During World War II aviation firmly established itself as a critical component of modern warfare, from the Battle of Britain in the early stages to the great aircraft carrier battles between American and Japanese Pacific fleets and the final delivery of nuclear weapons. The development of civil aviation stagnated until peace could be restored, and in the combatant countries many existing civilian aircraft were pressed into military service. However military technologies developed during the war would revolutionize postwar aviation. In particular, the widespread construction of aerodromes with serviceable runways would provide the basis for a postwar move of long-range passenger flights from flying boats to land planes.
The Republic P-47 Thunderbolt was one of the largest and heaviest fighter aircraft in history to be powered by a single piston engine. It was heavily armed with eight .50-caliber machine guns, four per wing. When fully loaded, the P-47 weighed up to eight tons, and in the fighter-bomber ground-attack roles could carry five-inch rockets or a significant bomb load of 2,500 pounds.
The Northrop P-61 Black Widow, named for the American spider, was the first operational U.S. warplane designed as a night fighter, and the first aircraft designed to use radar. The P-61 had a crew of three: pilot, gunner, and radar operator. It was armed with four 20 mm Hispano M2 forward-firing cannons mounted in the lower fuselage, and four .50 .cal M2 Browning machine guns mounted in a remote-controlled dorsal gun turret.
The Vultee Vengeance was an American dive bomber of World War II, built by Vultee Aircraft. The Vengeance was not used operationally by the United States but was operated as a front-line aircraft by the British Royal Air Force, the Royal Australian Air Force, and the Indian Air Force in Southeast Asia and the Southwest Pacific.
The Arado Ar 196 was a shipboard reconnaissance low-wing monoplane aircraft built by the German firm of Arado starting in 1936. The next year it was selected as the winner of a design contest and became the standard aircraft of the Kriegsmarine (German navy) throughout World War II.
The Westland Lysander was a British army co-operation and liaison aircraft produced by Westland Aircraft used immediately before and during the Second World War. After becoming obsolete in the army co-operation role, the aircraft’s exceptional short-field performance enabled clandestine missions using small, unprepared airstrips behind enemy lines to place or recover agents, particularly in occupied France with the help of the French Resistance. British army air co-operation aircraft were named after mythical or historical military leaders; in this case the Spartan general Lysander was chosen.
The Bücker Bü 181 Bestmann was a two-seater, single-engine aerobatic monoplane aircraft built by Bücker Flugzeugbau GmbH in Rangsdorf, near Berlin and extensively used by the Luftwaffe in World War II.
The Consolidated PBY Catalina was an American flying boat, and later an amphibious aircraft of the 1930s and 1940s. It was one of the most widely used seaplanes of World War II. Catalinas served with every branch of the United States Armed Forces and in the air forces and navies of many other nations.
The Kawanishi N1K-J Shiden (“Violet Lightning”) was an Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service land-based version of the N1K. Assigned the Allied codename “George”, the N1K-J was considered by both its pilots and opponents to be one of the finest land-based fighters flown by the Japanese during World War II.
The Chance Vought F4U Corsair was an American fighter aircraft that saw service primarily in World War II and the Korean War. From the first prototype delivery to the U.S. Navy in 1940, to final delivery in 1953 to the French, 12,571 F4U Corsairs were manufactured by Vought, in 16 separate models, in the longest production run of any piston-engined fighter in U.S. history (1942–53)