World War II featured fighter combat on a larger scale than any other conflict to date. German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel noted the effect of airpower:

"Anyone who has to fight, even with the most modern weapons, against an enemy in complete command of the air, fights like a savage against modern European troops, under the same handicaps and with the same chances of success."

Throughout the war, fighters performed their conventional role in establishing air superiority through combat with other fighters and through bomber interception, and also often performed roles such as tactical air support and reconnaissance.

Fighter design varied widely among combatants. The Japanese and Italians favored lightly armed and armored but highly maneuverable designs. In contrast, designers in Great Britain, Germany, the Soviet Union, and the United States believed that the increased speed of fighter aircraft would create g-forces unbearable to pilots who attempted maneuvering dogfights typical of the First World War, and their fighters were instead optimized for speed and firepower.

In practice, while light, highly maneuverable aircraft did possess some advantages in fighter-versus-fighter combat, those could usually be overcome by sound tactical doctrine, and the design approach of the Italians and Japanese made their fighters ill-suited as interceptors or attack aircraft.

Two Bf-109s in flight during World War II. This plane was also known as a Messerschmitt (hence "Me-109"), but the manufacturer was the Bayerische Flugzeugwerke ("Bavarian Aircraft Works"), hence "Bf-109" (Via)

Bf-109s in formation (Via)

Two German Luftwaffe Messerschmitt Me 109 E fighters, seen flying in the two-plane (Via)

Luftwaffe Messerschmitt Bf-109E with tropical filters – Libya 1941 (Via)

Bf-109G-6 flight formation (Via)

Formation of Focke-Wulf Fw 190 fighter planes, the lead aircraft having a high number of kills on it’s tail (Via)

Focke-Wulf Fw. 190 Group 1 German fighter squadron JG54 in flight (Via)

The Flying Tigers’ 3rd Squadron (“Hell’s Angels”) flying above China in 1942 (Via)

3 aircraft formation P-40N Warhawks operating from Madden Field, Panama (Via)

In the vicinity of Moore Field, Texas. The lead ship in a formation of P-40s is peeling off for the "attack" in a practice flight at the US Army Air Forces advanced flying school. Selected aviation cadets were given transition training in these fighters before receiving their pilot's wings, 1943 (Via)

"The Bottisham Four", a famous photo showing four U.S. Army Air Force North American P-51 Mustang fighters from the 375th Fighter Squadron (Via)

P-51C / RAF Mustang III. A fantastic Anglo-American achievement. An American aircraft, built to a British specification. Powered by a Rolls Royce Merlin engine, licence built by Packard in America. Modified in Britain to utilise the 'Malcom' hood/canopy. Regarded as the best version of the Mustang, and one of the greatest weapons of WW2 (Via)

Hawker Tempest fighter (Via)

Sea Hurricane Mk IB in formation, December 1941 (Via)

Hawker Hurricane, is a British single-seat fighter aircraft that was designed and predominantly built by Hawker Aircraft Ltd for the Royal Air Force (RAF). Although largely overshadowed by the Supermarine Spitfire, the aircraft became renowned during the Battle of Britain, accounting for 60% of the RAF's air victories in the battle, and served in all the major theatres of WW2 (Via)

The moment a patrol of British Hurricane fighter planes, flying over a middle east sector, broke formation to attack enemy aircraft, on December 28, 1940 (Via)

RAF 303 Squadron, September 1940 (Via)

Hurricanes of 238 Sqn over Selsey Bill, Battle of Britain, July 1940. They are still flying the dated 'vic' formation which proved inferior to the German 'finger four': this soon became universal (Via)

Spitfire Mk XVI RAF 303 Polish Squadron (Via)

A Spitfire (front) and a Hurricane patrolling the coast during the Battle of Britain, in 1940 (Via)

Spitfire squadron (Via)

Three Supermarine Spitfires Mk VBs-ZD, - ZD-P - F & E of No 222 Squadron, RAF, based at North Weald, in 'vic' formation over the Essex, English countryside (Via)

Pilots of the 62nd Fighter Squadron flying his P-47 Thunderbolts on English territory, Apr-Jun 1943; these fighters were based at RAF Horsham St Faith, Norfolk, England (Via)

Messerschmitt BF.110D-1s in flight off the coast of North Africa (Via)

The Messerschmitt Bf 110, often (erroneously) called Me 110,[2] was a twin-engine heavy fighter (Zerstörer—German for "Destroyer") in the service of the Luftwaffe during World War II (Via)

Bf 110s in flight (Via)

Bf 110Gs over Budapest, Hungary, 1944 (Via)

A formation of F4F Wildcats in 1939 (Via)

