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.

Gripen C/D and F-16V shortlisted in Philippine fighter procurement project

The Philippine Air Force revealed on July 5 that it has shortlisted the Lockheed Martin F-16V Block 50/52 Fighting Falcon and Saab JAS 39C/D+ Gripen for its Multi-Role Fighter (MRF) procurement project, adding that it is in the process of choosing between the two

Lockheed Martin awarded ROKAF F-16 upgrade contract

Lockheed Martin has received a further contract to upgrade the Republic of Korea Air Force’s (ROKAF’s) fleet of F-16C/D Fighting Falcon multi-role fighters

Romania approves purchase of second-hand F-16s from Norway

The Romanian government has approved the draft law to purchase 32 second-hand Lockheed Martin F-16AM/BM (MLU) Fighting Falcons from Norway, with plans to operate the multi-role fighters – which were recently retired from Royal Norwegian Air Force service – for at least ten years

ILA Berlin 2022: Spain orders 20 Eurofighters under Project Halcón

Airbus Defence and Space announced at the ILA Berlin Airshow on June 23 that the NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency (NETMA) has signed a landmark contract for the acquisition of 20 latest generation Eurofighter jets

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ILA Berlin 2022: Germany rushing to acquire F-35As

During the opening day of the ILA Berlin Airshow (June 22), more details emerged regarding the German Federal Ministry of Defence’s decision to acquire the F-35A Lightning II as a replacement for the Luftwaffe’s ageing Tornado fleet

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Egypt set for imminent Eurofighter purchase

The Egyptian government looks set to imminently sign a multi-billion dollar deal with its Italian counterparts for Eurofighter Typhoons

Pilot killed in US Navy Super Hornet crash

The pilot of a US Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet was killed when it crashed at around 1430hrs PST in the Mojave Desert near Trona, San Bernardino County, California, during a routine training mission

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Romanian MiG-21 fleet gains one-year lease of life as operations resume

After suspending all flight activities with its ageing MiG-21 LanceR B/C fleet on April 15 for safety reasons, the Romanian Air Force has resumed operations with the Cold War-era fighter for a one-year period, after which the type will be withdrawn from service

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French Rafales involved in mid-air collision during air show

A pair of French Air and Space Force-operated Dassault Rafale C multi-role fighters collided in mid-air during a display at an air show, held at Cognac-Châteaubernard Air Base (BA 709) in southwestern France on May 22

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When an RAF Phantom shot down a 14 Sqn Jaguar

May 2022 marks the 40th anniversary of the RAF Phantom fleet’s one and only air-to-air ‘kill’. But, as Ian Black reveals, it was not a celebrated event

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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