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 aircraft in the world. The Ilyushin-2 Shturmovik also maintains the record as the highest manufactured aircraft design in aviation history. Stalin considered this aircraft crucial to the Soviet military.
Junkers 87 Stuka – This two-seater aircraft, flown by the Luftwaffe, was known for both its dive bombing capabilities and its successful anti-tank capabilities. One Luftwaffe ace alone destroyed well over 500 Russian tanks with the Stuka. The downside of the Stuka was its lack of maneuverability and defensive armament; as a result, it required a heavy escort of fighters to successfully complete its missions.
Messerschmitt Bf-109 – The Bf-109 is often described as one of the greatest fighter aircrafts in aviation history. The earlier developed Bf-109 was developed as an interceptor and would eventually be modified to be used as a bomber escort, a ground-attack aircraft and a reconnaissance aircraft. This distinguished aircraft, flown by the German Luftwaffe, served on all European fronts of World War II and was considered their single, most important aircraft fighter.
Messerschmitt 262 – Though this aircraft did not receive flight status until late in the war, its design actually began before WWII. The Messerschmitt 262 was introduced in April of 1944 and was considered an advanced aircraft by WWII standards. However, its overall impact on the war itself was minimal. The design of the Messerschmitt 262 was used by German scientists in future prototypes, which were being created at that time with speeds up to Mach-1. Because of its late introduction into the war, few of the original aircraft were manufactured.
Mitsubishi A6M Zero – Though originally perceived by the Americans as an inferior fighter, the Japanese Mitsubishi A6M Zero proved itself a worthy match. The Zero became a dominant fighter aircraft during the first two years of the Pacific theater and was known for its maneuverability and long range. Along with its firepower, the A6M remained unmatched until the American carrier-based fighter F6F Hellcat came into service. The A6M retains its title as one of the most agile aircraft ever manufactured.
North American P-51 Mustang – The USA’s P-51 Mustang, a long-range fighter and fighter-bomber, was introduced in 1942. The aircraft was used throughout World War II, and pilots of the P-51 Mustang are said to have shot down over 4,900 enemy aircraft. The performance of this aircraft is responsible for regaining air superiority, which up until the P-51, was believed to have been dominated by the Luftwaffe. Many consider this P-52 Mustang the top fighter of World War II.
Supermarine Spitfire – A historical combat aircraft, the WWII British Supermarine Spitfire was a fighter aircraft which served in all combat theaters of WWII. Used by the RAF (Royal Air Force) and other Allied countries, the Spitfire was the only fighter aircraft Britain produced throughout the war. This single-seat aircraft saw action in the European, Pacific and other theaters of WWII and was known for its high victory to loss ratio. Many consider this WWII Supermarine Spitfire one of the greatest fighters of all time.
Vought F4U Corsair – The F4U Corsair was known for its air supremacy during WWII in the Pacific theater. Used as both a carrier fighter and a ground attack aircraft, the F4U outclassed the Japanese Zero. Japanese pilots actually considered the Corsair to be one of the most formidable American fighters of WWII. Due to its high speed capabilities and its maneuverability, this spectacular aircraft continued in service into the Korean War serving mainly as a fighter-bomber.
With the number of WWII aircraft and variations produced throughout this time period, the top ten aircraft of WWII is most probably best viewed through the eyes of the reader. Aircraft should be judged based on their classification, kill ratio, total production, longest operating and other categories within aircraft statistics. Any one - or combination - of the above aircraft on this list would certainly be a part of any other list compiled of top ten aircraft from World War II.