Special Report

The 20 Fastest American Planes of World War II

American industry produced nearly two-thirds of all Allied military equipment used during the Second World War, including 297,000 aircraft. These aircraft played a significant role in helping to turn the tide in favor of the Allies.

The United States, driven by innovation and necessity, developed some of the fastest airplanes of the time. These airplanes bolstered the Allies’ military capabilities and played a transformative role in both air defense and offense during World War II. (These are the WWII bombings that involved the most planes.)

To determine the 20 fastest U.S. 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. Military aircraft were ranked based on their top speed. Only military planes that had production runs of more than 30 were considered, while prototypes and concept aircraft were excluded. Supplemental information about the year entered service, crew size, and roles also came from Military Factory.

The North American P-51 Mustang was renowned for its speed and maneuverability. Performing the role of both a fighter and bomber escort, it became iconic over the course of the war. It had a maximum speed of 437 miles per hour and a range of over 950 miles. 

The Lockheed P-38 Lightning also makes this list as one of the fastest in the U.S. military arsenal. The P-38 had a top speed of 414 miles per hour and a range of over 2,200 miles. The Lightning demonstrated its effectiveness in varied roles such as interceptor, fighter-bomber, recon, and night fighter, solidifying its status in WWII aviation history.

Notably, most of the planes that make this list played roles in air-to-air combat and had small operating crews. Also, planes more towards the top of this list tended to have higher production runs. (These are the most-produced aircraft by any nation during WWII.)

By pushing the boundaries of aviation technology, these aircraft contributed to the eventual victory of the Allied Powers, leaving a mark on the history of military aviation. 

Here’s a look at the 20 fastest US military planes of World War 2.

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