How Much Do You Know About Aircraft Weapons of WWII?


By: John Miller

6 Min Quiz

Image: USAAF

About This Quiz

In World War I, warplanes were terrifying contraptions – mostly to the pilots and crews who tried to fly them. They were unreliable and prone to crashes, and poorly armored against enemy bullets. During the Second World War, however, aircraft technologies became much more dependable, and so did their arsenal of weapons. Using a variety of machine guns, rockets and cannons, both bombers and fighters created chaos in the skies over the European and Pacific Theaters. In this bone-rattling quiz, what do you really know about the aircraft weapons of World War II?

In the First World War, pilot threw bombs from their cockpits. They even resorted to firing pistols at enemy pilots, with predictably poor results. But WWII saw incredibly improvements in plane weaponry. At the war’s outset, many fighters carried basic machine guns, but as bombers got bigger and tougher, fighters carried guns so large that they were called cannons. What do you know about the high-speed aerial guns of the Axis and Allies?

Sometimes, even gargantuan .50-caliber rounds weren’t enough to send enemy planes into death spirals. Both sides engineered rocket systems meant to cause havoc on the clouds and on terra firma, too.

Blast your way through this WWII aircraft weapons quiz now! Maybe you’ll survive a vicious dogfight, or perhaps your Hawker Hurricane will careen into the ruins of the London Blitz!

What was the nickname of the High Velocity Aircraft Rocket used by the Allies in WWII?

During WWII, the Allies mounted the High Velocity Aircraft Rocket (HVAR), an unguided rocket, to many of its planes. It was nicknamed the Holy Moses, ostensibly for the reaction uttered by bystanders who witnessed its effects.


Which side deployed the BK 5 cannon?

The Axis loved the Bordkanone 5 (BK 5) cannon, a 50 mm gun that was meant to shoot down the Allies' heavy bombers. With their high velocity, fighter pilots could unleash a torrent of rounds outside the range of a bomber's defensive machine guns.


What incredible feature did the B-29 Superfortress have?

The B-29 was fantastically advanced for the era. It featured remote-control machine guns, with a computer-aided targeting system. It made the bomber fearsome to enemy fighter pilots.


For defensive purposes, the B-17 Flying Fortress was armed with _____ .50-caliber machine guns.

There were 13 M2 machine guns aboard the B-17. Those guns spewed enough lead to take down an entire squadron of enemy fighters.


What was the Werfer-Granate 21?

The Werfer-Granate 21 was a rocket launcher with air-to-air capabilities. German fighter pilots could loose them from nearly a mile away, keeping them safer from Allied bomber machine guns.


The Type 97 was a machine gun used in planes from which country?

Japan deployed the Type 97 aircraft machine gun on thousands of its warplanes. It was not the same equipment as the similarly named Type 97 machine gun used by infantry.


How did Germany pilots operate the MG 15 during fights?

Early in the war, many German fighter were armed with the MG 15, a 7.92 mm machine gun. It was a hand-operated weapon, meaning the pilots had to do some multitasking during dogfights.


How many machine guns did the first Supermarine Spitfire fighter have?

The first variants of the Spitfire were equipped with eight .303in Browning machine guns. Each of the guns maxed out at 300 rounds.


Early in the war, how effective were the Spitfire's machine guns against German warplanes?

In the early stages of the war, the .303in machine guns were very good at bringing down German planes. But once Axis engineers began adding more armor to their planes, the Spitfire's guns weren't quite as deadly.


What was the MK 108?

Germany loaded its MK 108 -- a 30mm caliber autocannon -- on many of its warplanes. Fighters could blast away at Allied bombers at a rate of more than 600 rounds per minute.


As bomber tailgunners became deadlier in WWII, what fighter weapons became more common?

As bomber crews got better at defending their planes, fighters tried to stay out of range of their machine guns. To so so, the fighters launched air-to-air missiles in hopes of downing bombers.


What did the "AN" in the .50 Browning AN/M2 stand for?

The .50 Browning AN/M2 was the Army/Navy version of the famed "Ma Deuce." It could be installed as a fixed gun on aircraft (or ships) and wired to a remote trigger.


Some Allied planes used the Vickers S 40 mm cannon to attack _____.

