During the Second World War, the United States developed a range of cutting-edge aircraft, many of them capable of achieving remarkable speeds for that age. Jet propulsion had just been invented in the years leading up to the U.S. entering the war, and a new age of aviation was just beginning. (See also the most mass produced planes in World War II.)
The entrance of the United States into World War II would add to the Allied Forces. Factories in the U.S. were churning out thousands of aircraft among other assets as part of the war effort, and these would ultimately help turn the tide in favor of the Allies. These aircraft mark the evolution of aviation and the military, with some becoming symbols of the war.
To determine the fastest American military planes from WWII, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed WW2 Aircraft Ranked-by-Speed, a list compiled by Military Factory, an online database of military vehicles, aircraft, arms, and more. We only included military planes that had production runs of more than 150 and that served during the war, ranking them based on their top speed. Prototypes and concept aircraft were excluded. Supplemental information about year entered service, crew size, and roles also came from Military Factory.
Two notable aircraft are the P-51 Mustang and the P-38 Lightning, which stand out for their speed, maneuverability, and impact on the outcome of the war.
The P-51 Mustang is one of the most recognizable and fastest planes fielded by the Americans in WWII. Primarily used as a long-range bomber escort in raids over Germany, the P-51 Mustang was capable of reaching speeds of up to 437 mph. The P-51’s range of more than 950 miles, combined with its speed and firepower made it a formidable force, directly affecting the strategic bombing campaigns successes against the Axis forces.
The P-38 Lightning was another high-speed American aircraft, known for its unique twin-engine design. With its turbo-supercharged engines, the P-38 could achieve an impressive top speed of 414 mph. The P-38 was used in a variety of roles, including interception, dive bombing, ground-attack, and reconnaissance missions.
These are just a couple examples of the aircraft fielded by the United States during WWII. While some of the fastest aircraft were air-to-air combat fighters and bombers, slower aircraft on the list include transport or reconnaissance planes. Notably, most of these aircraft were designed and built during the war and in the years leading up to it, so they were outfitted with the best technology of the age, far outpacing the aircraft of decades past.
U.S. aircraft — slower and faster alike — were critical to the Allied victory. And despite the victory, there were many losses. Here are famous American ships that sank in World War II.
Here is a look at the fastest and slowest aircraft fielded by the United States in WWII.
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