Here are five selections for the best fighter jets in the United States. It may be questioned whether these are necessarily the most appropriate aircraft in terms of technical performance. On the other hand, what is better and what is great are often not the same.
But for some reason, these fighters achieved fame.
In the fall of 1943, the Yankee bomber offensive against Nazi Germany was in trouble.
The American commanders hoped that the massive formations of B-17 and B-24 bombers, each with ten machine guns, made their way through the Nazi air defenses without escorting fighters.
But someone forgot to explain that theory to the Luftwaffe, which hit the bombers with everything they had, including heavy cannons, air-to-air rockets and probably the kitchen sink if they could have hit a cannon or rockets.
The American bombers suffered devastating losses; Only in the attack on Schweinfurt in October 1943, 20% of the bombers were lost. At that rate, there would be no bomber left for the bomber offensive.
The obvious solution was to provide combat escorts. However, the main American fighter in Europe, the P-47 Thunderbolt, lacked the scope necessary to escort the bombers beyond Germany’s western border.
The P-38 Lightning had range, but proved to be unsuitable for high altitude combat in northwestern Europe.
The bureaucratic policy delayed the use of the launch tanks, but even then, the Germans were able to attack the Thunderbolts and force them to drop their tanks ahead of time.
Enter the P-51 Mustang, the unlikely descendant of a cursed American plane with mediocre performance until it is not equipped with a British Merlin engine. The new Mustang was fast, maneuverable, had reasonable firepower and, most importantly, its 1,500 mile range meant that it could escort the bombers to Eastern Europe.
Unlike the heavy and robust Thunderbolt, the P-51 was lighter and more fragile, with a liquid-cooled engine vulnerable to damage.
But the Mustang put the Luftwaffe in the spotlight of a dilemma; German interceptors needed heavy cannons and armor plates to take down heavy bombers, but that in turn made them easy prey for the agile Mustangs.
Without the Mustang, the American bomber campaign could have withered, thus extending the war.
The “whistling death,” as the Japanese called it, was a formidable plane. Immortalized in the television series “Baa Baa Baa Black Sheep”, the F-4U was a relatively large fighter with a distinctive profile marked by seagull wings and a large and powerful engine.
It was designed as a Navy fighter, but it was so fast that it could not land on the aircraft carriers of the United States Navy (at least until the Royal Navy showed them how to do it). So the Corsair became famous for being a landfighter of the Marine Corps in the Pacific.
Fast and maneuverable, and especially formidable in vertical combat maneuvers, the Corsair quickly demonstrated that it could dominate the Japanese fighters. His post-1945 registration is no less distinguished; served as a fighter in Korea, while the French used them in Dien Bien Phu.
A favorite topic of air combat enthusiasts is whether the Corsair was better than the Mustang or Thunder.
With a range of nearly a thousand miles, the Corsair did not have legs as long as the Mustang, but still could have escorted many bomber missions. How it would have worked against Messerschmitts and Focke-Wulfs is left to the conjecture of the story.
How would the Korean War have turned out if the United Nations had lost control of the air? It is hardly worth thinking about.
The UN ground troops had enough problems to face the armies of North Korea and China, even with massive air support.
Without the control of the heavens by the UN, South Korea could have been conquered, and today Korea could be unified in a single nation where both Northerners and Southerners eat grass to survive.
However, for a time, it seemed that the communists could achieve air superiority. The advent of the Soviet MiG-15 was a blow to UN pilots flying early model airplanes such as the F-84, or World War II aircraft propelled by propellers such as the P-51 Mustang.
The powerful super-strengths B-29, even with a strong fighter escort, suffered so many losses over North Korea that they had to go to night bombings to survive.
Fortunately, the United States had the F-86 Saber. When Saber met MiG-15, the world knew that the Jet Age of air combat had arrived. It was a fascinating duel between two planes of different but formidable capacities.
The lighter MiG could outperform the Saber, had a higher acceleration and a roof that allowed it to dive over the American fighter and packed a heavier gun based on cannons.
But Saber could dive faster, was more stable during combat maneuvers and had a radar target.
What really added flavor to the duel were the men in the cabins. Although American pilots tended to be better trained than their Cold War opponents, that was not always the case in Korea.
North Korea and the Chinese “volunteer” pilots they could handle, but the Soviets sent their best aces from World War II undercover to Korea, which turned out to be a dangerous adversary.
American pilots were also hampered by the combat rules that prevented them from taking the battle to the communist MiG bases through the Yalu in China.
Meanwhile, the United States reserved most of its air power to protect itself from a Soviet invasion of Western Europe, leaving no more than a few F-86 squads for Korea.
But the Saber worked well. Both sides claimed a huge number of demolished enemies; The United States claimed a 10: 1 ratio in favor of the F-86, although recent research suggests that the true number was less than 2: 1.
However, a small number of Sabers managed to maintain control of the heavens, and possibly prevented the Korean War from becoming World War III.
Yes, it was aerodynamically ugly, proof that even a brick could fly if you took two engines out of a big fighter. But it is from those bricks that are built legends.
The F-4 did not have a promising start. It began as a wrong attempt by the Pentagon to turn a Navy interceptor into a common fighter for all services.
The Pentagon has not yet learned its lesson; Today’s F-35 began as a Marine Corps fighter that became a multi-service and multinational fighter.
It was also designed with a wrong philosophy. Just as the F-22 and F-35 were designed on the premise that stealth was everything, the Phantom was designed with the expectation that the air combat of the 60s would be a long-range missile duel in the that the adversaries would never see each other.
So why would a fighter need an air-to-air cannon and a dog fight? Unfortunately, the restrictive rules of combat, as well as the technical limitations of the first missiles such as the radar-guided sparrow, caused the Phantom to have to face knife fighting at close range with smaller and lighter MiGs, which were specifically designed to Dog fights
The F-4 should have been a disaster, but the amazing thing about Phantom is that it worked. Although it was not the best fighter in terms of pure performance, it was powerful, robust and versatile.
He served in conflicts around the world, from Hanoi and the Suez Canal to Iran and Turkey, such as hunting, attack aircraft and reconnaissance ships.
For the West and its allies, the Phantom was the main fighter during much of the Cold War.
Blessed with two powerful engines that gave it a very high thrust-to-weight ratio, the F-15 could accelerate on a vertical climb.
It had a radar and missiles capable of long-range air combat, but unlike the Phantom, its low wing load made it highly maneuverable.
And what about the new US fighters, the stealth F-22 and F-35? The combat history of the F-22 is limited to a recent and brief attack mission on Syria, while some would argue that if the F-35 joins the list of the best American fighters, miracles must exist.
But the truth is that we will not know if the last generation of American fighters is destined for greatness until they have been tested in combat.