From the skies over Europe in World War II to the deserts of the Middle East in modern times, the United States has been at the forefront of aerial warfare. And at the heart of America’s air power are its fighter jets, the sleek and deadly machines that have dominated the skies for decades. But which ones are the best of the best?

P-51 Mustang (1942)

Ah, yes. The US Army Air Forces (USAAF) and the Royal Air Force extensively used the legendary P-51 Mustang in aerial combat and dominated the skies during World War II. It was known for its incredible speed, shooting down dozens and dozens of enemy warplanes left and right. A long-range, single-engined, single-seat fighter aircraft, the Mustang was fitted with sophisticated features ahead of its time, making it the most successful piston-engined platform of the war.

P-51 Mustang
P-51 Mustang (Image source: DVIDS)

Despite being designed in the early 1940s, the fighter aircraft incorporated some features that were not yet common for aerial platforms, such as pressurized cockpits, which allowed pilots to fly at high altitudes without suffering from hypoxia (oxygen starvation). It also had long-range capabilities, allowing itself to escort bombers deep into enemy territory. With its powerful armament—including six M2 Browning .50 caliber machine guns mounted in its wings, and durable construction, the Mustang quickly became a significant player in the Allied forces’ claim to victory.

P-47 Thunderbolt (1943)

Another iconic World War II warplane that played a massive role in the triumph of the Allied forces was the P-47 Thunderbolt.