Encyclopedia of World War II Aircraft
Last update on May 1, 2004. More recent update at a new location
When we started this website, we promised to present about 2000 aircraft or their variants by the next update. That's a promise more than fulfilled: we have reached 3500 ! We have also added missiles and helicopters. Although they played only a limited role in WWII, they originated during this time frame. Considering the importance they have gained since then, we could not overlook them.
For us, quantity is not synonymous with confusion. We've made a particular effort to unravel the maze of aircraft models and variants. Starting from the table of contents, you can start a top to bottom approach. At each level, we added a synthesis note to allow you to chose the path you want to follow next: to go to the major models or discover all those project, some wise, some crazy, which enameled the history of World War II. In the index, we italicized the models with limited production, to distinguish them from the more usual ones.
Encyclopedia: Instructions for use
- If you are looking for a specific plane, check the index: each plane has an entry for every designation it had in the course of its history.
- If you need an overview of all the aircraft of a country, look at the table of contents,
- For global comparisons, we offer comparative diagrams: in one view, you get the hierarchy of the warplanes for the criteria that you have chosen.
- To compare the statistics of two planes, there is a module with one to one comparison.
- If your interest is in the technical aspects or the history of the air warfare of the time, there are articles at your disposal,
- Finally, if you want to have some fun, try our quizzes; they are available for every level of competence.
Index Table of ContentsArticlesQuiz
Update on May 1, 2004We have been amazed by the size of Robert O. Brown's word about the Japanese aircraft production during the war. All models are presented year by year before the war and month by month during the conflict. The figures have been worked out by discussing and confronting the main sources existing on the subject. We publish that major contribution in extenso, just adding a short graphical overview. We also renew all the pages of the Japanese models concerned by Robert's work, to add its contribution for each model individually. As if it was not enough, Robert gives us a help to correct the English of some of our texts.
We also corrected some mistakes of the previous version and added a page about the multiple configurations of aircraft used during the war
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EditorialSince the Gulf War, air power seems to have taken over the prime role in winning conflicts. Tanks and infantry come second, only to occupy the field conquered by the planes. What is true since the nineties was far from obvious half a century before. During World War II, the tanks were probably more important than planes in securing the final victory, at least in Europe. As a tactical weapon, aircraft supported the decisive land forces. At sea, their contributions were important, but they depended on the Navy's aircraft carriers. Again, decisive victories were achieved on the ground by amphibious landings; again, aircraft played only a supporting role to the ground forces. Only in the strategic bombing campaigns did the air forces act alone. The German Luftwaffe was the first to try, against Britain in the Summer of 1940. It ended in a bloody defeat for the attackers. From 1942 onwards, the roles were reversed, with the British and later the Americans attacking the defending Germans. Measured against the hopes placed in it, the strategic bombing campaign against Germany was a dismal failure. Consider: If as hard as it was hit by the strategic bombing campaign, Germany would never have surrendered simply because of the bombings. Furthermore, Germany's armaments production actually increased even as the bombing campaign was reaching it height.
This failure must not be exaggerated, though: Without the bombing campaign, production would have reached a still higher peak. The increase was the result of the German industrial mobilization, which the Nazi regime initiated only in 1943 (it had started in 1940 in Britain) and had its full effects the next year. For both sides, indiscriminate attacks against big cities caused heavy losses of lives but did not effect significantly effect industrial output. In contrast, carefully targeted daylight attacks against specific sectors of the German industry had definite material effects. For example, targeting the ball bearing industry in 1943 cost many allied planes but put at risk the whole German aeronautic production. The attacks against the dams of the Möhne and the Eder in 1943 also had a visible effect in the production statistics of the area. The real killer though, was the targeting of the oil industry at the start of 1944. It was a terrible drag on the whole German war machine for the rest of the war.
If the strategic bombardments alone did not win the war, at least they were crucial to win the air war. By the time they landed in Normandy, the Western allies had bled the Luftwaffe to death. The high production levels still allowed for the replacement of materials, but pilot losses were irreplaceable. In 1944, the quality of the German pilots had collapsed. The miracle planes that began to appear shortly afterwards would be reserved to a small elite of aces, who had managed to survive, while the traditional Geschwader were less and less a match for their Western opponents.
To attribute the Japanese surrender simply to the dropping of two atomic bombs would be a mistake. The bombs were more symbolic than the real cause. In August of 1945, Japan was already defeated; the atomic bombs and the preceding strategic bombardments were only one of many factors contributing factors to it. The submarines probably played a greater role by starving Japan, starting as early as December of 1941. In Japan, the effects of the bombardments were clearer, since the mobilization of Japan had started even before the start of the War in the Pacific. In 1945, when the invasion of homeland Japan was being prepared, production had collapsed. New building-was all but stopped and most repairing works had ground to a halt by dearth of any raw materials or energy.
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Next update in the course of 2005