Information about combat aircraft from The Olden Days, and some comparative info about modern aircraft.

Fighter Aircraft

Early Fighter Planes

Supermarine Spitfire
Picture of Supermarine Spitfire

Description: The Supermarine Spitfire is a British single-seat fighter aircraft and was produced in greater numbers than any other British aircraft. It was designed by R. J. Mitchell, chief designer at Supermarine Aviation Works, as a short-range, high-performance interceptor aircraft. It was the only British fighter to be in continuous production throughout the war.
Its distinctive elliptical wing gave it the thinnest possible cross-section, enabling a higher top speed than some contemporaries, including the Hawker Hurricane.
Service: During the Battle of Britain, from July to October 1940, the Spitfire, together with the Hawker Hurricane, was the main defence against the Nazi German air force, the Luftwaffe.
Spitfires had a lower attrition rate and a higher victory-to-loss ratio than the Hurricanes due to their higher performance, and were used to engage Luftwaffe fighters, mainly Messerschmitt BF109E
Later, the Spitfire superseded the Hurricane, and saw action in the European, Mediterranean, Pacific and the South-East Asian theatres. It provided interceptor, photo-reconnaissance, fighter-bomber and trainer services.
The Seafire was a carrier-based adaptation of the Spitfire which served in the Fleet Air Arm from 1942 through to the mid-1950s.

Messerschmitt BF109
Picture of Messerschmitt BF109

Description: The Messerschmitt BF109, sometimes called the Me109, was a German World War II fighter aircraft designed by Willy Messerschmitt and Robert Lusser.
It was one of the most advanced fighters of the era, with features including all-metal monocoque construction, a closed canopy, and retractable landing gear, and powered by a liquid-cooled, inverted-V12 aero engine.
Originally conceived as an interceptor, later models fulfilled many more tasks including bomber escort, fighter-bomber, all-weather fighter, ground-attack and reconnaissance.
Service The BF109 first saw operational service during the Spanish Civil War (1939) and was still in service at the dawn of the jet age at the end of World War Two (1945). It was the backbone of the Luftwaffe's fighter force during World War Two and served with several countries for many years after the war. It had the highest number produced of any fighter aircraft in history, with a total of 33,984 units produced from 1936 to 1945.
From the end of 1941, the BF109 was steadily being supplemented by the superior Focke-Wulf FW190. The BF109 was flown by several German fighter aces of World War Two, including Erich Hartmann, credited with 352 aerial victories and the highest scoring fighter ace of all time, and Hans-Joachim Marseille.
It remained competitive with the latest Allied fighter aircraft until the end of the war.

Lancaster Bomber
Picture of Lancaster Bomber

Description: Designed by Roy Chadwick and powered by four Rolls-Royce Merlins, or, in one version, Bristol Hercules engines, the Avro Lancaster (the "Lanc") is a British four-engined World War Two heavy bomber built by Avro for the Royal Air Force (RAF) as a night bomber, and an evolution of the Avro Manchester. With a long, unobstructed bomb bay it could take the largest bombs used by the RAF, including the 4,000 lb, 8,000 lb and 12,000 lb blockbusters, often with smaller bombs or incendiaries as well.
Service: It first saw active service with RAF Bomber Command in 1942 and, as the strategic bombing offensive over Europe gathered momentum, it was the central implement for the night-time bombing campaigns that followed. It became the main heavy bomber used by the RAF, the RCAF, and squadrons from other Commonwealth and European countries serving within the RAF, overshadowing its close contemporaries the Handley Page Halifax and Short Stirling.
The versatility of the Lancaster was such that it was chosen to equip 617 Squadron and was modified to carry the "Bouncing bomb" designed by Barnes Wallis for Operation Chastise, the attack on the German Ruhr Valley dams.
After the war, the Lancaster was supplanted as the RAF's main strategic bomber by the Avro Lincoln, a larger version of the Lancaster. The Lancaster took on the role of long range anti-submarine patrol aircraft (later supplanted by the Avro Shackleton) and air-sea rescue. It was also used for photo-reconnaissance and aerial mapping, as a flying tanker for aerial refuelling and as the Avro Lancastrian, a long-range, high-speed, transatlantic, passenger and postal delivery airliner.
In March 1946, a Lancastrian of BSAA flew the first scheduled flight from the new London Heathrow Airport.

