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The 20 Fastest Planes that Flew in World War II

37467370@N08 / Flickr

The German Luftwaffe played an important role in the German Blitzkrieg, conducting air strikes across Western Europe, as Nazi Germany forces swept through large parts of Western Europe in World War II. Blitzkrieg, which literally translates to “lightning war,” was the German strategy to achieve quick victories, largely relying on its Luftwaffe and the aircraft used during the war.  

WWII was an unprecedented period of rapid technological development, particularly in military aviation. With advances in aircraft design, engineering, and engine propulsion, the Allies and Axis powers competed in a relentless race to produce the fastest and most capable aircraft. (Today, these are the largest air forces in the world.)

To determine the 20 fastest military planes from World War II, 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. Military aircraft were ranked based on their top speed. Only military planes that had production runs of more than 30 and that have seen service during the war were considered, and prototypes and concepts were excluded. Supplemental information about the country of origin, year entered service, crew size, and roles also came from Military Factory.

The Messerschmitt Me 262, a German-developed jet-powered aircraft, ranks near the top of the fastest WWII aircraft. A testament to German engineering prowess, the Me 262 boasted a maximum speed of 559 mph. It was first flown in 1942 after some delays in production, which eventually gave way for wide-scale operational deployment in 1944. 

One of the most iconic planes on the list is the North American P-51 Mustang. With a reputation for exceptional speed, range, and firepower, the P-51 Mustang reached a maximum speed of up to 437 mph when equipped with a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine. The Mustang performed as an outstanding escort fighter, protecting Allied bombers while raiding heavily defended German territory. The P-51 Mustang’s crucial role in air supremacy over Europe contributed significantly to the eventual victory of the Allies.

Notably, some of the planes on this list, like the Vought F4U Corsair or the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, also had some of the largest production runs of any of the aircraft during WWII because of their effectiveness in the skies. At the same time, most of the aircraft on the list only entered service in the later years of the war. Also most of the aircraft listed were used in air-to-air combat roles or in interception roles. (These are the most produced aircraft by any nation during WWII.)

Here is a look at the top 20 fastest military planes from World War 2.

20. Lavochkin La-7
> Top speed: 411 mph
> Year entered service: 1944
> Production run: 5,753
> Crew: 1
> Country Soviet Union
> Roles: Air-to-air combat fighter, ground attack (bombing, strafing), close-air support

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Source: sdasmarchives / Flickr

19. Hawker Typhoon
> Top speed: 413 mph
> Year entered service: 1941
> Production run: 3,317
> Crew: 1
> Country United Kingdom
> Roles: Air-to-air combat fighter, interception, close-air support, intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance

Source: sdasmarchives / Flickr

18. Lockheed P-38 Lightning
> Top speed: 414 mph
> Year entered service: 1939
> Production run: 9,923
> Crew: 1
> Country United States
> Roles: Air-to-air combat fighter, ground attack (bombing, strafing, intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

17. Brewster F3A (F4U-1) Corsair
> Top speed: 416 mph
> Year entered service: 1943
> Production run: 600
> Crew: 1
> Country United States
> Roles: Air-to-air combat fighter, interception, ground attack (bombing, strafing, close-air support, maritime, intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance

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16. Grumman F8F Bearcat
> Top speed: 421 mph
> Year entered service: 1945
> Production run: 1,266
> Crew: 1
> Country United States
> Roles: Air-to-air combat fighter, interception, maritime

15. Focke-Wulf Fw 190 (Wurger)
> Top speed: 426 mph (tied)
> Year entered service: 1941
> Production run: 20,000
> Crew: 1
> Country Nazi Germany
> Roles: Air-to-air combat fighter, ground attack (bombing, strafing), training

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14. Focke-Wulf Fw 190 (Dora)
> Top speed: 426 mph (tied)
> Year entered service: 1944
> Production run: 1,827
> Crew: 1
> Country Nazi Germany
> Roles: Air-to-air combat

Source: US Air Force, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

13. Republic P-47 Thunderbolt
> Top speed: 433 mph
> Year entered service: 1942
> Production run: 15,660
> Crew: 1
> Country United States
> Roles: Air-to-air combat fighter, ground attack (bombing, strafing), close-air support

Source: sdasmarchives / Flickr

12. Yakovlev Yak-9 (Frank)
> Top speed: 434 mph
> Year entered service: 1943
> Production run: 16,769
> Crew: 1
> Country Soviet Union
> Roles: Air-to-air combat, interception, intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance

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Source: sdasmarchives / Flickr

11. Hawker Tempest
> Top speed: 435 mph
> Year entered service: 1944
> Production run: 1,422
> Crew: 1
> Country United Kingdom
> Roles: Air-to-air combat fighter, interception, ground attack (bombing, strafing)

Source: my_public_domain_photos / Flickr

10. North American P-51 Mustang
> Top speed: 437 mph
> Year entered service: 1942
> Production run: 15,586
> Crew: 1
> Country United States
> Roles: Air-to-air combat fighter, interception, close-air support, intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance, training

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Source: 37467370@N08 / Flickr

9. Northrop F-15 Reporter
> Top speed: 441 mph
> Year entered service: 1945
> Production run: 36
> Crew: 2
> Country United States
> Roles: Intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance

8. Vought F4U Corsair
> Top speed: 446 mph
> Year entered service: 1942
> Production run: 12,571
> Crew: 1
> Country United States
> Roles: Air-to-air combat fighter, interception, ground attack (bombing, strafing), close-air support, maritime, intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance

7. Arado Ar 234 (Blitz)
> Top speed: 461 mph
> Year entered service: 1944
> Production run: 232
> Crew: 1
> Country Nazi Germany
> Roles: Ground attack (bombing, strafing), intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance

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Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

6. Focke-Wulf Ta 152
> Top speed: 472 mph
> Year entered service: 1945
> Production run: 43
> Crew: 1
> Country Nazi Germany
> Roles: Air-to-air combat fighter, interception

5. Saab J21
> Top speed: 497 mph
> Year entered service: 1945
> Production run: 304
> Crew: 1
> Country Sweden
> Roles: Air-to-air combat fighter, interception, close-air support

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Source: sdasmarchives / Flickr

4. Heinkel He 162 Volksjager (Peoples Fighter)
> Top speed: 522 mph
> Year entered service: 1945
> Production run: 275
> Crew: 1
> Country Nazi Germany
> Roles: Air-to-air combat fighter, interception

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

3. Messerschmitt Me 262 (Schwalbe / Sturmvogel)
> Top speed: 559 mph
> Year entered service: 1944
> Production run: 1,400
> Crew: 1
> Country Nazi Germany
> Roles: Air-to-air combat fighter, interception, ground attack (bombing, strafing)

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

2. Lockheed P-80 / F-80 Shooting Star
> Top speed: 577 mph
> Year entered service: 1945
> Production run: 1,715
> Crew: 1
> Country United States
> Roles: Air-to-air combat fighter, close-air support

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Source: USAF/Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

1. Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet (Comet)
> Top speed: 659 mph
> Year entered service: 1944
> Production run: 370
> Crew: 1
> Country Nazi Germany
> Roles: Air-to-air combat fighter, interception

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