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1

North American F-100 Super Sabre

The Super Sabre was the first US Air Force (USAF) fighter capable of supersonic speed in level flight. It marked a radical step forward in design from North American’s first-generation jet fighter, the F-86 Sabre. Entering service with the USAF in November 1953, it had a 45-degree swept wing, an underfuselage speed brake, four 20mm cannon, and ranging radar in the upper lip […]

2

Fairey F.D.2

The sleek and angular Fairey Delta 2 was the first aircrafl to exceed 1,000mph in  level flight. Designed by Herbert Chaplin of the Fairey Aviation Company, thee F.D.2 was created to meet a British government requirement for an experimental aeroplane to investigate transonic flight – flight at or near the speed of sound. The F.D.2 was a tailless aircraft with a needle nose. […]

3

Gee Bee Super Sportster

The ultimate 1930s American racing aircraft, the extraordinary Gee Bee R-1 and R-2 Super Sportsters were essentially engines with wings, offering a perilous but adrenaline-pumping ride to any pilot plucky enough to fly them. Created by the Granville Brothers (hence Gee Bee) of Springfield, Massachusetts, the racers had rotund fuselages and massive Pratt & Whitney Wasp air-cooled radial engines. The cockpit was set far […]

4

Lockheed F-104 Starfighter

When it first appeared in 1954, the super-fast, lightweight F-104 Starfighter was dubbed “the missile with a man in it”. Designed by Lockheed’s Kelly Johnson, it was both small and simple – indeed, F-104s were memorably described by journalist Tom Wolfe as “chimneys with little razor-blade wings”. The first combat aircraft capable of sustaining speeds above Mach 2, the Starfighter had an […]

5

Lockheed SR-71A

One of the most amazing aeroplanes ever built, the SR-71A Blackbird originated from the CIA’s request for a replacement for the U-2 spyplane. Like many top-secret projects, it was entrusted to Lockheed’s famous “Skunk Works” team, headed by Kelly Johnson. They came up with the A-12 first, in 1962, and then the slightly larger SR-71, in December 1964. The fastest air-breathing, manned […]

6

McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle

The American-built F-15 is regarded as the most formidable air-superiority fighter and interceptor in the world. Designed to replace the US Air Force’s (USAF’s) F-4 Phantom II, it excels in beyond-visual-range air-to-air missions and attack. Highly manoeuvrable and super-fast (up to Mach 2.5), it can deploy from the United States as far as Europe without refueling. The F-15 has advanced aerodynamics and uses […]

7

Mitsubishi A6M Zero

The Japanese Navy’s agile A6M Reisen “Zero” fighter thoroughly deserved the legendary status it acquired in the epic carrier battles of the Pacific War. Designed by Jiro Horikoshi, the single-scat aircraft was optimized for manoeuvrability and range. It had excellent aerodynamics and was lightweight, its skinning and main spar being made from the new extra-super-duralumin alloy. The armament was impressive, with two 20mm […]

8

The influence of war

From 1914 to 1918, World War I resulted in the transformation of aircraft from slow, frail vehicles into agile, capable fighting machines. The governments of the world began to see the military potential of air power, leading to tremendous progress, particularly in the fields of engine technology  and aerodynamics. Although Wright Aircraft had produced the first military airplanes in 1908, […]