For most aviation fans, while the opulence and extravagance of private jets is something lavish dreams are made of, there’s an almost visceral feeling that fighter jets elicit from us. The speed and raw tenacity that these beasts of the sky have while in action is something to behold.
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Fighter jets depend on speed for survival. If your craft doesn’t move as fast as the enemy’s, there can be grave consequences. In light of such a basic understanding, jet engineers are continually trying to outdo each other to release the fastest fighter plane possible.
The following is a list of the top ten fastest fighter jets in the world today.
10. Chengdu J-10 (1,451 mph)
- Top Speed: 1,451 mph
The Chengdu J-10 is a Chinese multirole fighter jet that NATO fondly refers to as the Firebird. The Firebird is China’s fastest combat aircraft and thus, is a prominent figure in the People’s Liberation Army Air Force. It is designed and manufactured by the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC).
The People’s Liberation Army Air Force introduced the J-10 into service in 2003, after its initial test flight in 1998. In the beginning, the CAC meant for the J-10 to be a specialized fighter. However, after the initial tests and design changes, the J-10 was converted into a multirole aircraft.
Even though there were only 350 J-10s built, the Chengdu J-10 remains China’s fastest and most popular jet fighter.
9. Dassault Mirage 2000 (1,453 mph)
- Top Speed: 1,453 mph
- Max Flight Distance: 920 miles
The Mirage 2000 is also a multirole fighter jet that is made in France by Dassault. As other countries battled for air supremacy, France realized that it also needed a super plane to even the playing field. This is what led to the creation of the Mirage 2000N and 2000D.
Initially, they meant for the Mirage 2000N to be a fast attack nuclear weapon while the Mirage 2000D interdicted and engaged enemies in the air. However, when the Mirage 2000 finally hit the air in the early ’80s, they realized that it was better equipped for fast attacks characterized by dropping precision ordinance from long distances. The Mirage was able to approach Mach 2 speed while loaded with guided bombs and missiles.
8. F-4 Phantom II (1,472 mph)
- Top Speed: 1,472 mph
- Maximum Flight Distance: 1,615 miles
The McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II is truly the stuff of legend. From its battles in Vietnam to modern-day warfare, the F-4 has proven itself to be a worthy adversary.
Designed in the early ’60s, the F-4 quickly wrecked all airspeed records that were at that moment. Not only was it efficient at outrunning enemy jets, but also at outfighting them as well.
This two-seat, two-engine fighter jet was able to survive multiple generations of super jets, with the last one retiring in 2013. Due to its efficiency, it became the go-to jet for the US army when it needed to show its enemies a devastating show of force at the frontlines.
7. Convair F-106 (1,526 mph)
- Top Speed: 1,526 mph
- Max Flight Distance: 1,841 miles
The F-106 is among the rare breed of first-generation fighter jets. Despite its legendary status, the F-106 would be the last fighter jet to prioritize speed over visibility in air-to-air combat. In fact, this is what led to the development of the F-4 Phantom. The Phantom has better radar technology and could carry more weapons.
However, when it came to raw speed and maneuverability, the F-106 was superior. Nonetheless, this super jet only tasted service briefly, and never saw combat officially. It was mostly used to test the limits for what a fighter-bomber in the ’50s was truly capable of.
6. Mikoyan MIG-31 Foxhound (1,860 mph)
- Top Speed: 1,860 mph
- Max Flight Distance: 900 miles
The MIG-31 had everyone in utter shock back in 1977 when it reached an all-new altitude record of 123,530 feet. Is also simultaneously set a new record for the most height reached in the least time at 115,000 feet in just 4:11:78 minutes.
Such stellar records led to the Soviet Union to adopt the Mikoyan MIG-31 as its premier jet fighter at the time. Additionally, it was also the first among the generation of jets that were able to use radar to detect and intercept stealth fighters.
Consequently, the development of the MIG-31 marked the first strike in the new wave of air superiority contests between NATO and the Soviet Union. This aircraft could get to altitude in record time, stay in the air for lengthy periods, lock onto both conventional and stealth crafts, and unleash long-range, radar-guided missiles.
Those attributes are still effective even in today’s air contests. The Russian MIG-31 is expected to remain in service until 2030.
