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.

US approves South Korean F-16 IFF/Link 16 upgrades

The US State Department has approved the possible Foreign Military Sale (FMS) of identification friend or foe (IFF) systems and Link 16 tactical data links to South Korea, as part of the country’s F-16 upgrade effort.

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Trapani Typhoons

AFM was invited to visit the Italian Air Force’s important base of Trapani-Birgi, which occupies a remote strategic position covering Europe’s southern flank. Peter ten Berg reports from Sicily.

Production begins on first Gripen F

Saab has started production of its first Gripen F for the Força Aérea Brasileira (FAB, Brazilian Air Force), marking an important milestone in its development programme.

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The US Army has selected Bell’s 360 Invictus and Sikorsky’s Raider X to progress through to the second phase of its Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) programme.

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'River Rattlers'

The US Navy Reserves fly some of the oldest Hornets in the US, yet they are able to provide meaningful fleet support and a valuable reserve force if the need to boost the front line arises.

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Felon: Imposter or the Real Deal?

The Sukhoi Su-57 ‘Felon’ was originally conceived in an effort to compete against the Lockheed Martin’s F-22 and F-35. Known as the PAK-FA, its development has progressed at a relatively slow pace — but has it matured as a force to be reckoned with?

First Alaskan F-35A takes flight

The first Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II destined to operate from Eielson Air Force Base (AFB), Alaska, has flown for the first time.

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Phantom Survivors: Gone but not Forgotten

Operational F-4s have dwindled over the past decade, with some notable retirements and events.

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Phantom Survivors: Rising Sun 'Rhinos'

The Japan Air Self-Defense Force operates an exotic mix of F-4s, with its reconnaissance variants now being retired and a single squadron of air defenders remaining.

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Phantom Survivors: Iranian Survivors

The Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF) has operated F-4s since 1968, and today retains a significant number of these aircraft as the backbone of its aging fighter force.

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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