The fastest fighter jet in the world is more than 50 years old
Russia developed Fastest plane in the world the MiG- to chase bombers that could fly three times the speed of sound.
- That bomber threat never materialized, but the MiG- is still around, and it s still the fastest jet on the block.
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- Fastest jet in the world? That s easy. Most people know it s the SR-, the reconnaissance plane so fast it could outrun missiles. But the fastest fighter jet? Well, the Soviets created a fighter jet to chase down the SR- Blackbird, and it was so fast that it s still the fastest fighter jet ever built. And it s still in service today.The MiG- Foxbat looks ungainly and boxy next to fourth and fifth-generation fighters. Its younger sibling, the MiG-, is much sleeker, and the aggressive-looking F-, F-, and even the Su- make for way better wall posters than the Foxbat.By comparison, the Foxbat looks almost like a box truck. If you re feeling generous, you could compare it to something like an old Chrysler LeBaron, instead. But only if that Chrysler LeBaron could sweep down a drag strip at speeds over % faster than its rivals.
The story of the Foxbat is a fairly simple one. When Russia first understood the SR-, it realized that the step from a reconnaissance plane that could fly three times the speed of sound to a bomber that could do so was large but hardly insurmountable. They had to plan on US bombers that could outrun ground-launched missiles.
- And so they got to work on a fighter that could move on the edge of space with the SR- and the planned XB- Valkyrie. While they knew it was unlikely they could create a fighter that could fly faster than a reconnaissance plane, there was a decent chance that it could outfly the bomber since the bomber would have to carry more weight.Lacking the materials science to create light airframes like the SR-, it did the next best thing and just made the engines so powerful that they could muscle through, carrying the nickel-steel alloy frame to record heights and speed.And the engineers at the Mikoyan and Gurevich Design Bureau MiG is a shortening of that name, were some of the world s best engine designers. who made Fastest plane in the world.
They came up with a twin-turbojet design that could propel the MiG- to Mach . in operational conditions and . if the pilots were willing to risk the engines. The plane quickly set world records for speed, time to climb, and top altitudes for a fighter.
And that scared the US and the rest of NATO. Not only was the Foxbat ridiculously fast and powerful, but its design suggested that it was super maneuverable, a design characteristic that the West was moving toward.
But two events would completely change the calculus for the Foxbat. One made it a plane without a mission, and the other took away much of the fear for pilots who might be called to face it.
First, a catastrophic crash killed two pilots and destroyed the $-million XB- Valkyrie test aircraft in a program that was already suffering cost problems. The program was canceled. Suddenly, there was little prospect of a Mach bomber for the Foxbat to chase, meaning the most critical mission for Soviet planners was preventing American air superiority.
And then, a Soviet pilot defected to Japan with his MiG- in , and NATO learned that the Foxbat was actually sort of horrible at air superiority.
When they disassembled, studied, re-assembled, and tested the plane, American engineers realized that it would almost always have a speed and altitude advantage against NATO planes, but it couldn t capitalize on it. The Foxbat didn t have a look-down, shoot-down radar system.
Without getting too into the technical weeds, the science of getting a radar that can see ahead of a fighter and beneath it without getting confused by ground clutter is actually sort of tough, and the Soviets hadn t nailed it yet. So Foxbat pilots would be forced to descend to engage other fighters.
And once it was on a relatively even altitude with its adversaries, it would be relatively easy pickings.
While it was undeniably fast, it was not actually super maneuverable. It was unlikely that a Foxbat could dodge missiles or win a dogfight. With a few changes to doctrine, planes like the F- Phantom could keep the Foxbat on the run or down it entirely.
Still, the Foxbat has continued in service in post-Soviet Russia, and it s still the fastest and highest-flying fighter jet in the world, carrying its full combat load so high that the pilot s tears will boil off their faces. It just doesn t matter because there s nothing up there for the Foxbat to fight.