Fighter/Attack Aircraft

Fighter and Attack aircraft represent some of the most exciting machines in the sphere of military power because of their design, speed, and weaponry. The sheer diversity of this category of aircraft, their evolution through military history, and the modern race to produce the most advanced and lethal fighter and attack aircraft yield a great deal of information and generates more interest than any other category of military aircraft.


In the early 1900s, as the airplane emerged as a vital reconaissance tool during WWI, the need to protect the skies over the battlefield was realized. The fighter aircraft emerged in 1914 as a countermeasure to aerial reconaissance, and evolved quickly as new technologies were developed to compliment the fighter aircraft's mission.

It wasn't until WWII that the fighter aircraft began reaching a level of refinement recognized in today's fighter and attack aircraft - indeed beneficiaries of these developments. Integrated systems instead of disparate technologies cobbled together became the norm. Improved aerodynamics, the monoplane design, engine performance, weapons accuracy and destructive force, and survivability became design factors that worked in tandem to determine an aircraft's effectiveness.

As WWII progressed, the fighter aircraft's role varied. The roles of defending the skies from attacking strategic bombers and bomber escort into enemy territory both yielded numerous epic air-to-air confrontations. The role of ground attack of strategic targets and enemy infantry became prominent as well. And naval fleet attack and defense by carrier-borne aircraft proved how a country's military might could be projected globally.

During the Korean conflict and some of the other regional conflicts that occurred prior to it, jet propulsion on military aircraft began to take shape. As the Vietnam conflict progressed into its waning years, America's emphasis on technological advances, pilot training, and improved armament designed to engage multiple enemies simultaneously catapulted the world into what is perceived as the modern age of the fighter aircraft.


In both cases, fighter and attack aircraft are typically one- or two-seated, relatively small compared to its bomber and transport counterparts, and represent a higher thrust to weight ratio making them the fastest category of military aircraft.

The role of fighter aircraft can be generalized as that of air superiority. Nutralizing other enemy fighter aircraft, or in the interceptor role to target enemy bombers and being complimented with the increased firepower to destroy these larger targets.

Attack aircraft are equipped to strike ground or naval targets. This might include providing close-air support for friendly troops via the destruction of heavily armored or dug-in enemy forces, elimination of enemy anti-air batteries and radar nutralization, or strategic percision destruction of high-value enemy targets.

Aircraft are armed and equipped specifically for their roles, and generally have at least rudimentary methods of defending themselves.

Modern Advancements

Presently, this category of aircraft is dominated by manufactures in America, Russia, and joint ventures coming out of Europe. However, developments from Israel, India and China continue to emerge out of the desire for an autonomous military aircraft production industry.

Additionally, as the emphasis appears to be moving away from air superiority and more toward flexibility of the platform to both protect the skies and eliminate targests on the ground, the multi-role fighter aircraft is being given the most significant attention at this time.