WW2 fighter turning performance comparisons

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Nov 7, 2006
I am very interested in comparing the different turning performances of different fighters during WW2.

Does anybody know of any sites that would help with this?
bryce, Good luck with your quest for turning data for WW2 a/c. I will bet you this: if you study on this long enough and go to enough sources, you will end up with so much info, much of it contradictory that you will say there is no definitive authority on turning or for that matter any other performance characteristics of fighters. And remember this, if you post on a forum like this always try not to be too definite or dogmatic about your beliefs or opinions because as soon as you say that such and such was the best turning or best climbing or anything someone else will come up with some data or source which will contradict your statement.
Here's a modern style contour graph of sustained g, turn rate etc. for early Spit and Bf109
Spitfire Mk I Performance Testing
That kind of date is relatively rare for WWII a/c. And what Renrich said is true even for simple parameters like speed. There's lots of interesting info on the web and in books but a lot of it disagrees for the same planes. It seemed to depend significantly on the particular test and standards of quotation when tested by different sides, or even the particular example of the plane type. And even when 'friendly' and 'enemy' planes were tested together, the captured enemy planes might not be in as good shape, or even be "repaired" to better shape and using better fuel, than when actually met in combat. And the friendly test pilots wouldn't be as familiar with, nor perhaps subconsciously inclined to try to prove the superiority of, captured planes.

Back to turn, WWII planes couldn't pull a whole lot of g, sustained at constant altitude. So especially if they started at higher altitudes combats would generally descend using the gravity vector of a slight dive to pull some real g's. And high g's such as for example to make benefit of a g-suit (as some US pilots had late war) were only transient turns while the plane was bleeding away energy slowing to the steady state. And many or most WWII fighter combats consisted of just one or a couple of maneuvers. Somebody generally had the opening positional or energy advantage, and the other guy would either evade the attack or not (or not even see it coming); then on to other opponents in a the furball. It was less often prolonged chess matches of sustained manuevers 1v1 or 2v2. So I think it's really hard to completely represent and correctly weight the key comparative performance stats of real WWII combat on paper (and what you start with on paper is what creates the results of computer simulations).


I haven't seen such a well put together bunch of words describing exactly my
thoughts about this paper performance vs. real life. I hope you won't mind if I
quote you on another forum.

JoeB, your post also struck me as very good!

I personally believe sustained turn rate is the most overrated quality of WW2 fighters. In the beginning of the war aircraft like the Fiats or Zero's relied upon it but soon found themselves on the losing side by high-speed power fighters which could initiate and abort the attack at will. Sustained turning fighting met its end in WW2.

One thing which is not usually talked about is Specific Excess Power....
Sustained turn is ok as it is a measure of an aircraft's SEP but one important factor is energy (or speed loss) durning the maximum turn rate.

For example a A6M2 at low level full power at 230 mph pulling a hard break turn for 180 degrees has a turn radius of 1118 feet and ends up with 186 mph remaining.

Now a Spitfire Mk II with the same conditions if pulling the same g's will do the same turn radius....question is what is his remaining airspeed after 180 degrees and how close was he to stalling out?

If the Zero has more SEP he could keep the same radius and use his extra SEP for altitude but ending at the same speed as the Spit II only he is above and has the advantage.

Remember the old addage; "out of airspeed and ideas"

I am writing a computer program to give these answers which of course is how modern jet combat is calculated.

More to come.......
That seems a correct observation Krieghund.
Also reminds me of all those stories of fighters outturning others though in theory this wouldn't have been possible. Fact is that there's always the question of how much air speed you can or are willing to give up to get that tighter turn. If you drop too much speed and there's a faster bird flying overhead you're dead meat. It's no coincidence that the Germans and Americans always stressed speed in air combat.

Good luck on writing that computer program... :)
Thanks guys for all your views and opinions, they are much appreciated.

I realize that most data found on the net must be viewed with skepticism, rather that taken as gospel...and as JoeB said there are many different factors that effect turning performance of aircraft...

but I must say I was very interested in this diagram…


I have heard many people say at this forum that the P-51 is over rated in a dogfight, so I was surprised to see it rated with a very good turning circle.

I was even more surprised to see how poorly rated the FW-190As turning circle was.
I have always thought that the FW-190A turning circle would be more comparable to the P-51, rather than the P-47 and Bf-109G?

I have also heard a lot of people claim that the FW-190D Dora is one of the Best (or best) dogfighters of WW2.
I am guessing that it would have had a better turning circle than the FW-190A.
So I am wondering which aircraft FW-190D turning circle might the most comparable too?
Perhaps the P-51, or the later model Spitfires?

I realize that having a good turning circle is the only important thing in a dog fight, but im just interested in horizontal turn performance.
I realize that having a good turning circle is the only important thing in a dog fight, but im just interested in horizontal turn performance.
But dogfights are not strictly fought in the vertical...

A good pilot can defeat another aircraft with a superior turning radius by doing a "yo-yo" or going vertical and getting inside the turn for a firing solution. Turing is important, but it's not the only thing....

Sorry, that was a typo!

Let me try that again....

I realize that having a good turning circle is NOT the only important thing in a dog fight, but im just interested in horizontal turn performance.
bryce, somewhere in this forum you will find a couple of reports that compare the performance of the P51B with the F4U1 and the F6F3 and also a FW190A4 with the two navy fighters. I believe you might find it interesting.
bryce, you have one of the comparisons but there is another that compares the P51 with the navy planes. They find the P51 unsuitable for carrier operations because of insufficent slow speed controllability among other draw backs. These reports are intriguing to me because, if the reports are accurate they show that first, two navy fighters that supposedly are inferior inherently because they are shipboard fighters, are superior if flown to their strong points to two premier WW2 fighters. If that is true then the designers of those aircraft must have been geniuses. Second, and what is more likely, is that almost any first line fighter of any nation in WW2 if flown by a superior pilot will have at least an even chance against any other first line fighter if he knows his plane's strong points and is able to exploit those strong points against what he knows are his enemy's weaknesses. There was no such thing as an a/c without weaknesses since all a/c are compromises.
Ok so there is no centralised databank for WW2 aircraft turning circles, and that includes also bombers and other types for whom it is important such as transports. Have you compiled anything of the kind Bryce?

I'd like to ask if there is more then one source of roll rate online?

Its interesting that these two performance indicators are not usually given in aircraft data although apparently considered very important by the pilots.


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