WWII was among other things a milestone also in the area of flight and fighter jets. Each side developed and perfected its own fighter plane model.
The fighter jets used in World War II were usually small aircrafts, fast and easy to maneuver. Their main purpose was to engage in warfare or to protect the big bombardiers on their way to the target. Of course they had also the capacity to hit ground targets, such as railroads, bridges or ground fighting units.
1940 – Supermarine Spitfire
This British invention was designed as a short range interceptor and was used mainly by the Allied Forces. Due to its exceptional maneuverability and speed it was used until the late 50s. R.J. Mitchell, chief designer at Supermarine Aviation Works initiated the work on this project and after he died in 1937 his work was continued by Joseph Smith. During the fight over Great Britain, Spitfire played an essential role. However it proved not to be the most efficient fighter jet as some might think if we consider the number of fights that were won using it. Nevertheless, the jet was highly appreciated by the pilots and it played several roles during its life span: it served as a bombardier-fighter, carrier and training jet.
1941 – Mitsubishi A6M Zero
This long range fighter was designed by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service and was nick named Hamp or Hap by the Allies. The jet, developed by Mitsubishi was the best aircraft launched from carriers. The airplane is famous for its win rate in the air fights (aka dogfights), accounting for hit rate of up to even 12:1. Taking desperate measures, the Allies designed some fighting techniques that reduced the advantages of the Mitsubishi A6M Zero. In the Pacific battle, this jet was used in the suicide missions by kamikaze pilots. The Japanese produced over 11 000 of these. For the Zero projects, Mitsubishi competed against the Nakajima Company. In the end, Nakajima withdrew from the competition because they deemed the demands of the Japanese navy concerning this project to be unrealistic.
1944 – P 51 Mustang
Developed by the North American Aviation Company, the P51 Mustang was brought to the front during the second part of the war. It was designed as a single person fighter and a long range airplane. It was perfected and assembled in only 117 days. The first to use this jet was the British – Royal Air Force (RAF). Initially, it took part in the hunting missions, bombardments/deployments and recognition raids. Later on, it was reassigned to escort big bombardiers. P51 won its fame in Europe, few of this jets being ever used against the Japanese in the Pacific. Cheap, fast and easy to maneuver, this aircraft was used until the early 90s. The last version, P-51D, included 6 M2 Browning machine guns. The reputation of this fighter jet resulted in Ford adopting the name and designing what is today known as the sports car Ford Mustang.