You’d think that after four decades after the SR-71 was unveiled, there would be other declassified military jets / aircraft that can safely exceed Mach 4+ with pilots, but that has not been the case. Continue reading to see five of the fastest declassified military jets ever.
5. F-111 Aardvark (Mach 2.5)
The General Dynamics F-111 “Aardvark” was a medium-range interdictor and tactical strike aircraft that also filled the roles of strategic bomber, reconnaissance, and electronic warfare in its various versions. The F-111 pioneered several technologies for production aircraft, including variable-sweep wings, afterburning turbofan engines, and automated terrain-following radar for low-level, high-speed flight. Also, the USAF wanted the aircraft designed for 7.33 g with Mach 2.5 speed at altitude and Mach 1.2 speed at low level with an approximate length of 70 ft (21.3 m).
4. F-15 Eagle (Mach 2.7)
The McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) F-15 Eagle is a twin-engine, all-weather tactical fighter designed by McDonnell Douglas to gain and maintain air superiority in aerial combat. Typical designs featured variable-sweep wings, weighed over 60,000 lb (27,200 kg), included a top speed of Mach 2.7 and a thrust-to-weight ratio of 0.75. The designs were not accepted by the Air Force as they compromised fighter qualities for ground attack qualities. It is considered among the most successful modern fighters, with over 100 aerial combat victories with no losses in dogfights.
3. MiG-31 Foxhound (Mach 2.83+)
The Mikoyan MiG-31 (NATO reporting name: Foxhound) is a supersonic interceptor aircraft developed to replace the MiG-25 “Foxbat”. The MiG-25’s speed was limited to Mach 2.83 in operations, but it could reach a maximum speed of Mach 3.2 with the risk of damaging the engines beyond repair. The most important development was introducing an advanced radar capable of both look-up and look-down engagement (locating targets above and below the aircraft), as well as multiple target tracking.
2. MiG-25R Foxbat-B (Mach 2.83+)
The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25 (NATO reporting name: Foxbat) is a supersonic interceptor and reconnaissance aircraft that was among the fastest military aircraft to enter service. The idea of placing the engines in underwing nacelles was also rejected because of the dangers of any thrust asymmetry during flight. Having decided on engine configuration, there was thought of giving the machine variable-sweep wings and a second crew member, a navigator. It has a top speed of Mach 2.83+ (as high as Mach 3.2, but at risk of significant damage to the engines), and features a powerful radar and four air-to-air missiles.
1. SR-71 (Mach 3.2+)
The Lockheed SR-71 “Blackbird” was an advanced, long-range, Mach 3+ strategic reconnaissance aircraft. It was developed as a black project from the Lockheed A-12 reconnaissance aircraft in the 1960s by the Lockheed Skunk Works. Clarence “Kelly” Johnson was responsible for many of the design’s innovative concepts. The SR-71 was designed for Mach 3+ flight with a flight crew of two in tandem cockpits, with the pilot in the forward cockpit and the Reconnaissance Systems Officer (RSO) monitoring the surveillance systems and equipment from the behind cockpit.