posted on Jul, 11 2005 @ 03:20 PM
So, yet again, following my earlier 'Greatest Tank - Ever?' thread, Brit Tv have just finshed a 'Greatest Fighter Aircraft - Ever?' programme.
No. 10 (not surprisingly) was the F-117A Nighthawk. 'Not really a fighter, but a bomber' was how one Yank pilot - a vet of Iraq and Bosnia/Kosovo,
described it. In his view - a fighter must be able to 'mix it' with other aircraft to be called a fighter. He also said that it could only be
'really' stealthy in fine weather really? I thought I'd been saying that for months.
No.9 is the DR I Fokker Triplane. Fasted climbing and so manoeuverable. High ceilling (10,000 feet in 3 minutes) and 115 mph coupled with twin
machineguns that fired 'through' the propellor made it an awesome fighter but aerodynamically unsound. It helped Manfred von Richthoven to 80
kills and his Jagdstaffel were the knights of the air - well, until Albert Ball came along - or was it Snoopy?
No.8 was the Mitsubishi Zero. Allegedly out flew and out fought any allied aircraft until later in the war. 4,500 feet per minute in a near vertical
Yanks captured one in Alaska in 1942 and find it could not stand any speed over 350 mph in a straight power dive. Another drawback was lack of pilot
protection - one of the reasons it became a flying bomb for kamikaze.
No.7 the Harrier GR3. VSTOL says it all. Only lack of size, ordnance prevents it from becoming one of the truely great a/c. However, in air to air
combat in the Falklands War, it shot down 33 Argentinian aircraft without loss. Main big drawback - lots of heat for infra red missiles.
No. 6 is the F-86 Sabre. The 'Top Gun' of first generation jet combat aircraft.
It out flew the 'state of the art' MiG 15s MiG17s and could hold it's own against the newer MiG 21s. It's suggested that Chuck Yeager was beaten
to breaking the sound barrier by a Sabre in a nose down dive. 6 nose guns and 8 rockets made this sleek a/c the best - until it was withdrawn in the
No. 5 the Messerschmidt Bf 109. Good gun platform, good turning and climbing rate. Oscar Boesch - a triple ace - said of them, you could fire from 300
yards away and guarente a kill, especially if on an enemy's tail. Most produced German fighter in WWII and with it's innovative cannon firing
through the engine, the only drawback was take off and landing and of course of the 30,000 produced, most were lost in those types of
No 4 is the F-18 Super Hornet. Top speed 1200 mph or under Mach 2. Bombs, 20 mm gatlin gun and only 2 lost to enemy fire in Iraq. A Yank 'Top Gun'
said the only problem with the Hornet is the new $100,000 helmet which allows us to 'shoot down what we look at' and at times, the heads up displays
on the dark vizor, gives the pilot 'helmet fires' - i.e, it multi-tasks when you're trying to drop bombs or fight enemy a/c, when it goes into
alarm mode and 'wont quit until you've dealt with what it's screaming at you!' That is why the Hornet comes in at No.4 - I would have put it
No 3 was the MiG 21. WHAT? A rocket with wings! Most ever produced fighter jet in the world. 1400 mph, resiliant, could even fly with ice on
it's wings. Not a dog-fighter, if rolled too quickly it would 'spin and stall' and unless you were really good, you crashed! In one Rumanian
pilot's view, 'the wings were too small, not big enough for external weapons, did not carry enough ammunition for the cannons and did not have the
endurance'. But it could do what it was designed to do - take on enemy bombers head on and knock them out of the sky!
No 2 is the Supermarine Spitfire. This a/c above all others, is the 'daddy' of air to air combat. Sleek, sturdy, 8 x .50 Brownings or 8 x .30
Brownings or even 6 x .50 Brownings and 2 x 20mm cannon, the 'Spit' created air superiority when the much vaunted Luftwaffe controlled the skies
over Europe. It carved a path through the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain and, at the height of the battle when Goering asked Adolf Galland
what he wanted, Galland famously replied, quote, Give me a Wing of Spitfires!unquote The only drawback to this aircraft, was it's lack
of range. It could not escort Brit bombers to Germany and back which is why, in the view of the fighter pilots of
The 'Greatest Fighter Aircraft - Ever?' was the North American P-51 Mustang! A top speed of 440 mph - 50 mph over the Me 109G, it produced
over 250 US 'aces', could out fly, out climb, out maneouver, out fight any enemy aircraft in the sky. The Me109G and Focke-Wolf 190s were no match
for it and again, a famous quote from Goeing 'I knew we had lost the war, when I saw Mustangs escorting B-17s over Berlin!' I think that says
When it first saw action, it was powered by the Alison engine, but once they were fitted with the RollsRoyce Merlins, then nothing could touch it. It
ruled the sky over Germany and even the Me 262 Bs were no match for them in a straight fight.
The Israelis used them to knock down telegraph poles with their wings[!]during the Six Day War of 1967, so robustly were they built. Amazing!
However, as a Brit whose mother lived through the Blitz, there can only be one aircraft that I hold dear and sorry guys - it's the Spit.
Whenever I hear the low menacing growl of a Merlin in the sky, I think 'Spit!' and look for it. It's a 'Bluejob' thing.