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Top Fighter Aircraft

Military Aviation History | All Time

Very few fighter aircraft designs earn the right to be considered among the best of their kind.

The following showcase covers the MilitaryFactory.com selections for best military fighters of all time. In our review, the 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, our list leaves out entries like the largely untested Lockheed F-22 'Raptor' and late-World War 2 German Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighters - these aircraft appearing with some puzzling regularity on other online Top Ten Fighter lists. Still other lists go so far as to include the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk 'stealth fighter' which is not even a fighter by any measure!

Our list seeks out only those aircraft with the historical numbers and stellar histories to reinforce their respective legacies. Many are born from war as war has a habit of bringing out the best (and worst) in any weapon design and helps to separate excellent ones from mediocre ones. The consensus achieved by this list centers on an airframe capable of surviving the rigors of combat, particularly in wartime. A fighter must provide maximum protection for the pilot, useful fuel stores for operational ranges, and feature proven critical internal systems (avionics as well as weaponry) while presenting exceptional performance and combat handling.

What all this amounts to is a skillful combination of engineering, construction, and pilot training / experience (because a fighter is truly only as exceptional as its pilot). These attributes are not wholly available to every fighter design and we firmly believe that the examples found below represent all of the aforementioned qualities rather completely.

NOTES: The aircraft below are presented by service year ascending. The Boeing F-15 Eagle has been added as an honorable mention due to its exceptional combat history.

Picture of the Sopwith Camel
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Sopwith Camel
Single-Seat Biplane Fighter Aircraft
Picture of the Messerschmitt Bf 109
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Messerschmitt Bf 109
Single-Seat, Single-Engine Fighter Aircraft
Picture of the Supermarine Spitfire
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Supermarine Spitfire
Fighter / Fighter-Bomber / Reconnaissance Aircraft
Picture of the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 (Wurger)
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Focke-Wulf Fw 190 (Wurger)
Single-Seat Fighter / Fighter-Bomber Aircraft
Picture of the North American P-51 Mustang
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North American P-51 Mustang
Single-Seat, Single-Engine Fighter / Fighter-Bomber Aircraft
Picture of the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt
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Republic P-47 Thunderbolt
Single-Seat, Single-Engine Fighter-Bomber Aircraft
Picture of the Vought F4U Corsair
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Vought F4U Corsair
Carrier-Based Fighter / Fighter-Bomber / Night Fighter
Picture of the Grumman F6F Hellcat
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Grumman F6F Hellcat
Carrierborne Fighter / Fighter-Bomber Aircraft
Picture of the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-17 (Fresco)
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Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-17 (Fresco)
Single-Seat Jet-Powered Fighter / Fighter-Bomber Aircraft
Picture of the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II
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McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II
Multirole / Carrierbased Fighter / Strike Fighter Aircraft
Picture of the Boeing (McDonnell Douglas) F-15 Eagle
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Boeing (McDonnell Douglas) F-15 Eagle
Multirole / Air Superiority Fighter Aircraft
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