P-51 vs P-47: The Best Fighter In Europe

P-51 vs P-47: The Best Fighter In Europe | World War Wings Videos

YouTube / Australian Military Aviation History

Two US aircraft are well-known for their late war operations in the European theater- the P-51 Mustang and the P-47 Thunderbolt. But which one of these are the best?

Near Equal Match?

Both the Thunderbolt and Mustang differed greatly in terms of design, but when it came to combat, both would emerge as near-equal matches in a lot of things. 


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Neil Cotten (@neilcotten)

The Mustang used the Rolls-Royce Merlin, a 27-liter V12 engine, while the P-47 used the Pratt & Whitney R-2800, which was the same engine used on the Corsair and the Hellcat in the Pacific. 


The comparison would significantly focus on the performance of both P-51 and P-47D variants. In terms of combat service, both served the RAAF in various capacities.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Neil Cotten (@neilcotten)

Generally, both fighters were used to escort bombers in long-range missions into enemy territory. 

As for kill count, the Mustang would reign supreme with somewhere between 4,200-4,900 claimed victories which is unmatched by any other aircraft in the European theater. The Thunderbolt, on the other hand, claimed only between 2,600 to 3,700 victories.

Although significantly lower, it’s still an impressive record. Most pin the Mustang’s kill ratio to 10:1 while the Thunderbolt ratio is only 4.6:1. 

In terms of speed, both planes were exceptionally fast, surpassing 400 mph.

Although Thunderbolts weren’t a slack in a dogfight, the Mustang would outperform it by a large margin when it came to roll-in turn rates. 


Most pilots would prefer the Mustang because of the plane’s enhanced maneuverability and speed, allowing it to compete against the German Bf-109.

However, a smaller number of pilots that prefer the Thunderbolt would cite safety as a significant factor.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Adam Lenton (@adamsplenton)

The Thunderbolt was able to take multiple hits without compromising the aircraft, while the Mustang is far more vulnerable

When it came to bombing duties, the Thunderbolt was more capable, carrying two 1,000-pound bombs – one on each wing, and a 500-pound bomb under the fuselage. 

Final Conclusion

All in all, both planes have strengths in various roles. It was suggested that during WWII, the P-51 would be a better aircraft overall.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Aviation Airfield (@aviationairfield)

Although the Thunderbolt is much safer, the Mustang proved to be the more agile plane and could get in a fight and kill the enemy twice the rate of a Thunderbolt.

Regardless, this isn’t to dismiss the Thunderbolt, which was a remarkable aircraft and served its role well in WWII. 

Don’t Miss Out! Sign up for the Latest Updates