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Is the P-51 the best all-around fighter of World War II?

Originally published on Published Online: January 14, 2011 
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 Aviation History Reader Poll

In "Breaking in the Mustang" in the March 2011 Aviation History, author General F. Michael Rogers calls the P-51 "the best all-around fighter of World War II." Do you agree, and if not, what fighter would you choose?

Give us your thoughts in the comments box below.

99 Responses to “Is the P-51 the best all-around fighter of World War II?”

  1. 1
    Matt says:

    Yes, and it's not really a close call, imo. Wasn't the 51 the difference in the Allies being able to step it's bombing campaign over German targets? The Corsair would be #2, but it's not a close call.

    • 1.1
      Vinnie says:

      I agree Matt, because the Corsair couldn't keep up with the longer range with their limited range.

  2. 2
    Brian J Smith says:

    We had a few remarkable fighters in WW2, but when the cream

    rises, there are two at the top. P-51 and the Corsair. In an

    imaginary "One on One", the best Pilot would make the difference.

  3. 3
    Ess-Tee-Emm says:

    Same old arguments, not backed up by data.

    So, it's wrong, or at least only half right.

    P-51 definitely best fighter overall, the Spitfire the best dogfighter. In their later marks of both aircraft (Spit 9s, 14s and 21s; the British Mustang 3 and the US designated P-51D), speed overall, including in intial acceleration, generally favoured the Spit depending on the heights the combat took place, although it varied depending on altitude; the P51 could pull away easily in a dive and at some heights, but could be caught in the climb; the Spit easily outclimbed it and could turn well inside it. It also had better firepower. Both aircraft had similar rates of roll in later marks. Later Spits also had two 20mm hispano cannon and two brownings or four armed on the same belts with a combination of de wilde incendiary; tracer; regular bullets and explosive bullets, which provided decent hitting power, while the Mustangs had three hard-hitting 50s. However, as has been pointed out many times on these threads, they were so close in most aspects of their performance (along with the FW 190, you could throw a postage stamp over them; In Spt v Mustang alone, the Spit's turn and power power gave it the edge given the closeness overall of the two types, a fact most (although not all) German pilots have acknowledged publicly.

    However, the Spit was an interceptor, a role the Mustang could also fill – but the Mustang really made its mark as a long-range escort fighter, and therefore was superlative in terms of strategic force projection and as a force multiplier in the period between late 1943 and the liberation of the low countries in mid-late1944, which was only when the Spit had the range to hit Germany. The USAAF could not have ramped up its missions into Germany without the Mustang, and it therefore served a crucial purpose in helping the 8th air force in its mission to smash the German war effort.

    The Spitfre could not do that, and that gives the Mustang the nod for overall usefulness. It was a war winner, without a doubt. None of that alters the truths of the argument, however, as has been pointed out in another thread.

    A dogfighter supreme it wasn't, even if it was extremely good in that role and had the edge over the later 109s, if not the 190s. In short, it was good enough. German pilots, however, were quite fearful of engaging late Mark Spits and one JG54 ace said the RAF fighters were able "to play cat and mouse with us" and recommended the best course of action was to get away ASAP. They respected the Mustang, but experienced Luftwaffe pilots generally felt they had a chance against it. (Read JG54 and get it straight from the horse's mouth). USAAF pilots were generally veterans by then, and the Luftwaffe was relying more and more on inexperienced tyros, which meant most encounters resulted in American victories.

    The Air Fighting Development at Boscombe Down that carried out all these comparative tests did a very thorough testing job and many of the results given to the RAF and the USAAF were released officially a few years back while some were released at the end of the war. The US-based joint fighter conference info, which I believe is also available on the internet, is illuminative too.

    The AFDU data is also easily found on the internet, along with USAAF comparative data, is accompanied graphs and charts and appears to solve this argument for good. I can't see why it wouldn't, as all RAF operational types were tested including: P-47, Mustang III (said to the best of them and the British loved theirs with a passion), Spitfire 9, 14 and 21, and the Tempest (a British model that came off quite badly in comparisons with all the above, except except at low level, in which its role as a ground-attack aircraft had it marked as the best and most devastating of the war, although the p47 ran a very close second on that score).

    As for the Corsair, it was only used by the British in the ETO/Med (along with the Royal Navy's Hellcat, used on D-Day especially), and didn't forge the same reputation it did in the Pacific where its speed, firepower, and ability to mount slashing attacks at will and then zoom out for another go against the Japanese gave it a huge kill ratio against the Japanese. However, US pilots in that theatre flying all types were warned not to engage in dogfights with the more manoeubrable Japanese types mostly encountered.

    Pilots who did often ended up shot down … including Marine Corsair ace Greg Boyington, who broke the cardinal rule. Both he and his wingman were downed by Zeroes after becoming involved in a turning fight against superior numbers.

    American ingenuity with use of their fighters in the Japan war made clever use of all the strengths of US fighter types, negated their weakness, and pitted them against the weaknesses of the Japanese: lower speed, poorer armanent, and less -skilled pilots later in the war to negate the superior turning ability and rate of roll of many of the Japanese aircraft. Only the Hayate (Frank) and Kawanishi's uprated George could meet them on anything like level terms a bit later in the conflict, and by then pilot skill was a major factor that hugely disadvantaged the Japanese.

    The Japanese suffered from two other weaknesses that made them easy prey to allied fighters: no armour plating early in the piece, and then lack of self-sealing fuel tanks. It was why the Wildcat, claerly inferior in most respects to the Zero, easily held its own when flown by well-trained US Navy fliers.

    In the Pacific, where the Corsair and Hellcat and the Army's P-38 did their sterling work, it was a very different ballgame in terms of the quality of their opponents.

    A fact borne out by statements from folks like Gunther Rall, who said Luftwaffe pilots had little regard for it, thought it inferior in many respects and generally regarded it as an easy kill … once they figured out its weaknesses and felt they had its measure.

    That wasn't the case in the Pacific, where US aces like Richard Bong racked up big tallies against the Japanese.

    Height is another factor here … most combats in the Pacific took place at lower altitude, where the American fighters reigned supreme, compared to Europe where both the Mustang and the Spitfire reigned Supreme.

    A final word on this debate should come from the AFDU itself which believed in any unlikely contest between Mustang and Spitfire, it decided both were so close that it would always come down to a matter of the personal preference of the pilots.

    That is not to say the Corsair was superb at what it did.

  4. 4
    Neal J says:

    "Best All-Around Fighter" does not equal "Most Effective Fighter". Best All-Around Fighter would have to be one that operated from land and from ship, since much of the Pacific War was fought without a land-based airfield available. I very much like the P-51, and would one who is likely to vote it "Most Effective" (although there are other very worthy candidates), but for "Best All-Around", I believe a Tailhook has to be a part of the package. That leaves the F4U and the F6F as the leading candidates. The Hellcat did more (due to the wicked final approach charactoristics of the Corsair) in terms of missions, kills, etc. The US Navy's Top Ace (David McCampbell) flew the Hellcat, as did many others. The bird from the Grumman Iron Works was rugged, served in a number of mission roles (including dive bombing and night fighter, only one of which the P-51 did). So, how about some consideration for the F6F Hellcat?

    • 4.1
      Mike Gee says:

      sorry- for the Pacific , the F4U comes second, the F6F hell cat first- they are good dive bombers, fighters and "bomb trucks", but NEITHER would have survived well in the cold air of Europe. The mustang fought in both theaters and had the range to fly long distance. it was fast and could turn well at medium altitude, and could out run the F6F, and out climb the F4U( although I wouldn't want that corsair on my tail!)

      • 4.1.1
        Rick says:

        Also: neiither the Hellcat nor the Corsair possessed turbo-superchargers, a distinct advantage in the cold, high altitudes over Europe (although the P-38, with its turbo-superchargers, ended up being the Army's best and highest-scoring fighter in the Pacific, being replaced by P-47s and P-51s in Europe. While the Mustang did not have a turbo-supercharger, its two-stage, two-speed supercharger coupled with the magnificent Merlin, and lighter weight compared to the T-Bolt, made up for any deficiencies at high altitude.

  5. 5
    Rick Friedling says:

    1. Air-cooled radial engine was more reliable and could take hits and keep on running, even with inoperable cylinders.

    2. The Jug's air-cooled engine did not have the Achilles' heel that the Mustang did: A small-caliber hit on an aluminum coolant line could down a Mustang in minutes, even if the fighter was otherwise undamaged.

    3. The P-47's big turbocharger enabled it to fly higher than the P-51 (over 40,000 feet).

    4. The Jug could outdive the Mustang.

    5. The Thunderbolt had eight .50's. The Mustang had six. That's 33 1/3% more firepower.

    6. Later model Jug's could carry 2,500 lbs of bombs.

    7. The P-47 was larger and much stronger, in case of a crash landing. The Jug was built like a machined tool. Mustangs had a lot of sheet metal stamped out parts, and were more lightweight in construction.

    8. The Thunderbolt had no "scoop" under the bottom, so it handled ditchings and gear up landings much better.

    9. The Thunderbolt had a much larger, roomier cockpit. You were comfortable in the big Jug cockpit. In my Mustang, my shoulders almost scraped the sides on the right and left. I was cramped in with all my "gear." I could not move around like I could in the P-47.

