World War II Planes

World War II was fought in the air as much as it was on the ground, with entire squadrons of fighter planes and bombers engaging in combat. Explore some of the most famous types of World War II airplanes and learn how they were used in combat operations.


The Focke Wulf Fw 190 was fast and maneuverable, and packed a heavy armament package, usually of four machine guns and two cannons. Provision was made for carrying a bomb or a drop-tank under the fuselage centerline. Check out this WWII fighter.

The Boeing B-29 Superfortress was the biggest, most expensive gamble by the United States during World War II, built with incredibly high expectations on a tight deadline. Read about the big advances in aviation technology brought about by the B-29.

The North American B-25 Mitchell was efficient, easy to manufacture and repair, and able to do any job assigned to it. No other twin-engine bomber of World War II saw greater production. Learn the specifications and uses for this handsome bomber.

The Curtiss P-40 Warhawk is one of the best-liked airplanes of World War II, tough and virtually trouble-free, though its performance was never quite up to that of its opponents. Read about this most important American fighter plane of 1942-1943.

The Consolidated B-24 Liberator was the most prolific American plane of World War II. But the B-24 was not as attractive as the B-17 bomber, nor did it win the same popular regard from the public. Read the story and specifications of the B-24 bomber.

The successes of the Mitsubishi A6M Zero during the first six months of World War II stunned Western observers. Its dominance was frightening, but soon surpassed. Learn about the rise and fall of the A6M Zero, and its unique design specifications.

The Grumman F6F Hellcat had many virtues and two great assets: its strong, reliable Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engine, and the increasing skill and training of its pilots. Read about the specifications and successful history of the F6F Hellcat airplane.

The North American P-51 Mustang spelled doom for the Luftwaffe. It was not only able to escort bombers on long-range missions and engage in dogfights, it could also drop and destroy the German Air Force on the ground. Read more on this pivotal plane.

The Lockheed P-38 Lightning was considered the most sophisticated aircraft Lockheed had ever built. The distinctive sight and sound of the P-38 would make it one of the best-known aircraft of the war. Learn more about the unique P-38 Lightning plane.

The four-engine Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress was almost certainly the best-loved bomber of World War II. Despite the plane's superiority, Congress didn't authorize its purchase in quantity until war was certain. Learn the story and specs of the B-17.

The Messerschmitt Bf 109 is one of few fighters ever to be developed from a light-plane design. Willy Messerschmitt's angular little plane was built in greater numbers than any other fighter. Read how the Bf 109 has been so successful and long-lived.

The durable Douglas C-47 Skytrain was the military variant of the Douglas DC-3. It was America's versatile transport plane of World War II. Even the Luftwaffe flew it, using aircraft impressed from airlines of occupied countries. Read about the C-47.

The Douglas SBD Dauntless was a carrier-based dive bomber, a compact scrapper with a gift for sinking Japanese carriers and other large ships. Learn the specifications and how the Dauntless proved to be the supreme dive-bomber of the Pacific War.

The name for the Junkers Ju 87 Stuka derived from Sturzkampfflugzeug, the generic German word for dive-bomber. So famous was the Junkers Ju 87 that the term Stuka came to be identified with it in Western eyes. Read the specs and uses for the Stuka.

The Supermarine Spitfire was continuously improved throughout World War II, with 22,000 Spitfires produced. The Spitfire fought successfully in every theater of the war. See specifications for the Spitfire and read how this heroic airplane developed.

In every combat area, the Grumman F4F Wildcat changed from underdog to champion, covering itself with glory and its pilots with medals. Learn the specs for the Wildcat, and how it overcame early challenges to win its place in aviation history.

The Russian Yakovlev Yak-9 was faster and more maneuverable than many other planes. The Yak-9 model also featured more metal in the structure, so it was lighter and more maneuverable than earlier iterations. Read more specs for the Yak-9 airplane.

The speed, strength, and firepower of the Chance Vought F4U Corsair led it to dominate Japanese opposition, shooting down 2,140 against a loss of 189 in World War II. Learn how its performance let flight leaders to create legendary fighter squadrons.

The great legacy of the Messerschmitt Me 262 is that it inspired other air forces to adopt the jet fighter as standard, and moved engineers to utilize its layout for fighters and airliners. Learn more about this top World War II fighter plane.

The Martin B-10 had the very high top speed of 213 mph, a maximum range of over 1200 miles, and a service ceiling of over 24,000 feet--a dramatic leap ahead of competing planes in service. Read how this Golden Age classic changed military aviation.

The Polikarpov I-16 is one of the most unsung aircraft in history. Although somewhat difficult to fly, the I-16's speed, high roll-rate, and rate of climb earned it production status. Learn more details of this long-lived, underdog fighter plane.

The film "Pearl Harbor" is now playing. Look at the aircraft involved in that battle, technological marvels for their time.