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.

Canada inks $14bn F-35A deal to replace ageing Hornet fleet

The Canadian government announced on January 9 that it had finalised an agreement with its US counterpart, along with Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney, for the acquisition of 88 F-35A Lightning II fifth-generation multi-role stealth fighters for an estimated cost of CA$19bn (US$14bn)

UK MOD claims Russia has been using Su-57 in Ukraine conflict

The UK Ministry of Defence has claimed that the Russian Aerospace Forces have “almost certainly” been using fifth-generation Sukhoi Su-57 multi-role fighters in combat missions against Ukraine for at least seven months

Russia receives more Su-57s as production ramps up

Russia’s state-owned Rostec State Corporation announced on December 28, 2022, that another batch of serial production-standard Sukhoi Su-57 fifth-generation multi-role stealth fighters has been handed over to the Russian Ministry of Defence

Lockheed Martin to build nearly 400 F-35s under new $30bn contract

The F-35 Joint Program Office and Lockheed Martin rounded off 2022 by finalising a $30bn contract for the production and delivery of up to 398 F-35s for both US and Foreign Military Sales customers under Low-Rate Initial Production Lots 15, 16 and 17

Colombia opts for Rafale to replace ageing Kfir fleet

After spending almost a decade searching for a new multi-role fighter to replace its ageing Israel Aerospace Industries Kfir C10/C12 fleet, Colombian President Gustavo Petro has announced that the Colombian Air Force will receive new jets in 2023

Brazil inducts first F-39E Gripens into operational service

The Brazilian Air Force inducted its first two Saab F-39E Gripen multi-role fighters into operational service with the 1st Air Defense Group ‘Jaguar Squadron’ during a ceremony at Anápolis Air Base on December 19

Could Putin arm Belarusian jets with nuclear weapons?

Fears that the Belarusian Air Force and Air Defence Forces could become nuclear capable have been raised after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that its jets were being converted to carry “special warheads”

Australia now fields almost 60 F-35As in-country

A further five Royal Australian Air Force-operated Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning IIs have arrived at RAAF Base Williamtown in New South Wales, bringing the total number in operational service to 59 aircraft out of 72 on order

Pilot ejects from F-35B during bizarre crash in Texas

A Lockheed Martin-owned F-35B Lightning II was involved in a bizarre incident as it came into land on the shared runway at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth in Texas on December 15

Germany commits to buying more than 30 F-35A Lightning IIs

The Bundeswehr (German Armed Forces) announced it will procure a total of 35 Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II fifth generation fighter aircraft after its budget committee approved the close to €10bn purchase on December 14

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

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