    10. The Mustang went from 1,150-horse power Allison engines to the Packard built Rolls-Royce Merlin engine that had 1,590 hp. The Thunderbolt started out with a 2,000 hp Pratt & Whitney engine, and ended up with 2,800 war emergency hp with water injection.

    11. The Jug had a very wide landing gear, which was especially valued when landing on rough fields.

    12. The Jug's record against all opposing aircraft is remarkable. The ratio of kills to losses was unmistakably a winner. Thunderbolt pilots destroyed a total of 11,874 enemy aircraft, over 9,000 trains, and 160,000 vehicles.

    But, the big factor, above all else, it saved pilots in great numbers. Ask most fighter pilots who flew both in active combat and they will tell you that, given a choice to fly either one in combat, it would be the Juggernaut hands down.

    This is the opinion of Rip Collins, a WWII fighter pilot who flew both the P-47 and the P-51. See:

    It is also worth noting that many of the National Guard pilots who flew P-51s in Korea (many of which were lost to groundfire, often from rifles) felt short-changes and wish they had F-47s.

    • 5.1
      Mike Gee says:

      Rick, that 11,000 plus kill record of the jug INCLUDES ground attacks against enemy acft!!! The jugs kill ratio was like 8:1, mustangs were 11:1

      • 5.1.1
        Rick says:


        I did not write the blurb above with my name on it. Someone else thought it was a good idea to write his own blurb and put my name on it. While I agree with the points made about the P-47, I did not address the kill ratio, which was better in the air for the P-51; but that's a little like the Spitfire / Hurricane debate, because the P-51s were tasked with escort against enemy fighters much more than the P-47s. Ground kills were only counted at all because without that, fighter pilots could not be motivated to strafe, rather than duel. But all-around, the P-47 was the more effective combat machine.

        Whoever the editors are, they also completely deleted my views on the superiority of the Hellcat over the Corsair in terms of sheer effectiveness. While the Corsair was the more advanced design, and fast as snot, two Hellcats could be produced for every one of the more complex Corsair, with its lovely compound curves. Two Hellcats defending the fleet from incoming attack aircraft were more valuable than one Corsair. The Hellcat was also much easier to fly for pilots with maybe 200 total hours than the Corsair, and its kill ration greatly exceeded that of the Corsair, and could also fly off of the smaller carriers then populating the Pacific.

        The Corsair truly excelled, however, in attacking incoming Kamikazes, due to their greater speed, as would its derivation, the Goodyear F2G, specifically optimized to kill Kamikaze aircraft, had the war not ended somewhat unexpectedly.

  6. 6
    Mike Gee says:

    End result? P-51 still outlassed many of the similar acft used! The P-47 didn't perform as well against the luftwaffe, the P-38 didn't, and the "ultimate fighter", the Spitfire, still didn't go as far or as fast.

    • 6.1
      Eastsaxon says:

      The P51 didn't "Outclass" the Spitfire XIV in any respect other than range. The Spit XIV excelled in nearly all areas including manoeuvrability, firepower and speed at operational altitudes. If the two were to meet in combat the Spit would be expected to win. However, the range of the P51 did mean that it could take its fight to the enemy over their ground. It was also adequate in most areas that in large numbers and with trained pilots it was able to meet the later marks of German aircraft with their inexperienced pilots with a good measure of success. Important as it was in the ability for the Allies to take the war to Germany it could never be considered "The best fighter" in a 1 on 1 scenario.

      • 6.1.1
        Hur-Durrrr says:

        If we're comparing limited-production end-of-war aircraft, why not compare the Mk XIV to the 51H?

        It's worth noting also, that the "clipped-wing" Spits (like the XIV) lost much of their performance at higher altitudes. Above 15,000 feet the 51D compares quite favorably to even the XIV.

  7. 7
    J.E. Rodriguez says:

    Accordig to History Channell….The Hellcat Fighter han a ratio of 19 to 1 kill of enemy fighters..Other fighters had 1 to 9 ratio. I'll go along w/History Channel

  8. 8
    Matt says:

    Almost impossible to call. The corsair and the Hawker hurricane should get the prize for most kills. Could a P51 beat a Spitfire? I doubt it. do you mean the original 'dog-slow', poor altitude P51 or the one after the British donated the Rolls Royce engine that made it so good? Two other considerations. One, what were they up against and two, what of the Germans. The Messerschmitt 109 and 262; One the workhorse and the other the most amazing aircraft of WW2

  9. 9
    Rick Friedling says:

    Among fighter pilots who saw combat in WWII, the best Army Air Corps fighter was the P-47, and the best naval fighter was the Hellcat. The Hellcat shot down many more fighters than did the Corsair, so as far as effectiveness goes, it takes the trophy in the Pacific, even though the Corsair was a more elegant and advanced design. But the Hellcat could be produced MUCH faster, flown by pilots with far fewer hours of training, and just completely eradicated Japanese fighters from 1943 to the end of the war. Two Hellcats shooting down enemy aircraft attacking a U.S. fleet, even if somewhat slower, were worth more than one Corsair, especially in the Pacific where combat tended to be a much lower altitudes and speed was not as vital given the Japanese over-reliance on the not-really-very-fast Zero. The Corsair was better, however, at intercepting Kamikazes because of its greater speed. They both possessed the same firepower.

    The P-47 was the best fighter due to: (1) Its greater versatility; it was a true fighter-bomber, able to carry two 1,000 bombs;;while (2) Retaining superior high-altitude capability due to its turbo-supercharger installation. Later versions were also faster than the Mustang. the Mustang's main advantage was of course range; but later T-Bolts could match that with additional internal tankage and drop tanks, which the Mustang also needed. (3) The T-Bolt's ruggedness was lengendary. It's magnificent R-2800 engine could continue running even with one (or on a couple of occasions, two) cylinders completely shot away. It also was air-cooled, omitting the weight and vulnerability of the Mustang's liquid-cooling system, a single bullet into which would ensure that the Mustang would not reach home. A plane that brings its pilot back to fight another day is worth two fighters that can't.

  10. 10
    Matt says:

    This thread is as fascinating as asking who was the best racing driver… and as meaningless. The question was about an American aircraft and most of the comments are clearly from Americans. This does not diminish or invalidate their comments, but quietly insults those aircraft not talked of. Would the Grummans have been of much use without the advent of Aircraft carriers? Would the P51 have vannished into history without the Rolls Royce Merlin? Without the Battle of Britain and the 'few' would the Spitfire have been the envy of so many? Here is the real question… when young men (of many countries) volunteered for the RAF, should we judge their achievements by the aircraft they were assigned? Surely the men sent to the Gloucester squadrons were braver than the glory boys in the Spits. Were the dare-devil Instruders really heroes or were they just lucky to be handed the finest aircraft of WWII, the De Havilland Mosquito? As an Englishman I would never say that our pilots were braver than any other… but God help the man who says they weren't as brave as those poor Bastards sent from european airfields in their thousands against them. Should europeans forget to thank the Russians or Americans, should Americans not recognise every wave of fighters sent between them and forces more prepared them they? Who or what was best? Are we not all left with our heads bowed in respect for and thanks to those who went we they were asked. Rows of white crosses in the sunset and forgotten markers in churchyards bring tears to my eays every November 11th.

  11. 11
    Harold says:

    I'd give the nod to the P-47.

    It was an excellent fighter AND fighter-bomber.

    Very sturdy. Very reliable.

    All of the above mentioned splendid characteristics of its radial engine are right on the money. Radial engines were the best overall choice for warplane powerplants in this era.

    I'd give the Hellcat consideration as well, for performance in application, but it didn't have the versatility of the Jug.

    • 11.1
      Eastsaxon says:

      One of my favourite stories from WW2 was when the RAF received the P47s their pilots said that the most effective evasion method was to "Undo the straps and run around in the cockpit".

  12. 12
    John says:

    I see how many love the workhorse fighters on both sides of the allied pond. The Hellcat, and the Hurricane did the dirty work while the glamour boys who flew Spitfires, and P51D Mustangs, act as if they are the most important.

  13. 13
    Paul Bannister says:

    I keep remembering Ed Schmued's talk to our EAA chapter in the 70's. He compared the three principal American WWII land-based fighters to show the superiority of his P-51. Not sure where he came up with his statistics, but the following is what he cited:
    P-38 had a price to the Government of $100,000 each and a kill ratio of 1 to 1.
    P-47 price was $33,000 each for a kill ratio of 3 to 1.
    P-51 price was $10,000 each for a kill ratio of 10 to 1.
    Based on his above numbers, the P-51 was 10 times as effective per dollar as the P-47 and 100 times as effective as the P-38.
    I've seen and heard differing numbers since, but Ed's stick in my memory.

  14. 14
    Susan McHugo says:

    I would like to contribute to this conversation if I may. I don't have any first hand knowledge or expertise re: the aircraft you are discussing. My father did, though. During WW2, he was an escort fighter pilot in the Pacific theatre and flew P-40, P-47 and P-51 fighter aircraft. He also flew jet fighters & was a flight leader during the Korean War. He joined the Vt. Air Guard upon his return home and accumulated 7760 hours in the air. Of those hours, 5500 hours were spent flying fighters.
    I dont think my father spoke about his wartime experiences when I was a child but as he neared the end of his life, i began asking questions and he would respond thoughtfully. When I asked him which plane he enjoyed flying the most, his answer was immediate. The P-51. Which WW2 plane was the finest? The P-51. Why? He said it was because of its maneuverability.
    He was a modest man and did not have an arrogant attitude. He felt he had been privileged to fly the machines he flew and said he had the utmost respect for the people who designed and built them as well as for those who maintained them. He probably would not have been interested in comparing it to any other aircraft.
    On behalf of my father, I thank you very much for this opportunity. I am proud of him for his service to our country and to all American soldiers who fight so that we can remain free.

