Over the past century, dozens of aircraft have been designed and built to fight in the sky. But now based on expert opinion, audience polls and technical comparison, we've constructed a five-point matrix, that will rank the Top Ten Fighter aircraft of all time.
9: F/A-22 Raptor
- Manufacturer: Lockheed Martin
- Power Plant: Pratt & Whitney F-119 PW-100
- Top Speed: Mach 2.5
- Armament: One 20mm cannon, six AMRAAM and two AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles
Because it is almost invisible to radar and carries an awesome array of weaponry the F-22 Raptor, America's fourth-generation fighter, gets superb innovation and fear factor ratings. However, the aircraft's prowess is compromised by its astronomical production costs and the fact it has some way to go to match the combat records of the F-15 and F-16. Therefore, in the kill ratio, production and service length categories, the Raptor scores zip, placing it firmly in 10th place on our list.
8: Sea Harrier FA2
- Manufacturer: British Aerospace
- Power Plant: Rolls Royce Pegasus mk 104 or 106 turbofan
- Top Speed: 736 mph
- Armament: Two 30-mm Aden cannon, plus two AMRAAM and four Sidewinder missiles, two Harpoon or Sea Eagle anti-ship missiles
With its unrivaled ability to maneuver, hover and pop up from unexpected places, the Sea Harrier earns a solid fear factor rating. Its unique design and simple-to-produce airframe score well. Despite achieving a high kill ratio in the Falklands, the "jump jet's" slow speed makes it vulnerable to ground fire, which reduces its overall score. Though the aircraft is being phased out of frontline operations it still earns a respectable ninth place in our top 10 league.
7: Sopwith Camel
- Manufacturer: Sopwith Aviation Company
- Power Plant: Clerget rotary engine
- Top Speed: 112 mph
- Armament: Two Vickers .303 machine guns
Credited with destroying at least 1,200 enemy aircraft, the Sopwith Camel rightly deserves to be called one of the best fighters of all time. Its solid, if unspectacular, scoring across the board ensures its standing in eighth place on the list of the greatest fighters of all time.
6: Me 262 Schwalbe
- Manufacturer: Messerschmitt
- Power Plant: Two Junkers Juno 004s
- Top Speed: 540 mph
- Armament: Four 30mm MK-108 cannons
For innovation the "Swallow" scores maximum points. As the first of its kind, the Me 262 inspired equal measures of fear and admiration, so it also scores at the top of the scales in the fear factor category.
However, because the aircraft was difficult to build and it had notoriously unreliable engines, the aircraft's production rating is low - so too is its service record, having only been active for a little over two years. Nevertheless, the Me 262 will forever be in the record books as being the world's first fully operational jet fighter - a legend of the skies and the seventh greatest fighter of all time.
5: Supermarine Spitfire
- Manufacturer: Supermarine Aviation Works
- Power Plant: Rolls-Royce Merlin V-12 piston engine
- Top Speed: 369 mph
- Armament: Eight Browning .303 machine guns; later version, four 20mm cannon
Used in all British theaters of conflict throughout the Second World War the Spitfire remains the unrivaled symbol of victory and Britain's finest hour. But the Spitfire is also famous for giving Field Marshall Erwin Rommel the scare of his life.
On July 17, 1944, in the north of France, a Canadian pilot named Charlie Fox shot at the car carrying the German military mastermind and knocked it off the road, putting Germany's "Desert Fox" out of commission.
4: A Tie! MiG 15 & F-86 Sabre
- Manufacturer: Mikoyan Gurevich Design Bureau
- Power Plant: Klimov VK-1 turbojet
- Top Speed: 668 mph
- Armament: One 37mm N-37 cannon and two 23mm NR-23 cannon
- Manufacturer: North American
- Power Plant: General Electric J47 engine
- Top Speed: 685 mph
- Armament: Six .50-caliber machine guns and eight 5-inch rockets
Compared to today's fighters both these jets are underpowered and primitive but few aircraft have done so well at the job they were designed to do. Both the F-86 Sabre and MiG 15 were the right aircraft at the right time and each richly deserve a prominent place in aviation history.
Both designs relied heavily on captured German swept-wing technology and British engine design, so for innovation the MiG and Sabre are equally matched. Both fighters were produced in large numbers, but the MiG edges in front of the Sabre in the production category because of its renowned simplicity. Both jets have similar service records. The result? They are inseparable in the rankings: the MiG 15 and F-86 Sabre tie for fourth place.
3: F-4 Phantom
- Manufacturer: McDonnell Douglass
- Power Plant: Two J79 Spey turbojet afterburning engines
- Top Speed: 1,485 mph
- Armament: Four AIM 7 Sparrow and four AIM 9 Sidewinder missiles.
Produced in large numbers the F-4 Phantom has an unrivaled service history. But the aircraft really earns its third place ranking for being fast, durable and deadly.
Phantoms were the test bed for missile technology - and the aircraft held five speed records for an impressive 13 years before being beaten by the aircraft featured in the No. 2 spot on our list of the top 10 fighters of all time.
2: F-15C Eagle
- Manufacturer: McDonnell Douglass
- Power Plant: Two Pratt & Whitney F-100-PW-100 after-burning turbofans
- Top Speed: Mach 2.5
- Armament: One 20-mm cannon, four AIM-7F Sparrow and four AIM-9L Sidewinder missiles
No other fighter in the history of aerial combat has a record that even comes close to the Eagle's. The F-15 is far superior to most of its brethren - way better than the F-4 - accelerating better, turning better, handling better.
In fact, such is the reputation of the F-15 that during the opening phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Saddam Hussein's air force simply refused to get in the air. They knew the F-15 would just knock them out of the sky.
1: P-51D Mustang
- Manufacturer: North American Aviation
- Power Plant: 1600 hp Packard-built Merlin 61 piston engine
- Top Speed: 437 mph
- Armament: Six wing-mounted .50-caliber machine guns
Fitted with external drop-tanks the Mustang's range was extended to almost 2,000 miles, making it the only Allied fighter capable of protecting the Allied bombers on long-range, deep-penetration raids.
The Mustang performed its job so well that after its introduction in 1944, casualty rates for bomber crews were reduced by 75 percent. In fact, American P51s destroyed almost 5,000 enemy aircraft in Europe - making it the highest scoring U. S. fighter in the European theater of operations.