Sometimes it is very difficult to compare or face fighters from different manufacturers in a direct battle. The characteristics very often overlap and you rely only on the small details that can tip the scales in one direction or another.
But when you compare speed and remove all other known features, it’s much easier. Today we will introduce you to the fastest military aircraft in the world – whether they have been used over the years or developed as prototypes, speed is a constant value to celebrate.
Let’s start with the ranking!
8. General Dynamics F-111, USA – 2,650 km/h
The General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark was a twin-engine Cold War fighter aircraft from US production. It was the first mass-produced fighter aircraft with swivel wings. The name Aardvark (English for aardvark) was the unofficial nickname during her service, which was used as the official name of the U.S. at her retirement ceremony. Air Force (USAF) was taken over. The only export customer was the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), where it was nicknamed Pig.
The F-111 served as a fighter-bomber from 1967 to 1997, most recently with the F-111F series. The electronic reconnaissance variant EF-111A was retired in 1999. The RAAF flew the type from 1973 to 2010.
7. McDonnell Douglas F-15, USA – 2,654 km/h
The F-15 Eagle (German eagle) is a twin-engine air superiority fighter of the US aircraft manufacturer McDonnell Douglas (part of Boeing since 1997). As the classification already implies, it was designed to establish and maintain air superiority in the event of a conflict. In this role it almost completely replaced the F-4 Phantom II over time. The F-15 itself has now been replaced to a certain extent by the F-22 Raptor, which was built until 2011.
A significant further development is the F-15E Strike Eagle, which is equipped with extensive air-to-ground armament. This turned a pure air superiority fighter into a modern multi-role fighter.
6. Mikoyan MiG-31, Russia – 3,000 km/h
The Mikoyan MiG-31 is an interceptor that was developed from the MiG-25 in the Soviet Union from 1967. The first machine was put into service in 1981 and declared operational in 1983
The MiG-31 looks very similar to the MiG-25, but is a largely new aircraft with a different structure, improved flight performance and newly defined tasks. In the 1970s, Soviet air defense was in poor shape. There were large gaps in the radar defense network. The only aircraft for early air warning, the Tu-126 (based on the Tu-114), was only available in small numbers and of limited capacity. There was little prospect of being able to intercept low-flying targets like the Rockwell B-1 of the US Air Force, which was built at the same time. The introduction of new interceptors did not improve the situation either.
The Soviet air defense used a large number of aircraft of various types for interception (e.g. Su-15, Tu-128), all of which, however, insufficiently fulfilled this task, mainly because they depend on ground radar and control centers were. The MiG-25, the previous version of the MiG-31, was too limited in data processing due to its analog systems.
The West first learned of the development of the MiG-31 when the Soviet lieutenant Viktor Belenko left on September 6, 1976 with his MiG-25 for Hakodate in Japan. He reported on a “Super-MiG-25” that could fly supersonic even at low altitude. This should have powerful engines, more modern avionics and at least six long-range missiles. In 1977 NATO began to refer to this aircraft as the MiG-31 and in 1982 gave it the code name Foxhound. In 1985, MiG-31s were intercepted and photographed by Norwegian fighters for the first time.
5. Mikoyan MiG-25, Russia – 3,300 km/h
The Mikoyan MiG-25 (Russian Микоян-Гуревич МиГ-25, NATO code name: Foxbat, German Foxbat) is a twin-engine, single-seat interceptor and reconnaissance aircraft that was developed by the Mikojan-Gurewitsch design office in the Soviet Union.
In the early 1960s, the first investigations were carried out in the Soviet Union on the basis of the Mikoyan-Gurevich Je-166, such as a suspected threat from US supersonic bombers such as the Convair B-58 and, above all, the Mach-3-fast Lockheed A-12 could be. The tender was a Mach 3 fast fighter that should be able to intercept fast aerial targets at altitudes of up to 25,000 meters.
The main purpose of the MiG-25, which was then under development, was ultimately to intercept the Lockheed A-12 Mach 3 reconnaissance aircraft, the construction of which the Soviet military command had learned in 1960. The official start of the program for preliminary investigations was March 10, 1961. The operational doctrine was based on the detection of the target by a powerful radar system and the combat with specially developed long-range air-to-air missiles of the type Wympel R-40 (NATO designation AA-6 “Acrid”), although classic dogfights were not planned.
The radar was a Smertsch-A pulse radar (smertsch, Russian смерч for windpipe, tornado; NATO name Foxfire) with limited look-down capabilities. In order to achieve a good range resolution, the radar worked with a high pulse repetition frequency. In the same year the decision was made to manufacture the machine essentially as a welded construction, which should consist mainly of creep-resistant, rust-free nickel steel. A semi-automatic welding process was developed as a joining process in order to be able to control structural changes in the material.