  15. 15
    Chris W. says:

    You hear so many different things from different people. I have heard over and over many different sides of the P-51's maneuverability. If you watch the rolling glory vids on YouTube, the pilot flying the P-51 in it says, "the P-51 isn't a very maneuverable plane." He says you can use flaps to mitigate it and compares the Spitfire to a sports car, while the P-51 is a "loud Cadillac". I have heard that the F6F does turn better due to its large wing area/low wing loading as does the Corsair slightly. In Europe overall I have read we lost as many P-51's as it killed enemy fighters, while I heard the P-47 killed 3 enemy aircraft for every loss. If you want the roaring glory video on ghd P-47, the same pilot says it rolls quicker than the P-51, doesn't turn as well sustained, but is more forgiving and easier to fly. I am to understand Zemke's Wolfpack had the most kills of any American outfit in Europe flying P-47's.

  16. 16
    Barrie Rodliffe says:

    The Spitfire is not given credit for being very versatile, it was used to escort USAAF bombers before US had the P 51. The Spitfire with the Hurricane won the Battle of Britain, apart from the Me 109 it was the only front line fighter from before the start till after the finish of the war. It was the first plane to shoot down a German plane on D day, the first to land and operate from rough airfields in France after D day, also the plane that moved forward with the advancing troops and was able to defend against air attack at short notice, and many other uses that the Mustang did not have to do. PR, Dive bomber, it was even also used to escort P 51`s which were escorting bombers so they did not have to enter combat and drop their tanks on the way the way to Germany. Very effective against the V1 and Me 262. But of course not long range like the P 51 so it must be no good

  17. 17
    JamesW says:

    'All round'- is meaningless,
    & yes the P-51 was very good, the best of the US WW2 fighters, as is shown by the preference for them over all the others for the toughest fighting,- escorting heavy bombers over Berlin & Tokyo.

    The British solely accepted the P-51 from available US fighters for combat against the Luftwaffe.

    However, judged solely by flight performance envelope, 2 British air-superiority fighters used contemporaneously with the P-51D possessed a number of significant advantages,

    : the Hawker Tempest V was evaluated to be [~20mph] faster on the level & climb below 20,000ft, & always faster in dive & zoom – being about 40mph faster in vne, it also had about twice the fire-power.
    & the Spitfire XIV was like-wise quicker/higher climbing & faster, 'esp above 20,00ft,both Britisn machines could also out-manoeuvre the P-51, The RAF prefered to use these 2 in the air-superiority role & kept their P-51s for long-range escort roles instead…

    Certain late-war German Bf 109K & Fw 190D variants also held similar flight envelope advantages over the Mustang..

  18. 18
    Matt says:

    At last a really well thought out and researched, objective answer. It is too easy to get sucked into knee-jerk defence of your national icons. As an Englishman I find it hard to look past \the few\ and their sacrifices in Spitfires and Hurricanes, but I recognise the strengths and contributions of other aircraft and their pilots. The Mustang was a good plane with amazing range (with drop tanks) and the British fighters hadn't got the range to follow the bombers. The bravery of these pilots is worthy of note. But was it the best aircraft? No, there are too many better aircraft as the previous response has already covered. I still think the Spitfire is a hard act for any to follow and the pilots tend to agree, despite the fact that the slower, more old fashioned Hurricane made more kills. Statistics do not hold the answer to this question. US pride should be firmly targetted at the carrier based aircraft. Our Sea Hurricane and Sea Fury couldn't take the punishment that the American planes could and the results were quite clear. However, I would ask everybody to remember this; the pilots given the older, slower and weaker aircraft still 'went up' no matter the odds, because we asked it of them. Focus on them and not the weapon they were given. \Never before in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few\ Churchill's quote to the fallen of the RAF will endure and the sentiment applies to all the half trained kids we asked to place themselves in harms way no matter their uniform.

  19. 19
    Barrie says:

    The Mk XIV Spitfire and Tempest Mk V were both entering service in early 1944, the main version of P 51, the D entered service in mid 1944, in comparison both the Spitfire and Tempest were faster than the P 51 with better acceleration, climb and turning ability. Against the V1 the Tempest did best followed by Mosquito then Spitfire and lastly Mustang. Against the Me 262, the Tempest and Spitfire also did better than the Mustang. The Mustang as an escort fighter had the range but it needed and escort as far as the German border which was provided by P 38, P 47 and Spitfire, otherwise the P 51 could not carry full fuel and long range tanks and be able to fight. The other easily forgotten thing is that the Spitfire was the only allied fighter in front line service from the start till the end of the war, the P 51 was only really involved in the last couple of years.

  20. 20
    JamesW. says:

    Some posters have given their opinion that air-cooled radial engines were optimal for fighter combat…not so..

    The radials were better suited for multiple engined bomb trucks/transport aircraft where a dedicated flight engineer was aboard to fettle them in flight.

    The Mustang, – unlike the other radial engined US fighters – did not require the pilot to be faffing about juggling cooling flaps/mixtures/boost/prop settings & so could concentrate on combat flying…with a coordinated throttle/engine management control unit..

    Those stories of radials flying home with cylinders shot off were not supported by US Navy research which showed that penetrative engine damage was rarely survivable, & they only used radial mills.

    Gung-ho fighter jocks, like Grand-Prix racers – want to run engines with the best performance 1st & foremost, generally not considering themselves as targets per se…

  21. 21
    Barrie says:

    The Spitfire Mk XIV was in service 6 months before the P 51 D, it was faster with better acceleration, climb and turning ability, only beaten by the P 51 for range, even the Mk IX in service 2 years before the P 51 D had better climb and acceleration and would turn much tighter. The P 51 had to be escorted by P 38, P 47 and Spitfires as far as the German border to achieve the range. The range was not as important after D day

  22. 22
    JamesW. says:

    See the following graph which shows the fastest aircraft used to defeat the Nazi V1 cruise missile assault on London in mid `44.

    The V1s cruised in at low level & ~400mph..

    The Tempest was the fastest & best armed, so destroyed most of those intercepted by fighters, 800+ thus saving thousands..

    The Merlin & Griffon R-R powered fighters were carefully polished & boosted up to +25lbs on 150 grade petrol, & radial P-47s weren't in the hunt..

  23. 23
    better than the Mustang says:

    The figures I have put the Tempest at over 600, the Mosquito over 400 and the Spitfire over 300, AA guns destroyed about 1500, P 51 was used but not as good as Spitfire. The tempest was certainly very fast at the height the V 1`s flew, which was not the best height for Spitfires which still did well, in fact the pilot who destroyed most V 1`s was in a Spitfire as well as the first pilot to shoot down a V 1.The V1`s according to my info. flew at speeds below 400 mph , some about 350 and the fastest getting up towards 400. this was quite a high speed at low altitude most were shot down by AA and Cannon armed fighters, the wing tipping is a bit of a myth, apparently only done a very few times. The Spitfire Mk IX was used for attacking the launching sites, The Spitfire although not meant for dive bombing was used as such on many small targets requiring great accuracy.

  24. 24
    JamesW. says:

    I suggest a fact check then, since Tempest pilot S/L Berry is listed as top-scorer with 60+, & the 600+ taken out by the Tempest wing must be added to by other units such as the F.I.U.,[to up over 800], who also flew Tempests..

    There was quite a bit of bad feeling in the RAF over Churchill's
    deliberate boosting of the AAA Command at their expense..

    Manipulating/deleting RAF kills in their favour..

    Ol' Winnie saw to it that the Fighter boys only got a SINGLE Victoria Cross in the whole of WW2…he had a bit of a downer on them..
    as opposed to his favourite the 'Senior Service' – RN..

    The Spit IXs were a bit outdated speed-wise by 1944, & were given the fighter-bomber role by the 2nd TAF, but they weren't as capable as the Typhoon in that role, so Spit units were converted to Mk XIVs & Tempests for the air-superiority role in the post invasion push to Germany..

  25. 25
    better than the Mustang says:

    Maybe you need to check some of your facts, Churchill was never down on fighter pilots, giving them the credit for Battle of Britain and the boosting of AA was done by moving all the available guns to a belt leaving the Spitfires to handle the V 1`s on the French side of the Channel, the Mustang`s on the British half of the Channel and Tempest`s inside the gun belt, the Mk IX was used a lot and proved very capable for shooting up trains, trucks and especially the V 1 sites, the Typhoon was certainly better for attacking heavy armour like tanks. as for the Mk IX being outdated, at low level it outclassed the P 51 and accounted for a number of Me 262`s and other German fighter`s right until the end of the war, The faster Mk XIV did gradually take over but there were still many Mk IX`s in front line service.

  26. 26
    James W. says:

    Fact: One V.C. in total was awarded to a Fighter Command pilot..

