Viasat Commercial Aviation Blog

What's the greatest military aircraft of all time?

Air superiority

Military aviation has come a long way since Italian Lieutenant Giulio Gavotti dropped hand grenades from his aircraft during the 1911 Italo-Turkish war in Libya. Today, air superiority is considered the critical requirement to win any military engagement and to defend territory from aggression. Military aircraft technology continues to amaze but will drones spell the end of classic fighter, bomber and transport aircraft as we know them?

So, what's your favourite military aircraft?

From World War 2's Spitfire and Mustang, through Top Gun's Tomcat, to today's Spirit stealth bomber, these planes have become cultural icons, part of our history, part of what we are.

Greatest Military Aircraft Poll We couldn't come up with a conclusion as to what's the greatest, so we need your help. Below is a selection of our favourite military aircraft. We want you to vote for the greatest military aircraft of all time here - you can go with one of our suggestions, or add your own. We'll accept votes until 7 October 2016 and the winner will be announced on our blog and social media channels on 14 October 2016.

Arconics crew military aircraft selection

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Blackbird

Slaine: Mine’s got to be the Lockheed reconnaissance aircraft from the 60’s. The A-12 followed by the ‘Blackbird’ SR-71. Hard to believe that aircraft introduced over 50 years ago still look like they are from the future. I also have a fondness for the Lancaster bomber and the Spitfires from WWII. As I kid I thought they were cool, even more so when I found out from my grandad that he was a mechanic on them in the RAF during the war.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_A-12

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_SR-71_Blackbird


640px-Ray_Flying_Legends_2005-1.jpg

Spitfire

Widely considered to be the most beautiful military aircraft ever, the Submarine Spitfire had a maximum speed of 370 mph (595 km/h) and was typically armed with eight .303 in machine guns. The Spitfire and its less-glamorous partner, the Hawker Hurricane, are credited with winning the Battle of Britain in the summer of 1940, inflicting the first defeat on Nazi Germany.


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F-14 Tomcat

Michael:  I had a soft spot for the F-14 Tomcat after Top Gun (enjoy Kenny Loggins Danger Zone here). The F-14 first flew in December 1970 and made its first deployment in 1974 with the U.S. Navy aboard USS Enterprise (CVN-65), replacing the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom IIThe Tomcat was retired from the U.S. Navy's active fleet on 22 September 2006, having been supplanted by the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. Ironically, the F-14 remains in service with the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force, having been exported to Iran in 1976, before relations went south.


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B-17 Flying Fortress

Boeing's B-17 was a fast, high-flying, long-range bomber that was able to defend itself, carried a very good bombload and was able to return home despite extensive battle damage. Its reputation quickly took on mythic proportions, and widely circulated stories and photos of notable numbers and examples of B-17s surviving battle damage increased its iconic status. With a service ceiling greater than any of its Allied contemporaries, the B-17 established itself as an effective weapons system, dropping more bombs than any other US aircraft in World War II. Of the 1.5 million tonnes of bombs dropped on Germany and its occupied territories by US aircraft, 640,000 tonnes were dropped from B-17s.


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A10 Thunderbolt II

Stephen: A-10 Thunderbolt II - always been a fan of this beast, perhaps not the prettiest aesthetically but an engineering delight. Normally you don’t build a plane starting with a 281kg 6m long gun!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairchild_Republic_A-10_Thunderbolt_II

Nick: Wow - rush of childhood memories. I used to have a little replica of the Thunderbolt.

Gary: Originally designed to take on hordes of Soviet tanks in Europe, now the most effective weapon in the campaign against Islamic State.


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PZL 37

Gregorz: Ohh, childhood plane memories? I have one! The Polish PZL 37 Moose was a masterpiece of warplane engineering at the time…

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PZL.37_%C5%81o%C5%9B


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AH-64 Apache

Fearsome attack helicopter from Boeing. The AH-64 Apache features a nose-mounted sensor suite for target acquisition and night vision systems. It is armed with a 30 mm (1.18 in) M230 chain gun carried between the main landing gear, under the aircraft's forward fuselage. It has four hardpoints mounted on stub-wing pylons, typically carrying a mixture of AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and Hydra 70 rocket pods. The AH-64 has a large amount of systems redundancy to improve combat survivability.


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P-51 Mustang

As Allied armies fought their way deep into occupied Europe, it was the P-51 Mustang that took control of the skies from the Luftwaffe. More than just a ferocious dogfighter, the P-51 Mustang was one of the fastest piston-engined fighters and could fly higher and go further than any other combat aircraft of the war. The P-51 Mustang claimed the most Allied kills with no fewer than 281 pilots earning the "Ace" (5 kills) distinction in a Mustang. Many say that it was the greatest fighter of the war. At the start of the Korean War, the Mustang was the main fighter of the United Nations until jet fighters such as the F-86 took over this role; the Mustang then became a specialised fighter-bomber. Despite the advent of jet fighters, the Mustang remained in service with some air forces until the early 1980s.


