Military Fighter Aircraft

Commonly called fighter aircraft or fighter jets; these fixed wing aircraft can be interceptors, bombers or reconnaissance aircraft with an electronic warfare role. Some modern fighter jets are what is called multirole aircraft. Military fast jets typically have one or two seats and often operate in a two-fighter team, with a lead and a wingman. It is their speed and versatility that distinguish a fighter from other types of military aircraft, such as transport planes or dedicated reconnaissance platforms.

News Freemium

First US fighter ace since Vietnam emerges in Red Sea conflict

As the skies over the Red Sea grow more volatile in light of recent attacks on international shipping in the region from Houthi-backed militants in Yemen, Capt Earl Ehrhart V – a USMC AV-8B Harrier II pilot – has intercepted and shot down seven confirmed Houthi drones since December 2023, becoming the first American fighter ace since the end of the Vietnam War

News Freemium

US finally approves sale of F-16 Block 70s to Turkey

After a two-year delay, Turkey has finally gained approval from the US government to acquire 40 new-build F-16C/D Block 70 Fighting Falcon multi-role fighters and 79 F-16V upgrade kits in a deal worth approximately $23bn

USMC’s first East Coast F-35B unit declared operational

The USMC formally declared its first East Coast-based F-35B Lightning II squadron operational when Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 542 (VMFA-542) ‘Tigers’ – a component of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW) – achieved Initial Operational Capability (IOC) at MCAS Cherry Point in North Carolina on February 5

News Premium

Ethiopia acquires Su-30K fighters and Akinci drones

The Ethiopian Air Force (EAF) has taken delivery of two Russian-built Su-30K Flanker-F multi-role fighters and an unspecified number of Turkish-made Bayraktar Akinci unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAVs)

F135 Engine Core Upgrade: Powering the Future

After Pratt & Whitney’s F135 Engine Core Upgrade solution was chosen by the USAF to enhance the F-35’s powerplant ahead of the highly anticipated Block 4 configuration, Khalem Chapman spoke with the firm about the progress being made and the benefits it will bring to not only the Lightning II family, but also future sixth-generation fighters

Italian Tornados relieve Eurofighters on deployment in Kuwait

The Italian Air Force has deployed an unspecified number of Panavia Tornado IDS ground attack/strike aircraft to Ali Al Salem Air Base in Kuwait as part of its latest Task Group Devil detachment to the Middle East region

Norway deploys F-35As for Air Policing duties in Iceland

The Royal Norwegian Air Force (RNoAF) has deployed F-35A Lightning II fifth-generation multi-role stealth fighters from Ørland Main Air Station, Norway, to Keflavik Air Base in Iceland to provide a Quick Reaction Alert capability in support of NATO’s Icelandic Air Policing (IAP) mission

RNLAF’s third F-35A unit welcomes first Lightning II

The first F-35A Lightning II fifth-generation multi-role stealth fighter for the Royal Netherlands Air Force’s (RNLAF’s) No 312 Squadron arrived at Leeuwarden Air Base on January 11

Slovak Air Force receives first two F-16 Block 70s in the US

Lockheed Martin announced on January 10 that it had successfully delivered its first two F-16 Block 70 Fighting Falcon fighters to the Slovak Air Force at its production facility in Greenville, South Carolina

News Freemium

Ukrainian pilots begin F-16 training in Denmark as Norwegian 'Vipers' arrive

The Royal Danish Air Force has been training Ukrainian Air Force pilots to fly the F-16 Fighting Falcon at Skrydstrup Air Base since late December 2023, when the first six candidates arriving after completing a basic training course in the UK

Fighter aircraft were not the first heavier-than-air military aircraft. During the First World War bi-planes with a pilot and a crew member would carry out. Guns were soon added to these aircraft and the fighters were born; the term dogfight became synonymous with the new form of aerial combat. These aircraft would also crudely drop bombs with a crew member simply throwing the bombs out of the aircraft. After the First World War, fighter development led to the single wing, enclosed cockpit, propeller powered aircraft such as the RAF Hawker Hurricane, Luftwaffe Messerschmitt Bf 109 and the United States Army Airforce North American Aviation P-51 Mustang. After the war, the RAF Gloster Meteor was the RAF’s first operational jet fighter and it was rapidly joined by fast jets from France, Russia and the USA.

Today, the roles of military fast jets have hardly changed, from intercepting other fast jets fighters or bombers, to maintaining air superiority, they are bombing air defences and photographing bombed sites for battle damage assessment as well as escorting slower, more vulnerable aircraft.

Different Types of Fighter Planes

From the first aerial reconnaissance aircraft, the Wright brothers military flyer, or Model A, sold to the US military in 1909, it took 45 years until the United States Airforce’s North American F-100 Super Sabre became the world’s first operational supersonic fighter in 1954. There has been a huge amount of technological development between the Super Sabre and the world’s first operational fifth generation fighter, the United States Marine Corp’s Lockheed Martin F-35B/C Lightning II, which entered service in 2015. All fixed wing aircraft, since the advent of jet fighters in World War Two, have been a variety of designs to meet the military’s changing needs. Jet engines were in development before World War Two, but it was only near the end of that war that the first operational fast jet fighter, the Messerschmitt Me 262, took to the skies.

Fighters steadily developed to fly higher and faster, carry more payloads, both missiles and bombs, and became supersonic. The need for greater speed saw the delta wing shape for supersonic flight, air-to-air missiles were used in the Korean War for the first time, and it was only later that fighters were equipped with radar, allowing for longer range interception. The 1960s saw the development of vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capability with the Royal Navy’s Hawker Siddeley Harrier, which is still in service with the Indian military. Propeller powered fighter aircraft did not end with the flights of the Gloster Meteor and the 1950s saw experiments with VTOL propeller powered aircraft that sat on their tails in a vertical position.

Since the 1980s fast jets have become stealthy, first with the now retired Lockheed Martin F-117 Nighthawk which was primarily a bomber, to the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, an interceptor, and the multirole Lockheed Martin F-35, which are both said to have very small radar signatures.

Find out more about other types of Military Aircraft

Want to read more about Airforce NewsMilitary Transport AircraftMilitary Aircraft ShowMilitary Aircraft Technology?

Subscribe to Key.Aero

Become a part of our aviation community and subscribe to Key.Aero now. You can get all the aviation information you'll ever need, whenever you want, with access to all the latest aviation updates, news, events and more.