Normal airliners like the Airbus A320 or the Boeing 777 are really fast. They can travel at up to 900 km/h and cover long distances in short times. But they are not nearly the fastest airplanes in the world. Most of the faster aircrafts are reserved for military and special government uses and can reach speeds of 7,000km/h. Most of these are used for military missions where precision and swiftness are key and the aircrafts need to be in and out of the danger zone before the enemy can realize it.
The Concorde was the only passenger aircraft capable of reaching Mach 2 speed as it could fly at 2200km/h and reach Rio di Janeiro from Paris in only 6 hours, half the amount of time the planes take today. However, it was discontinued in 2003 but may be set to return to the skies in the future.
In this article, we will look at the fastest aircrafts that ever existed. Excited? Let’s get straight to it then:
10. F-111 Aardvark
Starting the countdown is the General Dynamic F-111 “Aardvark” which was one of the most widely used jet bombers in the US Army history. It could reach speeds up to 2655 km/h and the US Air Force used this aircraft in every war they were involved in for two decades i.e. from 1970 to 1990.
9. F-15 Eagle
In 1972, the McDonnell Douglas F-15 “Eagle” was created and hailed as the best fighter jet ever made. The claim was true for a period of time until the Russians developed the Su-27 to counter this. The F-15 is still widely used by the air forces of US, Japan, Israel, South Korea, Singapore and Saudi Arabia and can reach a top speed of 2665 km/h.
8. Tupolev Tu-144
Apart from the Concorde, the Tupolev Tu-144 was the other commercial airliner that could break the sound barrier and it flew between 1975 and 1979. It was developed in the Soviet Union but its short life was due to safety reasons as the aircraft never presented full operating conditions. However, it could carry 167 passengers and reach speeds up to 2878 km/h.
Based on the iconic MIG-25, the MIG-31 certainly did justice to its bigger brother. It could reach an amazing 3030 km/h which was less than the MIG-25 but the crown jewel of the MIG-31 was the world’s most powerful radar system it housed. This radar could detect enemy aircraft from up to 400 km away. It is still a very successful fighter jet and is in use in the Air Force of Russia and Kazakhstan.
6. XB-70 Valkyrie
The mammoth American XB-70 Valkyrie was a bomber that flew in the skies in 1964 and could reach 3300 km/h. It was an engineering marvel as such a huge aircraft at such a high speed was something unheard of. But an ever increasing budget and a major accident forced the US to discontinue the program and the US Military are still trying to develop a feasible aircraft of this size and speed.
5. Bell X2
The Bell X2 was the evolution of the X1. It was a prototype to test the fuselage reaction at Mach 3 speeds and had big shoes to fill as it was evolved from the first aircraft ever to breach the sound barrier (X1) which it did in 1947. In 1955, it reached speeds up to 330km/h and the results from this experiment were later used in many supersonic aircrafts developed in the US afterwards.
At number four in our list is our personal favorite, the legendary and iconic MIG-25 which still is one of the most feared aircrafts of the former USSR. It first flew in 1964 and its extreme maneuverability and speed took the world by storm as it could reach 3400 km/h easily. Its success and brilliance can be estimated from the fact that it is still the fastest aircraft in operation in the world today. It still lives in the Air Forces of Algeria, Azerbaijan and Syria.
The Lockheed YF-12 was dropped by the US Air Force owing to the high predicted operational costs and other complications. But it did fly and could reach speeds of 3661 km/h. The YF-12 interceptor was the baseline for SR-71 Spy Aircraft which also features in our list.
As mentioned before, the Lockheed SR-71 was based on the YF-12 and was a strategic reconnaissance aircraft that could fly at 3540 km/h. It was first flown in 1964 by the US Air Force and later passed on to NASA who used in for high speed tests at high altitude as recently as 1999.
Topping our list, the fastest aircraft ever produced, is the North American X-15 prototype which was a joint venture of The US Air Force and NASA. The plane reached and incredible 7273 km/h in 1967 and used ways of flying that were previously considered unthinkable. To reach this speed, the plane had to be launched form a B-52 bomber and only then could the engines be ignited. After the flight, the pilot masterfully landed the X-15 as a conventional aircraft.