Mustang Vs. Spitfire - Which Was Best? (2024)

Mustang Vs. Spitfire - Which Was Best? (1)

by FliteTest | July 23, 2018 | (4) Posted in Just Fun

The P-51 Mustang and Supermarine Spitfire were both brilliant Allied fighters during WW2, but which one was the best?

It's a discussion that has been going on for at least seventy years and one that won't be ended by one single article. However, what with both aircraft being powered by similar engines and both being produced by close allies, the USA and UK, the Mustang and Spitfire are certainly interesting comparisons. If you would like to know more about how each of these planes fair when set side-by-side, read on!

Mustang Vs. Spitfire - Which Was Best? (2)

Let's look at the facts!

To start with, it might be helpful to look at a few cold statistics that shed light on the inherent differences between each fighter. Later on, we can dive more deeply into the specifics.

Aircraft
Mustang
Spitfire
Country
USA
Britain
Type
Fighter
Fighter
First Flight
1940
1936
Introduction
1942
1938
Crew
1
1
Number Built
16,000
20,300

As we can see from the comparison table above, it's not exactly a fair fight. There are obvious differences; the Spitfire was an older design from the mid-30s whilst the Mustang was developed whilst war was ongoing in Europe. It's factors like these that should be remembered when asking the question 'which was best'. Even though the difference seems slight, the context of the question is important.

Mustang Vs. Spitfire - Which Was Best? (3)

A P-51D in Flight

All Out Performance

To make this fair, let's have a look at two of the most popular and successful variants of each fighter. The P51D and Spitfire MK.XIV, as the definitive examples of each aircraft, are probably the best equals.

Mustang Vs. Spitfire - Which Was Best? (4)

A Rolls-Royce Griffon, the engine that powered the MKXIV Spitfire to a top speed of 437mph.


In most cases, the Spitfire had better performance as an all-purpose fighter. The all-important climb rate for a P51D sat at 3200ft per minute whilst the Spitfire could climb at an impressive 3650ft per minute. The maximum speed of a P51D was 437mph whilst the Spitfire was slightly faster at 448mph.For interception, this was clearly quite important. However, the P51D was generally more specialized than the Spitfire. In it's main role, the Mustang proved itself as a superb escort fighter in Allied bombing raids over Germany. For this role, the American aircraft didn't really need the Spitfire's versatile performance. Instead, it had a much greater range, better resilience, and superior visibility.

Mustang Vs. Spitfire - Which Was Best? (5)

Firepower

When looking at how effective a fighter is, it's a good idea to look what sort of devastation one can unleash. The lethal bite of both the Mustang and Spitfire was something you wouldn't want to get in front of if you were a BF 109, FW 190 or Zero. Again, let's compare the P51D and Spitfire MK XIV.


Primary Guns
Secondary Guns
P51D
6x M2 Browning Machine Guns
N/A
Spitfire MK XIV
4x 20mm cannons
.303 Machine Guns

It's clear that both aircraft had fearsome loadouts. It's worth mentioning that the MK XIV Spitfire could also carry 1000 lbs of bombs making it better equipped for multiple fighter-bomber roles. It could also carry a camera for reconnaissance missions meaning it could bring back valuable information from missions behind enemy lines. Wing racks were fitted to some P51D's, but the recommended load was just 500lbs. Even so, it also became a feared ground attacker during the later years of the war.

Mustang Vs. Spitfire - Which Was Best? (6)

Artwork by Antonis Karidis

Contribution to the Conflict

Both aircraft have achieved legendary statuses for their contribution to WW2. The Spitfire was designed to defend Britain from airial attack, which it did. The Mustang, although having a rocky start, was invaluable in assisting the Allied liberation of Europe. Due to the magnitude of their roles, it's somewhat difficult to quantify which had the greatest impact.

Mustang Vs. Spitfire - Which Was Best? (7)

Artwork by Antonis Karidis

Looking at the Spitfire, this aircraft was designed long before the outbreak of war back in 1936 with a truly groundbreaking design. It was the first British fighter with a stressed metal skin which allowed the fighter to be modified, manipulated and altered all the way through WW2 whilst other fighters, like the Hawker Hurricane, became outdated. Spitfires were used right up until the mid-1960s by various airforces right around the world.

Mustang Vs. Spitfire - Which Was Best? (8)

The last version of the Spitfire, the MKXXIV

Like the Spitfire, the Mustang proved itself on multiple fronts. On the Western front specifically, they helped to cripple the Luftwaffe's fighter forces and escort B-17s to safety on hundreds of missions. Commander of the Luftwaffe Hermann Göring was quoted as saying, "When I saw Mustangs over Berlin, I knew the jig was up." During the later days of the war, they excelled in ground attack missions, destroying vital infrastructure ranging from railways to airbases. The Mustang too served after WW2 and played another key role in Korea.

Mustang Vs. Spitfire - Which Was Best? (9)

A Mustangtaxis through a puddle at an airbase in Korea.

Which do you think was the best fighter and why? Write a comment below!

Build your own Spitfire!

Build your own Mustang!

Article by James Whomsley

Editor of FliteTest.com

james@flitetest.com

www.youtube.com/projectairaviation

Mustang Vs. Spitfire - Which Was Best? (2024)
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