Worst air fighter ever?

I’d nominate the Wirraway and the Boomerang, neither of which had any place being used as a fighter but were. The Wirraway was a trainer and “general purpose” combat aircraft indigenously produced in Australia during WW2 which was impressed into service as a fighter; it’s primary (well, only really) useful characteristic for use as a fighter was that it was available. They shot down a grand total of one enemy aircraft during the war. The Boomerang was a dedicated fighter development of the Wirraway. Though in theory it was a more capable fighter than the Wirraway, the Boomerang did not shoot down a single enemy aircraft. Just to note though, the third squadron to be equipped with the Boomerang, No. 85 squadron, converted over from Brewster Buffalos so someone considered even the abomination that was the Boomerang to be a better aircraft than the Buffalo.

Red Eagles - America’s Secret MiGs is about the U.S. Air Force flight testing enemy aircraft. When asked for their assessment of the MiG 23, they suggested encouraging enemy nations to procure as many of them as possible in order to thin out the ranks of their pilots corps.

Complicated and dangerous plane, the MiG 23. I actually got to fly a two-seat MiG 15 trainer a while back, and found it exhilarating but a bit scary. Doubt I would accept a ride in 23, from what I’ve read.

The Typhoon was a disaster as a fighter.

As an attack aircraft OTH.

Yes. AIUI, during the Battle of Britain the Hurricane shot down more German aircraft than all other air defences put together.

The partly-fabric construction meant that sometimes bullets would go right through the airframe without hitting anything vital, and it was easy and quick to repair.

Including the BE2 on the list was a little unfair - the poor thing was never intended as a fighter, but unfortunately it was so widely used that it kept coming up against enemy aircraft that were.

Even the F2 had a forward-firing MG though. I appreciate it might not have been feasible to mount six of them in the Defiant’s wings, but surely a single (or even twin) forward-firing MG set up wouldn’t have made much difference to the plane’s performance but might have exponentially increased its usefulness.

And whilst no-one is arguing the Boomerang or the Wirraway were outstanding fighters, they were largely used as ground attack and close support aircraft, where they acquitted themselves well.

Oh indeed, I didn’t mean to imply that they were useless aircraft, merely that they performed terribly as fighters, were (mis)used in the role of fighters and are far more deserving of a place in a list of the worst fighters ever than the rather poor list linked in the OP. The Me-110 was a disaster in its intended role as a destroyer fighter, but found its niche as a night fighter.

Boulton Paul Defiant.

Interesting discussion. Between comments there and some of my own reading this morning, there’s some interesting information about why the Buffalo was so bad at Midway but far more effective in Finland.

In summary:
There were substantially different versions flying in each place. The Finns were essentially flying the first version, the F2A-1, developed in 1938. Even though this version was first, it had good performance and maneuverability. The Finns further modified the planes by stripping out all of the carrier specific equipment (like the tailhook), and increasing the armament to 4x 12.7mm machine guns.

At Midway, in contrast, the Marines were flying the F2A-3. By the time it was developed, the F4F was available and clearly superior. It was therefore designed more for reconnaissance, with much larger fuel tanks. It also had more armor, guns, and other modifications to make it much heavier, without getting a sufficient engine upgrade. So at Midway the Marines were flying an obsolete, heavy, slow, and unmaneuverable F2A-3 against Zeros.

The engine had performance and reliability issues at higher temperatures, adding yet another disadvantage at Midway.

Finally, the Marine pilots at Midway had little training and no combat experience, and they flew against veteran Japanese pilots. Novice pilots flying obsolete, heavy aircraft, trying to win a turning fight against Zeros piloted by veterans? There was no way that could end well.

The Finns had the chance to learn from the mistakes at Midway, and developed tactics that minimized the weaknesses and emphasized the strengths of the Buffalo. As an energy fighter in experienced hands it was clearly more than adequate – so long as you don’t add a ton of extra weight on a pre-war fighter.

I think Nevadaexile made a salient point – training, and a corollary of training is the basic
data supplied by the manufacturer . . .

The B-25 Mitchell, though not a fighter is a prime example of erroneous data from engineering who specced incorrect landing procedures, resulting in the saying, “One a day in Tampa Bay”, when flying out of McDill . . .

It was discovered that the “Flying Prostitute” (no visible means of support) had to be brought in “hot”, and not like a Cessna 150 with full flaps . . .

That was the B-26 Marauder (which our David Simmons flew).

I never heard that landing procedures were incorrectly specified. The B-26 was a ‘hot’ airplane. High performance aircraft plus inexperienced pilots equals training accidents.

