The history of Fighter aircraft has always interested people. Over the many years since the inception of utilizing aircrafts for military purposes, there have been an innumerable amount of fighter aircrafts created, designed, built, used, and upgraded. A fighter aircraft is a military aircraft designed primarily for air to air combat against other aircraft, as opposed to bombers and attack aircraft, whose target is on the ground.
A fighter is created to establish air superiority over a battlefield. This type of military strategy began in World War I. To achieve this superiority, it comes down to the skill of its pilots, the tactical soundness for deploying the fighters, and the numbers and performance of those fighters. This also requires that the aircraft itself is developed to the most capable and modern technology available, as well as greater numbers.
There have been several types of fighter aircraft that have been developed over the years since World War I. The history of fighter aircraft is intriguing and shows the evolution of technology.
World War I through World War II
Originally, the term ‘fighter’ was used to describe a two seater aircraft with sufficient lift to carry a machine gun and its operator as well as the pilot. Then, the piston engine fighters evolved into single seater, and were generally biplanes, which allowed for accurate lateral control which is essential for dog fighting. These planes were armed with one or two Maxim or Vickers machine guns.
Little development occurred between the wars, except in France and Russia. However, during World War II, there was fighter combat on a larger scale. The design of fighter planes during this time varied greatly, from Japan and Italy, who favored lightly armed and armored plane that were highly maneuverable, to the United Kingdom, Germany, the Soviet Union, and the United States, who favored speed and firepower.
The mid-1940s to Today – Jet Powered Fighters
Since World War II, there have been great leaps and bounds of progress in the world of fighter aircraft. In history Fighter aircrafts have been placed in what is called ‘generations’ for historical purposes. Although not exact, these are the general acceptances:
- First generation (mid-1940s to mid-1950s) – The fighter aircraft history starts with the first generation of jet fighters comprised the initial, subsonic jet fighter designs introduced in late World War II.
- Second generation (mid-1950s to early 1960s) – This was a time of technological breakthroughs based on lessons learned from the aerial battles of the Korean War, and a focus on conducting operation in a nuclear warfare environment.
- Third generation (early 1960s to 1970s) – The innovation to mark during this time is the renewed emphases on maneuverability and traditional ground-attack capabilities. With increasing combat experience with guided missiles demonstrated that combat would devolve into close-in dogfights.
- Fourth generation (1970s to mid-1990s) – This generation continued the trend towards multirole configurations, and was equipped with increasingly sophisticated avionics and weapons systems.
- 4.5 generation (1990s to 2005) – With a decrease in military spending during this time, the research and development of fifth generation fighters was slowed greatly. This time period is known for the advancement of computers, avionics, and other flight electronics.
- Fifth generation (2005 to present) – This era was ushered in by the Lockheed Martin/Boeing F-22 Raptor, which was the cutting edge of fighter design. The stamp of a fifth generation fighter is to be able to operate in a network-centric combat environment, and to feature extremely low, all-aspect, multi-spectral signatures employing advanced materials and shaping techniques. This is world’s absolutely the best fighter aircraft generation …