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Mihai Pruna's Air Combat & Dogfight Page

Best Fighters,Best Dogfighters

"Dogfight is the supreme trial for a man.The Ace is the supreme being among all men." by My Self

This page is mostly about Air Combat during WW2.Later,much later, it will have sections about planes,men and battles.For now, its only purpose is to shed light on the fighters well suited for dogfights, and their opponents on each theater.

Best Fighter Planes In The Pacific Air War

The "ZERO" was one of the best dogfighters of WW2.In a 1 on 1 it could outturn and outclimb anything the allies had in the beginning of the war.It's light weight made it a poorer diver than heavier American fighters,but in the beginning of the war there was no match for him..

During WW2,dogfight was changed to "bounces" and quick-passes,boosted by team tactics.Maneuvrability as in rate of turn was still an important asset, but fighters with powerful engines could run away,or climb their way out of an unwanted dogfight.This is why the biplane fighters,even thought they were more maneuvrable than monoplanes, vanished from air combat theaters during WW2. And this is how the American F4F Wildcats,later replaced by the better armored and faster Hellcats,achieved their victories against the nimble Zeros.

A6M "Zero"

Grumman F4F Wildcat

The F6F Hellcat was a formidable machine,used throughout the war in various roles. The Japanese,in the excelent book "Zero!" state that only after a Zero in good shape was made available to the US engineers was Grumman able to build the plane that would bring doom to the Japanese Naval Aviation.Of course,the Americans disagree. Anyway,the Hellcat was the exact opposite of the Zero,and in no way can it be considered a copy of the latter.Faster and well armored,it also had enough firepower to rip a Zero to pieces.The Zero lacked self sealing fuel tanks,which made it relatively easy to shoot down by heavy armed American fighters.

F6F Hellcat

Although the Japanese Army Air Force never matched the Navy in any respect,it posessed nonetheless some very impressive types. The Ki-43 was a superb dogfighter,the best fighter the Japanese Imperial Army Air Force had in the beginning of the war.Its light armament made it virtually harmless as American fighters progressed to heavy armored types. The Nakajima Ki-84 Frank was one of the best fighters of the war,but it appeared late and not in great numbers.

Ki 84 "Frank"

Updated/more accurate performance data available!!!

Performance Table For The Main Types Of Fighter Planes In The Pacific Air War/US System

Performance Table For The Main Types Of Fighter Planes In The Pacific Air War/metric System

Best Fighters in the European Theater

The fighters most widely used in Europe by the Axis and the Allies were not the best of their time.The Me 109,although constantly improved,especially in the engine section,had some handling problems,a narrow landing gear that made landings tricky,and a crammed cockpit with poor visibility.The Hurricane was the first monoplane fighter of the RAF.Not as fast as the Me109,it was nonetheless very stable,sturdy and quite maneuvrable.

The famed Spitfire is the dogfighter in Europe.Maneuvrable,fast and a good climber(as soon as it got a constant speed propeller) ,initially it had problems in dives because of its carburetor. This is why German planes equipped with direct fuel injection engines could dive to escape the early versions of the Spitfire.

Hurricane(top) and Spitfire(bottom)

Me 109

The "Split S" was amaneuver oftenly performed by the German pilots when they had a Spit on their tail.Against the P47 who could dive better than anything the Germas had, being really heavy,turning was enough. The US fighter had a better roll rate,and could slip into an enemy's turn,providing opportunity for a quick burst for the American pilots. (Robert Johnson,"Thunderbolt"). The new versions of planes like the FW 190 and Spitfire had the edge in the European Scenario,that is,until the other side developed a better model. The FW 190 was very good at lower altitudes,and generally had the better climbing and diving than the British planes.However,the Spitfire maintained the best rate of turn, while newer engines gave it higher and higher speeds - Mach .91 in a dive (1944,Farmborough) from Flight Journal WW2 Fighters special edition
The Mustang stood from the crowd due to its magnificent range,speed and good diving.

Of course,there are a lot of factors that influence the outcome of a dogfight. The altitude at which the fight took place was crucial. Some fighters,like the P40 and FW190 were better at low altitudes,while others had the edge in the upper skies.
Since dogfight involves fighters chasing eachother in tight turns,there's a factor worth mentioning that has nothing to do with a fighter's performance or its pilot: a lightly loaded fighter stalled at slower speeds,hence it could turn better.(don't make me explain why:) So,pilots low on ammo and fuel had at least one ace in their sleeves :)

There have been encounters between the Zero and the Spitfire. The Japanese fighter could outturn the Spit.However,Spitfires were generally faster , climbed better and had more firepowers than Zeros,in all versions. The range of a plane doesn't count in a dogfight.However,it can be used as a criteria to classify fighters as offensive and defensive.The Zero and the Mustang were long range fighters,especially when fitted with belly drop tanks. The Spit was used most successfully,during the Battle of Britain,as a point defense fighter.Its relatively short range made it quite unuseful for escort roles and long range fighter sweeps. The same problem plagued the Me109 during the Battle of Britain,when it was used as an escort/offensive fighter.

"Flight Journal",in a special edition about WW2 fighters,gives the "TOP 3" of the prop-driven fighters in the European Theater:


2:Focke-Wulf 190(D-9)

3:P-51 D Mustang

Performance comparison charts for the British and German fighters in Europe/metric system

Performance chart for US fighters who fought both in Europe and Pacific/US system

Performance chart for US fighters who fought both in Europe and Pacific/metric system

Aviation and Air Combat Related Sites

Sites Related to Historical Air Combat and Dogfight

Ace Stories-I urge you to visit this site
Very good site about Spitfire vs. Me109-general performance and dogfight capabilities

Museum of Imperial Japanese Airplanes

"Civilian" Dogfight

Air Combat USA...Real dogfight for anybody with enough dough
RC Combat...What if you don't have the dough,want to dogfight,and you like building RC scale models?Come and see!

Sites Related to Aviation - Your aviation internet resource. Aviation Top 100, 8000+ indexed & searchable links, Buy & Sell Aircraft, N-number Search etc.
Space & Flight...Everything U want to know about Aviation&Aerospace
Aviation Home-various resources and an aviation search engine
Embry Riddle Aeronautical University...the place to be if you want to become a real pilot(no dogfights,or you'll probably be kicked out :)

Mihai Pruna's Flight Training Page

Sites related to flight simulators

COMBATSIM...Best site about military flight sims
FlightSim...Yet another good FS site

Mihai Pruna Personal Information&Resume

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(it now works!) I'm trying,with limited time,to make this page the best dedicated to dogfights.Any feedback is welcomed!

Note:the animated fighters have somewhat weird proportions because of resolution change.Some of the stills are from 1000 Free Pictures and Wallpapers,or,and the others, I can't remember where I got them from :)
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