The Vickers S 40 mm gun was a powerful addition to some Allied planes, like the Hurricane. The huge rounds were great for destroying ground targets.


Why did the very first American 5-Inch Forward Firing Aircraft Rockets lack explosive warheads?

The first variations of the 5-Inch Forward Firing Aircraft Rocket (or FFAR) were meant to destroy submarines. They didn't need explosives -- instead, they simply made holes in the subs to sink them.


Which country made great use of the ShVAK cannon?

The ShVAK cannon was a 20 mm cannon made by the USSR for many of its planes and even some light tanks. It weighed just 90 pounds but could fill the skies with 800 rounds per minute.


Later models of the B-17 Flying Fortress could carry ___ pounds of bombs.

The B-17s alone dropped about 640,000 pounds of bombs on Germany in WWII. Advanced variants of the B-17 could carry as much as 10,000 pounds of bombs.


How were Soviet RS-82 missiles guided to their targets?

The RS-82 was a family of unguided missiles used by Soviet aircraft in WWII. The lack of guidance didn't stop pilots from downing plenty of enemy fighters and bombers.


How was Germany's MG 81Z different than the Z-less variant?

The MG 81 was a belt-fed 7.92 mm machine gun. It was doubly dangerous in its Z incarnation -- it had two guns built into one, maxing out at around 1,600 rounds per minute.


What was the rate of fire of a German BK 5 cannon?

Compared to a machine gun, the BK 5 cannon was slow -- 45 rounds per minute. But what it lacked it speed, it more than made up for in punch.


Why did the Germans mount the MK 108 cannon so that its barrel was at a slight upward angle?

German engineers realized that Allied bombers had a blind spot below their planes' bellies. German fighters mounted the MK 108 cannon at a bit of an upward angle and attacked from below with little risk to their own aircraft.


Japan's Type 99 Mark 1 Model 4 used what sort of system to increase its bullet capacity?

The Type 99 Mark 1 Model 4 used a belt-feed system to increase the number of rounds each plane could carry. It fired 20×101RB cartridges.


What was a major advantage of the MG FF cannon?

Germany's MG FF cannon was a lightweight 20 mm autocannon used for both offensive and defensive purposes. It weighed just 60 pounds, making it perfect for many Luftwaffe aircraft.


What was the most important part of a Japanese weapon called the Yokosuka MXY-7 Ohka?

The Yokosuka MXY-7 Ohka was basically a bomb-laced plane meant to be steered into a target by a kamikaze pilot. The concept alone was enough to terrify American sailors in the Pacific War.


What was a major drawback to the German MK 101 cannon?

The MK 101 cannon was a 30 mm monster. In some variants it weighs more than 300 pounds, a fact that made it unwieldly for many aircraft.


The Hispano-Suiza HS.404 was often mounted to which kind of plane?

The Hispano-Suiza HS.404 was an autocannon that found its way to the wings of many Allied fighters in WWII. But its drum magazines only held 60 rounds, meaning pilots quickly depleted their ammo during heavy fighting.


Japan based its Ho-103 machine gun on which American weapon?

With its high-speed .50-caliber death blasts, the Browning M2 is one of the world's legendary machine guns. It's no wonder that Japan wanted their own version, the Ho-103 machine gun.


America's Folding-Fin Aerial Rocket was also called _____.

It was a 2.75-inch unguided missile that American planes often used as a ground-attack weapon. The Folding-Fin Aerial Rocket was also called Mighty Mouse, and it was nearly worthless as an air-to-air weapon.


At one point, the Germans loaded a 75 mm cannon on the Henschel Hs 129. What was a drawback?

German engineers kept adding bigger and bigger guns to the Henschel Hs 129, including a 75 mm monster. But the gun was so heavy that pilots could hardly fly their planes.


How did Japanese engineers make the Ho-103 machine gun deadlier to enemy aircraft?

The Ho-103 machine gun used 12.7x81mmSR rounds, which were plenty dangerous to enemy aircraft. To make them even deadlier, the guns were often loaded with explosive rounds that did more damage to targets.


German included the BK 3,7 on some planes in order to hunt ____.

As the USSR deployed thousands and thousands of tanks, the German Lufwaffe needed a way to blast through so much armor. The BK 3,7 was mounted to numerous fighters and ground attack planes in hopes of stemming the tide of Red Army armor.


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