Top 10World

These are The 15 Fastest Planes of All Time

Fastest Planes

Lockheed YF-12 / nasa.gov

We, humans, we just love to go fast. It’s something we’ve tried since the invention of the engine. Fastest cars, fastest motorcycles, fastest yachts, you name it. That was fun for a while, but at some point in history, somebody came with an even crazier idea. They took the engine and attached wings to it, and the world was never the same again.

The sky is now full of flying machines that nobody could even dream of two hundred years ago. And some of those machines fly extremely fast.

We all know that the airplane is the world’s fastest mode of transportation, taking only several hours from a continent to the other, flying over mountains, countries, and even oceans. And when you think it took us several days at least to cross an ocean on a ship, it really makes the airplane magnificent.

But no matter how fast the average human can fly on a business trip, there’s some incredibly fast planes that will never be accessible to everybody, but a select few. Those are the fastest planes of all time, and as you might expect, they’re mostly fighter jets or experimental planes that aim to push that speed barrier farther and farther away.

If we piqued your curiosity for the fastest planes of all time, let’s take a look at them. An important thing to note here is that the Mach number depends on the altitude, and you might see different numbers on various places on the internet for the same speed measured in mph.

To be on common ground, for each aircraft on this list, we decided to specify Mach speed at sea level. Buckle up and let’s go! 

15. Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-23 Flogger – 1,553 mph / Mach 2.04

Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-23 Flogger

DoD photo / wikipedia.org

The Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-23, NATO reporting name Flogger, is a variable-sweep wing fighter aircraft developed by the Mikoyan Gurevich design bureau in the Soviet Union as a response to the F-14 Tomcat of the USAF. It entered production in 1970 and by the time it was stopped in 1985, there had already been over 5,000 units produced, making it the most heavily produced military aircraft in history.

The MiG-23 is no longer in operation in the Russian Air Force and in many customer nations, but there are still a few countries that use it even today, at the time of writing, among them North Korea and Angola. It’s one of the aircrafts that has seen air combat in several conflicts in the 1980s and 1990s.

Regarding performance, the figures aren’t official, but from what it’s known, it can reach top speeds of 1,553 mph, or Mach 2.04.

14. Sukhoi SU-27 Flanker – 1,600 mph / Mach 2.08

Sukhoi SU-27 Flanker

19fortyfive.com

The Sukhoi SU-27 Flanker is a legendary fighter aircraft, widely seen as one of the greatest fighters of the 1990s, a fourth generation fighter that is still in operation today and can reach speeds of 1,600 mph, or Mach 2.08.

It’s an air superiority fighter, capable of carrying out a wide range of missions, and it’s known for its superior maneuverability. It entered service in the Soviet Union Air Force in 1985, and it’s both in service and in production today.

The success of this platform has spawned various other variants and modifications.

13. McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II – 1,606 mph / Mach 2.09

Holloman AFB F-4 Phantom II

USAF / af.mil

The McDonnel Douglas F-4 Phantom II is an older aircraft, but one that proved extremely valuable to both the US Navy and the US Air Force. The Phantom II was produced between 1958 and 1981, and was designated as a long range supersonic interceptor and fighter bomber.

It has seen combat during the Vietnam war and it managed to shatter countless air speed records during its time. Its top speed reached 1,606 mph, or Mach 2.09.

The last F-4 in operation was retired in 2013, which might seem very recent, but given the fact that it was so efficient in its role, it had been the US Army’s go-to fighter-bomber in times of need on the frontlines.

Despite the retirement in the US, the F-4 is still in service in other countries even today, one of them being Greece.

12. General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark – 1,650 mph / Mach 2.15

General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark

Photo by Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald / wikipedia.org

A slightly less known plane, the F-111 Aardvark (Afrikaans for earth-pig) is a multipurpose combat aircraft which, despite its nickname, was capable of superior performance. It reached a top speed of 1,650 mph, or Mach 2.15, quite a feat when you think that most modern jets aren’t even close to those figures.

Though retired, when it was in service, it fulfilled roles of ground attack, interdiction, strategic bombing – it had nuclear capabilities as well, electronic warfare, and reconnaissance. It was the USAF’s primary strike aircraft during the Cold War, serving every conflict since the Vietnam War, until its role was taken by the more capable F-15E Strike Eagle.

