Number 10: Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker. Its top speed of 2.35 Mach brings it to the very edge of USSR craftmanship with a twin engine and the first fly-by-wire control system on a Russian jet ever. It was built for air superiority to counter the new American 3.5 gen fighters such as the F-15 Eagle. It is armed with a 30 mm gun and 10 external pylons that can hold both Air-to-Air, heat-seeking, short and medium-range missiles. Due to all its accomplishments and popularity, it has very many different variants. Some of which are top-modern even today, 35 years after the first flight of the Flanker (1977). Some of them are:
- Sukhoi Su-30
- Sukhoi Su-33
- Sukhoi Su-34
- Sukhoi Su-35
- Sukhoi Su-37
And – the Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker was once available for passenger fun flights with MiGFlug! Read more here.
Picture of an F-111 showing its variable sweep wing.
Number 9: General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark. Number nine on this list is not a fighter but a tactical bomber capable of flying at Mach 2.5. It had, before its retirement in 1998, 9 hardpoints and 2 weapon bays, together with being able to deliver a payload of 14,300 kg of bombs, a nuclear bomb, air-to-air missiles or a 2000 round machine gun could be fitted. However, due to the Aardvark’s role in air, it was rarely fitted with the gun. The Aardvark was the first aircraft in production with a variable sweep with the configuration which is why it was also tested for carrier-based operations, however, this was never completed (although there were some successful tries).
F-15C during Operation Noble Eagle
Number 8: McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle The F-15 has been claimed to be one of the most successful aircraft ever built and is still in service with the US Air Force. The Eagle’s twin-engine and thrust-to-weight ratio of almost 1:1 can propel the 18,000 kg aircraft to more than 2.5 times the speed of sound. It was introduced in 1976 and will continue to be a part of the air force beyond 2025. There has almost 1200 F-15s built and it has been exported to among others Japan, Saudi Arabia and Israel. The current plan is to keep producing them until 2019. It was first designed as an air-superiority aircraft but later the F-15E Strike Eagle was built, an Air-to-Ground derivative. The F-15 can load a variety of Sparrow, Sidewinder, 120-AMRAAM, drop bombs ( for instance Mark 84 or 82) or external fuel tanks on its 11 hardpoints. Together with its 20 mm M61A1 Vulcan gun, it is no surprise that this buster has over 100 confirmed aerial combat victories. By the way, a lot of visitors are interested in flying the F-15 – so we wrote a small article about that topic. Click the link for more information.
MiG-31 flying over Russia
Number 7: Mikoyan MiG-31 Foxbat With a top speed of Mach 2.83, the next aircraft on our list is the Mikoyan Gurevich-31 Foxhound (also this one was once available for tourist flights!). Due to its enormous twin-engine with a thrust of 2*152kN, it was able to fly at supersonic speeds at both high- and low altitudes. It is a Soviet Interceptor built to take out enemy aircraft and has great capabilities to do so using a combination of active and passive radars. Four Foxhounds can together control a front of 900 kilometres in length. The weapons that it has to its disposal are:One 23 millimetre gun with 260 rounds.Under fuselage:4x R-33 Air-to-Air (heavy) or 6x R-37 Air-to-Air missiles.On pylons:Long or medium-range missiles, short-range IR missiles or a special medium-range Air-to-Air missile for high-speed targets.
The production ended in 1994 but is unknown exactly how many MiG-31 that were built but between 400-500 is said to be a qualified guess. The MiG-31 is still today in service with the Russian and Kazakhstan Air Forces. The MiG-31 is a derivative of the MiG-25 which can be read about further down (place 4) and in the link at the very end of the article.
XB-70 Valkyrie (taking off)
Number6: XB-70 Valkyrie. The XB-70 Valkyrie was a unique aircraft with six engines which together could accelerate the 240,000-kilogram aircraft to a velocity of Mach 3. This speed resulted in the frame of the aircraft being heated up to as much as 330°C in some areas. The extreme speed was needed for two reasons: 1: To accelerate away from Soviet interceptors and 2: To be able to escape the blast of the nuclear bombs that it was capable of dropping. The big size (weight) was needed to carry the fuel needed for the 6,900-kilometre flight into the Soviet Union and escape without refuelling and to house the 14 nuclear bombs that it was capable of carrying. The aircraft had its first flight in 1964 and is now retired, only two were built.
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