World War II Aircraft Heavy Fighters Handbook
The Handbook of Fighters aircraft of World War II includes all the Heavy Fighters aircraft used by those countries which were at war during World War II from the period between their joining the conflict and the conflict ending for them.
A heavy fighter is a fighter aircraft designed to carry heavier weapons or operate at longer ranges. To achieve acceptable performance, most heavy fighters were twin-engined, and many had multi-place crews.
The twin-engine heavy fighter was a major design class during the pre-World War II period. Conceived as long-range escort fighters, or heavily-armed bomber destroyers, heavy fighters largely failed in their intended roles during World War II, as they could not outmaneuver the more conventional, single-engined fighters. Many twin-engined heavy fighters eventually found their niche as night fighters, with considerable successes. Only the Northrop P-61 Black Widow of the USAAF was ever built from the start, during the World War II era, solely to be a night fighter.
A major heavy fighter design was the Messerschmitt Bf 110, a German fighter that, prior to the war, the Luftwaffe considered more important than their single-engine fighters. Many of the best pilots were assigned to Bf 110 squadrons, and they were specifically designated asZerstцrer ("destroyer") units. While other, lighter, fighters were mainly intended for defense, the destroyers were the ones mainly intended for offensive missions: to escort bombers on missions at long range, then use its superior speed to outrun defending fighters that would be capable of outmaneuvering it. This doctrine proved to be a costly mistake. In practice the Bf 110 was only capable of using this combination of features for a short time; it served well against the Hawker Hurricane during the Battle of France, but was easily outperformed by the Supermarine Spitfire during the Battle of Britain (also in terms of maximum speed). Eventually Bf 110s were converted to interceptors (especially night fighters) and ground-attack aircraft for rest of the war.
During the late 1930s, Bell Aircraft of the United States designed the YFM-1 Airacuda "bomber destroyer". Very large and heavily armed, the Airacuda was plagued with design flaws; only 13 examples were eventually built, none of which participated in WWII.
The most successful heavy fighter of the war was the Lockheed P-38 Lightning. It was designed to carry heavy armament at high speed or long range. For a variety of reasons, notably its excellent twin General Electric-designed turbochargers and its crew of one (rather than two or three), it dramatically outperformed its German and British counterparts. In service it was used as an escort fighter, following B-17 Flying Fortress raids deep into German-held Europe where it was able to hold its own with the much lighter German fighters. In its escort role, the P-38 was the first Allied fighter over Berlin. It was also highly successful in the Pacific theatre, where its long range proved a pivotal advantage. Expensive to produce and maintain, it was relegated to other roles when the single-engined but equally long-ranged P-51D Mustang reached squadrons.
Bell YFM-1 Airacuda
Bristol Type 156 Beaufighter
Boulton Paul Defiant
Blackburn B-25 Roc
Blackburn B-24 Skua
de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito
Dornier Do 217
Dornier Do 335 Pfeil ("Arrow")
Douglas A-20/DB-7 Havoc
Focke-Wulf Ta 154 Moskito
Grumman F7F Tigercat
Heinkel He 219 Uhu ("Eagle-Owl")
Junkers Ju 88
Junkers Ju 388 Stortebeker
Kawasaki Ki-45 Toryu ("Dragon Slayer")
Lockheed P-38 Lightning
Messerschmitt Bf 110
Messerschmitt Me 210
Mitsubishi Ki-67 Hiryu ("Flying Dragon")
Northrop P-61 Black Widow
Vickers Type 432
Dornier Do 215
Gloster F.9/37 aka Gloster G.39
Lockheed XP-58 Chain Lightning
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