Top Ten Worst Aircraft of WWII

For the most part, the aircraft at the top of the WW II era are easily accessible and known by anyone who has studied, or even lived, the era.  However, it can be a little more difficult when trying to create a list about the worst aircraft of World War II.  The number of lists for the worst aircraft could feasibly be as long as there are number of people with opinions, unless the list is compiled using specific facts, such as overall performance, number manufactured, kill ratio, etc.  Below is a list in alphabetical order of some of the aircraft which could comprise a single top ten list, or at the very least, be a part of that list.  They are presented here in alphabetical order. The Armed Forces History Museum in Largo, FL has a number of WWII scale models for sale on-line and in the museum store.   Museum Store                 Boulton-Paul Defiant MK.I – Great Britain  No forward guns Slow in maneuvers Two squadrons annihilated in a single day Briefly utilized on night missions Eventually used only as part of rescue missions, gunnery training and target towing     Brewster Buffalo – United States Produced only from 1938 – 1941 Poor performance possibly due to light weight of the aircraft First monoplane fighter for US Navy First monoplane with arrestor hook Only four nations other than US used this aircraft Of the four, only one (Finland) found it to be effective             Blackburn Botha – Great Britain Under-powered Unstable airframe Extraordinary number of fatal crashes,...

WWII’s Top Ten Aircraft

A number of variants can be used when determining the top ten aircraft from WWII.  While it would be difficult to get a general consensus of an absolute single list, below are ten that certainly are worthy of their place in the World War II history books.  The list is presented in alphabetical order.    Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress – An authentic Norden bombsight is on display at the Armed Forces History Museum in Largo, FL – The B-17 Flying Fortress is a well-known aircraft from WWII is best remembered for the strategic bombing missions over Germany focusing on industrial and military targets.  The Norden bombsight (which was top secret during World War II) was used on these missions to ensure accurate hits of the intended targets.  The B-17 could fly higher than any other aircraft of its time and, even though it was a bomber, the plane was equipped to properly defend itself.  The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress dropped more bombs than any other aircraft during WWII.  It dropped more bombs over Germany than all other bombers combined.   Focke-Wulf Fw-190 – This single-engine German aircraft from WWII is referred to as one of the top fighters of all times.  The Fw-190 made a significant impact in the skies over Europe and was feared by many of its counterparts.  The versatility of the aircraft allowed the German Air Force Luftwaffe to use it as a fighter, fighter-bomber and as an anti-tank aircraft.    Ilyushin-2 Shturmovik – This WWII Russian aircraft is known for its incredible record in destroying enemy tanks, which earned its reputation as  the #1 anti-tank...

British Spitfire – A World War II Fighter

First designed in the 1930’s, this single-seat fighter, World War II British aircraft was actually the only British fighter that was produced during the war.   Reginald J. Mitchell, chief designer at Supermarine Aviation Works, designed the fighter as short-range, but also as a high-performance interceptor.   The speed of this aircraft was deemed an essential quality of this fighter making it possible for the British Royal Air Force (RAF) to fulfill their mission of defending their homeland from enemy bombers.   The Spitfire is probably most noted for its infamous World War II role in the 1940 Battle of Britain.  Though outnumbered by its British sister aircraft (2:1), the Hawker Hurricane, the speed of the Spitfire proved to be a better match against the speed of the German Messerschmitt.  The victory rate of the Spitfire was higher than its loss, which unfortunately was not the case for the Hurricanes.  Following this battle, the Spitfire became the strength of the RAF Fighter Command.   In 1934, prior to World War II, the RAF selected the Browning as its new standard rifle caliber machine gun.  This created a shortage of the Browning and on early Spitfires, despite their capacity to hold eight guns, only four were mounted.   Another problem encountered became apparent when the planes climbed to higher elevations and it was discovered that the very design that kept the gun from overheating, also permitted the flow of cold air through the barrel, causing the guns to freeze.  This proved the Browning to be beneficial only on the ground or when flying at low altitudes.  This problem was eventually corrected in October,...

