Fastest Planes in WW2 : How fast did planes fly in WW2?

Do-335s on the apron at Oberpfaffenhofen at the war’s end, including unfinished two-seat versions

Fastest Planes in WW2

Fastest propeller fighter of WW2, the Dornier DO-335 A0 Pfeil (Arrow) with a maximum sustained speed of 665 km/h (413 mph), increasing to 765 km/h (477 mph) with emergency boost. The Germans could only produce a few before the end of the war.

Me 262B-1a/U1 night fighter, Wrknr. 110306, with FuG 218 Neptun antennae in the nose and second seat for a radar operator. This airframe was surrendered to the RAF at Schleswig in May 1945 and taken to the UK for testing.

Battle Of Britain

With a top speed of 702 mph, Germany’s Messerschmitt Me 262 was by far the fastest fighter of World War 2. Instead of propellers, jets were installed. Despite being an engineering marvel of its time as the first combat jet. Her entrance in the war was too little and too late.

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The Supermarine Spitfire might be the most famous plane of WW2. Sporting an official max speed of 606mph. However, in April 1944 one pilot managed to reach 620mph as a result of equipment designed to limit its speed failing. The propeller ripped off and the diving aircraft reached more than Mach 0.92 (92% of the speed of sound).

Spitfire Mk IIA, P7666, EB-Z, Royal Observer Corps, was built at Castle Bromwich, and delivered to 41 Squadron on 23 November 1940.

The Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star could reach 594 mph and represented the US’ first jet plane. The project was kept so secretive that only 5 of the nearly 200 engineers working on the Shooting Star even knew what they were working on. 

Arado Ar 234B Blitz could fly 462 miles per hour and was the first jet bomber of WW2. Despite being used mostly for reconnaissance missions it had an impeccable bombing record. However, early editions would take off from ejectable-three-wheeled trolleys. Moreover, for landing they used skids, as opposed to the usual landing gear. This was one of Hitler’s favorite projects up there with his super gun. 

Chance Vought F4U-4 Corsair was the first WW2 fighter to top 400mph in combat. The plane’s design was brilliant. As a result, Gull wings provided low drag for the plane while providing sufficient ground clearance for its massive propeller.

The XF4U-1 prototype in 1940/41, showing its more forward cockpit location
An early F4U-1 showing the “birdcage” canopy with rearwards production cockpit location.
Fastest Planes in WW2
A map showing the distance that fighters could fly from the UK mainland

The fastest heavy bombers at 358mph were the US’ B-29 Superfortress and the Japanese Nakajima G8N Renzan.

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Boeing assembly line at Wichita, Kansas (1944)

Unfortunately, the Japanese’ material shortages during the war limited its numbers and effectiveness for the Japanese. As opposed to the B-29 which became a legendary bomber for helping to end the war with its dropping of the Atom Bomb.

Nakajima G8N1

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A captured G8N painted in United States Army Air Forces markings with a C-45 and T-6

Fastest Planes in WW2 Honorable mentions:

P-47 firing its M2 machine guns during night gunnery

The “Jug”, P-47 Thunderbolt, had the best safety record in the war!

Losing only 0.7% of her allied fleet in combat. What’s more, with a flight ceiling of 40,000 it’s no wonder the war record was comparable to the Royal Navy’s HMS Warspite in sheer WW2 performance awesomeness. The Thunderbolts took out 4,000 enemy aircraft, 9,000 trains, 86,000 trucks and 6,000 armored vehicles.

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

The twin-engine British de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito night fighter was one of the best airplanes to take the skies in WW2.

1943 advertisement for de Havilland taken from Flight & Aircraft Engineer magazine highlights the speed of the B Mk IV.
She could reach 408mph and might have been the Royal Airforce’s strongest plane. 
A Royal Air Force de Havilland Mosquito B.XVI (serial ML963) in flight. ML963, 8K-K “King” of No. 571 Squadron, the picture having been taken on 30 September 1944, after the aircraft had completed repairs at Hatfield. ML963 was first issued to 109 Squadron on 9 March 1944, going on to 692 Squadron on the 24th of the same month, and then on to 571 on 19 April 1944. In addition, it was damaged in action on 12 May 1944 but returned to the Squadron on 23 October of that year. ML963 completed 84 operations with the Squadron, 31 of them to Berlin (one of the others was a low-level sortie to skip-bomb a 4,000 lb bomb into the Bitburg Tunnel, undertaken on New Year’s Day, 1945. Moreover, the crew were Flt Lt Norman J Griffiths & Flg Off WR Ball). Its final sortie came on 10/11 April 1945, when it was abandoned following an engine fire. Lastly, the crew, F/O R.D. Oliver and F/S L.M. Young RAAF rejoined their Squadron before the end of the month, F/O Oliver reporting as early as 22 April 1945.

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Fastest Planes in WW2