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Top Ten Fighters of All Time

Because there can only be ten.

The following is the result of a study concerning the best military fighter designs of all time. Fighters were chosen based on production numbers, combat performance and a general assessment of their effect during their particular period in aviation history. As such, the list contains mainly fighter aircraft of World War 2 with only one example emerging from World War 1 and several proven performers showcased in the Korean and Vietnam conflicts. Using the mentioned factors, the list leaves out such entries as the relatively untested yet all-modern Lockheed F-22 Raptor and the late-war German Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter - these aircraft appearing with some puzzling regularity on other Top Ten Fighter lists around the web. Some lists go on to include the famous Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter, which is not a fighter by any measure. Our list seeks out those hearty performers with the historical numbers and stellar histories to reinforce their respective legacies. As will be made apparent, designs utilized during war time tend to outclass all those other "impressive" designs appearing during peacetime or in low-level conflicts. War has a habit of bringing out the best (and worst) in any weapon and helps to separate excellent designs from average ones.


The consensus achieved by this list works to showcase what makes a potent fighter aircraft design - particularly when forced through the rigors of combat, especially in wartime. A fighter must provide maximum protection for her pilot, voluminous fuel stores for needed operational ranges and feature proven critical internal systems (including weaponry) while presenting exceptional performance and combat handling that ultimately become unmatched in the aerial battlefield. Such an implement can help the pilot accomplish air supremacy over his adversary in short order. What all this amounts to is a skillful and reliable combination of engineering, construction and training - benefited by the experience a pilot brings to the fight (a fighter is really only as good as its pilot). These attributes are not wholly available to every fighter aircraft design ever made and we firmly believe that the exhibited examples found across the subsequent pages represent all of these justifiable qualities rather completely.


The listing is provided as a countdown from the tenth-best design to the first, culminating in our selection for Best Fighter of All Time.

Proceed: Begin the Top Ten Fighter Countdown



1900 to 1909
1910 to 1919
1920 to 1929
1930 to 1939
1940 to 1949
1950 to 1959
1960 to 1969
1970 to 1979
1980 to 1989
1990 to 1999
2000 to 2009
2010 to 2019
2020 to 2029


Aerial Refueling Tanker Aircraft
Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW)
Airborne Early Warning (AEW) Aircraft
Airships / Zeppelins
Attack Helicopters
Bomber Aircraft
Medium Bombers
Heavy Bombers
Close-Air Support (CAS)
Commercial Aircraft
Dive Bombers
Electronic Warfare Aircraft (EWA)
Experimental / X-Planes
Fighter Aircraft
Floatplane Aircraft
Flying Boat Aircraft
Helicopters (ALL)
Interceptor Aircraft
Multi-Role Aircraft
Navy Carrier Aircraft
Night Fighters
Passenger Airliners
Reconnaissance / Scout
Search & Rescue (SAR)
Scout Helicopters
Special Purpose
Torpedo Bombers
Trainer Aircraft
Transport Aircraft
Transport Helicopters
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)
Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles (UCAVs)


5th Generation Fighter Aircraft
4th Generation Fighter Aircraft
US X-Planes
Classic US Warbirds
French Military Helicopters
Grumman "Cats"
Howard Hughes Aircraft
Indian Air Force
Israeli Air Force
Libyan Aircraft
Modern Chinese Aircraft
Modern Chinese Fighters
Modern Military Aircraft
Modern North Korean Aircraft
Modern Trainer Aircraft
Modern US Aircraft
Mikoyan Aircraft
Special Forces Aircraft
Sukhoi Aircraft
Syrian Aircraft
Top 10 Fighter Aircraft of All Time


Arab-Israeli War (1948)
Falklands War (1982)
Indo-Pak War (1965, 1971)
Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988)
Lebanon War (1982)
Operation Allied Force (1999)
Operation Desert Storm (1991)
Six Day War (1967)
Spanish Civil War (1936-1939)
Soviet-Afghan War (1979-1989)
Yom Kippur War (1973)


Aircraft Cockpit Pictures
Aircraft Comparison Tool
Aircraft Manufacturers
Aircraft Production Totals
Aircraft Timeline


1939 Aircraft
1940 Aircraft
1941 Aircraft
1942 Aircraft
1943 Aircraft
1944 Aircraft
1945 Aircraft
1946 Aircraft
Australian Aircraft
Battle of Britain Aircraft
Four-Engine Bombers
British Aircraft
British Fighters
British Bombers
British Transports
Canadian Aircraft
Dive Bombers
Dutch Aircraft
Chinese Aircraft
French Aircraft
German Aircraft
German Fighters
German Flying Boats
German Jets
Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe
Italian Aircraft
Imperial Japanese Aircraft
Imperial Japanese Fighters
Jet Aircraft (ALL)
Mitsubishi Bombers
Navy Aircraft
Pearl Harbor
Polish Aircraft
Romanian Aircraft
US Aircraft
US Bombers
US Navy Aircraft
Soviet Aircraft
Torpedo Bombers
Trainer Aircraft
Transport Aircraft
Tuskegee Airmen Aircraft
W.A.S.P. Aircraft
WW2 Aircraft Ranked by Speed


1914 Aircraft
1915 Aircraft
1916 Aircraft
1917 Aircraft
1918 Aircraft
Aircraft Timeline
Austro-Hungarian Aircraft
Bomber Aircraft
British Aircraft
Flying Boats
French Aircraft
Imperial German Aircraft
Italian Aircraft
Scout Aircraft
Russian Empire Aircraft
US Aircraft
WW1 Aircraft Ranked by Speed


Australian Aircraft
Korean War Aces
Korean War Jets
North Korean Aircraft
US Military Aircraft


Fighter Aircraft
Helicopters (ALL)
Transport Helicopters
North Vietnam Air Force
US Airpower


1950s French Aircraft
Berlin Airlift (1948-1949)
British V-Bombers
Cold War Bombers
Cuban Missile Crisis (1959-1962)
Soviet Aircraft
Soviet Bombers
Soviet Interceptors
Soviet Helicopters
Strategic Air Command
US Aircraft
US Bombers
US Interceptors

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