    Jean Maridor was put up for a post-humous V.C. in relation to the V1 defence, but it was denied..

    Churchill used the term \Overweening\ in derogating the RAF effort..

    The Mk IX Spit was significantly slower than the Mustang or Typhoon 'on the deck' [let alone the late war German fighters], & was unable to deliver an equivalent warload, by guns or bombs/rockets either..

  27. 27
    better than the Mustang says:

    The P 51 is maybe slightly faster at low level than the Mk IX Spitfire, but the Mk IX Spitfire had much better climb, acceleration and turned much tighter, as I said it outclasses the Mustang at low level. The Mk IX not only delivered bombs on pinpoint targets they could also defend themselves against German fighters, sure the Typhoon was better for ground attack and the Mk XIV Spitfire and Tempest V were the best for combat, but the Mk IX was still very capable. The firepower of the Mk IX with 2 x 20 mm and 2 x 0.5 is better than the Mustang with 6 x 0.5, some Mk IX`s had 4 x 20 mm.

  28. 28
    JamesW says:

    Even though they were powered by essentially the same engine..
    [the Spit XVI was in fact,Packard Merlin equipped].

    The P-51B/D was markedly faster at all levels, & could out dive both the Spit & the German fighters, important factors in air combat..

    The initial intention was to have Typhoon squadrons re-equip with Tempests, but it was found that Typhoons were more valuable in the tactical role & Spitfire Sqds received Tempests instead..

    Typhoon fighter-bomber pilots used to joke that their Spitfire 'escorts' couldn't keep up with their bomb-laden cruising

    British Mustangs were originally specified with X4 20mm cannon,
    but like Spits few carried them in service..

    The Hawker fighters were robust enough to carry a decent load of cannon ammo..

  29. 29
    better than the Mustang says:

    I do know about the Mk XVI which is basically a Mk IX with the Merlin 266, this is the Merlin 66 built by Packard. The markedly faster or is it marginally faster especially at low level P 51, which has a slight advantage in a dive up to its limit which is much lower than a Spitfire, The P 51 does not accelerate nearly as fast and is slow in a climb and the turning ability of the P 51 was very poor, these are very important in combat and it meant the Spitfire Mk IX could take on the best of the German fighters, while the P 51 could only do one pass and keep going, hoping that the Fw 190 or Bf 109 which could keep up in a dive and when the P 51 has to pull out it is dead, lucky for P 51 and P 47 pilots that Germany was running short of experienced pilots who considered the Spitfire and Tempest to be more dangerous, The early Mustang with 4 x 20 mm was no match for the Mk IX Spitfire, and some Mk V and Mk IX`s did have 4 20mm, but even 2 x 20 mm and 2 x 0.5 is better than 6 x , The Typhoon was fast at low level but the Spitfire Mk XII and XIV were faster. The Hawker Typhoon did carry a powerful load often rockets which would take out heavy armour, while Spitfire`s did useful work, against softer targets. The Tempest was also good for ground attack but more usually used for fighter superiority in which it was second to none except the Spitfire Mk XIV at above 20,000 feet. So while the Spitfire Mk IX was capable it was mainly deployed against ground targets, it did take on the Me 262 in combat a number of which were destroyed or damaged.

  30. 30
    JamesW. says:

    The RAF always valued their Allison engine Mustangs, keeping them in service throughout the war, – for the qualities not available from their Spits,[including speed at low level - faster than Spit IX]
    In fact they wanted them to stay in production, even after the advent of the Merlin powered variants..

    Typhoon pilots would laugh at your suggestion that a Spit XII could out-pace testing showed..

    Typhoon 398mph in M.S. vs 372mph for Spit XII,

    Typhoon 417mph in F.S. vs 397mph for Spit XII.

    As for dive/zoom capability, check the respective pilots notes..

    10,000ft to sea-level Vne IAS 'redline' speeds..

    Spitfire XI : 470mph;
    P-51 : 505mph;
    Typhoon : 520mph;
    Tempest ; 540mph…

  31. 31
    better than the Mustang says:

    The RAF did not use the Allison engine Mustang as a front line fighter, it was used instead for army cooperation, tactical reconnaissance and low level attack. Only 1 squadron was still using the Mustang I at the end of the war. A few had 4 x 20 mm to replace the 7.62 mm machine guns. The P51 was too fragile to be used as a dive bomber and hard to control in a dive especially if the dive brakes failed which apparently did happen quite often. The Typhoon is faster at over 20,000 feet but
    Typhoon 394 mph at 20,000 feet, Spitfire Mk XII 376 at 18,000 feet
    Typhoon 376 mph at 8,000 feet, Spitfire Mk XII 372 at 6,000 feet, makes the Mk XII faster at low level.
    Max diving speed of Spitfire Mk IX in pilots notes list IAS at different altitude as equal to mach 0. 85 while the P 51 is not able to do such a speed.

  32. 32
    JamesW. says:

    I suggest further fact-checking..
    The Typhoon maintained its ~20mph speed advantage
    over the Spit XII at sea-level too..

    & the Griffon could not match the Sabre's 1941 2000+ hp in-service rating 'til 1945..

    If daylight intruder 'ranger' sorties to Germany are not front-line
    fighter tasks.. what is?.. Allison Mustangs flew them..

    Mach meters were not standard equipment in Spitfires, & as the
    the pilots notes showed, the Spitfire was not authorised [or practicable] for using such high Mach speeds operationally..

    Both Spitfire & P-51 would pop rivets [& worse] in pull out that would not trouble the Hawker fighters..

  33. 33
    better than the Mustang says:

    When you get it wrong you certainly get it very wrong, , The Spitfire Mk XIV entered service from January 1944 with the RR Griffon 61 2035 hp, and 65 also 2035 hp in the Mk XIV, XVIII and XIX,, then the 67 with 2375 hp in the FR XIV and FR XVIII. I can tell you that when a trial was carried out with a captured Fw 190, the authorities thought the Typhoon was the only British fighter that could match the Fw 190 at low level, but to be fair they asked Supermarine to send a Spitfire, expecting the Spitfire to be left behind, Supermarine had the prototype Mk XII which they sent along, the result, the Fw 190 dropped out with engine trouble and the Spitfire outpaced the Typhoon, that is why the Spitfire was rushed into service and did very well against Fw 190`s, The Typhoon was used mainly for ground attack. The Mustang was rejected as a front line fighter and used for army cooperation or tactical reconnaissance, ranger sorties being part of their uses, certainly not used for air combat. I did not mention mach metres, but IAS equivalent to. this is mentioned in pilots notes. the Mustang was certainly less able to fly as fast as the Spitfire in a dive. The Spitfire Mk IX and VIII were both used as dive bombers and from 8,000 feet in a steep dive the Spitfire built up to a high speed before dropping its bomb at about 2,000 feet and pulling out which it did, estimated to reach around 600 mph, unlike the P 51 which needed dive brakes or to restrict the speed.

  34. 34
    JamesW. says:

    \When you get it wrong\ indeed..

    By the time the Griffon achieved those power figures…[years after the Sabre, as correctly stated], the Sabre had been rated at over 3,000hp…

    That 'trial' you mention was nothing of the sort, it was a publicity stunt & a typical R-R 'dirty trick' running a prototype 'ring-in' against service aircraft..- if you really want to know about it,
    look up the R-R Eagle, successor to the Griffon..

    P-51 didn't have or need 'dive brakes', or dive flaps for compressibility control like the P-38 & P-47..

    Don't confuse the A-36 Apache with the fighter Mustang..

    & 'Ranger' sorties often involved air combat..

    If Spitfires are so much better at high-speed flight than Mustangs,
    why aren't they raced at Reno then?

  35. 35
    JamesW. says:

    The big P-51 advantage over the similarly powered Spitfire was its aerodynamic efficiency, which allowed a heavier airframe to perform almost as well in most combat manoeuvres,[ better in some] & carry more fuel/range further at a significantly higher cruising speed..

    The Sabre-engined Hawker fighters also had a high cruising speed due to their power/engine output characteristics..

    Note also that although of almost identical cubic capacity the R-R Griffon could never match the contemporary Sabre in specific output/hp-to-weight terms – even though it enjoyed far high boost levels endowed by Sir Stanley Hooker's excellent supercharger developments [that R-R would not share with Napier, 'war on' or not]..

  36. 36
    better than the Mustang says:

    The Griffon as used in the Spitfire Mk XIV had 2,035 hp, this increased to 2,375 hp, this was from 1943, the Mk XIV entered service in January 1944, The Typhoon had 2,065hp increasing to 2,240 hp. The Tempest had 2,400 hp also entered service January 1944, The 3,000 hp was intended for the Hawker Fury. The Spitfire had better aerodynamics than the Typhoon, The Tempest Mk V was faster than the Spitfire Mk XIV below 20,000 feet it was not as fast at higher altitude. Both were considerably faster than the P 51 at low level and the Spitfire Mk XIV was faster than the P 51 at any height.
    The trial of Typhoon against Fw 190 was not a publicity stunt it was not done by RR. Supermarine supplied the Spitfire for the flight. Also there was no advantage with the prototype Mk XII which had the Griffon II B and an experimental propeller that gave lower performance than the Griffon III in the production fighter. I thought the A 36 was basically the same as the P 51 but used as a dive bomber, for which it did need dive brakes. Ranger sorties sometimes involved combat, how did the Mustang fare in these combats, certainly no good if they were not at very low level. If you could afford a Spitfire why would you risk it in Reno air races. The Hawker Fury will make the P 51 look slow. I wonder why the P 51 has been fitted with RR Griffon engine for Reno air races

  37. 37
    better than the Mustang says:

    The Better in some combat maneuvres is? . The almost as well is a much lower rate of climb, much worse acceleration and a turn radius of over 200 feet greater than the Spitfire Mk IX, also the range is at the cost of both performance and handling. when carrying a full fuel load the cruise speed is very slow, They had to be escorted as far as the German border if they were to escort the bombers into Germany and back. The Typhoon cruising speed is lower than the Spitfire Mk II. The 3 speed 2 stage supercharger was developed in 1942 but this promising avenue was not pursued and never got into production. I think maybe you are a bit of a daydreamer.