Junkers Ju87 / Stuka
Picture of Junkers JU87

Description: The JU87 was a German dive bomber and ground-attack aircraft designed by Hermann Pohlmann. The aircraft was easily recognisable by its inverted gull wings and fixed spatted undercarriage. Upon the leading edges of its faired main gear legs were mounted the Jericho-Trompete ("Jericho trumpet") wailing sirens, becoming the propaganda symbol of German air power and the blitzkrieg victories of 1939–1942. Its design included several innovative features, including automatic pull-up dive brakes under both wings to ensure that the aircraft recovered from its attack dive even if the pilot blacked out from the high g-forces.
Service: The Stuka first flew in 1935 and made its combat debut in 1937 with the Luftwaffe's Condor Legion during the Spanish Civil War. It served the Axis forces and operated with considerable success in the close air support and anti-shipping at the outbreak of World War Two. It spearheaded the air assaults in the Invasion of Poland in September 1939 and the Norwegian Campaign in the following year. In May 1940, it was crucial in the rapid conquest of the Netherlands, Belgium and France. Although sturdy, accurate, and very effective against ground targets, the JU87, like many other dive bombers of the war, was vulnerable to modern fighter aircraft. During the Battle of Britain a lack of manoeuvrability, speed and defensive armament meant that the Stuka required a heavy fighter escort to operate effectively.
The Stuka operated with further success after the Battle of Britain, and its potency as a precision ground-attack aircraft became valuable to German forces in the Balkans Campaign, the African and Mediterranean theaters and the early stages of the Eastern Front where it was used for general ground support, but also in the anti-shipping role and as an effective specialised anti-tank aircraft.
Once the Luftwaffe lost air superiority, the JU87 again became an easy target for enemy fighter aircraft. Despite these developments, because there was no better replacement, the type continued to be produced until 1944. By the end of the conflict, the Stuka had been largely replaced by ground-attack versions of the Focke-Wulf FW190, but was still in use until the last days of the war. An estimated 6,500 JU87s of all versions were built between 1936 and August 1944. Some notable airmen flew the JU87. Oberst Hans-Ulrich Rudel was the most successful Stuka ace and the most highly decorated German serviceman of the Second World War. The vast majority of German ground attack aces flew this aircraft at some point in their careers.

Republic P-47 Thunderbolt Picture of P-47 Thunderbolt

Description: P-47 Thunderbolt was a World War Two fighter aircraft produced by the United States between 1941–1945. The armored cockpit was relatively roomy and comfortable, offering good visibility. Its primary armament was eight .50-caliber machine guns and in the fighter-bomber ground-attack role it could carry five-inch rockets or a bomb load of 2,500 pounds. When fully loaded the P-47 weighed up to eight tons making it one of the heaviest fighters of the war. The P-47 was designed around the powerful Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp engine.
Service: The Thunderbolt was effective as a short-to-medium range escort fighter in high-altitude air-to-air combat and ground attack in both the World War Two European and Pacific theaters. It was one of the main United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) fighters of World War Two, and served with Allied air forces including France, Britain, and Russia, and Mexican and Brazilian squadrons fighting alongside the U.S. were also equipped with the P-47.
A modern-day U.S. ground-attack aircraft, the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II, takes its name from the P-47.

P-51 Mustang Picture of P-51 Mustang

Description: P-51 Mustang is an American long-range, single-seat fighter and fighter-bomber used during World War Two, the Korean War and other conflicts. It was designed in 1940 by North American Aviation (NAA) in response to a requirement of the British Purchasing Commission. The Purchasing Commission approached North American Aviation to build Curtiss P-40 fighters under license for the Royal Air Force (RAF). Rather than build an old design from another company, North American Aviation proposed the design and production of a more modern fighter, and the prototype, NA-73X airframe was rolled out on 9 September 1940, 102 days after the contract was signed.
Service: The Mustang first flew on 26 October,1940. It was originally designed to use the Allison V-1710 engine, which had limited high-altitude performance. It was flown operationally by the RAF as a tactical-reconnaissance aircraft and fighter-bomber (Mustang Mk I). Later, changing to Rolls-Royce Merlin engines for the P-51B/C models improved performance at high altitudes, allowing them to compete with Luftwaffe's fighters. The P-51D was powered by the Packard V-1650-7, a version of the Rolls-Royce Merlin 66 two-stage two-speed supercharged engine, and was armed with six .50 caliber (12.7 mm) M2/AN Browning machine guns.
From late 1943, P-51Bs and Cs (supplemented by P-51Ds from mid-1944) were used by the USAAF's Eighth Air Force to escort bombers in raids over Germany, while the RAF's Second Tactical Air Force and the USAAF's Ninth Air Force used the Merlin-powered Mustangs as fighter-bombers, which helped ensure Allied air superiority in 1944. The P-51 was also used by Allied air forces in the North African, Mediterranean, Italian and Pacific theaters. During World War Two, Mustang pilots claimed to have destroyed 4,950 enemy aircraft.
At the start of the Korean War, the Mustang was the main fighter for the United Nations until jet fighters took over this role. The Mustang then became a specialized fighter-bomber.
Despite the advent of jet fighters, the Mustang remained in service with some air forces until the early 1980s. After the Korean War, Mustangs became popular civilian warbird and air racing aircraft.

