During World War 2, roughly 160 different types of combat aircraft saw frontline service, or actively participated in the global conflict. Of this number, well over half can be classified as 'fighters'. Seen as the ultimate in winged perfection, the fighter, and its pilot, has consistently grabbed the headlines in the propaganda 'war' fought for the 'hearts and minds' of the various nations embroiled in the major conflicts of the 20th century.

Proof of this is easy to obtain. Just ask anybody to name an aircraft from World War 2, and the trio most usually volunteered are the Spitfire, Messerschmitt (not usually mark-specific, but generally recognized as the Bf 109) and the Mustang. I grant you that these three aircraft are undoubtedly amongst the most important fighter types to see action during 'WW 2', and that between them, their total production amounted to more than 70,000 units in less than a decade of production. However, what of the remaining 80+ aircraft that meet the criterion of 'fighter' during the 1939-45 period? That is where this modest handbook comes in.

Featuring no fewer than 93 entries, this all-new addition to Jane's 'pocket guide' series details all the major fighter types of both the Allied and Axis powers, listing performance data, dimensions, armament and operators, as well as providing a concise history of the aircraft in question. Only those aeroplanes that actually saw action are included in this volume, ranging from the P.Z.L P.11cs and Bf 110B/Cs that engaged each other over Poland in the opening days of World War 2, to the F4U-4s and N1 K2-Js that slugged it out over Tokyo Bay in mid-August 1945.

Aside from the text, each fighter type is illustrated with a carefully chosen contemporary black and white photograph that clearly shows its salient details. These images have been specially sourced by the author from the extensive private collections of Philip Jarrett and Bruce Robertson, and have been selected for their clarity and rarity. With each photograph featured over a full page, they clearly show the sheer diversity of the designs that fought for the control of the skies over war-torn Europe, North Africa, the Far East and the Pacific South-West…

Tony Holmes