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1

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 […]

2

Gloster Meteor

Because of the surprising tardiness of the US’s development of jet-propelled aircraft, the RAF’s Gloster Meteor was the sole Allied jet to enter combat during World War II. The first Meteors were delivered to 616 Squadron in July 1944, and quickly found vital employment intercepting German V1 flying bombs targeted at London. This was an ideal use for the Meteor’s speed, which was […]

3

McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II

The most significant Western fighter of the 1960s, the F-4 Phantom equipped not only the US Navy and US Air Force (USAF) but also numerous foreign air arms, including Britain’s Royal Navy and Royal Air Force. It played a prominent part in the Vietnam War, proving equally effective whether operating from aircraft carriers or from land bases. A twin-engine two-seater, the F-4 Phantom was […]

4

Sopwith Camel

The famous Sopwith F.1 Camel destroyed more German aircraft than any other World War I fighter, although it also had an unfortunate reputation for killing its own pilots. It was named for the “hump” over the two Vickers machine guns mounted in front of the cockpit. The aircraft was powered hy a rotary engine, and engine, armament, and pilot were all concentrated at the […]

5

Messerschmitt Bf 109

Designed by Willy Messcrschmitt. the Bf 109 fighter was the greal adversary of the Hurricane and Spitfire during the Battle of Britain. When it first flew, in September 1935, the lightweight Bf 109 was probably the world’s most advanced fighter aircraft, made entirely of metal, with a retractable undercarriage and an enclosed cockpit. Blooded with the Condor Legion in the Spanish Civil War. […]

6

Albatros D.V

Entering service in May 1917, the Alhatros D.V was Germany’s answer to the British S.E.5 and French SPAD fighters, which were dominating the air war on the Western Front. Broadly similar to its forebear, The Albatros D.III, the D.V had an elegantly streamlined monocoque fuselage with a cowled Mercedes water-cooled engine and a large spinner over the propeller boss. It was an […]

7

Vickers Gunbus

While it did not remotely resemble the modern idea of a fighter aircraft, the Vickers F.B.5 Gunbus(F.B. stood lor Fighting Biplane) was nevertheless one of the first machines to be purpose-built for air-to-air combat. Initially ordered by the British Admiralty, the biplane eventually served with both the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service. Viekcrs needed to find a way of […]

8

Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe

The shark-like Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe was the world’s first operational jet fighter. Powered by two Junkers Jumo engines mounted under its slightly swept-back wings, it was at least 70mph faster than any World War II piston-engine aircraft. German pilot, Adolf Galland, described the exhilarating experience of flying the jet as like being “pushed by angels”. Unfortunately for the Luftwaffe, the development […]

9

Felixstowe F.2A

The Felixstowe F.2A was a first-rate flying boat that gave sterling service to Britain’s Royal Naval Air Service on anti-submarine and maritime patrol missions. It derived from the Curtiss H2 “Large America” flying boats supplied to the Royal Navy in early 1917. These American aeroplanes were excellent flyers, but the hull was structurally weak. Squadron Commander John Porte of the Royal Naval Air […]

10

Mikoyan & Guryevich MiG-21

A classic dogfighter and interceptor, the MiG-21 has probably seen more combat than any other modern fighter, having taken part in at least 30 shooting wars. It was the first Soviet aircraft capable of Mach 2 in level flight, and became ubiquitous in the air forces of the Soviet Union and its allies throughout the 1960s and 70s. Its […]