World War II/Aircraft of WWII
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The Stuka is short for Sturzkampfflieger which leterally means dive attack airplane in the German language. Even though the name Stuka applies to dive bombers in general, it is attached to a particular airplane called the Junkers Ju-87 which was called Stuka because it was also a dive bomber and the name stuck to this airplane due to its phenomenal initial successes against the Allies during World War II. It was a twin seater, single engined, inverted gull winged monoplane built by the German aeronautical firm Junkers. During the initial air wars over Poland in 1939 and France and the Low countries in May 1940 it did very well in providing advance air raids over the following infantry as a vital element in Blitzkrieg (Lightning attack), the term coined by the Germans for a lightning speed attack with airplanes bombing the opposition and the army advance following it. But later during the Battle of Britain in August- September 1940 for control of the skies over Britain as a prelude to the German invasion of Britain, it failed miserably due to its inferior speed and the resultant losses it suffered at the hands of the British fighter pilots. Later in the war it again proved its mettle in skies where the Germans had air superiority to a limited extend or when escorted by German fighter planes and did well in the Mediterranian, Russians fronts etc.,
Curtiss P-40 Warhawk: One of the first U.S. fighters of the war. Made famous by the American Volunteer Group (AVG), better know as the Flying Tigers, commanded by Claire Chennault, during the Sino-Japanese war--the lead-up to WWII. The P-40 was equipped with the Allison engine that gave it a top speed of about 350 mph at 15,000 feet. However, the high altitude performance of the "Hawk" was hindered by weight constraints, and the fact that the Allison engine was not supercharged. The Flying Tigers took the Warhawk, with her limitations and created tactics that were devastating to the Japanese aircraft. The Warhawk sported four Browning .50 cal. machine guns.
North American P-51 Mustang: Great Britain contracted with NAA to build P-40's for their campaigns against the Germans. NAA engineers stated that they could build a better fighter, in a shorter time period. The first P-51's were powered by the same engine used by the P-40, the Allison engine. Due to poor altitude performance, the British engineers proposed to outfit the Mustang with the more powerful Merlin 1750, V-12, two-stage supercharged engine. The supercharged Merlin boosted the Mustang's high altitude performance, and brought the top speed to 460 mph at 35,000 feet. Due to the design of the wing, called a "laminar flow" wing, speed and endurance of the "Pony" was increased. The laminar flow wing puts the thickest part of the wing to a point 60% behind the leading edge of the wing. The early Ponies sported four .50 cal. Browning machine guns. With the deployment of the D-model Mustangs, the pilots now had the addition of two-more .50 cal. guns, for a total of six. The Mustang's firepower was devastating to both German and Japanese aircraft. The P-51 created the opportunity for heavy bombers to enjoy fighter escort from England, to targets as far away as Berlin, and back to England. This was made possible because of the laminar flow wing, which created a smoother, more efficient airflow over the airfoil, thereby reducing drag. The Mustang could also carry two spare wing fuel tanks that could be jettisoned in the event of a dogfight, or other combat activities. With the development of 108 gallon, pressed-paper droptanks (by the British), the Mustang's range was increased, over the 75 gallon, aluminum tanks.
The Supermarine Spitfire was designed by Reginald Mitchell, taking its inspiration from racing float planes of the same company. During the Battle of Britain, Spitfires and Hawker Hurricanes drove back the Nazi air fleet. The air defence system was stretched to its limit, and the pilots of the RAF won fame as the saviours of the island. Later in the war, advanced Spitfires fought in Africa, France, and over Germany. The Spitfire has been titled "Most Beautiful Airplane" and pilots took advantage of its high maneuverability and speed.