Lockheed P-38 Lightning Picture of P-38 Lightning

Description: The Lockheed P-38 Lightning was a World War II American piston-engined fighter aircraft. Developed to a United States Army Air Corps requirement, the P-38 had distinctive twin booms and a central nacelle containing the cockpit and armament. It was nicknamed "The Fork-tailed Devil" by the Luftwaffe and ""Two Planes, One Pilot"" by the Japanese.
Service The P-38 was used for interception, dive bombing, level bombing, ground attack, night fighting, photo reconnaissance, radar and visual pathfinding for bombers and evacuation missions, and extensively as a long-range escort fighter when equipped with drop tanks under its wings.
Service It was used most successfully in the Pacific and China-Burma-India theatres as the aircraft of America's top aces, Richard Bong (40 victories), Thomas McGuire (38 victories) and Charles H. MacDonald (36 victories).
In the South West Pacific theater, the P-38 was the primary long-range fighter of United States Army Air Forces until the appearance of large numbers of P-51D Mustangs, toward the end of the war.
The P-38 was unusually quiet for a fighter, the exhaust muffled by the turbo-superchargers. It was extremely forgiving and could be mishandled in many ways but the rate of roll in the early versions was too slow for it to excel as a dogfighter. It was the only American fighter aircraft in production throughout American involvement in the war, from Pearl Harbor to Victory over Japan Day. At the end of the war, orders for 1,887 more were cancelled.

Vought F4U Corsair Picture of F4U Corsair

Description: The Vought F4U Corsair is an American fighter aircraft originally built by Chance Vought, a branch of United Airlines, that saw service primarily in World War II and the Korean War. Demand for the aircraft soon overwhelmed Vought's manufacturing capability, resulting in production by Goodyear and Brewster. From the first prototype delivery to the U.S. Navy in 1940, to final delivery in 1953 to the French, 12,571 F4U Corsairs were manufactured, in 16 separate models, in the longest production run of any piston-engined fighter in U.S. history (1942–53).
Service: The Corsair was designed as a carrier-based aircraft but its difficult carrier landing performance rendered it unsuitable for Navy use until the carrier landing issues were overcome by the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm. It thus came to prominence in its area of greatest deployment: land based use by the U.S. Marines.
The Corsair served to a lesser degree in the U.S. Navy. In addition to its use by the U.S. and British, the Corsair was also used by the Royal New Zealand Air Force, the French Navy Aéronavale and other, smaller, air forces until the 1960s.
Some Japanese pilots regarded it as the most formidable American fighter of World War Two, and the U.S. Navy credited it with an 11:1 kill ratio.
After the carrier landing issues had been tackled, it quickly became the most capable carrier-based fighter-bomber of World War Two. The Corsair served almost exclusively as a fighter-bomber throughout the Korean War and during the French colonial wars in Indochina and Algeria.

Nakajima B5N Picture of Nakajima B5N

Description: The Nakajima B5N ("Kate") was the standard carrier torpedo bomber of the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) for much of World War Two, and was faster and more capable than its Allied counterparts, the TBD Devastator, Fairey Swordfish and Fairey Albacore.
Service: The B5N operated throughout the whole war. In the early part of the Pacific War, flown by well-trained IJN aircrews and as part of well-coordinated attacks, the B5N achieved particular successes at the battles of Pearl Harbor, Coral Sea, Midway, and Santa Cruz Islands.
Primarily a carrier-based aircraft, it was also occasionally used as a land-based bomber. The B5N carried a crew of three: pilot, navigator/bombardier/observer, and radio operator/gunner.

