Special Report

All Major Fighter Planes the US Air Force Has Used

:Андрей12.06.1992 / Wikimedia Commons

Military aviation has come a long way since the use of aircraft in 1793 when hot-air and hydrogen balloons were first created and used for military work. Since then, there have been a multitude of flying vessels developed for military use, from bombers and fighter jets to attack and electronic warfare planes, with each getting more technologically advanced. All major aircraft the US Air Force has used are quite extensive and have come a long way.

The newest face of U.S. military aircraft is the F-35 Lightning II, which is touted by its maker, Lockheed Martin as the most advanced fighter jet in the world, and has three variants – the F-35A, F35-B, and F-35c. Development began on this fighter in 1995 and culminated with its official production in 2021. It comes as the fifth generation of modern fighter jets is now in play on the world stage. Fifth-generation fighter jets are designed with an emphasis on stealth technology and radar evasion.

These modern fighter jets build on decades of technology and the numerous fighter planes of previous generations dating back to World War II. The United States has been at the forefront of manufacturing these aircraft, and as it stands now, has the most comprehensive fleet of fighter jets in the world. (These are every plane in the U.S. military.)

24/7 Wall St. reviewed a catalog of U.S. aircraft from Military Factory to determine every major fighter plane used by the U.S. military. These aircraft were ordered chronologically by the year they were introduced. Supplemental information is included from Military Factory regarding the type of aircraft, manufacturer, total aircraft produced, and top speed. We excluded some lesser-known aircraft and those with smaller production runs.

All of the aircraft listed are capable of takeoff from standard runways, but there has been a critical evolution in how fighter planes take off since World War II. At that time, the importance of aircraft carriers was fully realized, having played a pivotal role in the Pacific Theater. As such, many of the fighter planes and aircraft that followed were adapted for carrier-based takeoff and landing. Some of these aircraft even have variants that are capable of vertical takeoff and landing. (These are America’s 15 planes that fly on aircraft carriers.)

The AV-8B Harrier II is a perfect example of such a carrier-based aircraft. These fighter jets entered service in 1985 and can take off or land practically anywhere, fully utilizing their VTOL system. The Harrier II is capable of carrying laser-guided bombs, air-to-air missiles, and surface-to-air missiles, and they come standard with a 25mm GAU-12U Equalizer machine gun in an under-fuselage pod.

Following the Harrier II and F-18 Hornets of the early 1980s, the F/A-18 Super Hornet was the next evolution of carrier-based aircraft. This jet entered service in 1999 and is capable of hitting supersonic speeds of roughly 1,200 mph. It can be outfitted with Sidewinder, Harpoon, HARM, and Maverick missiles, as well as a series of laser-guided bombs or nuclear bombs. Currently, only seven nations — outside of the United States — have these jets in their possession.

Here is a look at all major aircraft the U.S. military has used:

40. Curtiss P-36 Hawk (Hawk 75/Mohawk)

  • Year introduced: 1938
  • Type: Monoplane fighter aircraft
  • Manufacturer: Curtiss Aeroplane Company
  • Total aircraft produced: 1,115
  • Top speed: 322 mph

39. Brewster F2A (Buffalo)

  • Year introduced: 1939
  • Type: Monoplane fighter
  • Manufacturer: Brewster Aeronautical Corporation
  • Total aircraft produced: 509
  • Top speed: 321 mph

38. Lockheed P-38 Lightning

  • Year introduced: 1939
  • Type: Heavy fighter-bomber aircraft
  • Manufacturer: Lockheed Aircraft Corporation
  • Total aircraft produced: 9,923
  • Top speed: 414 mph

37. Grumman F4F Wildcat

  • Year introduced: 1940
  • Type: Carrierborne monoplane fighter aircraft
  • Manufacturer: Grumman Aircraft
  • Total aircraft produced: 7,722
  • Top speed: 332 mph

36. Bell P-39 Airacobra

  • Year introduced: 1941
  • Type: Fighter-bomber aircraft
  • Manufacturer: Bell Aircraft
  • Total aircraft produced: 9588
  • Top speed: 386 mph

35. Curtiss P-40 Warhawk

  • Year introduced: 1941
  • Type: Fighter-bomber aircraft
  • Manufacturer: Curtiss-Wright Corporation
  • Total aircraft produced: 16,800
  • Top speed: 378 mph