The B-239 variant was almost a thousand pounds lighter than the later versions the other allies flew. It had a smaller engine but similar power to weight ratio, and was at the sweet spot for the design with excellent aerobatic characteristics and most importantly was a stable gun platform. It handled beautifully and the Fins called it the ‘pearl of the skies’. They put a proper reflector sight on it instead of the awkward collimator and had 2 50’s in the nose instead of a 50 and a 30. Supposedly a lot of pilots flew without the wing 50’s.

The I-16’s, I- 153’s they flew against were better turn fighters, the Lagg-3’s faster but the Finns stuck to energy tactics used the B-239’s advantage as a good gun platform to make firing opportunities count. They also went up against western designs like Hurricane II’s and Tomahawks with similar success.

As a medium to low altitude Air superiority fighter the Finns achieved a 26:1 victory ratio with the Buffalo in its service career, probably the greatest ever. This plane does not belong in a list of the worst fighters ever.

Just a random question, but wouldn’t trying to land one of those, with such a narrow wheel base, be a bitch during the best of times?

The Brewster also has a lot of baggage that came with its company. In addition to being underpowered with all its armor and weapons the Brewster company overpromised delivery, had massive corruption in its management, kickbacks, and possibly even sabotage. The Navy just outright seized the company just a few months into the war.

They pretty much took over the role that pursuit planes had , pre 1950’s. Strategic bombers carrying nukes, meant that they had to be intercepted over Canada, before they got close to the lower forty and change. That meant, the moment they crossed the DEW line, the interceptors had a short window to engage at the higher latitudes, so they needed to get there fast.

In the mid fifties to the mid sixties, it’s doubtful that the soviets would have had top cover, so fighter v fighter was not likely. No need for a gun, and wasting time on F v F , while a nuke bomber or squadron was inbound , seems counter productive. It would have been better for the Russians to have nuke air to air missiles, or simply drop a nuke if a pesky interceptor was dogging it.

So give the fighter pilot a big watch, hot ship and some nuclear armed Genies and Falcons , and your good to go.


Or . . .

Off topic: the biggest recon-fighter plane used in WW2 was a modified B-17E: Flight 666. http://www.crazywebsite.com/Pg-Online-Funny-Videos/WWII_Planes_B-17_Old_666_American_Patriotic__War_Stories.html

No, I don’t think the narrow wheel base made landing an F-104 challenging. I think it was the short thin wings that make landing them difficult. You’d have to make your approach with a comparatively high angle of attack and much faster than a more conventionally winged aircraft. It wasn’t designed for easy landing, it was designed to fly very fast to launch missiles at incoming bombers.

The F-104 might have been a nasty airplane to fly, but, damn, it looked beautiful.

The Tornado F-3. I once read a book by a military man who was in a tanker refueling a Tornado, the tanker had to reduce altitude because the Tornado could only get up high enough to refuel normally using afterburners. It was developed from a low-altitude penetration bomber, only the RAF and the Saudis bought any.

  1. As mentioned by many, the Buffalo was well liked and thought of as highly successful by one major user (the Finns, although claimed success in air combat by different AF’s can’t be compared directly and I don’t personally know of a verified analysis of actual Soviet air combat losses to Finnish Buffalo’s and a lot of the Finnish targets were unescorted bombers, but it seems clear though Finnish Buffalo’s downed many more Soviet fighters than they lost to Soviet fighters). OTOH its lack of success against Japanese fighters was quite real according to known losses on each side, in hands of RAF. Dutch East Indies AF and in the one combat where the USMC used it. Even the obsolescent Japanese Army Ki.27 fixed undercarriage fighter had excellent results v the Buffalo. But this difference in (Finn v Soviet compared to West v Japanese) only shows how a lot of other factors besides planes themselves affect combat outcomes.

  2. Another factor here was that a lot of LaGG-3’s were built in a period where the Soviet industrial system was literally on the move, east to keep out of German hands and examples completed in that period were notorious for performance far below the theoretical figures for the type.

  3. This is too broad a brush. None of these a/c had highly successful careers in air combat but some were certainly capable of it. For example the F-104 would have been excellently suited to the MiG-21’s role in Vietnam, hit and run IR AAM attacks under positive ground control, given the F-104’s excellent speed and acceleration. OTOH it wasn’t a very good fit to the long range escort role in which the USAF tried to use it. Also the F-106, a century series a/c though not listed, was reputed to be an excellent dog fighting a/c, especially after later modifications like adding 20mm gun, and adding AIM-9’s would have been necessary too. But the a/c had excellent air combat potential.

  4. MiG-23 like a number of other supersonic jets was much better at straight line than turning, but again depending on the circumstances this capability could be put to good use.