Between the 50s and 60s, the United States (and Russia) developed some of the fastest planes, some of which remain in use today:
With new generations of fighter jets coming to fruition, we take a look back at what currently holds records, and what once was (and still is) cutting-edge engineering.
7. General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark
With a top speed of 2,655 kilometers per hour, the F-111 Aardvark is a supersonic medium-range tactical attack aircraft that has now been retired:
This U.S. Aircraft served many purposes and was used for aerial reconnaissance, as a strategic nuclear bomber, and for electronic warfare.
In addition, the F-111 was the pioneer of many aircraft manufacturing technologies.
6. McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle
The F-15 Eagle is still considered to be one of the most successful fighter jets in the world and also one of the fastest jets ever produced by the U.S. Air Force:
The top speed of this aircraft is 3,017 kilometers per hour. Even though the aircraft was developed in 1976, it will remain part of the Air Force until 2025.
Over 1,200 F-15s have been built and exported to various countries, including Israel, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and more.
5. XB-70 Valkyrie
The XB-70 Valkyrie was a nuclear-armed aircraft that was designed to perform at low altitudes during the cold war:
The XB-70 did not have many other features except for its ability to fly under the radar – and it’s top speed of 3,309 kilometers per hour.
4. Bell X-2 Starbuster
With a top speed of 3,370 kilometers per hour, the Starbuster was designed to be a research aircraft in 1955 but was retired in 1956. This aircraft was part of the X-2 program and had a mission to check how supersonic aircrafts behaved at certain altitudes with speeds higher than Mach 2.0.
The aircraft did not have any missile launching system, and it featured a back-swept wing that would create little air resistance while flying. It reached the velocity of Mach 3.196 in 1956. However, due to pilot error, it soon crashed, and the Starbuster program itself came to an end with this deadly collision.
3. Mikoyan MiG-25
This Soviet-era aircraft was one of the fastest military jets in the time of the USSR, with a top speed of 3,494 kilometers per hour.
The Mikoyan MiG-25 was introduced as a deterrence during the cold war, with designs to target the U.S. SR-71 Blackbird:
Since the Mikoyan MiG-25 was built to attack the SR-71, it had to be ridiculous quick, which is why it had a maximum capacity of Mach 3.2. However, unlike the SR-71 aircraft, the Mikoyan MiG-25 was more of a surveillance plane and never fired at a Blackbird during its lifetime.
Today the aircraft is limited in use, with Syria, Algeria, Turkmenistan, and Russia being the only countries still flying this model of aircraft.
2. Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird
The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird was once the fastest fighter jet in the world, with a top speed of 4,321 kilometers per hour. It was built in 1966 and used by the U.S. Air Force and NASA for various missions.
This aircraft also holds the world speed record for being the fastest air-breathing manned aircraft in the world – a record that is still unbroken.
The aircraft was built for use in reconnaissance and experimental research missions. The SR-71 Blackbird showcased stealth technology that allowed it to escape at very high speeds even after being detected by the enemy.
Amazingly, it was so quick it can also outrun surface-to-air missiles or interceptors launched towards it.
Owing to its high speed, the jet’s temperatures sometimes reached so high that it started to expand the metal. Due to this, it had to be built from small parts.
1. North American X-15
With a top speed of 7,274 kilometers per hour (4520 miles per hour), the North American X-15 is currently the fastest plane in the world:
This is a hypersonic rocket-powered plane, and its speed record remains unbroken even to this day. The top speed of X-15 is Mach 6.70, around 7200 kilometers per hour, which was achieved by pilot-come-astronaut William J Chevalier on October 3, 1967.
To keep the aircraft steady at super-high altitudes and at such high speed, manufacturers made a big wedge-shaped tail with smaller-width wings. However, at the same time, the drawback to this is that the drag from such type of a tail is huge when flying at lower altitudes.
The X-15 also holds three other world records, including:
- Being the first operational space-plane.
- Flying over six times the speed of sound.
- Reaching a height of over 100 kilometers.