What is the fastest plane? A question we often hear. Here’s the Answer
The topic “Which is the Fastest Aircraft in the World” is not that simple. A nice overview of the 10 fastest planes in the world can be found on MiGFlug’s blog, that makes for a nice overview. Some count the fastest vehicle, the Apollo module as record holder. The command module had Top Speeds around Mach 30, that is around 36,750 km/h or over 22,830 mph. But the Apollo can’t be counted as Aircraft. Also, the Space Shuttle reached around 17,500 mph or 28,000 km/h during atmospheric reentry. But we do not count those spacecraft as planes. If the Spaceplanes would be included in the competition, they would unsurprisingly win with high margin.
Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird: Fastest air-breathing, manned plane
Another distinction is between air-breathing planes and Rocket planes. Rocket planes are incapable of breathing air, so they are in another category. The fastest air-breathing plane is the fascinating Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird. The SR-71 is a Mach 3.3 strategic US reconnaissance aircraft, in service from 1966 to 1998. Only 32 SR-71 have been built. The SR-71 reached the Top Speed of over 3530 km/h (>2200 mph and >1900 kts). It was developed by the legendary Skunk Works.
The Russian interceptor MiG-25 Foxbat reached Mach 3.2, but at that speed the engine has been damaged. So actually it could fly “only” at Mach 2.83. The MiG-25 was constructed to intercept supersonic bombers like the Convair B-58 (Top Speed 2300 km/h) and the Lockheed A-12, the precursor of the famous record-holding SR-71.
By the way – here is quite a funny story of an SR-71 Blackbird pilot trolling a bragging F/A-18 pilot.
Fastest Fighter Jet – MiG-25 Foxbat
The Sovjet Mikoyan MiG-25 Foxbat is the fastest Fighter Jet ever built. 1190 MiG-25 have been built and it is still active with the Russian Air Force. The MiG-25 holds a series of records, for example the altitude record with 37,650km or 23.4 miles altitude. Also, it reached 25km in 2 minutes and 34 seconds. These values have been achieved with Parabola flights which are also used for Zero Gravity, not with parallel flights. That means the MiG-25 is rather shooting up like a bullet and comes down again, it is not able to stay at this record altitude.
The Two-Seater on that picture was available for Tourist Edge of Space Flight experiences on Zhukovsky Airbase near Moscow until 2006. During tourist flights, the MiG-25 reached up to 25 km. Today the fastest jet available for tourist flights is the MiG-29 Fulcrum. At the same time, it is the last possibility for Civilians for a supersonic flight.
Fastest Rocket plane: North American X-15
The fastest manned plane flight was by Pete Knight in 1967. He achieved a Maximum Speed of 7,274 km/h or 4,510 mph in the experimental aircraft X-15. The North American X-15 also reached the Kármán line, also known as Edge of outer Space. The Kármán line lies at 100 km or 62 mi. Unmanned rocket planes are even faster: The hypersonic NASA X-43 achieved 12,144 km/h or 7,546 mph in 2004, using a “scramjet”, which means supersonic-combustion ramjet. Both rocket planes, the X-15 and the unmanned X-43 need a carrier plane to start. The X-43 has now been replaced by the Boeing X-51, also an unmanned Scramjet, a joint “Waverider” program by US Air Force, NASA, DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), Boeing and Pratt & Whitney.
Fastest Plane SR-71 – Video
Here you can see a short video of the fastest plane, the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird.
Additional Articles and Ressources
- Fly with the Blue Angels
- What happened to Thunder City?
- Fighter Jet Rides
- Edge of Space Flights
- MiG-29 Supersonic Flight in Russia