The Ten Worst Warplanes of WWII
Not every plane is successful. In fact, like most every other invention dreamed up by man, many aircraft designs are complete failures. Nowhere is this more obvious than the military, where aircraft designs suffer from both the endless navel-contemplating of peacetime and the desperate rush to production in wartime. This particular hall of shame pays homage to ten of the more disgraceful winged contraptions that left more marks on the ground than in the history books during WWII. Here they are, in no particular order:
Fairey Battle - Despite being powered by the legendary Merlin engine, the Fairey Battle still managed to be slow, underpowered and underarmed. Hopelessly vulnerable to enemy fighters, Fairey Battles fell like flies during their brief and tragic military career in the Battle of France. Despite the heroic low-altitude attacks on their targets, they achieved almost nothing, owing to their completely inadequate bombload and horrific attrition rates. After the fall of France, the Battle was hastily retired to training squadrons, where it's benign handling gave it some measure of usefulness.
Blackburn Roc - The Blackburn Roc was the victim of what aerodynamic engineers like to call a really dumb idea. It serves as a poster child for several unfortunate airplane designs all built around the same really dumb idea: fighters who sole armament points to the rear. Like its fellow brain fart, the Boulton Paul Defiant, its only guns were housed in a movable turret aft of the cockpit...and incapable of firing forward. The weight of the turret insured that the Roc, already based upon the embarrassingly slow Skua dive bomber, was incapable of getting out of its own way, and incapable of firing at an enemy aircraft from the only position in which it might be safe from return fire. In what seems like almost a sure sign that even its own designers hated it, the IFF sets were removed to make room for the useless turret. The Roc's unimpressive wartime combat record speaks for itself: it managed to down only a single plane during WWII.
TBD Devastator - Torpedo Squadron 8. Nuff said.
Breda Ba88 - The Italian Ba88 flew well enough as a prototype to establish a few short-lived records, but its propaganda value took a nose dive once the production aircraft left the assembly line with a redesigned tail and all of it's military equipment installed. The service Breda could barely fly at all, and desert-fitted examples serving in North Africa were lucky to reach half of the manufacturer's advertised top speed. The plane was so maligned by its pilots that many examples wound up being used as airfield decoys against bombing attacks.
Blackburn Botha - An ugly, twin-engined torpedo bomber that never actually dropped a torpedo, the Botha was under powered and possessed of such treacherous handling that it was finally banished to target tug duty by the few training schools unfortunate enough to fly it. An RAF test pilot unlucky enough to fly one wrote "The cockpit is almost impossible to get into...it should be made impossible".
Messerschmitt Me163 Komet - Ask any pilot what in-flight emergency frightens them the most, and they will invariably mention either fire or engine failure shortly after takeoff...so it is a tribute to the sadism of German engineers that they managed to dream up a plane designed to incorporate both nightmare events into its normal flight plan. Imagine a small chicken egg, whose little hatchling had just managed to free it's wings by poking them out the sides of its shell. It can't really walk yet, or fly under it's own power, or do much at all other than chirp in the optimistic hope that someone will feed it. Now imagine pouring a small amount of high explosive into the egg and flinging it high into the air. Good luck, birdie! This was the plight of the hapless Me163 pilot, whose powerful rocket engine consumed all of it's fuel withing three minutes of launch. The fact that it was a fine glider was of limited consolation to the pilot, whose landing gear were designed to fall away just after takeoff. The aircraft landed on a skid...and as gently as the pilot could make it, as whatever fuel might remain withing the fuel tanks remained both highly volatile and corrosive. The Me163 achieved little during the course of the war, other than to frighten the occasional B-17 gunner, and more than a few German pilots.
Heinkel He177 - Another brainchild of the what-were-they-thinking department, the He177 was Germany's only real foray into the four-engined heavy bomber design. While many designers have tried coupling more than one propeller to a single engine, the He177 was a rare and somewhat inexplicable attempt to couple a single propeller to two engines. This mechanically nightmarish arrangement resulted in no end of engine problems which plagued the plane throughout it's lackluster career, in which it caught fire more often than a Pinto at a demolition derby.
SB2U Vindicator - An underpowered aircraft whose performance was pitiful enough that the Royal Navy decided to replace theirs with an even older biplane. Half of all casualties in the Vindicator were cause by carrier training accidents...perhaps before it was learned that the plane's minimum takeoff roll was longer than the carrier decks it was meant to fly from. Doh!
L.W.S.6 Zubr - You've probably never heard of this plane, and for good reason...it was so bad, that even when the Polish Air Force was in such dire starits they were throwing biplanes in the path of Luftwaffe Messerschmitts, the Zubr was considered militarily useless. If any plane could have won the award for worst aircraft based soley on looks alone, the Zubr would walk away with the prize...because it probably couldn't fly away with it. The prototype killed it's entire crew on a demonstration flight, and it never really got any better. By an interesting coincidence, Zubr means Buffalo...the name of a notably inferior US fighter that slipped quietly into obscurity after being hacked from the skies during the battle of Midway. The moral, I suppose, is never fly a plane named after an overweight vegetarian.