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B-2 Spirit

The Northrop (later Northrop Grumman) B-2 Spirit, also known as the Stealth Bomber, is an American strategic bomber, featuring low observable stealth technology designed for penetrating dense anti-aircraft defenses; it is a flying wing design with a crew of two. The bomber can deploy both conventional and thermonuclear weapons, such as eighty 500 lb (230 kg)-class (Mk 82) JDAM Global Positioning System-guided bombs, or sixteen 2,400 lb (1,100 kg) B83 nuclear bombs. The B-2 is the only acknowledged aircraft that can carry large air-to-surface standoff weapons in a stealth configuration.


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C-130 Hercules

The C-130 entered service with the U.S. in the 1950s, followed by Australia and others. During its years of service, the Hercules family has participated in numerous military, civilian and humanitarian aid operations. The C-130 Hercules is the longest continuously-produced military aircraft, at over 60 years, with the updated Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules being produced today.


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Mig-15

With a speed of 1,059 km/h (658 mph), the MiG-15 is believed to have been one of the most widely produced jet aircraft ever made, with over 12,000 manufactured. Licensed foreign production may have raised the production total to over 18,000. The MiG-15 remains in service with the North Korean Air Force as an advanced trainer.


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Mig-29

The Mikoyan MiG-29, NATO reporting name Fulcrum, is a twin-engine jet fighter aircraft designed in the Soviet Union. Developed by the Mikoyan design bureau as an air superiority fighter during the 1970s, it has a top speed of  Mach 2.25 (2,400 km/h, 1,490 mph).


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F-4 Phantom

Bryan: The triumph of thrust over aerodynamics. The Phantom is a large fighter with a top speed of over Mach 2.2. It can carry more than 18,000 pounds (8,400 kg) of weapons on nine external hardpoints, including air-to-air missiles, air-to-ground missiles, and various bombs. Later models incorporated an M61 Vulcan rotary cannon. Beginning in 1959, it set 15 world records for in-flight performance, including an absolute speed record, and an absolute altitude record.


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F-15 Eagle

The Eagle first flew in July 1972, and entered service in 1976. It is among the most successful modern fighters, with over 100 victories and no losses in aerial combat, with the majority of kills scored by the Israel Air Force.

So, what’s the greatest military aircraft of all time? Click on the green button and cast your vote...

Greatest Military Aircraft Poll

Then read about the winner of our greatest civil aircraft poll...

Greatest Civil Aircraft of All Time

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Image credits

Blackbird - By USAF / Judson Brohmer - Armstrong Photo Gallery: Home - info - pic, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30816

Spitfire - Original uploader was Bryan Fury75 at fr.wikipedia - Transferred from fr.wikipedia; transferred to Commons by User:Padawane using CommonsHelper., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5200653

F-14 - Unknown, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=62017

B-17 - By U.S. Air Force photo - http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/shared/media/photodb/photos/060515-F-1234S-018.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6776626

A10 Thunderbolt II - By U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Blake R. Borsic - http://www.af.mil/shared/media/photodb/photos/000217-F-0656B-004.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=505075

PZL 37 - By Anonymous - "SAMOLOTY WOJSKOWE W POLSCE", WarszawaNarodowe Archiwum Cyfrowe (Sygnatura: 1-W-1552-2) (Polish National Digital Archive), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2050844

AH-64 Apache - By Arconics Crew, Dubai Air Show 2015

P-51 Mustang - By USAAF, photographed for a series of U.S. 8th Air Force publicity pictures for widespread distribution (photos were taken from B-17G bombers of the 91st Bomb Group) [1]. - http://www.littlefriends.co.uk/gallery.php?Group=361&Style=item&origStyle=table&Item=71, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3103734

B-2 Spirit - By USAF - www.af.mil, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5215015

C-130 - By USAF / Tech. Sgt. Brian E. Christiansen - http://www.af.mil/photos/mediagallery.asp?galleryID=2&page=115, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7670026

Mig-15 - By calflier001 - DATANGSHAN AVAITION MUSEUM BEIJING CHINA OCT 2012, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26360185

Mig-26 - By Jo Mitchell - Taken from http://futurshox.net with the permission of the photographer (Jo Mitchell). Picture prepared for Wikipedia by Adrian Pingstone in April 2003., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=56652

F-4 - By Original uploader was RGSchmitt at en.wikipedia, 2006-09-28 (original upload date) - photo taken by Robert G. Schmitt, USMC. Transferred from en.wikipedia., CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3439323

F-15 - By TSGT KEVIN J. GRUENWALD, USAF - http://www.dodmedia.osd.mil/Assets/Still/2007/Air_Force/DF-SD-07-08323.JPEG, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2155384