How Much Do You Know About WWII Plane Engines?

John Miller

A Daimler-Benz DB 601A engine powered which common German WWII plane?

The German Messerschmitt Bf 109 was one of the most successful planes in the early parts of the war. This liquid-cooled V12 engine could push the plane to altitudes of nearly 15,000 feet.

Which famous British aircraft often used a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine?

The Supermarine Spitfire is one of the most iconic fighters of the war, a critical weapon during the Battle of Britain. Many versions used the Merlin engine, which could generate up to around 1,000hp.

How many engines were built into the Boeing B-29 Superfortress?

The B-29 was a technological marvel of WWII, armed to the teeth and brimming with power thanks to four prop-driven engines. The engines, however, were not always up to snuff.

What was a problem that plagued the Wright R-3350 Duplex-Cyclone, the engines built into the B-29 Superfortress?

Considering the size and heft of the B-29, the plane really needed solid engines. Unfortunately, many of the early versions of the R-3350 weren't very dependable, leading to some tragic consequences.

The North American P-51 Mustang was originally meant to use which engine?

The first design of the P-51 Mustang was meant to use the Allison V-1710. But the Allies soon realized that the plane would perform better with a different motor.

Which of the following was a variant of the famed Merlin engine?

The Packard V-1650 Merlin was a version of the famous Merlin engine made in Britain. This one, however, was built in the United States by the Packard Motor Car Company.

The A6M3 Type 0 Model 32 was used in which famous aircraft?

The A6M3 Type 0 Model 32 was a common engine in the Japanese Zero fighter. Japan started production of this engine in 1942 and used it extensively against the United States.

Which country produced enormous numbers of the Shvetsov M-11 during the war?

Until after the end of the war, the Soviet Union produced incredible numbers of the Shvetsov M-11, a five-cylinder radial engine. In total, about 100,000 of the M-11 were built for a variety of aircraft -- mostly civilian planes.

The B-17 Flying Fortress used four Pratt & Whitney R-1690 Hornet radial engines. Each engine produced how much horsepower?

Each of the four R-1690 engines generated about 750hp. At full speed, the engines propelled these large bombers to a speed of around 250 mph.

What sort of engine was the R-1830 Twin Wasp?

The R-1830 Twin Wasp was a 14-cylinder radial engine used in the '30s and '40s. It was exceedingly common and built into two of the most numerous aircraft models (DC-3 and B-24) ever built.

Which engine replaced the Allison V-1710 in the P-51 Mustang?

It's fitting that one of America's most iconic fighters was actually powered by a Rolls-Royce Merlin, the same engine that made Britain's Spitfire such a powerful weapon in the epic Battle of Berlin. The Merlin boosted the P-51's capabilities, particularly at high altitudes, making it much deadlier against German fighters.

Which country built the Napier Sabre aircraft engine?

In the late '30s, Britain was getting serious about aircraft engines, and the Napier Sabre was definitely a step in the right direction. It was one of the most powerful engines of the era, with some later models generating more than 3,000hp.

What did the Napier Sabre and Rolls-Royce Vulture engines have in common?

Both the Sabre and the Vulture were exceptionally high-powered engines during the WWII era. They were both meant to top 2,000 horsepower.

True or false, was the BMW 801 an air-cooled engine?

The BMW 801 was a 14-cylinder radial engine built by the tens of thousands, and it was ultimately implemented into planes like the Focke-Wulf Fw 190. But it relied on air to keep heat levels under control -- it was not liquid-cooled.

What propelled the German Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet?

The Me 163 was an incredible rocket plane that the Germans introduced in 1944. It's still the only rocket-powered fighter ever used in combat and could top speeds of 1,000 mph.

Which company devised the R-1830 Twin Wasp, one of the most numerous aircraft engines of the entire war?

Pratt & Whitney engineered the R-1830 Twin Wasp, which was used in countless Allied warplanes. It may actually be the most-manufactured plane engine in the history of the world.

By the time WWII started, the specifications for many fighters and bombers pushed for _____ engines.