  38. 38
    JamesW. says:

    'Better' wake-up & do some more homework.. – 283.html

    Check the relative power out-puts of Sabre vs 1945.

    The Sabre was far more powerful..

    R-R did its best to stymie the Sabre program, but when you cant beat them..poach their design..

    That R-R cheat/stunt was not a trial..

    Official service trials – when the Typhoon was compared with the in-service Spit V..

    '…showed the Typhoon to be 40mph faster at all levels above 14,000ft, & even faster below that level.'

    The Merlin Mustang could cruise at ~390 mph..that is.. within~20mph of the Spit IXs top speed.
    Dive, zoom & high speed roll were superior too..

  39. 39
    JamesW. says:

    Comments on R-R 'dirty tricks' re Napier..

  40. 40
    JamesW. says:

    Better do more fact checking..

    Typhoon/Tempest high cruising speed was due to the high revving Sabre mill, cruising speed of the Tempest was likewise ~390mph..

    What make of aero-engine did Supermarine use?

    R-R were very pro-active to protect their market share..

    & by 1945 the Sabre was rated at 3,500hp..see

  41. 41
    JamesW. says:

    Reno racing isn't for daydreamers..
    If the Spitfire was up to it, it would have been raced..
    Mustangs have raced successfully, as
    Hawker Furies have been, & even Yakovlevs..

  42. 42
    better than the Mustang says:

    The Sabre in use in the tempest did not achieve 3,500 hp, and the Fury was tried with the more powerful Sabre, but in production it got the Bristol Centaurus

    That is rubbish about RR and Napier.
    The trial had nothing to do with RR, the prototype Mk XII was no faster than the production fighter.

    The Typhoon was faster than a Mk V, but that is irrelevant .

    The P 51 D had a range of 1155 miles at 294 mph at 20,000 feet
    or with drop tanks 2055 miles at 280 mph at 20,000 feet if it cruised at 390 mph the range was much less. If it was to escort bombers for a useful distance the P 51 needed an escort as far as the German border.
    The Spitfire Mk IX acceleration, climb and turn were much better and with the clipped wings the LF Mk IX with clipped wings had a better rate of roll. The Spitfire Mk XIV which entered service 6 months before the P 51 D was much faster.
    P 51`s which escorted an unarmed photo reconnaissance Mosquito to Poland could not keep pace, the Mosquito pilot had drop well below his economical cruising speed so they could keep up and after reaching Poland and taking the photo`s they were attacked by Me 262`s, the Mosquito pilot opened up and avoided one 262 while the P 51`s were in combat with the others with no losses on either side. The P 51`s never caught up with the Mosquito which got back safely and the P 51`s only just got back very low on fuel.

  43. 43
    better than the Mustang says:

    Reno racing is for highly modified aircraft and Hawker Furies which had the Bristol Centaurus engine are very good for this, Since the Tempest like the Fury is very good at low level there would be little point in modifying a Spitfire, maybe if there were any Spiteful`s around it would be different, How many P 51`s with the original Merlin engine have raced at Reno. I know a very much modified P 51 with a Griffon engine has.

  44. 44
    James W. says:

    Better do some further homework..

    The Spitfires in service could not catch the Fw 190 on the deck..

    The Typhoon & Mustang I.. in service `42-43..could..

    The Griffon Spitfire used that stunt was NOT a Mk XII , it was a hand-built one-off prototype factory was not 'relevant'..

    You should check some of the USAAF 8th AF P-51 gun-camera footage which clearly shows the 'Me 410s' they are credited with destroying are in fact Mosquitos, & indeed the 8th AF had to start painting the tails of their own PR Mosquitos red as extra ID..

    As for Spiteful…take a look at one planform-wise.. very P-51-like..

    There are classes at Reno for 'stocker' unmodded warbirds too
    & I 'm sure it would be welcomed to purr around at its best speed..

    That R-R 'dirty tricks' stuff is true, check it out..

    & Every Sabre equipped Tempest had a higher take-off power rating than any service Spitfire…

  45. 45
    bill watts says:

    looking at all the comments it seems the americans are sticking to their mantra anything american is the best the british had a twin engined lite bomber that was as fast as the p47 and the spitfire was the prefered plane if you were fighting for your life that comment was by american and israli pilots who had flown many types of planes and they all said the same thing no aircraft enemy of allied could out fight a spitfre at all hights

  46. 46
    Barrie Rodliffe says:

    The Mk V Spitfire with clipped wings to give a better roll rate and with the modified Merlin had a speed at low level comparable to the Fw 190.
    The plane used in the trials was the old DP 845 which had been specially built to take the Griffon engine before being developed into the prototype for the Mk XII, it was no more a hot rod than the production Mk XII, which was very fast at low level and in fact later used to shoot down V1`s as were the Mk XIV and Tempest V. The Mk XIV`s used for chasing V1`s could reach 400 mph at 2,000 feet, much faster than the P 51
    Does the gun camera footage actually show how many they did destroy, USAAF pilots claimed a lot and they were well known for not being too good at identification, they attacked Spitfires and just could not keep up with them, the same with Tempests.
    USAAF used both Spitfire`s and Mosquito`s.
    Americans always believe in conspiracy theories.
    The Tempest was very good at low level, and often the Mk XIV Spitfire flew high cover for the Tempest.

  47. 47
    Neil says:

    All this bickering to what plane is best is unbelievable.All the above mentioned aircraft were great aircraft….they won the war collectively and not on their own.It may be true that one aircraft type excelled over another in a certain area but at the end of the day each was just as important as the other.
    Perhaps the best aircraft should be seen as the one that shot down more enemy planes than any other…..the BF109.There are too many variables to come up with a best aircraft category……lets just be thankful that we had the fantastic aircraft we did and ultimately won the war.

  48. 48
    James W. says:

    Airforce contributed to winning, but was only a factor, not a means to itself.

    In 'best' determinations, if a technical comparison, – with probable combat ramifications – is what is wanted, then..

    By quantitative/measured performance, machines can be competitively evaluated, & reasonable conclusions may be drawn.

    This is on a 1-1 basis, feature by feature & does not take into account logistical concerns, which were really the deciding crux in the war's outcome..

  49. 49
    Barrie Rodliffe says:

    Did the Bf 109 shoot down more planes? there are more variables, as well shooting down planes on the Russian front where Russia especially early on had many substandard planes that were easy targets.

  50. 50
    guns0331 says:

    According to the book "Allied Fighters of World War II" by Bill Gunston, the bent-wing F4U, at first judged tricky and unfit for carrier operation (a belief disproved by the British Fleet Air Arm even with baby carriers) was finally recognized as possibly the greatest fighter of the entire war. It outflew such doughty opponents as a P47M and the P51H and Japan's KI84.

    • 50.1
      Barrie Rodliffe says:

      I guess James W. beat me to it, the Seafire was regarded as a great fighter, only let down by not being as easy to land on a carrier but still used past the Korean war, according to one of the top test pilots at the end of the war the Tempest Mk V was the best fighter`s below 20,000 feet and the Spitfire Mk XIV the best above 20,000 feet. The thing about the Spitfire is that it was in service with the RAF, from before the war till well after. no other allied fighter can match that claim. It also served in many different roles that most other fighter`s did not do.

  51. 51
    JamesW. says:

    "Finally recognised as possibly…"!
    Hey that is funny – but of little value..

    & the P-47/P-51 were not opponents – unless Army/Navy rivalry
    went as far as blue-on-blue..

    The Corsair was a good plane, & continued in development post war, but it had a fairly low limiting speed [Vne] .

    & being powered by a lazy radial – it also did not have the performance offered by the top liquid cooled engine fighters..

    Close, but no cigar..

  52. 52
    JamesW. says:

    The RNZAF operated Corsairs in the PTO, but replaced them
    post-war with Mustangs..

    Kiwi combat veterans – on return from the ETO – reckoned that no wartime U.S. fighter was a 1-on-1 combat match for the British top-line Spitfire XIV or Tempest V..

    & indeed the top-scoring RNZAF ace Evan Mackie, who had 800+ WW II hours in Spitfires, actually top-rated the Tempest, saying that once you'd learned how to fly it, it was superior even to the Spitfire..

    A Grumman test pilot Corky Meyer went on record as stating the Naval Spitfire [Seafire] he tested – made the U.S. Hellcat & Corsair
    feel like ponderous cart-horses in comparison to a true thoroughbred..

