Want to know the fastest plane in the world? First, let’s take a look at the other contenders:
20. F-117 Nighthawk
The F-1117 Nighthawk is a single-seat, twin-engine stealth attack aircraft that was developed by Lockheed’s secretive Skunk Works division. The plane made its maiden flight in 1981 and achieved initial operating status in 1983, but was operated in secrecy until 1988.
Top Speed: 617 MPH
Hours To Get Around The World: 40.36 hours
The F-1117 was strictly a ground-attack aircraft during the Gulf War of 1991. It also took part in the conflict in Yugoslavia in 1999, where one of the planes was shot down by a surface-to-air missile and became the only Nighthawk to be lost in combat. The U.S. Air Force officially retired the F-117 in April 2008.
19. B-2 Spirit
The Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit, also known as the Stealth Bomber, is an American heavy strategic bomber. The B-2 Spirit was developed through the “Advanced Technology Bomber” (ATB) project during the Carter administration and was designed with low observable stealth technology.
Top Speed: 630 MPH
Hours To Get Around The World: 39.53 hours
The cost of each aircraft in 1997 was $737 but the procurement costs averaged $929 million per aircraft for the spare parts, equipment and software support. Because of its considerable capital and operating costs, the project was controversial in the U.S. Congress and among the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The B-2 is capable of all-altitude attack missions up to 50,000 feet and was used during the Kosovo War in 1999. The B-2 Spirit also saw further service in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
18. F-35 Lightning II
The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is a family of single-seat, single-engine, all-weather stealth multirole fighters undergoing final development and testing by the United States. It is descended from the X-35, which was the winning design of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program.
Top Speed: 1,200 MPH
Hours To Get Around The World: 20.75 hours
The F-35 has three main models that are designed to perform ground attack, aerial reconnaissance, and air defense missions.The first prototype was launched in December 2006 and as of November 2014, 115 models have been built.
The F-35 program is the most expensive military weapons system in history, and it has been the object of much criticism from those inside and outside government. While development is principally funded by the United States, additional funding have been provided by partner nations that are either NATO members or close U.S. allies. The first prototype was launched in December 2006 and as of November 2014, 115 models have been built.
17. Convair F- 106
The Convair F-106 Delta Dart was the primary all-weather interceptor aircraft of the United States Air Force from the 1960s through the 1980s. Designed as the so-called “Ultimate Interceptor”, it proved to be the last dedicated interceptor in U.S. Air Force service to date.
Top Speed: 1,526 MPH
Hours To Get Around The World: 16.4 Hours
As the ultimate interceptor program of the 50s, the F-106 was used as a specialized all-weather missile-armed interceptor to shoot down bombers. The first prototype took flight on December 26, 1956 at the Edwards Air Force Base. Three years later, Major Joseph W. Rogers set a world speed record of 1,525.96 mph.
Although contemplated for use in the Vietnam War the F-106 never saw combat, nor was it exported to foreign users. The F-106 served in the continental US, Alaska, and Iceland, as well as for brief periods in Germany and South Korea. It was gradually retired in the 80s. It was replaced by QF-106 drone conversions until 1998 under the Pacer Six Program.
16. Sukhoi PAK FA T-50
The Sukhio PAK FAT-50 is a stealthy, single-seat, twin-engine jet fighter, and will be the first operational aircraft in Russian service to use stealth technology. The multirole fighter is designed for air superiority and attack roles and intended to be the successor to the MiG-29 and Su-27.
Top Speed: 1,520 MPH
Hours To Get Around The World: 16.38 hours
The T-50’s maiden flight was repeatedly postponed from early 2007 after encountering unspecified technical problems. In August 2009, Alexander Zelin acknowledged that problems with the engine and in technical research remained unsolved.
The T-50 prototype first flew on January 29, 2010 and the first production aircraft is slated for delivery to the Russian Air Force starting in late 2016 or early 2017. The T-50 is expected to have a service life of up to 35 years.
15. Sukhoi Su-27
The Sukhol Su-27 is a twin-engine fighter plane built by the former U.S.S.R., in an attempt to outdo similarly advanced American aircraft. The plane made its first flight in May 1977, and officially entered service with the Soviet Air Force in 1985.