What made the F-111 a great aircraft, besides its impressive low altitude ground attack capabilities, was its huge range, which is more than double the range of the F-15E. That helped it strike targets in Libya in 1986 after taking off from its home base in the UK, making it a strategic bomber favored by the US Strategic Air Command.

11. McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle – 1,650 mph / Mach 2.15

F-15 Operations

Photo by Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew / af.mil

The mighty F-15E Strike Eagle, produced by McDonnel Douglas for the United States Air Force since 1972, is still in service today, and is widely considered as one of the best American aircraft ever developed.

It’s capable of speeds of 1,650 mph, or Mach 2.15, like the F-111 Aardvark, and can fulfill a wide range of roles. This specific variant was developed from the F-15 Eagle, which is legendary for its 100 victories in air to air combat and no defeats. Many of those victories were obtained during the Operation Desert Storm in 1991 in Irak.

The F-15E Strike Eagle was used in the same conflict to hunt SCUD missile launchers and artillery positions at night. The combination of air to air capability with enhanced ground strike capabilities have made the F-15E Strike Eagle one of the best combat aircrafts of all time.

10. Mikoyan Gurevich Ye-166 – 1,665 mph / Mach 2.17

Mikoyan Gurevich Ye-166

thisdayinaviation.com

The Ye-166 was a fictitious designation of the Ye-152-1 aircraft used for registering world records.

The Mikoyan Gurevich Ye-152-1 was a prototype that never saw the light of day, since the Soviet Union was more preoccupied with the development of the Ye-155, later designed as MiG-25.

The Ye-166, was an interceptor that had very good capabilities in terms of speed, reaching 1,665 mph, or Mach 2.17, a speed record it set in the summer of 1962.

9. Chengdu J-10 Firebird – 1,687 mph / Mach 2.21

Chengdu J-10 Firebird

nationalinterest.org

This Chinese fighter aircraft was inspired by other Western aircraft, taking design cues from the likes of F-16 and Saab 37 Viggen. The Chengdu J-10 Vigorous Dragon, or Firebird, as NATO calls it, is a multirole fighter that has become China’s Air Force workhorse.

It’s a reliable plane, developed starting with 1988 as an answer to the Russian Su-27 Flanker or the MiG-29 Fulcrum and the fourth generation fighters of Western air forces. It’s equipped with state of the art technology that makes it similarly capable with other fourth gen aircraft, though in terms of performance it’s not exactly on par with the Eurofighter Typhoon or the American F-16.

Nevertheless, it managed to reach Mach 2.21, or 1,687 mph.

8. Mikoyan Gurevich Ye-152 Flipper – 1,700 mph / Mach 2.28

Mikoyan Gurevich Ye-152 Flipper

avionslegendaires.net

Another part of the Ye-150 family of aircrafts, the Mikoyan Gurevich Ye-152, Flipper in NATO reporting name, was an evolution of the first prototypes, the Ye-152-1 (see Ye-166 above), and the Ye-152-2.

Though there were a lot of problems to be solved with these aircrafts, especially with the engines, and then, the needed modifications for the fuselage to fit different engines, the Ye-152 Flipper managed to reach speeds of up to 1,700 mph, or Mach 2.28.

7. Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-31 Foxhound – 1,900 mph / Mach 2.47

Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-31 Foxhound

Photo by Dmitriy Pichugin / wikipedia.org

The Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-31 Foxhound was an entirely different beast when it came out, replacing the MiG-25 and the Tu-128. Development for this aircraft started back in 1967 and it had its maiden flight in 1975.

The Foxhound amazed the world with several records, one being for the highest altitude, reaching 123,530 feet in 1977, and another for climbing the most height in the least amount of time. The aircraft was developed as a long-range interceptor, so speed was its primary characteristic, able to hit Mach 2.47, or 1,900 mph.

The MiG-31 entered service in 1982 and it’s expected to remain in service up until 2030, as part of Russia’s air defense strategy, which involves taking out low-flying strike aircrafts and cruise missiles.

6. North American XB-70 Valkyrie – 2,056 mph / Mach 2.67

North American XB-70A Valkyrie

US Air Force / wikipedia.org

The XB-70 Valkyrie is United States’ response to interceptor aircrafts like the Soviet MiG-31 above. It was a prototype for the intended B-70 nuclear bomber, which was supposed to be out of the range of any interceptor aircraft in existence, flying too fast and too high for any possible interception.

