icking the top 10 fighter aircraft of all time is almost an impossible task. How do you compare a WW1 Sopwith Camel with a WW2 Supermarine Spitfire? Or a rotary-engined biplane capable of no more than 150 mph with a Mach 2 jet? There are some underlying characteristics that define all good fighter aircraft however – maneuverability at both high and low speeds is probably the greatest one. Ability to withstand incoming fire is another, as is good armament and the ability to point it accurately. There are many, many aircraft that could qualify for this Top 10 list but these are the ones that I think deserve the accolade most.
The Mark V of this iconic fighter aircraft was produced in the most numbers and represented it at the pinnacle of its success against a huge array of enemy aircraft, many of them being excellent machines in their own right. No other fighter aircraft comes close in terms of image, popularity, success, design or any other measure of greatness.
In terms of outstanding performance at both high and low levels this aircraft was unmatched in its day. It kept the skies of the United Kingdom free of Soviet intruders during the long years of the Cold War. The F6 had the best weapons system and best fuel capacity of all the Lightning marks.
Not the fastest jet fighter in its heyday but definitely one of the best. Because of its unique flying characteristics it could out- maneuver every other aircraft pitted against it. The carrier-based version was probably the most successful.
This was a highly maneuverable aircraft in the hands of an experienced pilot, and usually won any dogfight one-on-one encounter .
Legendary carrier-based fighter that had an awesome success rate against Allied fighters in the early stages of the war in the Pacific. Long range and high maneuverability were its great strengths.
Small but highly maneuverable fighter that , in the hands of an experienced pilot, could outmatch the Spitfire in negative ‘g’ situations. Probably the most successful of all German aircraft of all types.
The P51 was instrumental in bringing victory to the Allied bombing campaign in WW2, and the D variant was the best. Tactical use of drop tanks gave it both long range – enough to escort the USAAF’s B17 bombers – and great maneuverability in dogfights. It was also very popular with its pilots.
Probably the most beautiful aircraft ever built, the Hunter was an excellent fighter. At one time it held the world air speed record and it enthralled thousands with its performances at many air shows.
This large and heavy aircraft gained its great reputation as a fighter aircraft during the Vietnam war. Although not as maneuverable as many of its opponents it could out-perform them with its range of thrust.
Arriving late in WW1 the D.VII proved to be a formidable fighter in the last few months of the war. It had a strong airframe and powerful engine, and was also docile enough for inexperienced pilots to fly well.
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Better performance than the opposition is almost a given for a good fighter aircraft although, in the hands of a good pilot, a lower performance on paper is not always guaranteed to lose the fight. These Top 10 have earned their places with their combination of outstanding charisma, performance and downright toughness in a highly competitive environment.
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