Top Speed: 1,550 MPH
Hours To Get Around The World: 16.03 hours
The aircraft can reach a maximum supersonic speed of Mach 2.35 (1,550 mph, or 2,500 km/h), which is 2.35 times the speed of sound. In addition, there were several variants of the Su-27 including the Su-30 which is a two-seat, dual-role fighter for all-weather, air-to-air and air-to-surface deep interdiction missions and the Flanker-D, a naval fleet defense interceptor for use on aircraft carriers, and the Flanker-E improved air superiority and multi-role fighter
The Su-27 earned a reputation of being one of the most capable fighters of its time. To this day they remain in military use in Russia, Belarus and the Ukraine.
14. F-4 Phantom
The F-4 Phantom was the superior fighter jet during the Vietnam War. The tandem two-seat, twin-engine, all-weather, long-range supersonic jet interceptor aircraft/fighter-bomber originally developed for the United States Navy by McDonnell Aircraft.
Top Speed: 1,607 MPH
Hours To Get Around The World: 15.6 Hours
The Phantom is a large fighter with a top speed of over Mach 2.2 and can carry more than 18,000 pounds of weapons on nine external hardpoints, including air-to-air missiles, air-to-ground missiles, and various bombs. Like other interceptors of its time, the F-4 was designed without an internal cannon.
During the Vietnam War, the F-4 became important in the ground-attack andaerial reconnaissance roles. The F-4 Phantom II remained in use by the U.S. in the reconnaissance and Wild Weasel (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) roles in the 1991 Gulf War, finally leaving service in 1996. It was also the only aircraft used by both U.S. flight demonstration teams: the USAF Thunderbirds (F-4E) and the US Navy Blue Angels (F-4J).
13. F-111 Aardvark
The F-111 Aardvark was a tactical strike aircraft developed in the 1960s by General Dynamics. The two-person plane first entered service with the U.S. Air Force in 1967, and was used for strategic bombing campaigns, gathering reconnaissance and performing electronic warfare.
Top Speed: 1,650 MPH
Hours To Get Around The World: 15.06 Hours
The F-111 was able to fly at speeds of Mach 2.5 (1,650 mph, or 2,655 km/h), or 2.5 times the speed of sound. Unfortunately, it also suffered a variety of problems during initial development. Several of its intended roles, such as an aircraft carrier-based naval interceptor with the F-111B, failed to materialize.
The F-111 Aardvark was widely used during the Vietnam War, but was phased out of use by the U.S. Air Force in 1998. It was replaced in USAF service by the F-15E Strike Eagle for medium-range precision strike missions, while the supersonic bomber role has been assumed by the B-1B Lancer.
12. F-15 Eagle
The F-15 Eagle is a twin-engine tactical fighter designed by McDonnell Douglas in 1967. The all-weather plane is designed to gain and maintain air superiority over enemy forces during aerial combat, which involves holding dominant positions in the sky.
Top Speed: 1,650 MPH
Hours To Get Around The World: 15.06 Hours
The F-15 Eagle first flew in July 1972, and officially entered service in the U.S. Air Force in 1976. The F-15 is capable of flying at speeds greater than Mach 2.5 (1,650 mph, or 2,655 km/h), and considered one of the most successful planes ever created.
Among the most successful modern fighter, the F-15 Eagle has seen over 100 victories and no losses in aerial combat. Because of this, the F-15 Eagle is expected to continue flying in the U.S. Air Force beyond 2025. It has also been exported to a number of foreign nations, including Japan, Israel and Saudi Arabia.
11. Mikoyan Ye-152
The Mikoyan-Gurevich Ye-150 family was a series of prototype single-seat fighter/interceptor aircraft designed and built by the Mikoyan-Gurevich design bureau in the Soviet Union from 1955. It is the fastest single jet engine made by the Russians.
Top Speed: 1,666 MPH
Hours To Get Around The World: 15 Hours
To fulfill the needs for a heavy interceptor to carry out automatic interceptions, the MiG bureau developed a range of large fighter aircraft starting with the swept wing I-3 series. The two single engined Ye-152’s were completed with improved R-15-300 engines. Nevertheless, the jet faced reliability remained an issue, with only limited development flying, weapons system testing and world record flights carried out.
The Ye-152M was retired to the Central Air Force Museum at Monino bearing the erroneous identity Ye-166 and three red stars to signify the world records set by its sister ship, the Ye-152-1.