B29 Superfortress Picture of B29 Superfortress

Description: The Boeing B-29 Superfortress is a four-engine propeller-driven heavy bomber designed by Boeing . It was one of the largest aircraft operational during World War Two and featured state of the art technology. It was the single most expensive weapons project undertaken by the United States in World War Two. Innovations introduced included a pressurized cabin, dual-wheeled, tricycle landing gear, and a remote, computer-controlled fire-control system that directed four machine gun turrets that could be operated by one gunner and a fire-control officer. A manned tail gun installation was semi-remote.
Designed for the high-altitude strategic bomber role, the B-29 also excelled in low-altitude nighttime incendiary bombing missions.
Service: It was flown primarily by the United States during World War Two and the Korean War. One of the B-29's final roles during World War Two was carrying out the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Because of the B-29's advanced design, unlike many other World War II-era bombers, the Superfortress remained in service long after the war ended, with a few even being employed as flying television transmitters for the Stratovision company. The B-29 served in various roles throughout the 1950s. The Royal Air Force flew the B-29 as the Washington until phasing out the type in 1954. It was used as a model by Boeing for bombers, transports, tankers, reconnaissance aircraft and trainers including the B-50 Superfortress, the first aircraft to fly around the world non-stop.
It was retired in the early 1960s, with a production total of 3,970 aircraft. Dozens of B-29s remain as static displays but only two examples, Fifi and Doc, have been restored to flying status; with Doc flying again from McConnell AFB on July 17, 2016.

Modern Fighter Planes

Picture of Saab JAS39 Gripen aircraft JF17 Thunder Picture of FA18 Super Hornet Picture of Sukhoi SU35 Picture of MIG35 fighter plane
A Swedish lightweight, single-engine fighter aircraft, the JAS39 can perform various missions, such as air defense, interception and ground attack. The JAS39 is very agile for close combat, and can take off and land on short-strip airfields. The JF17 fighter was jointly developed by China and Pakistan. It is fitted with a Russian Klimov RD-93 turbofan engine with afterburner. The JF17 is intended for air defense and ground attack missions. It has beyond visual range attack capability. The Boeing FA18E/F Super Hornets are one- and two-seater, twin-engine, carrier-based, multirole fighter aircraft variants, based on the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet. They have an internal 20 mm gun and can carry air-to-air missiles and air-to-surface weapons The Russian made heavy class, long-range, multi-role one-seat fighter SU35 was designed by Sukhoi from the original air superiority fighter SU27. It was originally designated SU27M and later named SU35. The Russian fighter MIG35 evolved from the MiG29 Fulcrum fighter series, with vastly improved avionics and weapon systems, including the new AESA radar and OLS (Optical Landing System).
Picture of F16 Falcon MIG31 Picture of Dassault Rafael Picture of F22 Raptor Picture of Chengdu J20
Originally developed by General Dynamics for the USAF, the F16 Falcon was designed as an air superiority day fighter. The single-engine fighter evolved into an all-weather multirole aircraft. More than 4,500 aircraft have been built, serving 25 other nations. Evolving from the MiG25 "Foxbat", the Russian MIG31 is a supersonic interceptor aircraft and is one of the fastest combat jets in the world. The latest version is the MiG31BM, capable of long-range interception, precision strike and defense suppression tasks. The french Dassault Rafael is among the world's most advanced jet fighters. Rafale is a twin-engine, canard delta-wing fighter aircraft, superior to most European fighters of its era in air domination, interdiction, intelligence and mobile nuclear deterrent missions. The F22 Raptor is a multi-role, single-seat, twin-engine, supersonic jet fighter. Primarily designed as an air superiority fighter, it has extra capabilities including Air-to-Surface, electronic warfare, signals intelligence capabilities, and stealth technology. Chengdu J20 is China's stealth fighter. It was designed to compete against other fighters such as the US F22 Raptor and Russian PAK-FA. Production commenced in 2015, and the first operational J20s were delivered to the Chinese air force in 2016.
F15 Eagle Picture of Eurofighter Typhoon Picture of F35 Lightning 2 Picture of Harrier Jump-Jet
F15 Eagle is a twin-engine, all-weather tactical fighter jet, and one of the most successful modern jet fighters. Its first flight was in July 1972, and it has been exported to many nations, notably Japan, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. It is expected to remain operational at least until 2025. Eurofighter Typhoon was built on the strength of four European nations: United Kingdom, Germany, Spain and Italy, and their leading defense and aerospace companies. It is one of the world’s most advanced combat jets, with Air-to-Air and Air-to-Surface capabilities. The F35 Lightning 2 is probably the world’s most advanced jet fighter, with advanced stealth capability, and is the most flexible, technologically sophisticated, multirole fighter ever built. It is used by several nations around the world. The Harrier Jump-Jet is a family of jet-powered, subsonic attack aircraft capable of vertical/short takeoff and landing operations (V/STOL). Designed to operate from improvised bases, such as car parks or forest clearings, it was later adapted for use from aircraft carriers. North American X-15 This aircraft has the current world record for the fastest manned aircraft. Maximum speed mach 6.70 (about 7,200 km/h). The X-15 did not use traditional ways to steer (using drag over a fin) but instead it used rocket thrusters, allowing it to reach altitudes higher than 100 kilometers.
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