34. Douglas A-20 Havoc / Boston

  • Year introduced: 1941
  • Type: Night-fighter aircraft
  • Manufacturer: Douglas Aircraft Company
  • Total aircraft produced: 7,478
  • Top speed: 339 mph

33. North American P-51 Mustang

  • Year introduced: 1942
  • Type: Fighter-bomber aircraft
  • Manufacturer: North American Aviation
  • Total aircraft produced: 15,586
  • Top speed: 437 mph

32. Republic P-47 Thunderbolt

  • Year introduced: 1942
  • Type: Fighter-bomber aircraft
  • Manufacturer: Republic Aviation Corporation
  • Total aircraft produced: 15,660
  • Top speed: 433 mph

31. Vought F4U Corsair

  • Year introduced: 1942
  • Type: Carrierborne fighter-bomber aircraft
  • Manufacturer: Vought
  • Total aircraft produced: 12,571
  • Top speed: 446 mph

30. Bell P-63 Kingcobra

  • Year introduced: 1943
  • Type: Fighter aircraft
  • Manufacturer: Bell Aircraft
  • Total aircraft produced: 3,303
  • Top speed: 410 mph

29. Brewster F3A (F4U-1) Corsair

  • Year introduced: 1943
  • Type: Carrierborne single-engine fighter
  • Manufacturer: Brewster Aeronautical Corporation
  • Total aircraft produced: 600
  • Top speed: 416 mph

28. Grumman F6F Hellcat

  • Year introduced: 1943
  • Type: Carrierborne fighter-bomber aircraft
  • Manufacturer: Grumman Aircraft
  • Total aircraft produced: 12,272
  • Top speed: 380 mph

27. Northrop P-61 / F-61 Black Widow

  • Year introduced: 1943
  • Type: Night fighter aircraft
  • Manufacturer: Northrop
  • Total aircraft produced: 742
  • Top speed: 366 mph

26. Grumman F8F Bearcat

  • Year introduced: 1945
  • Type: Carrierborne fighter / interceptor aircraft
  • Manufacturer: Grumman Aircraft
  • Total aircraft produced: 1,266
  • Top speed: 421 mph

25. Lockheed P-80 / F-80 Shooting Star

  • Year introduced: 1945
  • Type: Jet-powered fighter-bomber aircraft
  • Manufacturer: Lockheed Aircraft Corporation
  • Total aircraft produced: 1,715
  • Top speed: 577 mph

24. Grumman F9F Panther

  • Year introduced: 1949
  • Type: Carrierborne fighter
  • Manufacturer: Grumman Aircraft
  • Total aircraft produced: 1,382
  • Top speed: 545 mph

23. Lockheed F-94 Starfire

  • Year introduced: 1950
  • Type: All-weather interceptor aircraft
  • Manufacturer: Lockheed Aircraft Corporation
  • Total aircraft produced: 853
  • Top speed: 585 mph

22. Grumman F9F Cougar

  • Year introduced: 1952
  • Type: Carrierborne fighter aircraft
  • Manufacturer: Grumman Aircraft
  • Total aircraft produced: 1,392
  • Top speed: 647 mph

21. F-100 Super Saber

  • Year introduced: 1954
  • Type: Tactical reconnaissance / bomber aircraft
  • Manufacturer: North American Aviation
  • Total aircraft produced: 2,294
  • Top speed: 864 mph

20. North American F-100 Super Sabre

North American F-100 Super Sabre | File:17 14 136 F100F.jpg
  • Year introduced: 1954
  • Type: Fighter-bomber aircraft
  • Manufacturer: North American Aviation
  • Total aircraft produced: 2,294
  • Top speed: 864 mph

19. North American FJ-2 / FJ-3 Fury

  • Year introduced: 1954
  • Type: Carrierborne fighter-bomber aircraft
  • Manufacturer: North American Aviation
  • Total aircraft produced: 741
  • Top speed: 676 mph

18. CONVAIR F-102 Delta Dagger

  • Year introduced: 1956
  • Type: Supersonic interceptor aircraft
  • Manufacturer: CONVAIR
  • Total aircraft produced: 1,000
  • Top speed: 825 mph

