WWII fighter planes compared (1940s)

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WWII fighter planes compared (1940s)

Note: This article may feature affiliate links to Amazon or other companies, and purchases made via these links may earn us a small commission at no additional cost to you. Find out more here.

The Allies weren’t just trying to create the very best WWII fighter planes that they could – they were also constantly evaluating what the Nazis were using. Here’s a look.
US expects to ‘top’ Focke-Wulf 190 in high altitude dog fights of future

Kingsport Times (Kingsport, Tennesse) August 13, 1942

Most talked-about new fighter plane in the European war theater is Germany’s Focke-Wulf 190. Has it been over-sold or under-sold?

NEA Service presents the best possible estimates of the new enemy craft in this article, the second of two which compare American war planes with those of Britain and the Axis.

British criticism of American planes stems largely from the fact that the United States has not yet been able to deliver to Europe or the Middle East, in quantity, any plane which is the equal or the superior to the best and the latest fighter plane that the Germans have put on the front.

Focke-Wulf Fw 190D-9
DAYTON, Ohio — Focke-Wulf Fw 190D-9 at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

This is the new Focke-Wulf 190, powered with a BMW radial-type engine said to produce 1650 horsepower, as compared with the 1160 hp Allison and 1350 hp Rolls Royce in-line liquid cooled engines used on most of the United Nation’s fighter planes.

American-type engine

Just how many of these Focke-Wulf 190s the Germans have is not known, nor is it known whether they are in quantity production. Until recently, none had been brought down over England, though the details of the plane are known to British and US authorities.

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Focke-Wulf 190

Its principal advantage over British and American combat planes is that it is good at all altitudes up to 40,000 feet.

From the designer’s point of view, the important thing about this new German plane is that it goes back to the radial type of engine, which older American designers have long insisted was the superior.

The British have clung to the in-line engine for their Spitfires and Hurricanes. Thus far, Spitfire and Messerschmitt have fought it out on fairly even terms throughout the war, the Spitfire having an edge in speed and firepower, but eclipsed by the Me-109F’s rate of climb and ceiling.

ALSO SEE: The history of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress planes from WWII

No carburetor

The Focke-Wulf 190 surpasses the new Spitfire V in some ways, and it is because the Americans do not have on the ground in Europe a plane that is superior to the Focke-Wulf at all altitudes that both British and American pilots in Europe are crabbing. Below 15,000 feet, the Focke-Wulf may have an equal in the North American Mustang.

Evidence that the FW-190 is not having things all its own way with the Spitfire comes from a recent report of an encounter between these two planes, in which nine of the German planes were shot down, to three of the British.

Two secrets of the Focke-Wulf success are supposed to be: First, a new cowling design which overcomes the old objection that radial type engines develop a wind-resisting frontal area; second, a new method of fuel injection which does away and carburetor and shoots fuel direct from the gas tank into the cylinder.

American Air Force men point out that this new type cowling was perfected by NACA in 1940, and it is found on both the Army’s Republic P-47 and the Navy’s sensational Vought-Sikorsky fighter, the F4U-1, which will do over 400 miles an hour, and which helped swing the Army back to the radio engine as a good power unit for fighter planes.

The advantages of the Focke-Wulf’s BMW engine direct fuel injection principle are said to be that it operates at all altitudes without ever cutting out, and that it permits the use of lower grade German synthetic fuels to give power equivalent to that developed from the American high-octane gas. American engine designers have been giving considerable attention to this direct fuel injection method.

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P-47N
Republic P-47N Thunderbolt, Thunderbolt flew its first combat mission–a sweep over Western Europe. Used as both a high-altitude escort fighter and a low-level fighter-bomber, the P-47 quickly gained a reputation for ruggedness. Its sturdy construction and air-cooled radial engine enabled the Thunderbolt to absorb severe battle damage and keep flying.

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Expect big results

In the radial engine is the secret of the Focke-Wulf’s superiority, however, American designers are not worried, for the radial air-cooled engine has been perfected in the United States and it is used on one of the newest and best US fighter planes, the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt.

The engine on this plane develops 2000 horsepower, as against the 1650 hp of the Focke-Wulf’s BMW engine. Equipped with the turbo-supercharger, the Thunderbolt can work effectively at altitudes above 40,000 feet, which tops the Focke-Wulf’s best reported performance.

The Thunderbolt is now in production at the Republic plant, and is also scheduled for quantity production by one of the largest US aircraft manufacturers.

None of the Thunderbolts have yet been shipped to England, but an engagement between this plane and the Focke-Wulf (or the over-sold Jap Zero) should settle for the time being the question of who builds the best planes. In one manner of speaking, the Focke-Wulf is an attempt to match the specifications of the Republic P-47.


More WWII fighter planes: Republic P-47D

Republic P-47D
DAYTON, Ohio — Republic P-47D at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

More WWII fighter planes: Republic P-47D

Republic P-47D
(U.S. Air Force photo)

More WWII fighter planes: Northrop P-61C Black Widow

Northrop P-61C
DAYTON, Ohio — Northrop P-61C Black Widow at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Northrop P-61C Black Widow cockpit

Northrop P-61C Black Widow cockpit (U.S. Air Force photo)
(U.S. Air Force photo)

North American P-51D Mustang

North American P-51D
DAYTON, Ohio — North American P-51D Mustang at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

ALSO SEE: The history of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress planes from WWII

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