5. Mikoyan Ye-152 (1,883 mph)
- Top Speed: 1,883 mph
- Max Flight Distance: 913 miles
At the height of the Cold War, the Soviet Union designed two single-engine fighter jets in a bid to claim airspeed superiority. As such, the purpose was to see what the limits were in world air-speed records.
The principle was fundamental back then. It was who could get to a location first, drop their loot, and get away unscathed. The Ye-152 showed a lot of promise as the solution to NATO’s F-100, F-101, and the F-106. Nonetheless, the Ye-152 was all flash but no cash. Sure, it could achieve dizzying speeds of up to Mach 2.8+; however, its engine reliability and combat viability left a lot to be desired.
As such, the Soviet Union figured that the Ye-150 family was better suited to having two engines rather than one. This led to the development if the Ye-152A, which used an R-11 twin turbojet design that proved to be a lot more reliable. The Ye-152A was better equipped at withstanding the stresses of sustained supersonic flight.
Sadly, a crash in 1995 led to the demise of the Ye-152A test craft.
4. North American XB-70 Valkyrie (2,050 mph)
- Top Speed: 2,050 mph
- Max Flight Distance: 3,725 miles
Performance aside, the XB-70 has to be one of the most aesthetically pleasing fighter crafts ever designed. Also, its legacy would end up being something entirely different from what it was intended to do.
Originally, the XB-70 was designed to be the most lethal manned-strategic-bomber known to man. This involved cruise speeds of up to Mach 3 at altitudes of around 70,000 feet. The bomber’s design not only looked good but also had an innovative wing structure that would allow it to perform as a true marvel of engineering.
In the meantime, however, there was another aviation sector that was drawing a lot of attention as well, and it was known as supersonic transport. Incidentally, it just so happened that the XB-70’s size and material were just what was needed for testing supersonic transport.
As a result, the XB-70’s purpose changed from that of a lethal bomber to a research aircraft. Its initial test flights proved to be a source of invaluable information for supersonic transport designers.
Unfortunately, these tests resulted in two casualties, which cast a dark cloud over the program. Nonetheless, the XB-70 Valkyrie remains one of the baddest research aircraft ever designed.
3. The MiG-25 Foxbat (2,170 mph)
- Top Speed: 2,170 mph
- Max Flight Distance: 1,075 miles
As NATO’s F-4 Phantom II was flexing its wings as the most dangerous aerial combatant in the world, the Soviet Union was in the lab cooking up a worthy adversary for the Phantom: the MiG-25 Foxbat.
As you can imagine, the Foxbat was designed for extreme speed and super-maneuverability. When the MiG-25 hit the skies in 1964, you could have picked NATO’s jaws off the floor. The F-4 was undoubtedly the king of the heavens at that time, but it had met its match.
The two fighter jets went toe-to-toe over Northern Vietnam, with none coming off as superior to the other. The MiG-25 is a true engineering marvel considering its exemplary performance coupled with affordability.
To this day, the MiG-25s are still in service even though most of them have been upgraded into the MiG-31.
2. The Lockheed YF-12 (2,275 mph)
- Top Speed: 2,275 mph
- Max Flight Distance: 3,000 miles
The Lockheed YF-12 definitely deserves its position in the jet fighter hall-of-fame as the legendary SR-71 Blackbird draws its inspiration from it.
Upon its release in the early ’60s, the YF-12 quickly dismantled any pre-existing flight records. However, there was so much secrecy shrouding the YF-12 program that people didn’t realize that it was the first actual test of stealth technology.
The YF-12’s mission was to make science-fiction a reality through attaining speeds of Mach 3+. Nonetheless, the program was defunded, and the YF-12 was designated to be a high-altitude recon aircraft. Fortunately, however, it provided the blueprint for the SR-71.
1. Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird (2,500 mph)
- Top Speed: 2,500 mph
- Max Flight Distance: 3,337 miles
Ask any aerospace enthusiast, and they will tell you that the SR-71 blackbird is among their most favorite fighter jets, and with good reason; it is in a class of its own.
The Blackbird has not only blown away world air-speed records time and time again, but it has also won multiple awards for achievements in aeronautic design, performance, and versatility.
The SR-71 is a stealth fighter that can barely be seen, let alone hit. The only military jet that comes close is the Soviet MiG-25 Foxbat, and even it has an incredibly difficult time keeping up with the undisputed king of fighter jets.