10. Mikoyan MiG-31 Foxhound
The Mikoyan MiG-31 Foxhound is a large, twin-engine supersonic aircraft designed to intercept foreign planes at high speeds. The two-person plane made its first flight in September 1975, and was introduced into service in the Soviet Air Defense Forces in 1982.
Top Speed: 1,860 MPH
Hours To Get Around The World: 13.36 Hours
The MiG-31 has the distinction of being one of the fastest combat jets in the world with published speeds of Mach 2.83 (1,860 mph, or 3,000 km/h), and was capable of flying supersonic even at low altitudes. It was also the world’s first aircraft with a phased array radar, and is one of only two aircraft in the world capable of independently firing long-range air-to-air missiles as of 2013.
It continues to be operated by the Russian Air Force and the Kazakhstan Air Force following the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union in late 1991. The Russian Defence Ministry expects the MiG-31 to remain in service until at least 2030.
9. XB-70 Valkyrie
The mammoth six-engine XB-70 Valkyrie was designed by North American Aviation in the late 1950s. The aircraft was built as a prototype for a proposed nuclear-armed strategic bomber.
Top Speed: 2,000 MPH
Hours To Get Around The World: 12.43 Hours
The XB-70 Valkyrie achieved its design speed on Oct. 14, 1965, when it accelerated to Mach 3.02 (2,000 mph, or 3,219 km/h), at an altitude of 70,000 feet (21,300 m) over Edwards Air Force Base in California.
Two XB-70s were built and used in supersonic test flights from 1964 to 1969. Whereas one of the prototypes was lost in 1966 after a midair collision, the other XB-70 is on display for the public to view at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.
8. Bell X-2 “Starbuster”
The Bell X-2 was a rocket-powered research plane jointly developed by Bell Aircraft Corporation, the U.S. Air Force and the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (the precursor to NASA) in 1945. The aircraft was built to investigate aerodynamic issues with supersonic flight within the Mach 2 to Mach 3 range.
Top Speed: 2,094 MPH
Hours To Get Around The World: 11.87 Hours
The X-2, nicknamed “Starbuster,” completed its first powered flight in November 1955. The following year, in September 1956, Captain Milburn Apt was at the controls when the X-2 reached Mach 3.2 (2,094 mph, or 3,370 km/h), at an altitude of 65,000 feet (19,800 m).
Shortly after attaining this top speed, however, Apt tried to turn the aircraft while it was still above Mach 3. The plane tumbled out of control, and Apt’s attempts to recover from the spin failed. This tragic accident ended the X-2 program, after a total of 20 test flights.
7. Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25 Foxbat
The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25 Foxbat was designed to intercept enemy aircraft at supersonic speeds and to collect reconnaissance data. The plane is one of the fastest military aircraft to have entered operational service. The MiG-25 made its first flight in 1964, and was first used by the Soviet Air Defense Forces in 1970.
Top Speed: 2,190 MPH
Hours To Get Around The World: 11.35 Hours
The appearance of the MiG-25 sparked serious concern in the West and prompted dramatic increases in performance for the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle then under development in the late 1960s. The plane has an incredible top speed of Mach 3.2 (2,190 mph, or 3,524 km/h). It is one of the highest-flying military aircraft, and the second fastest after the SR-71 reconnaissance aircraft.
Production of the MiG-25 series ended in 1984 after completion of 1,190 aircraft. The MiG-25 Foxbat is still in limited service in the Russian Air Force. It is also used by several other nations, including the Algerian Air Force and Syrian Air Force.
6. SR-71 Blackbird
The SR-71 Blackbird was an advanced Cold War-era reconnaissance aircraft developed by Lockheed in the 1960s. The program was known as a “black project,” which meant it was highly classified.
Top Speed: 2,500 MPH
Hours To Get Around The World: 9.9 Hours
The twin-engine, two-seater aircraft was capable of outracing potential threats during reconnaissance missions, including being able to accelerate and out-fly surface-to-air missiles if it was detected.The SR-71 Blackbird can also accelerate to Mach 3.3 (more than 2,500 mph, or 3,540 km/h) at an altitude of 80,000 feet (24,400 m).
The SR-71 made its first flight in December 1964, and was flown by the U.S. Air Force from 1964 to 1998. The Blackbird’s performance and achievements cemented the plane as one of the greatest triumphs in aviation technology during the Cold War.
