The F-86 has to count as the best. It was the best of the 1940s jet fighter designs, any one of which could outfight any prop fighter of the 1940s.

A more interesting evaluation might be "most successful", which can be interpreted a lot of interesting ways: kill ratios, diversity of roles, longevity in service, number of successful theaters, quantity produced, importance to its military, etc.

- Ix

Fitzovich Supporting Member of TMP29 May 2022 2:17 a.m. PST

I will go with the P-51 Mustang.

JimDuncanUK29 May 2022 3:35 a.m. PST

Spitfire, Spitfire and the Spitfire, oh and the Gloster Meteor.

JMcCarroll29 May 2022 8:20 a.m. PST

If you don't include jets then….

Low attitude Hawker Tempest
High attitude Ta-152
Mid attitude and overall the P-51K

Little Red29 May 2022 2:04 p.m. PST

Again, too many to choose.

I like the P38, P47, P51, F8F Bearcat, Fw190a, Hawker Tempest and many more.

14Bore30 May 2022 3:02 p.m. PST

Think most would say Mustangs but Corsair to me

Timbo W31 May 2022 4:40 p.m. PST

F86A Sabre 208
MiG 15 212
Saab J29A Tunnan 206

So a surprise, the MiG wins, though not for long as late versions of the Sabre were superior

MIG 15 bis 248
F86K 273

Personal logo Herkybird Supporting Member of TMP02 Jun 2022 1:00 p.m. PST

Me 262..


R Leonard02 Jun 2022 4:55 p.m. PST

"It took the Royal Navy to teach us yanks to use the Corsair as a proper carrier fighter"

Nonsense. The USN was operating F4Us in combat off aircraft carriers BEFORE the Fleet Air Arm . . . historical fact. Further ever single one of the FAA squadrons operating F4Us received their planes at USN air stations, in the US, trained, and carrier qualified on USN aircraft carriers . . . who do you suppose ran those training programs?

Tortorella Supporting Member of TMP02 Jun 2022 7:42 p.m. PST

P-51. Best overall and huge impact on the air war.

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP23 Jun 2022 1:10 p.m. PST



If you are off the coast of Japan, then the F4 Corsair or the Hellcat (to use British terminology) as carrier launched.

If over Berlin then the P51D any day.

If not for dogfighting then the Mosquito for Recce, Bombing or Nightfighting.

The Me 262 still had to land at a sensible speed and was wiped out in the process.

But the (and I wish this term had died out in the 60s, when we all used it) "coolest" was the P40…early marks especially.

"Best" has to be end of the war obviously. But which performed best, at the time, in its sphere of conflict? Answer, most Finnish fighters, even the Buffalo or P36!

Wolfhag24 Jun 2022 3:23 a.m. PST

Corsair the best overall.

Why? It can handle the roles of interceptor (high rate of climb), fly off a carrier, great ground support (FG1 model), excellent dog fighter, night fighter, recon, 6x .50 MG or 4x 20mm cannons is adequate for any engagement.

It was not without it's own teething problems like any other aircraft. There is a reason the US continued to build them after WWII but not Mustangs and P-47's.


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