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The results are what make a great weapon system, not just the technology.
In the case of fighter jets, it’s all about kills, and with that as the main selection criteria, here is WATM’s list of the 18 greatest fighters of all time:
1. Fokker Triplane
The iconic aircraft behind Manfred von Richthofen’s World War I successful Flying Circus was designed after a Sopwith Triplane crashed behind German lines in 1917. The Fokker Triplane was relatively slow and difficult to see, but he possessed an impressive rate of turn which “The Red Baron” capitalized on his total of 80 confirmed wins.
2. Sopwith Camel
The Sopwith Camel had a more powerful engine and more firepower than the German fighters it faced, and although the large engine made it difficult to handle, in the hands of an experienced pilot the fighter was very lethal. . The Sopwith Camel caused 1,294 air attacks, the most of any model during WWI.
3. Mitsubishi zero
At the start of World War II in the Pacific, the Zero owned the skies, including that of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The Zero was mainly based on an aircraft carrier, very maneuverable and could fly at long distances. For this reason, the Japanese enjoyed a 12-to-1 destruction ratio to the Allies in the early years of the war.
Often mistakenly referred to as the “Me 109,” the Bf-109 remains the most produced fighter jet in history and was one of the Luftwaffe’s air-to-air workhorses. The Bf 109 was flown by the top three German hunting aces of WWII, who scored 928 victories among them. Thanks to constant improvements in design and development by German engineers, the Bf 109 remained deadly in the face of Allied technical advances throughout the war.
5. Focke-Wulf Fw-190
The Fw-190 was generally considered superior to the Bf-109 due to its larger engine (a BMW inline 12) and greater firepower. Some of the Luftwaffe’s top hunting aces have flown the Fw 190, including Otto Kittel with 267 wins, Walter Nowotny with 258 and Erich Rudorffer with 222.
6. P-51 Mustang
The P-51 Mustang was a solution to the obvious need for an effective bomber escort from 1943 onwards. General James Doolittle told the fighters in early 1944 to stop flying in formation with the bombers and attack the Luftwaffe wherever it could be found. Mustang groups were sent long before bombers on a “fighter sweep” as a form of air supremacy action, intercepting German fighters as they formed. As a result, the Luftwaffe lost 17% of its fighter pilots in just over a week, and the Allies were able to establish their air superiority. (Wikipedia)
7. P-38 Lightning
Despite the fact that the double boom design limited roll rate performance, the P-38 recorded an impressive death toll in the Pacific and the China-Burma-India regions when flown by America’s top aces like Richard Bong (40 wins) and Thomas McGuire (38 wins).
8. Thunderclap P-47
In Europe, during the critical first three months of 1944, when the German aircraft industry and Berlin came under heavy attack, the P-47 shot down more German fighters than the P-51 (570 out of 873), and shot down about 900 of the 1,983 claimed in the first six months of 1944. In Europe, the Thunderbolts carried out more sorties (423,435) than the P-51, P-38 and P-40 combined. Indeed, it was the P-47 that broke the back of the Luftwaffe on the Western Front in the critical period of January-May 1944. (Wikipedia)
The Spitfire achieved legendary status during the Battle of Britain recording the highest win / loss ratio among British aircraft. The Spitfires were piloted by British aces Johnnie Johnson (34 kills), Douglas Bader (20 kills) and Bob Tuck (27 kills). The Spitfire was produced in greater numbers than any other British aircraft and was the only British fighter to be in continuous production throughout the war. (Wikipedia)
10. F4F wild cat
The first in the Grumman “Cat” series, the carrier-based F4F was slower, shorter range and less maneuverable than the Japanese Zero. However, his toughness and the development of group tactics like “Thatch Weave” eventually saw the Wildcat prevail, totaling a kill ratio of nearly 7 to 1 during the war.
11. F6F Hellcat
The F6F was designed to enhance the Wildcat’s ability to counter the Mitsubishi A6M Zero and help ensure air superiority in the Pacific theater. The Hellcats were credited with 5,223 killed, more than any other Allied Navy aircraft.
12. Corsair F-4U
Known to the Japanese as the “Whistling Death,” the Corsairs have won 2,140 aerial combat victories and an overall fatality rate of over 11 to 1. Legendary F4U pilots include Marines Joe Foss, Marion Carl and Pappy Boyington.
With China’s entry into the Korean War, the MiG-15 began to appear in the skies over Korea. Quickly proving itself superior to American straight-wing jets such as the F-80 and F-84 Thunderjet, the MiG-15 temporarily gave the Chinese advantage in the air and ultimately forced United Nations forces to stop. daytime bombardments until the arrival of the F-86. level the playing field of aerial combat.
14. Saber F-86
The F-86 was the American response to the MiG-15 which had dominated the Korean skies at the start of this conflict. The MiG Alley engagements between the two planes were numerous, and this period is considered by many to be the glory days of air-to-air warfare between jets. The F-86s ended the war with a 10-to-1 death rate compared to the MiG-15s they faced.
15. F-4 Phantom
The F-4 has been the workhorse of the US Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps for several decades, and Phantom crews were the last to achieve “ace” status in the 20th century. The most notable event occurred on May 10, 1972, when Lt. Randy “Duke” Cunningham and Lt. (junior) William P. Driscoll shot down three MiG-17s to become America’s first flying aces. the war.
One of the most widely used fighter jets in history, the MiG-21s recorded an impressive death toll during the Vietnam War, the Iran-Iraq War, and the Indo-Pakistani and Egypt-Israel conflicts.
17. F-14 Tomcat
The Tomcat did not make this list because of its long service as a frontline fighter in the US Navy (despite the fact that “Top Gun” remains the greatest military film of all time), but because that Iranian air force killed more than 160 people with it during the Iran-Iraq war.
18. F-15 Eagle
The Eagles made air combat history during Operation Desert Storm, primarily due to their superior weapon lineup, including advanced identification capability (at the time). The F-15s recorded 34 confirmed Iraqi aircraft fatalities during the 1991 Gulf War.