which country is at the forefront of building a fighter that not only has high combat capabilities, but also has the fastest speed?
Before the dawn of sixth generation fighters, including the British “Tempest”, the secret American fighter in the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program, and proposed Russian and Chinese next-generation fighters; most of them will be able to fly at supersonic speeds without the need for afterburners.
While the United States and Russia have set the standard for the development of next-generation fighters, many of them remain the fighters of the future. Despite being born decades ago, speed is ultimately still one of the key factors that distinguishes a jet fighter from a piston-powered propeller plane. And so the question arises, which country is at the forefront of building a fighter that not only has high combat capabilities, but also has the fastest speed?
The US Blackbird SR-71 spy plane is undoubtedly the fastest aircraft in the world, and still holds the record for top speed for a jet; however the SR-71 is still not a fighter. When the US put the SR-71 into service, the Soviet Union began working on a fighter that could be used as an interceptor for the SR-71. However, they needed to match the speed of the SR-71 to counter it, and as a result the MiG-25 Foxbat appeared in 1964.
In 1964, the Soviet MiG-25 Foxbat flew for the first time. Specially designed to intercept the US Air Force SR-71 spy plane, the MiG-25 can reach speeds of Mach 2.8; almost three times the speed of sound. According to Business Insider, the MiG-25 can maintain a flight speed of 2.8 Mach; and at full speed, it can reach Mach 3.2. A respectable speed, when its construction material was mainly steel.
The MiG-25 Foxbat was designed by the Mikoyan-Gurevich Design Bureau of the Soviet Union, for reconnaissance and interception purposes. This is one of the fastest fighters, officially entered service in 1970. The MiG-25 is one of the few fighters built primarily in stainless steel, and was the last designed by MiG Founder, Mikhail Gurevich, before his retirement. However, the MiG-25 was retired when the Soviet Union broke up, and its successor is the current MiG-31.
When the Soviet-American competition was fierce, both sides wanted to demonstrate their superiority in military science. The Pentagon recognized the need to develop a fighter that could prove itself superior to the MiG fighter, the F-15 heavy fighter. In the 1980s, McDonnell Douglas, now part of Boeing, began working on designs for a strike fighter, the F-15E Strike Eagle; an air superiority version of the F-15 Eagle.
The F-15E Strike Eagle is an all-weather multi-role fighter, Strike Eagle made its first flight in 1986, and was officially commissioned into the US Air Force in 1989. The F-15E was developed for high-speed, long-range ground attack, independent of escort aircraft or electronic warfare (EW) aircraft, and can fly at a top speed of 3,017 km/h. The Strike Eagle has greatly enhanced the US Air Force’s ground attack capabilities.
Currently, the F-15 is still appreciated, despite the presence of the F-35 and F-22 Raptors. The F-15 is still the main fighter of the US Air Force. For nearly three decades, the F-15 Eagle was considered the undisputed king of the skies, until the F-22 stealth fighter debuted. Even today, a modernized F-15 is considered a formidable competitor, and Boeing continues to develop the latest version, the F-15EX. The US Air Force recently purchased eight F-15EX fighters, for nearly $1.2 billion, and 200 in the near future. So the F-15EX still has a huge future.
Thus, the F-15E, along with the F-22 and F-35, are fighters capable of flying at supersonic speeds without the need for afterburners. Along with the Russian MiG-25 and later the MiG-31, they are still the fastest, most technologically advanced fighters, although some are more than half a century old.