Special Report

The US Military's Fastest Planes

InkkStudios / E+ via Getty Images

Aircraft first became a significant weapon of war in World War I. At first, the planes were used to scout out enemy positions from the air. As the conflict progressed, the aircrafts were repurposed for aerial combat with mounted machine guns, giving rise to WWI flying aces. (These are the greatest fighter pilots in aviation history.)

Since then, military aircraft have evolved considerably. Today, demonstrating air superiority with increasingly more sophisticated fighter jets is an essential element of warfare. No military force can win a war without controlling the skies. Gaining an advantage in the air depends on how fast the plane can fly. Fighter planes that can whip across the skies at tremendous speeds can evade enemy missiles and hit their target sooner. (Here are the most common planes in the US Air Force.)

The U.S. military has some of the fastest war planes on the planet. To determine the fastest war planes in the U.S. military, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed a  list of U.S. military aircraft from Military Factory, an online database of military vehicles, aircraft, arms, and more. We ranked all aircraft according to their top speed, choosing the 20 fastest. Supplemental information on the military branch using the aircraft and the aircraft’s role came from the World Directory of Modern Military Aircraft. First flown dates came from both WDMMA and from Military Factory.

Six of the 20 fastest planes are classified as trainers, or aircraft used to train pilots on complex aircraft. Others are fighters, refuelers, or tankers. Some are deployed for special missions. 

The “slowest” aircraft on the list is the McDonnell Douglas KC-10 Extender, an aerial tanker and refueler transport. It tops out at 600 mph, about the same as large commercial jets with top speeds of 550 to 580 mph. The majority of commercial planes are much slower at 160 to 180 mph.

Click here to see the fastest planes in the US Military.

Source: Clive Wells / iStock via Getty Images

20. McDonnell Douglas KC-10 Extender
> Top speed: 600 mph
> Category: Aerial tankers, refuelers
> Military branch: US Air Force
> First flown: 1980

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19. Boeing E-4 Nightwatch
> Top speed: 603 mph (tied)
> Category: Special mission
> Military branch: US Air Force
> First flown: 1973

Source: AllenJMSmith / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

18. Boeing E-6 Mercury
> Top speed: 603 mph (tied)
> Category: Special mission
> Military branch: US Navy
> First flown: 1987

17. Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker
> Top speed: 610 mph
> Category: Aerial tankers, refuelers
> Military branch: US Air Force
> First flown: 1957

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Source: vandervliet93 / Getty Images

16. Cessna Citation
> Top speed: 615 mph
> Category: Transports
> Military branch: US Marine Corps, Army
> First flown: 1972

15. Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit
> Top speed: 628 mph
> Category: Bombers
> Military branch: US Air Force
> First flown: 1985

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Source: my_public_domain_photos / Flickr

14. McDonnell Douglas T-45 Goshawk
> Top speed: 645 mph
> Category: Trainers
> Military branch: US Navy
> First flown: 1988

13. McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II
> Top speed: 665 mph
> Category: Trainers, fighters
> Military branch: US Marine Corps
> First flown: 1978

Source: DanKingImages / Getty Images

12. Bombardier Global Express
> Top speed: 684 mph
> Category: Special mission
> Military branch: US Air Force
> First flown: 1996

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11. Rockwell B-1 Lancer
> Top speed: 833 mph
> Category: Bombers
> Military branch: US Air Force
> First flown: 1974

Source: Ryan Fletcher / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

10. Northrop T-38 Talon
> Top speed: 857 mph
> Category: Trainers
> Military branch: US Navy, Air Force
> First flown: 1959

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Source: my_public_domain_photos / Flickr

9. Northrop F-5 Tiger II
> Top speed: 1,077 mph
> Category: Trainers
> Military branch: US Navy, Marine Corps
> First flown: 1959

Source: my_public_domain_photos / Flickr

8. Boeing EA-18G Growler
> Top speed: 1,181 mph
> Category: Special mission
> Military branch: US Navy
> First flown: 2006

7. McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet
> Top speed: 1,190 mph
> Category: Trainers, fighters
> Military branch: US Navy, Marine Corps
> First flown: 1978

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Source: my_public_domain_photos / Flickr

6. Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet
> Top speed: 1,193 mph
> Category: Trainers
> Military branch: US Navy
> First flown: 1999

Source: my_public_domain_photos / Flickr

5. Lockheed F-35 Lightning II
> Top speed: 1,199 mph
> Category: Trainers, fighters
> Military branch: US Navy, Air Force, Navy
> First flown: 2016

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Source: my_public_domain_photos / Flickr

4. Lockheed F-16 Fighting Falcon
> Top speed: 1,317 mph
> Category: Fighters, trainers
> Military branch: US Navy, Air Force
> First flown: 1974

Source: my_public_domain_photos / Flickr

3. Lockheed F-22 Raptor
> Top speed: 1,599 mph
> Category: Fighters
> Military branch: US Air Force
> First flown: 1997

Source: my_public_domain_photos / Flickr

2. Boeing F-15E Strike Eagle
> Top speed: 1,653 mph
> Category: Fighters
> Military branch: US Air Force
> First flown: 1986

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Source: my_public_domain_photos / Flickr

1. Boeing F-15 Eagle
> Top speed: 1,875 mph
> Category: Trainers
> Military branch: US Air Force
> First flown: 1972

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