Despite its high speed of Mach 2.67, 2,056 mph, the evolution of surface to air missile systems rendered it ineffective before even entering service and replacing the existing B-52 fleet.

Testing at lower altitudes showed no important increase in performance over the B-52, so the XB-70 never got the green light.

On the other hand, the XB-70 Valkyrie was probably the most interesting and most ambitious aircraft ever developed, with an innovative design and wing structure that looks astonishing even by today’s standards.

5. Bell X-2 Starbuster – 2,094 mph / Mach 2.72

Bell X-2 Starbuster

nasa.gov

The Bell X-2 Starbuster is an older research aircraft, the descendant of the Bell X-1, the first aircraft to break the sound barrier. As the X-1, X-2 was also powered by a rocket engine, which allowed it to reach a record speed of 2,094 mph, which translates to Mach 2.72, or Mach 3.196 at 65,500 feet.

The pilot, Captain Millburn Apt, became the first man to fly more than three times the speed of sound.

4. Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-25 Foxbat – 2,190 mph / Mach 2.85

Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-25 Foxbat

Photo by Leonid Faerberg / wikipedia.org

The Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-25 Foxbat was one of the greatest aircrafts developed by the Soviet Union, which had NATO worry due to its impressive performance, both in maneuverability in air to air combat and regarding speed.

It was capable of reaching a speed of 2,190 mph, or Mach 2.85. The birth of this aircraft speeded up the development of other US aircrafts during the Cold War era.

MiG-25 first flew in 1964, it entered service in 1970, with many still in service even today. The aircraft’s engines are powerful enough to push this supersonic interceptor to Mach 3.2, but the speed was limited to prevent overheating the engines at high air speeds, which is a big problem when flying that fast.

3. Lockheed YF-12 – 2,274 mph / Mach 2.96

Lockheed YF-12

USAF / wikipedia.org

The Lockheed YF-12 is actually the prototype aircraft from which the legendary SR-71 Blackbird was derived. There were only three ever built, with the final purpose to replace the F-106 Delta Dart interceptor aircraft.

The project was halted due to the resources being reallocated to the Vietnam War effort, and the YF-12 was retired by the US Air Force, eventually being used by NASA for their research. It was only later that this became the prototype for the SR-71.

YF-12 managed to reach a top speed of 2,274 mph, or Mach 2.96 at sea level.

2. Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird – 2,500 mph / Mach 3.28

Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird

Photo by Judson Brohmer / USAF / wikipedia.org

The SR-71 Blackbird has long been the stuff of Sci-Fi stories, being catalogued as a black project before it was officially recognized by the US. Developed from the blueprint of the YF-12, it’s a long range strategic reconnaissance stealth aircraft, and it’s one of the most capable aircrafts ever created.

The Blackbird is capable of a top speed of 2,500 mph, or Mach 3.28, and operates at very high altitudes, making it virtually untouchable by any weapon system, including both surface to air missiles and the famous Soviet MiG-25 interceptor.

Mach 3.2 is the speed at which the SR-71 can cruise, which is more than any other fighter aircraft is capable of, as they usually can hit their top speeds for short periods of time. This alone made SR-71 almost perfect to enter enemy airspace, gather intelligence, and return to base without being shut down or even detected.

1. North American X-15 – 4,520 mph / Mach 5.93

North American X-15

U.S. Air Force / wikipedia.orge

The fastest plane in the world is the North American X-15. It holds the record for speed, at 4,520 mph and Mach 5.93, with Mach 6.7 being measured at a flying altitude of 102,100 feet.

It’s a hypersonic rocket powered aircraft used by NASA and the USAF as an experimental aircraft. The plane was retired in 1968, after a total of 199 flights.

Final thoughts

Once denied official existence, these aircrafts have made history, some of them reaching legendary status with their capabilities, especially when it came to altitude and speed records.

With flying higher and faster as one of mankind’s biggest dreams, don’t expect this list to ever end. Who knows what’s being developed today, without anyone even knowing?

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button

Please Stop Ad Blocker/VPN

Sorry, we have detected that you are using an ad blocker. We rely on advertising to fund our website and provide free content to our users. Please disable your ad blocker and refresh the page to continue using our website. Thank you for your understanding.