Wildcat fighters flying in formation, circa mid-1943 (Via)

F4F-3s of VF-5, 1941 (Via)

FM-2s from USS White Plains, in June 1944 (Via)

Vought F4U-1A "Corsair" fighters fly in formation during a mission in the Solomon Islands area. March 28, 1944 (Via)

Early F4U-1s of VF-17 (Via)

Grumman F6F Hellcat Formation Fighter Aircraft (Via)

Grumman F6F-3 Hellcats in tricolor camouflage, May 1943 (Via)

A section of Fleet Air Arm Hellcat F Mk.Is of 1840 Squadron in June 1944 (Via)

P-38 Lightnings in formation (Via)

A squadron of Spitfires flying over the Adriatic Sea, 1944 (Via)

A formation of eight Lockheed P-38 Lightnings (Via)

Four P-38Hs flying in formation (Via)

The 431st Fighter Sqdn. over Huon Gulf. near Lae, New Guinea, In April. 1944, In typical attack formation. It Is led by Col. Charles MacDonald. CO of the 475th Fighter Gp., “Satan’s Angels,” an ace with 27 victories. MacDonald began the war as a lieutenant stationed at Wheeler Field. Hawaii. and was present during the Japanese attack of December 7th. Photo was taken from tall turret of a B-25, whose pilot was going so fast that the other two fighter squadrons In the group, the 432nd and 433rd, never were able to catch up and have their pictures taken (Via)

Early P-38s are shown over California. France’s Army of the Air was so impressed by Lockheed’s new fighter that it ordered 500 of them in 1940. In an era when “destroyer” or heavy fighters, such as the Me-110, etc. were looked upon as the “heavy cavalry” of the sky, particularly for low level work, the P-38 seemed tallor-made. But it was the turbosupercharged P-38 built for high altitude performance that proved the big fighter’s worth. Unfortunately for early Lightnings, shortages of superchargers kept that important addition off the engines of the Initial production runs and when the British tested their first export P-3Bs, Models 322-16s, they did so without supercharging and the results were mediocre. As a result, production orders for the RAF were cancelled (Via)

Boulton Paul Defiant (Via)

A pair of No. 264 Sqn. Defiants. The Squadron Leader's aircraft "A" can be seen in the image at the top of the page (Via)

3 aircraft formation P-40N Warhawks operating from Madden Field, Panama (Via)

In the vicinity of Moore Field, Texas. The lead ship in a formation of P-40s is peeling off for the "attack" in a practice flight at the US Army Air Forces advanced flying school. Selected aviation cadets were given transition training in these fighters before receiving their pilot's wings, 1943 (Via)

Curtiss P.40s in Vic formation (Via)

Top to Bottom: P-40 F/L, P-40K Warhawk (Via)

The I.A.R. 80 was Romania's best indigenously produced fighter of World War Two. First test flown in late 1938 or early 1939 by pilot Dimitru "Pufi" Popescu, it entered service in 1942 and remained in front-line use until 1944 (Via)

Dozens of F4U Corsair and F6F Hellcat fighter planes fly in formation over the USS Missouri, while the surrender ceremonies to end World War II take place in Tokyo Bay on 2 September 1945 (Via)

The I.A.R. 80 was Romania's best indigenously produced fighter of World War Two. First test flown in late 1938 or early 1939 by pilot Dimitru "Pufi" Popescu, it entered service in 1942 and remained in front-line use until 1944 (Via)

Italian Fiat Cr 42 fighters patrol (Via)

Two CR.42's of 162nd Squadron, 161st "Autonomous Terrestrial Fighter Group", Aegean Islands 1940 (Via)

British Gloster Gladiator (Via)

Hiroyoshi Nishizawa in his Mitsubishi Zero A6M3 Model 22 (tail code UI-105) from the 251st Kōkūtai over the Solomon Islands in May 1943. The unit's aircraft have been hastily sprayed with dark green camouflage paint on the upper surfaces (Via)

F2A-3s serving as U.S. Navy training aircraft at NAS Miami, 1942-1943 (Via)

Finnish Air Force's Brewster B-239 formation during the Continuation War (Via)

Twelve Buffaloes Mk I formation over Malaya, late 1941 (Via)

Regia Aeronautica G.50 flying with a Luftwaffe Messerschmitt Bf 110 over North Africa in 1941 (Via)

Fokker D.XXI aircraft in the Finnish air force during World War II (Via)

Formation of the Macchi 200 bomber escort, probably on a mission to Malta and Tobruk (Via)

Nakajima Ki-27 of the Akeno Army Flying School, ca. winter 1941/42 (Via)

Three Westland Whirlwinds of 263 Squadron in stepped line-astern formation (Via)

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