  53. 53
    Matt says:

    I love reading the opinions and views in here. The facts that we take and hang an argument on. I've never heard of a pilot who experienced many aircraft choosing anything over the Spitfire. The Seafire was also a brilliant aircraft. That said they weren't always the best strategic solution. All US carrier aircraft were able to withstand more damage without the pilot being endangered and therefore gave strategic and morale-boosting advantages that their British equivalents didn't. The P51 was damn-near as good as the Spit (once it had a Rolls Royce engine) but it's ability to carry drop tanks and following the Bomber stream made it strategically superior in the offensive phase. But if we'd tried to fight the Battle of Britain with Mustangs we might not have maintained such a high kill ratio. The Spitfire as a defensive interceptor was far better. The Hurricane made more kills, but it's design, while inferior to the Spit was easier to manufacture and repair. If the senior Allied commanders were writing here, I suspect they's have asked for Spitfires in defense, Mustangs and Typhoons in attack and Corsairs or one of the Grummans on Carriers (all of which would have had steel decks, not wood). Bomber command would have asked for Flying Fortresses and Mosquitos in large numbers and they would all have been preying for an aircraft to beat the Messerchmidt 262.
    We should worship the pilots, not the aircraft. Whether defending foreign soil or fighting with their backs to the wall, or leading assaults into enemy territory. Spare a thought for the men who without fail stepped forward and climbed into the cockpit of an inferior aircraft and fought anyway. The Gladiator pilot, Fairey Battle pilot, Douglas Devastator pilot, Brewster Buffalo pilot, Kittyhawk pilot, Blackburn Botha or those poor Polish PZL P11 pilots. These are your heroes or they bloody well should be

  54. 54
    Barrie Rodliffe says:

    The P 51 with the Merlin was fast and if it carried enough fuel had long range, it did not match the Spitfire for maneuverability, climb or acceleration, and of course if the Spitfire carried enough fuel it had longer range than people think. The Mk IX Spitfire with 85 gallons and a 90 gallon drop tank had a range of close to 1,000 miles while the Mk VIII had 124 gallons and could carry a 170 gallon drop tank and reach around 1500 miles. Spitfires were used extensively for attack, not just defense.

  55. 55
    JamesW. says:

    Pilots & aircrew voluntarily did their combat duty,
    & some were more skilled, or maybe more lucky..

    Few would regard themselves openly as heroes, but many honestly acknowledged that they were killers, & some were proud of their proficiency in doing that too..

    Obviously, if they had the right equipment,
    then their chances were better,
    but the huge casualty list of men killed in aircraft
    -is a significant proportion of those people killed by aircraft,

  56. 56
    Matt says:

    I couldn't agree more. The title of hero cannot be self appointed, nor given by a friend or colleague. Only by mass perception. Churchill coined the phrase about the pilots of the RAF and those few volunteers from allied countries \Never before in the field of human conflicrt has so much been owed by so many to so few.\ In his role to speak for a nation he conferred hero status nad the title of \the few!\ to those pilots. My point was that no pilot chose his aircraft and whilst I have no problem regarding a pilot in a Spitfire as a hero, I have even more respect for (example) a Polish Pilot, probably fully aware of the futility, climbing into a PZL P11 to take on the highly experienced 109 pilots whilst below him Polish Lancers turned their horses to charge German tanks. To offer you life in a futile attempt to save others is heroism almost beyond measure.

  57. 57
    JamesW. says:

    Funny, I always though ol' Winnie, with his -never so much owed-
    speech – was referring to their mess-bar bills..

    & Matt,
    I guess that would mean those poor mugs who signed on as kamikaze pilots, so providing plenty of those Hellcat 19-1 kill statistics,
    & the ardent young Nazi pilots flying futile sorties against hopeless odds to the bitter end were likewise – heroes beyond measure?

    • 57.1
      Matt says:

      A person fights for their own country under the leadership that they are given. Undoubtedly the kanmikaze pilots and those axis pilots fighting to the end were heroes. Being misguided, misled or duped does not diminish your heroism.

  58. 58
    guns0331 says:

    James, in combat the radial engine is far superior to a water cooled engine. It can take far more abuse and bring the pilot home, when a water cooled engine can't. The Corsair had the very same engine as the P47 but in a MUCH lighter frame. Statistically, the Corsair outflew the Mustang in every category but range. The Corsair flew far before the P51 and P47. To America's chagrin, the Navy couldn't land the plane on an aircraft carrier so it was pawned off on the Marines who used it to annihilate the best pilots Japan had. Too bad they didn't use
    it in Europe. The war might have ended much sooner.

  59. 59
    JamesW. says:

    Wrong about the radial,G.0331..

    They were not so good for fighter combat, could not take the 'abuse'
    as you put it, being prone to cooling [over & under] issues in fighter
    combat flying..

    The point of fighters – is to dish out punishment, & liquid cooled engines provide the best means of doing it.

    If you compare those fighters which were flown with both types of engine, the liquid cooled versions had better performance..

    Those big R-2800s were gas hogs too, the P-47s became virtual flying gas-tanks, & the Corsair had a best cruising speed at 20,000ft that was 100mph slower than a Mustang..

    The Mustang got the gig for bomber escort over both Berlin & Tokyo,
    a job it did well, & the thirsty radial milled fighters didn't..

    The F4U took too long in development, & got the 'Ensign killer' tag
    for being an unforgiving beast..

    The USN only operated radial engine aircraft & they did research showing that penetrative hits on engines were rarely survivable..

    A Quaker or other pacifist might say that any combat volunteer was
    not thinking straight, but a nationalist would think the opposite,
    & who is to judge which really is correct?

  60. 60
    guns0331 says:

    James, you say the Radial was not good in combat? Tell that to Francis Gabreski, America's leading ace in Europe. He flew a P47 for all of his victories and the majority of his victories came against water cooled engines. Francis also flew the Spitfire. Of course, Francis said many times before his death how the P47 was superior to the P51and Spitfire. Now, take that same engine in the P47 and put it in a plane thousands of pounds lighter, F4U, and you've got yourself a kickass hot rod. Ooooooh Rahhhhhh

    By the way, all the allies considered the FW190 to be Germany's best fighter aircraft in World War II. We're not talking jets and the FW190 was a radial engine powered plane.

  61. 61
    JamesW. says:

    G0331, as far as radial engines being adequate for fighter planes, I refer you to post 20, this thread.

    Interestingly, the BMW radial powered Fw 190 did have a 'kommando-gerat' coordinated power control system..

    However, the later Fw 190D had a liquid-cooled engine, for superior performance..

    The final production Mustang P-51H had 2,200hp from a 1,650 cubic inch mill, while the fat-thirsty-lazy radial in the Corsair needed 2800 cubic inches..

    The Hawker Fury was built with both radial & inline mills, & went harder on the higher output [but smaller capacity] inline..


  62. 62
    guns0331 says:

    James, I refer you back to Post 50. After the war, all the aircraft were tested against each other. The F4U outflew the P51H and all other fighter aircraft in World War II. According to the Rand McNally book World War II Airplanes Volume 2, Page 87 & 88 \Corsairs downed 2,140 enemy planes while only 189 Corsairs were lost—a ratio unmatched in the history of air warfare.\ Unfortunately,mistakes are made in wars. One of the mistakes the United States made was not developing the Corsair earlier.

    A couple more interesting facts about radial engines…the FW190 had a new radial engine rated at more than 2300 horsepower. Can you imagine the performance of that FW190 if it had ever seen combat? Also, the leading allied ace, Russian pilot Ivan Kozhedob, scored all of his victories in radial powered planes, most being the Lauochkin LA-5. His victories included one jet and two P51s that attacked him. If you go back and ask the test pilots from World War II, their opinion was that the F4U was the best fighter of World War II.

  63. 63
    James W. says:

    Do kindly provide the links to documents that support your assertions..

    The Fw 190 when BMW radial powered – had to run on the highest available grade gas, & have extra injected – as coolant – straight into the supercharger – to prevent rapid over-heating on high power settings.

    The replacement liquid-cooled mills did not require this..

    Russian inline mills were way below Western standards though.

    Reno air-races [ 50th running, on presently] like wise show the advantage of the liquid-cooled mills to make more power, longer
    from fewer cubes..

    The fat radial tends to block the pilot view too.

    The USAAF dropped its radial engined [ turbo R-2800, & not the same as in the F4U, in-fact better at high altitude] P-47 post-war
    - in favour of the superior P-51.

    The official 1949 USAF F-51H performance stats published [available on-line] clearly show they'd rate them favourably against any equivalent F4U in a blue-on-blue showdown..

    The F4U, like the P-38, did well in the PTO, [both against lesser performing opposition], but it too – would not have cut it in the ETO, & indeed, lacked the attributes that gave the P-51 its success..

  64. 64
    Barrie Rodliffe says:

    The F 4U would not outfly a Spitfire or Tempest V, both with inline engines, do not take claims too seriously, many were very exaggerated. The Spitfire was the only allied fighter in front line service from before the war till well after and performed many different roles, while the P 51 after it got the Merlin was a good long range escort fighter and the Corsair eventually a good carrier fighter. Both would not manage some of the roles that Spitfires excelled at.

