All of these machines have very different aims. Some bombers, others fighters, some interceptors and one or two were designed for stealth recon. They all have one thing in common though - the ability to fly very, very fast.
10: Sukhoi SU-27 Flanker.
Top Speed - Mach 2.02. The Flanker may not be the fastest jet on this list but I must admit it's my personal favourite. Possibly due to the fly-by-wire and thrust vectoring capabilities - or maybe because a pair were recently sold to a private collector in the USA who now flies them around at airshows. Can you imagine having a pair of these in your very own hangar? $12,000,000 for the two. Bargain! And when you inevitably get shot down by a team of interceptors and have to eject, you can fire up your spare. What's not to like?
9: F-111 Aardvark - Top Speed - Mach 2.5
Number nine on the list is the General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark. An intimidating 60's era bomber designed to administer a nuclear payload at unbeatable speed. The swept wing design gave it the capability to operate on shorter runways carrying its full payload, then accelerate up to Mach 2.5 when infiltrating enemy airspace. The nature of its operations made a gun surplus to requirements.
8: F-15 Eagle
F-15 pleasing the crowds with a sonic boom
Top Speed - Mach 2.5
The F-15 has to be the most successful aircraft on this list in terms of numbers built and service life. Still used by the USAF to the present day, the F-15 was developed by Douglas in 1976 and has since been exported to airforces all over the world including Israel, Japan and Saudi Arabia to name a few. The Eagle has over 100 confirmed kills to its name.
7: Mig 31
Mig 31 on the edge of space
The Mig-31's Mach 2.83 top speed is impressive, but that's not the aircraft's party trick. The Foxbat was the only aircraft with the capability to shoot down the SR-71 at the height of its operations. Carrying the advanced R-33 Air-To-Air missile a Foxbat was able to tail an SR71 and once fired, the R-33 missile would be too much even for the blistering speed of the SR71 to escape. The ability to operate at altitudes of 80,000 feet also meant the Mig was a serious adversary for anything attempting to infiltrate Russian airspace.
At number 6 on our list is the XB-70 with top speed of Mach 3. Its no lightweight fighter at 240 tons, but its 6 engines overcame the huge mass to give it a blistering turn of speed. At Mach 3 the airframe itself heated up to 330 degrees in vulnerable areas. The sheer size of the XB-70 was required to house the 14 nuclear weapons on board, as well as being able to carry enough fuel for 6,900km sorties into the soviet union. Its top speed was a simple attitude of fast is best, in the days before stealth technology. During its design and development, the new US Reagan administration decided the XB was already obsolete and began development of the B1-B Lancer which was able to fly at very low altitudes at supersonic speeds.
5: Bell X-2 - Top Speed - Mach 3.196
Bell X-2 Starbuster. Fast. Really fast.
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The X-2 was a development aircraft, designed to see how jets of the 1950's were able to cope with speeds above Mach 2. The X-2 was so fast that it obliterated the Mach 2 target and carried on to a record-breaking Mach 3.196, unthinkable at the time. Its swept wings and lack of bombs or guns kept the weight to a minimum. The pilot who made these runs was later killed when the aircraft tumbled out of control. Captain Milburn was able to eject but only the small chute deployed, leading to his death. This tragedy cut the X-2 project short after just a year.
Top Speed - Mach 3.2
The Mig-25 was designed to supersede its Mig-31 predecessor with a simple design brief. Fly higher and faster than anyone else. Its aim was the same - to keep the fast-flying American reconnaissance planes at bay during The Cold War. Although The SR-71 was able to penetrate Soviet airspace successfully, the Mig-25 was never far away and kept the SR pilots on their toes through the 70's and 80's. The 25 is still in active service in former Soviet nations such as Turkmenistan as well as Syria and Algeria.
3: Lockheed YF-12
You may think the YF-12 looks strikingly similar to the more famous SR-71 Blackbird. The reason for this is the YF-12 was the development aircraft on which the SR was based. Top speed was a more conservative Mach 3.35 and the YF was fitted with three air-to-air missiles which the later SR dropped. Both aircraft were designed by the legendary Clarence Johnson and a total of three were built, smashing the top speed, altitude and interceptor records of the period.
2: SR-71 Blackbird
What can we say about the Blackbird that hasn't been said before? Although it is now out of service, the Blackbird still holds all the records for altitude and speed for a manned air-breathing aircraft. We love the SR-71 so much we have a couple of articles already on this DriveTribe page. Feel free to peruse them at your leisure.
1: North American X-15
The X-15 is far less infamous than the Blackbird, but the performance figures make the SR-71 look positively slow in comparison. The aircraft wasn't able to take off from a runway and had to be carried by a B-52 up to an altitude of 14,000 feet - where the X-15 dropped away and fired up it's rocket powered engines. Pilot William J Knight then accelerated to an incredible speed of Mach 6.7 - achieved on the 3rd of October 1967. The X-15 was so fast that traditional rudders and ailerons would have caused the aircraft to become unstable. It steered itself using jet thrusters which were groundbreaking at the time.
The altitude record set by the X-15 was so high that I had to double check my sources. A rather incomprehensible 100km or 354,200 feet! This made the X-15 more of a space capsule than an aircraft. If you're wondering how the X-15 landed, watch the clip below. If you liked this list feel free to share it and give us a 'bump' Thanks!
Bell X-15 landing at Edwards Air Force Base