Both the Allies and Axis pushed horsepower ratings in order to build planes that could reach ever greater altitudes. At the time the war started, many engines were pushing 2,000hp.

What propelled the Messerschmitt Me 262?

The German Me 262 was the first-ever jet fighter made ready for combat. Its turbojet engines meant it could zip to about 530 mph, making it a high-speed target for Allied foes, who countered the plane's speed by blasting it during takeoff and landing.

True or false, did two iconic British fighters -- the Hurricane and Spitfire -- both use Rolls-Royce Merlin engines?

Both the older Hurricane and newer Spitfire both used variants of the legendary Merlin engine, which provided fantastic power and speed even at higher altitudes, a critical point when battling sophisticated German planes.

Which of the following was NOT a variant of the popular Merlin engine?

If the Nazis had built the Merlin, there definitely would have been a variant called the 666. As it was, there numerous models of the engine built from the III to the 45 to the XX and a lot more.

How many cylinders did the German BMW VI engine have?

The BMW VI was a common V12 engine that found its way into numerous German aircraft during the war. The Japanese and Soviets used identical versions in some of their planes, too.

The original name of the Rolls-Royce Merlin was _____.

The Merlin was originally given a bland moniker of PV-12. But then the company got wise to marketing and realized that naming its engines after birds of prey would be way cooler.

The Napier Sabre was a reliable and powerful engine made by Britain. Why was it quickly phased out following the cessation of hostilities?

Sure, the Sabre was an amazingly powerful engine, but it was by no means cheap to build. Plus, at the end of the war, a new type of technology -- jet power -- was emerging.

The Mitsubishi MK4E engine was used in which sort of Japanese aircraft?

The Mitsubishi MK4E engine was built into the G4M, a common bomber used in the Pacific theater. These engines had large superchargers to help the G4M attack its targets.

The Junkers Jumo 211 was mostly used in what type of aircraft?

The Jumo 211 was a V12 that saw use mostly in German bombers like the Ju 88. The Germans produced tens of thousands of these engines during the conflict.

The British Fairey Battle used the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine. How did it usually fare against the Luftwaffe?

The Fairey Battle did indeed use the amazing Merlin engine, but the plane itself was much heftier than other aircraft, and it was an easy target for the Nazis. It was shot down in droves before the British wised up.

What was the approximate horsepower rating of the common Soviet Shvetsov M-11?

The Shvetsov M-11 was a smaller engine used in little aircraft. It had a horsepower rating of around 100hp.

The Mikulin AM-35 included what sort of engine technology?

The Mikulin AM-35 was a type of piston airplane engine made by the Soviets starting in 1940. It was used to power the Ilyushin Il-2, one of the most common Soviet ground-attack aircraft of the war.

True or false: The Heinkel He 178 was the world's first jet fighter to see combat.

The He 178 really was the first aircraft to soar through the skies using turbojet technology, but it was only able to endure the strain of combat for 10 minutes at a time. That kind of jet fighter technology wasn't ready for prime time until well after the war ended.

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About This Quiz

In the 1930s, leaders from around the world could already hear Hitler’s drumbeat of war, and they feared the worst – that the Nazis were building scores of tanks and planes meant to reduce Europe to ruins. On both sides, engineers took a fledgling technology – the airplane – and frantically did their best to make these engines more powerful and more fuel efficient for the coming war.

Do you know how those engineers approached plane engine challenges of the day? Did you know that not all of their designs worked – not even the ones that were meant to power the most advanced aircraft in the entire war?

Plane engines were the throbbing hearts of both Allied and Axis forces. Reliable, high-altitude engines could alter the course of entire battles. Sputtering designs could doom vital offensives.

Do you know the name of the iconic engines that helped Britain fend off the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain? And do you have any idea which sort of motor helped position a bomb called Little Boy over the industrial heart of Hiroshima? Without these engines, perhaps the war would’ve taken a very dark turn.

Grab your favorite wrench, it's time to get greasy. Dig into our WWII plane engine quiz and see if you know the engines that powered the most famous planes of all time.

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