  65. 65
    Matt says:

    The Corsair was indeed a brilliant aircraft, in certain circumstances. It's pilots were so heavily armoured that they were more confident than their exposed opposition and it's firepower was way too much for the zero's. It didn't take much of a hit to put a Japanese aircraft out of combat, whereas the Japanese would have to pound away at the Corsair to have effect. Excellent design for carrier based operations… that only existed in one area. In Europe it wouldn't have been able to manage the dog fights or the opposition. The F4U didn't even arrive in the US until 1942, three years after the war started and who knows when they'd have got to the UK. Certainly long after the important fighter work had finished in Europe in 40 and 41. Fighters are, after all, defensive aircraft. Even if it had been available, the Me109 pilots arrived at the beginning of WWII in 1939 with three years active combat experience from the Spanish civil war, where they had developed tactics that the allies had to learn, for example the use of wing-men. The best allied combat formation was the three aircraft V which always had to slow to the pace of the outside aircraft in any manoeuvre, whereas the German pair of fighters would turn inside each other at full speed. It is a credit to 'The Few' that they managed to fight off the Luftwaffe at all and they only did that because of the Hurricane and Spitfire. Anyway, I wish the British and Commonwealth aircraft carriers had access to those US carrier born aircraft. British aircraft undercarriages were just not suited to deck landings at sea and we could have learned from the Americans. They were clever enough to benefit from our Merlin for the P51, why weren't we as smart in this area?

    • 65.1
      Barrie Rodliffe says:

      I think you will find that the Royal Navy did use Corsairs on Aircraft Carriers before US Navy, and while the Seafire was not ideal for landing on carriers experienced pilots did manage it ok and in the air it was unbeatable

  66. 66
    James W. says:

    Carrier planes had to be constructed with due attention to naval flying needs, & the Corsair presented a few problems there, taking a while to get ship-board clearance [& flown from land bases only -for a period]while the Grumman machines took the burden/glory..

    Among the hard learned lessons the British were taught [ such as the fighting formation Matt mentioned],

    Cannon armament, drop tanks, use of fighters in aggressive tactical ground attacks [& as fighter-bombers], effective inter-service liaison & active radar directed ground control.

    The need for naval aviation to have dedicated, purpose built/effective planes was another,[although the RN/IJN did have quite a few useful carrier ideas picked up by the USN too..]

    Curiously enough, a Corsair operated by the British in the ETO was captured & evaluated by the Germans..

  67. 67
    James W. says:

    AFAIK, the Corsair was late onto carriers, but was flown from ships by both the RN & USN in more-or-less the same time frame in `44..

    The Spitfire/Seafire had benign low speed handling for landing & good take-off.
    Ok sure, so, they had difficulty/high accident rates flying off small carriers in Italy – when their was no wind – but any plane would've had that trouble..

    The RN did like their Seafires for anti-kamikaze CAP in the PTO, since they had both superior climb & armament to the porky Hellcat & Corsair, in-fact the USN rated the Hispano cannon to be worth 3 .50 Browning H.M.G.s, & worked towards adopting them too..

  68. 68
    JamesW. says:

    Here is a fine example of the final generation of piston fighters..

    Too late for WW2 & then unwanted by jet-keen airforces..

  69. 69
    Barrie Rodliffe says:

    The P 51H was too late for the war and never saw any combat, the Spitfire was in service from January 1944, 6 month`s before the P 51 D, not all Mk XIV`s had clipped wings, but even if they did the Mk XIV outperformed the P 51 D at any height, faster, better acceleration, better climb and much tighter turn as the USAAF pilots that attacked Mk XIV`s by mistake found out.

  70. 70
    Barrie Rodliffe says:

    The P 51H was too late for the war and never saw any combat, the Spitfire Mk XIV was in service from January 1944, 6 month`s before the P 51 D, not all Mk XIV`s had clipped wings, but even if they did the Mk XIV outperformed the P 51 D at any height, faster, better acceleration, better climb and much tighter turn as the USAAF pilots that attacked Mk XIV`s by mistake found out.

  71. 71
    James W. says:

    Barrie, for sure the RAF rated their own top fighters as most suitable/
    superior for A2A duties & kept their Mustangs mainly in roles that
    exploited their long range high/cruising speed capabilities..

    But one-on-one Merlin `51 vs Spit XIV, the Mustang did offer
    certain performance advantages, mainly due to its aerodynamic
    profile, such as higher speed for dive/zoom/roll, as well as in cruising
    & at low level.

    The Spitfire XIV variants which could beat the Mustang in roll
    ( at lower speeds) had clipped wings which reduced climb/turn & high altitude performance, & the highly boosted V1 chaser Spits which could match Mustangs for low level speeds – were operated at peril of their Griffon engine main bearings..

    The standard Spit XIV also lacked the true bubble canopy, & when it
    was later introduced, directional stability was found a bit iffy too..

    The final 20 series Spitfires addressed most of these shortcomings,
    but like the `51H, were not required to be rushed into wartime
    service/combat, & post-war both RAF & USAF were jet-bent anyhow..

  72. 72
    Barrie Rodliffe says:

    You really should learn, the Spitfire Mk XIV was faster with better cilmb, turn and acceleration, they were boosted to catch the V 1 at low level which they did manage ok, certainly they caught and shot down a lot more V 1`s than the Mustang The P 51 did not have a bubble canopy until June 1944, 6 month`s after the Spitfire Mk XIV was in service. The Spitfire turned over 200 feet tighter than the Mustang.
    Even the earlier Mk IX Spitfire climbed and accelerated faster than the Mustang. The later Spitfire`s did see some action unlike the P 51 H which was too late for WW II and was never used for any combat whatsoever. I guess you think the Mustangs used for chasing V 1`s were standard and not modified in any way. The Spitfire was a viceless and very pleasant plane to fly and did not have the shortcomings of the Mustang.

  73. 73
    James W. says:

    Really Barrie?,
    Well, here's some learnin' for you.. ..feel free to confirm it..

    Mustang D's with bubble canopy were in service prior to the Spitfires
    so equipped, & both much later than the Hawker fighters..

    The Griffon engine, when boosted to +25lbs ( at the cost of its crankshaft getting ropy & running its bearings ragged) did enable
    the Spit XIV to 'just' catch V1s, but in regular clearance service use,
    - it was not as fast on the deck – as either Allison or Merlin Mustang.

    The `51H may not have seen combat during WW2, but were kept in service for strategic defence by the USAF as their longest range interceptor against the Soviet nuclear bomber threat post-war..

    & the RAF did get a production example for test purposes in `45, around about the same time as British test pilots were being quite openly critical of the Spitfire 21, along the lines of 'no more thanks,
    - its past its best-by-date'..

  74. 74
    Barrie Rodliffe says:

    Hawker got their bubble canopy much earlier and Spitfire`s had the excellent Malcolm hood from before the war, the P 51 had bad visibility until they were eventually given the Malcolm hood, then in June 1944 they had a bubble canopy, Spitfire Mk XIV and XVI`s got the Bubble canopy, not long after the P 51.
    The Spitfire Mk XIV and some Mk IX`s were used for chasing V 1`s and did catch them and shoot down a lot more than the Mustang, despite the Mustang being boosted to + 25 lbs and only just able to catch the V 1, forget about Allison engine Mustang`s they were far too slow to catch any V 1`s.
    The P 51 H was not kept for defense but issued to some reserve units, it did not have very good range anyway, one of the sacrifices to give it more speed.
    British test pilot`s flew the Mk 21 in 1943 and by the time they got the P 51 H they were test flying the Spiteful, which I believe is the plane they were critical of because it was not as nice to fly as the Spitfire, but faster than the P 51 which was not very nice to fly either.H. By then the jets were making piston engine fighter`s obsolete.

  75. 75
    James W. says:

    Barrie, ironically the 'cross pollination' of ideas across the Atlantic
    affected both Mustang & Spitfire..

    The `51H was a production lightweight, built to Spitfire stress
    values & powered by a hi-po Merlin.
    It did retain the long range capability that 1st gen jets ( fighter spec Spitfires) could not match.
    `51Hs, unlike the earlier models,were not sold/operated overseas.
    The Strategic Air Command used the H (& its F-82 twin variant)
    as long reach interception against Soviet TU 4 (B-29 clone)
    nuclear bombers up in Alaska..

    There are a couple of `51H Mustangs still flying, & a pilot recently
    gave his view of what it was like by comparison to earlier models.
    He reckoned the H, being much lighter & more powerful, really
    flew, & made the D model feel 'truck-like' heavy/sluggish..

    By contrast, & although the 20 series Spitfires had received
    a redesigned wing with 4 x 20mm cannon as a standard fit,
    & an increase in Vne (dive speed limit) of 50mph, this only
    matched what the Typhoon had years earlier..

    The Spiteful went even further, with a Mustang-type straight taper
    'laminar flow' wing, that – as you correctly point out, lacked the
    forgiving nature of the semi-elliptical Spitfire planform.

    The Spiteful did get a larger area tail unit, (which was fitted to
    the final Mk 22/24 – usefully) but was not wanted by the jet-bent
    RAF, did not see service use either.

    A couple of Spitefuls were fitted with hi-po 100 series Griffons,
    with 2,000+ hp up at high altitudes & were apparently capable
    of ~490mph, but just like the Griffon powered MB-5, the RAF
    opposed any post-war speed record attempts with them,
    wanting the glory for their new Meteor jet..