The rocket-powered X-15 was part of a fleet of X-plane experimental aircraft operated jointly by NASA and the U.S. Air Force. In the early 1960s, the X-15 set a number of speed and altitude records, reaching the edge of space (an altitude of more than 62 miles or 100 kilometers) on two separate occasions in 1963.
Top Speed: 4,520 MPH
Hours To Get Around The World: 5.5 Hours
During the X-15 program, 13 flights by eight pilots met the Air Force spaceflight criterion by exceeding the altitude of 50 miles (80 km), thus qualifying these pilots as being astronauts. The Air Force pilots qualified for astronaut wings immediately, while the civilian pilots were eventually awarded NASA astronaut wings in 2005, 35 years after the last X-15 flight.
Of the 199 X-15 missions, two flights (by the same pilot) qualified as true space flights per the international definition of a spaceflight by exceeding 100 kilometers (62.1 mi) in altitude. Currently, the X-15 still holds the official world record for the fastest speed ever reached by a manned aircraft: Mach 6.72, which is 6.72 times the speed of sound, or 4,520 mph (7,274 km/h).
4. Boeing X-51
The Boeing X-51 is a pilot-less plane designed to be used as High Speed Strike Weapon (HSSW) in 2020.
Top Speed: 3,400 MPH
Hours To Get Around The World: 7.4 Hours
Ground tests of the X-51A began in late 2006. The aircraft completed its first powered hypersonic flight on 26 May 2010. After two unsuccessful test flights, the X-51 completed a flight of over six minutes and reached speeds of over Mach 5 for 210 seconds on May 1, 2013 for the longest duration hypersonic flight.
The Air Force Research Laboratory believes the successful flight will serve as research for practical applications of hypersonic flight, such as a missile, reconnaissance, transport, and air-breathing first stage for a space system.
3. X43A Scramjet
The X-43 was an unmanned experimental hypersonic aircraft with multiple planned scale variations meant to test various aspects of hypersonic flight. It was part of the X-plane series and specifically of NASA’s Hyper-X program.
Top Speed: 7,500 MPH
Hours To Get Around The World: 3.34 Hours
The first plane in the series, the X-43A, was a single-use vehicle. Three of them were built. The first was destroyed after malfunctioning in flight; the other two have successfully flown, with the scramjet operating for approximately 10 seconds, followed by a 10-minute glide and intentional crash into the ocean.
The X-43 has set several airspeed records for jet-propelled aircraft, with its fastest record at approximately Mach 9.6 (7,310 mph) (11,000 km/h). In March 2006, it was announced that the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) supersonic combustion ramjet “WaveRider” flight test vehicle had been designated as X-51A. The USAF Boeing X-51 was first flown on May 26, 2010, dropped from a B-52. So far, this signals the replacement and end of the X-43 series.
Initiated in 2003, X-41 is the designation for a still-classified U.S. military space plane.
Top Speed: 13,000 MPH
Hours To Get Around The World: 1.9 Hours
Specifications or prototype photos of the program have not been released to the public yet; as a result not much is known about its goals. It has been described as an experimental maneuvering re-entry vehicle capable of transporting a 1,000 lb payload on a sub-orbital trajectory at hypersonicspeeds and releasing that payload into the atmosphere.
Even the technology required for the X-41 is not yet known and is still undecided by the government. It is believed a new type of hypersonic travel is also being studied for the X-41 that will apparently be able to travel past Mach 7 and perhaps onto Mach 9. Right now the X-41 is a part of the FALCON (Force Application and Launch from Continental United States) program sponsored by DARPA and NASA.
1. NASA Space Shuttle
The NASA Space Shuttle is a low earth orbital spacecraft designed to explore the outer reaches of the Earth’s atmosphere.
Top Speed: 17,500 MPH
Hours To Get Around The World: 1.4 Hours
Its official program name was Space Transportation System (STS), taken from a 1969 plan for a system of reusable spacecraft of which it was the only item funded for development. The first of four orbital test flights occurred in 1981, leading to operational flights beginning in 1982. They were used on a total of 135 missions from 1981 to 2011, launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The first orbiter, Enterprise, was built for Approach and Landing Tests and had no orbital capability. Four fully operational orbiters were initially built: Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, and Atlantis. Both the Challenger and the Columbia were lost in mission accidents with a total of fourteen astronauts killed. A fifth operational orbiter, Endeavour, was built in 1991 to replace Challenger. The Space Shuttle was retired from service upon the conclusion of Atlantis‘s final flight on July 21, 2011.