4. SR-71 Blackbird, USA – 3,700 km/h
The Lockheed SR-71 (SR stands for Strategic Reconnaissance, English for Strategic Reconnaissance) is a Mach-3-fast, very high-flying twin-engine reconnaissance aircraft that operated from 1966 to 1998 in the US Air Force. It is the best-known model of a number of similar aircraft types made by the Lockheed Corporation and developed by the Lockheed Advanced Development Projects Unit (better known as Skunk works) on behalf of the CIA.
The models in this series were officially called Blackbird (German: Amsel) in the US Air Force. While stationed at Kadena Air Base, the SR-71 was nicknamed Habu, after an endemic pit viper species (Protobothrops flavoviridis) that is only found on the Ryukyu Islands, to which Okinawa belongs. A total of 32 aircraft were built, twelve of which crashed, but not a single one was shot down, because the Lockheed SR-71 flew so fast and high that surface-to-air missiles could not reach it.
Most of the remaining 20 aircraft are now on display in museums, the only one outside of the US is in the Imperial War Museum Duxford in the UK. Some machines were made temporarily ready for research flights in the 1990s and then again long-term preserved. The last flight of an SR-71 took place on October 9, 1999
3. North American X-15, USA – 7,300 km/h
The US test aircraft X-15 was a rocket-powered experimental aircraft for high-altitude and high-speed flights. North American Aviation (NAA) built three copies of this model. This machine set new records for manned aircraft as early as the 1960s. A top speed of 7274 km / h (Mach 6.72) and an altitude of 107.96 km were reached. The data collected served the US space program such as the Apollo program. Higher speeds and heights of manned aircraft were only achieved with the space shuttle from 1981.
2. Orbital Sciences Corporation Х-34, USA – 11,000 km/h
We continue to go up and down and one more plane, which looks more like a rocket, but formally it is an aircraft, since it adheres to its control principles and has wing wings. This aircraft no longer had pilots on board; it rose into the air “under the belly” of the carrier aircraft. But during tests in 2004, it accelerated to 11,000 kilometers per hour over the Pacific Ocean.
11,000 kilometers per hour? Spot!
It was originally planned that the device will be able to gain 12,200 kilometers per hour, but it did not work out. In terms of design, the aircraft itself is not very large and has a length of only 17.78 meters, and a wingspan of 8.85 meters. A solid propellant engine is responsible for the movement, on the production of which a quarter of a billion dollars were spent, and on testing – 7 years.
The plane cannot climb too high, although 75 kilometers is already more than an impressive figure.
1. Boeing X-43, USA – 11,230 km/h
The Boeing X-43 is an unmanned, lifting body designed test aircraft for the US space agency NASA.
After DARPA, in cooperation with Rockwell, had unsuccessfully ended the X-30 NASP (National Aero Space Plane) project in 1993, NASA initiated the development of the X-43A, an unmanned and unmanned aircraft, seven years later with the “Hyper-X” program hypersonic vehicle. The three built copies (called Hyper-X 1 to 3) were designed for single use. The aircraft is powered by a ramjet engine with supersonic combustion.
The 4.6 × 1.5 meter supersonic aircraft, which was designed for speeds of up to Mach 10, was saddled to a modified, single-stage variant of the Pegasus rocket. The aircraft was dropped from a converted Boeing NB-52 at an altitude of 12,200 to 13,000 meters. The so-called HXLV Pegasus variant was retrofitted with special control surfaces and stabilizers. This brought the 1270 kilogram aircraft further to a greater height (up to around 95,000 feet or 30,000 meters) from Edwards AFB in California, USA.
The first unsuccessful test of the Hyper-X 1 was carried out on June 2, 2001. The second test of the Hyper-X 2 was successfully carried out on March 27, 2004 off the coast of California. After the ramjet engine had burned for eleven seconds, almost seven times the speed of sound (precisely Ma = 6.83) or hypersonic speed was reached – a new record for aircraft with air-breathing engines. A height of 24 kilometers was reached and a distance of 24 kilometers was covered.
After the ramjet engine had finished its work, the flight operators were then able to control the aircraft in gliding flight until it crashed into the Pacific. The third and thus the last example of the Hyper-X 3 demonstrator was able to reach a record speed of Mach 9.66 (10,617 km / h) and an altitude of 34 kilometers on November 16, 2004.
The supersonic aircraft held out the record speed for about ten seconds. The engine worked for around twelve seconds, after which the ramjet engine melted due to the lack of active cooling of the engine due to the design. Then it carried out preset maneuvers for a few minutes before crashing into the Pacific as planned.
Read more: Top 5 best combat drones [UAVs] in the world
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