Traveling by plane is one of the most amazing concepts. When you think about the power and physics involved in an airplane taking off and flying, it is awe-inspiring. Ever since I was a child, I have loved the feeling of a plane taxiing down the runway, picking up speed, and lifting almost effortlessly into the sky. It is truly remarkable that the Wright Brothers invented this mode of travel.
When you fly on a commercial jet, you can feel the power, but it is nothing compared to some of the military planes that have been developed over time. Imagine being on a plane and pulling the throttle back as the plane thrusts forward. Military engineering has developed planes that defy gravity and reach the skies in little time. Read on to discover the fastest planes in the world today.
12 of the Fastest Planes in the World
This rocket-powered aircraft became the fastest plane ever flown on October 3, 1967, when Air Force Major William “Pete” Knight reached a speed of 4,520 mph, which is Mach 6.72. Only three of these aircraft were built, and they made 199 flights between 1959 and 1968. The first man to walk on the moon, Neil Armstrong, was one of the pilots who flew this plane.
The purpose of this plane was to fly high and fast, and it was the first aircraft to reach hypersonic speeds of more than five times the speed of sound. It was key to the development of spacecraft in the 1960s. The flight time was short, lasting about 10 minutes. They would carry the plane up under the wind of a NASA B-52 to 45,000 feet and drop it so that it could use all of its fuel for acceleration.
Once the X-15 was dropped, it started its rocket engine and accelerated toward space with incredible speed. It had a thick wedge tail to provide stability, but this design caused a lot of drag at lower speeds. Upon landing, the aircraft would lower its skids and eject a parachute from the lower fin.
This plane still holds the record for speed, at 4,520 mph, or Mach 6.7.
The Blackbird SR-71 was designed in secrecy in the late 1950s. It was able to reach the edge of space and fly faster than a missile. It holds the record for the fastest aircraft that is not rocket-powered. These planes were built with stealth technology as spy planes to travel into enemy territory without being detected or shot down.
The aircraft is painted black to dissipate heat. It was so fast that pressure would build up causing the temperature to increase to several hundred degrees. The high temperature would expand the metal, so it had to be built using a number of smaller pieces. The design is awesome, with its sleek curves and twists, and it is just as incredible to see today.
The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird could reach a speed of 2,193.2 mph, or Mach 3.3. It also holds an altitude record of 85,069 feet. It was last flown by NASA in 1999. They stopped using it in the 1990s because other technology came into existence, such as spy satellites and drones.
#3. Lockheed YF-12
This aircraft was the precursor to the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird plane. It had the same designer, Clarence “Kelly” Johnson, and only three were built. At the time, it set a record of the highest altitude, at 80,257.65 feet and speed, at 2,275 mph. Two of the planes were flown as part of a NASA/Air Force research program between 1969 and 1979, and the third was lost to an in-flight engine fire in 1971.
This aircraft was experimental, and it was never adopted by the military as an operational aircraft; however, it led to the development of the SR-71 Blackbird. The planned operational version was never made because the program was cancelled by the then Secretary of State. They put the prototype in storage until 1969 when NASA reached an agreement with the Air Force to embark on a research program, which lasted 10 years.
The Mikoyan MiG-25 was an interceptor built by the Soviet Union to intercept American aircraft. It had to be very fast to be able to achieve this, so it is one of the fastest planes ever built. It carried four air to air missiles because it was built to intercept rather than gather intelligence.
There were over 1,100 Foxbats built between 1964 and 1984, and they were used successfully during the Iran-Iraq war. The only countries that use it today are Russia, Syria, Algeria, and Turkmenistan. It has two R-15B-300 single shaft turbojets, and it can reach a maximum speed of 2,170 mph. It is also the fastest plane used by MiGFlug for fun flights.
Bell X-2 Starbuster was an American research aircraft that was made in 1955 and was retired in 1956. It was made to study how planes behaved when they fly at speeds greater than Mach 2. It was designed to have very little air resistance, and it did not carry weapons, and it did achieve a speed of Mach 3.19 in 1956.
However, the pilot made a sharp turn, sending the aircraft into a tumble, and although he tried to bail out, he hit the ground too fast and died, which ended the program. The plane had a top speed of 2,094 mph, making it one of the fastest planes ever made.
The North American XB-70 Valkyrie was an aircraft with six engines that could reach speeds of Mach 3. They needed this speed to accelerate and get away from Soviet interceptors and to escape the blast of the nuclear bombs that it could drop. The engine could be heated to around 330 degrees Celsius.
The plane was large because it had to carry enough fuel to fly into the Soviet Union and escape without refueling, and it needed to hold 14 nuclear bombs. Only two were built, and it had its first flight in 1964. It could reach a speed of 2,056 mph.
The MiG-31 was developed as an offshoot of the MiG-25 Foxhound. This aircraft could fly at supersonic speeds at both high and low altitudes, and it had more powerful engines. The Soviets began production of this plane at the Soviet Gorky Plant in 1979, and 500 were made. It was originally undetectable to Western radar, but the West learned of it in 1990.
This aircraft could reach speeds of 1,957 mph. It is still used by the Russian Air Force and Kazakhstan Air Force, and they plan for it to be in service at least until 2030.
McDonnell Douglas first built the F-15 in 1967, and Boeing continued when they merged in 1996. The F-15 fighter plane is still used by the US Air Force today. It goes nearly two times the speed of sound, and it was made in 1976.
It is planned to continue to operate through at least 2040. More 1,500 F-15s have been built, and besides the United States, it is used in Japan, Saudi Arabia, and Israel. It is undefeated and has over 100 combat wins, and it is a very impressive aircraft.
The F-15 has a top speed of 1,875 mph, which lands it on the list of fastest planes.
This aircraft was developed by the Tumansky Bureau as a high speed interceptor at high altitudes. It was built in 1959, and it was tested in July 1960. It is considered to be the Russian’s fastest single-jet engine ever made, with a top speed of 1,553 mph.
#10. Phantom F-4
The Phantom F-4 was built by McDonnell Douglas in 1958, and they are still used today. More than 5,000 of these aircraft have been built, and they are famous for the Vietnam War. Some of those modernized today are comparable to the F-15, but they do not hold the same undefeated record. It was no match for the Soviet MiGs, so it needed an overhaul. It had 107 wins for 33 losses. It could reach a top speed of 1,607 mph.
#11. Sukhoi SU-27 Flanker
This aircraft was made by the Soviets to counter the F-15, and it was designed by the Sukhoi Design Bureau. It is made to accompany strike aircraft into enemy territory. It has been used by Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Vietnam, China, and India. It’s a large aircraft made with aluminum lithium alloys, so it is light for how big it is. It can reach speeds of 1,553 mph.
The General Dynamics F-111F Aardvark is a bomber plane that can fly Mach 2.5. It was built as a low altitude strike plane and lasted decades as an important bomber. It met the requirements of aircraft needed by both the Navy and the Army, so they compromised and ended up with one plane that could work for both. It had to be able to take off on a short runway and hit high speeds.
This plane had a top speed of 1,452 mph.
Planes are fascinating machines that show power and speed, and there is good reason for the speed requirements. With some being built to travel to the edge of space and others being made to outrun a missile, speed is the distinguishing factor.
As technology changes, the need for some aircraft, fast or otherwise, is rendered obsolete. Most of these aircraft are found in museums throughout the country. While you may not get a chance to fly in one of the fastest planes in the world, it is worth a visit to see them.