    The final generation of prop fighters was impressive,
    & kept certain warlike advantages over the 1st gen jets.

    Has anyone got accurate/verified data that shows the fabled
    prototype Thunderbolt did make '500mph in level flight'?

  76. 76
    Barrie Rodliffe says:

    The P 51 H was not built to Spitfire stress levels or anything else to do with the Spitfire, it was a lightweight Mustang that had considerably reduced range and was after the war only used by reserve units.

    In flight tests in May 1945, it was not able to use WEP and only achieved 450 mph and a best rate of climb of 3395 feet/min

    The Griffon got up to over 2,400 hp.and the Spiteful F 16 achieved 494 mph, and over 400 mph at sea level.

    The Mk 21 Spitfire which had a level top speed of over 450 mph was much faster than the Typhoon, the rate of climb made the P 51 H seem like a truck, the P 51 D was really slow in a climb. even a Mk IX Spitfire would accelerate and climb much faster than the much later P 51 D

    I shouldn`t pui much faith in a special version of the Thunderbolt reaching 500 mph, I have seen the claims for high speed in 3 versions, 1 with a Chrysler engine which was supposed to give 2,500 hp but only managed 2,200 hp and did 414 mph before it crashed, it was never rebuilt.
    The lightweight special with a R 2800 engine was claimed to have done over 500 mph but the best managed seems to be about 480.
    The XP 72 was again supposed to have done over 500 mph but while some of the people in charge of the project claim 490 mph others say 480 was the max.
    The only thing about 500 mph I can find is that some have said if everything was perfect it should have been possible.

  77. 77
    James W. says:

    Barrie, you are incorrect about the Mustang H, see here..

    It was built to a lightweight design, & with a 2,200+ hp Merlin
    could climb as quickly as the best Spitfires when carrying
    an equivalent load, & ranged much further when fully loaded.

    The Spitfire 21 was faster than the Typhoon in level flight, but no Spitfire was as fast as the Tempest I prototype which recorded 470+ mph on test in 1943..

    The Spiteful 16, on +25lbs boost from its special 3 speed, 2 stage Griffon was fast at high altitude, but was bested by the Sabre powered Hawker Fury speed-wise below 20,000ft, just as the Spitfire XIV was by the Tempest V, in `44..

    Thanks for the input re the Thunderbolt too, I have never seen any
    official USAAF test documentation to back those '500 mph' claims.

  78. 78
    Barrie Rodliffe says:

    The figures I gave were from a flight test in 1945 when the P 51 H was not ready for service, there were problems with the engine not being able to use WEP. I do not know when the problems were solved, 4 years later it was obviously working ok. The range for the P 51 H was about 500 miles less than the P 51 D, and more than the Spiteful which was around 1300 miles. Some Spitfire`s had pretty good range, the Mk VIII which had extra internal fuel would have had a range of over 1000 miles with a 90 gallon drop tank and closer to 1500 with a 170 gallon drop tank, no match for the P 51 but not too bad.
    The Spiteful which did 494 mph also did 408 at sea level.
    allowing for a lower performance as a production fighter it still would be around 480 mph and 400 mph at sea level. The Sea Fury is very fast at low level, I do not have the correct figures but it looks like close to 425 mph at seas level.
    All these planes were very fast for piston engine fighters and I guess all had there share of problems.
    The Tempest V which entered service had a top speed of 435 mph, while the Spitfire Mk XIV of the same time would do 448 mph. under 20,000 feet the Tempest V was very fast over 375 mph at sea level, they got it up to around 395 for chasing V 1`s.
    It is interesting how Hawker tried different engines , like the RR Vulture, Napier Sabre, Bristol Centaurus and RR Griffon, I shall have to do some more reading on the Typhoon and Tempest through to the Fury.
    The other plane that was quite amazing was the DH Hornet.
    I guess I can learn a bit from you, I sometimes think I know a lot only to find others do know what they are talking about. I did not know how fast the Sea Fury was at low level before, all I knew was it had a top speed of around 460 mph.

  79. 79
    James W. says:

    if you check the graph cited in post 22 above it shows the
    high speed performance of Mustang III, Spitfire XIV & Tempest V
    as utilized for anti-V1 interceptions in `44.

    The R-R powered aircraft are at +25lbs boost whereas the
    Tempest was limited to +11lbs at that time, largely due to the
    limitations put on Sabre output by the ability of the De Havilland
    propeller to safely accept high power settings.

    Later, Rotol props allowed higher boost/speed figures,
    Mason, in 'The British Fighter Since 1912 gave a speed of 462mph
    at under 20,000ft for the Tempest F6 on test at Boscombe Down,
    & 'Flight' has a graph that shows an F6 – with its Sabre on 17.25lbs
    boost – tested as capable of 418mph at sea-level..

  80. 80
    James W. says:

    Barrie, the figures for the Sea Fury ( shows 402 mph at S-L) are
    listed in the link posted stat above your post listed as number 69
    in this thread..

  81. 81
    Barrie Rodliffe says:

    I have a problem with the figures given on that graph, all 3 are shown to be faster than they were, the Tempest was the fastest of the 3 at sea level.
    Flight trials for the Mustang IIII with 25 lbs show 404 mph at 2,000 feet. Also the Mustang III with 15 lbs has a speed at sea level of about 350 mph. while the Tempest V does about 376 mph and the Spitfire Mk XIV 357 mph. So when boosted for extra speed I can accept a 20 mph increase but find it hard to accept a 45 mph increase for the Mustang
    I see the Sea Fury is said to be 410 mph at sea level on the chart I was looking at, I misread it before.

  82. 82
    James W. says:

    – those figures are for R-R powered V-1 chasers running a
    serious increase of boost ( & power) from +18 to +25lbs.

    This was only possible using special 150 grade petrol,
    – & at the cost of significantly reduced engine life..

    These measures were deemed needful however, given
    the dire threat posed by the diabolical Nazi cruise-missiles,
    raining down on London, killing thousands..

    The USAAF 8th AF also used the 150 grade fuel in its
    Mustangs ( at a lower 72 in/hg or ~+21lbs boost) to
    compete with the later, higher spec Luftwaffe 109/190s..

    The P-51H ran ADI ( equivalent to German MW-50)
    & up to 90in/hg – WEP – for its 2,200+hp Merlin..

    • 82.1
      Barrie Rodliffe says:

      Actually I still have trouble with those figures, About 395 mph for the Tempest boosted for chasing V 1`s, and around 380 for the Spitfire, I can`t see how the Mustang could ever get near 405 mph, even the Tempest might just do over 400 if it had highly polished paintwork. which would also increase the speed a bit of the other planes.
      The P 51 H when flight tested in 1945 was not able to give it`s full power due to problems that must have been solved later.
      Most V 1`s were destroyed by AA using the predictor gunsight and proximity fuses, all the planes destroyed less, the Tempest being the best with over 600, followed by the Mosquito over 400, the Spitfire over 300 and the Mustang which only managed to destroy just over 200.
      Spitfire`s were also responsible for defence against German fighter`s and used for attacking the V 1 launching sites. In fact the Spitfires were used as the first line of defence against the V1 which was probably a bit of a disadvantage.

  83. 83
    James W. says:

    Barrie, check the official documents concerning V1 defence measures & the use of 150 grade petrol at..

    Tempest units in fact destroyed over 800 V1s..

    The fastest low-level fighters in RAF service had not been
    Spitfires – since the introduction of Typhoons & Allison Mustangs in `42..

    • 83.1
      Barrie Rodliffe says:

      I have seen that chart but have been unable to find any confirmation to support it.
      The Spitfire Mk XII was equal to the Typhoon at low level while the Allison engine Mustang was rather slow, Mk V and Mk IX were faster at sea level. The rate of climb of the Mustang was also very pathetic and it was hopeless above 5,000 feet.

  84. 84
    James W. says:

    Ah, no Barrie,
    .. just check the actual service test documents..
    They are available on that site..

    Typhoon was tested as ~40mph faster than Spit V,
    & ~20mph faster than Spit XII, at all heights.

    Spit XII was too little, too late – to be a Typhoon substitute.

    In `42 – USAAF tests rated the Allison powered P-51 as its best performer at up to 15,000ft..

    They were almost as fast as a Typhoon, & on ~ 1/2 the power..

    • 84.1
      Barrie Rodliffe says:

      The Typhoon was alright but it had several problems and the Mk XII was the plane that really took on the Fw 190 at low level, in a test between a captured Fw 190, a Typhoon and and Spitfire the Fw broke down and the Spitfire Mk XII overtook and left the Typhoon behind. The Spitfire was not a Typhoon substitute, the Typhoon was very good for ground attack while the Spitfire was extremely good for air defense and as an escort fighter escorting US bombers to targets in France and back, while the Mustang was not doing much at all.
      The best US performer in 1942 was not much to crow about, the Alison engine Mustang might be almost as fast as a Typhoon using half power but the Mustang was slow with poor climb and acceleration,

  85. 85
    James W. says:


    Do – kindly – refer back to post 30..

    The Mustang was the sole US built fighter kept employed
    continuously by the RAF in the ETO..
    – from its 1st intro – to wars end..

    The RAF never had as many as they wanted, unlike Spits..

    & no Spit could match the Typhoon as a fighter-bomber…

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