17. Douglas A-4 Skyhawk

  • Year introduced: 1956
  • Type: Light attack carrierborne fighter aircraft
  • Manufacturer: McDonnell Douglas
  • Total aircraft produced: 2,960
  • Top speed: 645 mph

16. F-102 Delta Dagger

  • Year introduced: 1956
  • Type: Single-seat supersonic interceptor aircraft
  • Manufacturer: CONVAIR
  • Total aircraft produced: 1,000
  • Top speed: 825 mph

15. F-101 Voodoo

  • Year introduced: 1957
  • Type: Twin-engine interceptor
  • Manufacturer: McDonnell Douglas
  • Total aircraft produced: 885
  • Top speed: 1,134 mph

14. Vought F-8 Crusader

  • Year introduced: 1957
  • Type: Carrierborne naval fighter aircraft
  • Manufacturer: Vought
  • Total aircraft produced: 1,219
  • Top speed: 1,118 mph

13. F-104 Starfighter

  • Year introduced: 1958
  • Type: Single-seat supersonic interceptor aircraft
  • Manufacturer: Lockheed Aircraft Corporation
  • Total aircraft produced: 2,578
  • Top speed: 1,320 mph

12. F-106 Delta Dart

  • Year introduced: 1959
  • Type: Single-seat supersonic interceptor aircraft
  • Manufacturer: CONVAIR
  • Total aircraft produced: 350
  • Top speed: 1,487 mph

11. F-4 Phantom II

  • Year introduced: 1960
  • Type: Carrier-based strike fighter aircraft
  • Manufacturer: McDonnell Douglas
  • Total aircraft produced: 5,195
  • Top speed: 1,473 mph

10. F-111 Aardvark

  • Year introduced: 1967
  • Type: Long-range strategic medium bomber / Tactical strike aircraft
  • Manufacturer: General Dynamics
  • Total aircraft produced: 554
  • Top speed: 1,650 mph

9. Grumman F-14 Tomcat

  • Year introduced: 1974
  • Type: Swing-wing, carrier-based fleet defense fighter
  • Manufacturer: Grumman Aircraft
  • Total aircraft produced: 712
  • Top speed: 1,544 mph

8. F-15 Eagle

  • Year introduced: 1976
  • Type: Air superiority fighter aircraft
  • Manufacturer: McDonnell Douglas / Boeing
  • Total aircraft produced: 1,500
  • Top speed: 1,875 mph

7. F-16 Fighting Falcon

  • Year introduced: 1978
  • Type: Lightweight multi-role fighter aircraft
  • Manufacturer: General Dynamics / Lockheed Martin
  • Total aircraft produced: 4,604
  • Top speed: 1,317 mph

6. F/A-18 Hornet

  • Year introduced: 1983
  • Type: Carrier-based strike fighter aircraft
  • Manufacturer: McDonnell Douglas / Boeing / Northrop
  • Total aircraft produced: 1,480
  • Top speed: 1,190 mph

5. AV-8B Harrier II

  • Year introduced: 1985
  • Type: Short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) strike aircraft
  • Manufacturer: McDonnell Douglas / Boeing / BAe Systems
  • Total aircraft produced: 500
  • Top speed: 665 mph

4. F-15E Strike Eagle

  • Year introduced: 1988
  • Type: Strike fighter aircraft
  • Manufacturer: McDonnell Douglas / Boeing
  • Total aircraft produced: 420
  • Top speed: 1,653 mph

3. F/A-18 Super Hornet

  • Year introduced: 1999
  • Type: Carrier-based strike fighter aircraft
  • Manufacturer: McDonnell Douglas / Boeing
  • Total aircraft produced: 615
  • Top speed: 1,187 mph

2. F-22 Raptor

  • Year introduced: 2005
  • Type: Air dominance fighter aircraft
  • Manufacturer: Boeing / Lockheed Martin
  • Total aircraft produced: 195
  • Top speed: 1,599 mph

1. F-35 Lightning II

  • Year introduced: 2016
  • Type: Advanced multi-role strike fighter aircraft
  • Manufacturer: Lockheed Martin / Northrop Grumman / BAe Systems
  • Total aircraft produced: 785
  • Top speed: 1,199 mph

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