WW II B-17 – Flying Fortress

Witness AFHMs impressive display dedicated to the Tuskegee Airmen and experience the dedication of the men who, despite military and social prejudice, turned intentions into action.  Their incredible record as bomber escorts was instrumental in many of the successful missions of the infamous B-17 Flying Fortress.    This B-17 World War II aircraft was first developed in the 1930’s for the military branch known at that time as the United States Army Air Corps.  Along with Douglas and Martin, Boeing competed for the B-17 contract but outperformed both competitors and even exceeded the Army Air Corps’ expectations.  The initial flight for the B-17 (Model 299) was in July of 1935.  While reporting on this initial flight, when Seattle Time’s reporter, Richard Williams, saw the multiple machine gun installations on the aircraft, he dubbed it the “Flying Fortress”.  This nickname was quickly trademarked by Boeing.  Because the Army Air Corps was so impressed with Boeing’s B-17 debut, it arranged for 13 additional B17s to be manufactured for further evaluation. The four-engine heavy bomber first saw battle in World War II in 1941 in the RAF and before the war’s end, would equip a total of 32 overseas combat groups.  One of the benefits of the Flying Fortress was the then-secret Norden Bombsight, a device capable of determining when the aircraft’s bombs should be released in order to accurately hit an intended target.  The bomb’s release could be determined by using variables input by the bombardier.  The bombardier would basically take over control of the aircraft’s flight during the bomb run, maintaining a level altitude during the final moments before the bomb’s...

Harrier – The Jump Jet Aircraft

INTRODUCTION AND HISTORY The Harrier aircraft, a ground attack aircraft, was named by US Army General Norman Schwarzkop as one of the top seven weapons used during the Gulf War.  Mainly utilized by the USMC, the Harrier is often referred to as a Jump Jet - due to its vertical ascent and short runway takeoff capabilities.   The history of the Harrier began back in the 50’s and 60’ in the UK.  The first aircraft though was quickly identified has having problems with its range and its payload capabilities.  By December of 1973, both these shortcomings were addressed through the joint venture of an American/British team.  However, in March of 1975, the British were forced to withdraw from the project as defense funds were being cut, the cost to manufacture continued to rise and the RAF had only requested 60 of these aircraft.   PATH TO IMPROVEMENTS Once the British pulled out, the U.S. discontinued the project as well, though both countries continued on separate paths in an attempt to improve on the Harrier.  This was the first of many paths for the development of the next generation Harrier, but finally in August of 1981, theUnited StatesandUnited Kingdomentered into a new agreement, which would give theUKsubcontractor status, as opposed to their original full partner position of the mid 70’s. The first variant of this new venture was designated the YAV-8B and the initial flight for this Harrier version was in November of 1978, but a year later, a second prototype (initial flight in February 1979) would crash due to an engine burnout.  Subsequently, in 1981, the AV-8B variant, with...

The Hawker Tornado

Introduction The Hawker Tornado, designed for the Royal Air Force during World War II, was initially intended to replace the Hawker Hurricane.  This fighter aircraft, due to its unreliable engine – the Rolls-Royce Vulture, had a short lived production, but paved the way for its replacement, the Hawker Hurricane.   The Tornado’s Short History The initial flight for the WWII Tornado was in October of 1939.  This flight, along with subsequent flights, exposed some airflow difficulty around the radiator.  Corrections were made to this and other problems that arose, but the manufacturer, Hawker, was focusing on another aircraft – the Hurricane.  As a result, Hawker commissioned Avro to fulfill an order for 1,760 of the Tornado.  However, with just one Tornado off the production line, the Vulture engine it housed was discontinued and the order for the Tornado was cancelled shortly thereafter. Though the design would go no further, this single seat fighter was capable of maintaining speeds up to 398 miles per hour at 23,300 feet using the Vulture engine and 402 miles per hour at 18,000 feet with the Centaurus.  Armament on the initial prototype for the Tornado included provisions for 12 x .303 in Browning machine guns.  The second prototype along with the few Centaurus prototypes manufactured, had 4 x 20 mm Hispano cannon.  In all, only four of the intended World War II Tornados ever made it off the production line, three of which were...