How fast is the fastest plane in the world? Of course we aren’t talking about our conventional passenger flights that have so much to take into consideration that translates as more than a few limits on its speed factor. Any deliberation of how fast the fastest aircraft can be naturally would encompass fighter jets or strategic aircraft that are built for high speed functioning. Any machine over a Mach 2 flying speed can qualify though there are some that go well beyond what we would be looking for. It indeed is a testament to how far aircraft technology have developed over time that some of the fastest flying planes in the world regularly clock Mach 3, 5 or even 9 speeds! Here’s a round up of the 13 fastest flying planes in the world that would definitely rattle even your high soaring spirit in 2020-
North American X-15
Introduced in 1959 to retire almost a decade later in 1968, the North American X-15 was a hypersonic rocket-powered aircraft which still holds the distinction of being the fastest plane ever in the world. A year before it made its final journey, the X-15 was flown at an astounding speed of 4520 miles per hour by William J. Knight of the U.S. Air Force which till date stands as a world record.
Also the first manned hypersonic aircraft ever and the world’s first operational spaceplane, three flights of the X-15 were recorded at impossible heights of a 100 kilometers. Naturally with such unconventional reachings, the operation of the X15 could not be propelled by jet engines and therefore used rocket thrusters for the purpose.
Lockheed SR 71 Blackbird
In the most appropriate connotation of the phrase, the fastest plane in the world would still be the Lockheed SR 71 Blackbird at a top speed of 2193 mph even with the X15 by side. Because as the the fastest air-breathing manned aircraft to ever to see operational service, the Blackbird stands unbeaten in its more than four decades long feat.
The current record dates back to 1976 when this strategic reconnaissance aircraft of the United States Air Force clocked its swiftest flight ever at an altitude of 25,929 meters under the impeccable command of then Captain Robert Helt. Notably, this was also the flight that shattered the then standing world record, also held by a Lockheed machine, with its “absolute altitude record” for an aircraft in sustained flight. Even when it was retired at the close of the Cold War in the 1990s, only to be brought in use again sporadically, due to tremendous operating costs, the SR 71 Blackbird stands undefeated and unconquered in its high flying feat.
Interestingly, the Blackbird was so named because of its almost black, dark- blue color that rendered it to effectively camouflage it against the night sky. That, combined with its super high agility that allowed it to just accelerate and outfly enemy aircraft, explains why none of the Blackbirds have ever been lost to enemy action even when it was operated at a really sensitive time in world military and strategic affairs.
The fastest plane in the world till it was outflown of by another of its breed, the Lockheed YF-12 boasted of speed and altitude world records of over 2,000 miles per hour at altitude of 80,000 feet even in its testing flights on May of 1965. Still the biggest, heaviest and fastest interceptor plane in the world to date, the YF-12 held on to its record till the SR 71 Blackbird intercepted it over a decade later in 1976. Though the super ambitious project was cancelled, the Lockheed YF-12 continued to be used by NASA as a research aircraft, thereby significantly contributing to the emergence of the SR 71 Blackbird.
Boeing X-51 Waverider
Call us unfair but there’s no way we would be skipping a mention of the Boeing X-51 Waverider on our list even when it is a hypersonic flight. Which means that a speed of Mach 5 is only as normal for this aircraft developed by Boeing with the United States in tow. Obviously one of the top fastest flying plane in the world and a more modern encompassment in consideration, the X-51 exerted its extreme speed on a flight completed on 1 May 2013. A staggering speed of 3836 miles per hour, this Waverider sure is no measly machine!
Furthering the pursuit of speed by several notches higher is the NASA X-43 which we could definitely not have overseen specially after already granting the Boeing X-51 Waverider a mention. An experimental uncrewed hypersonic aircraft, the NASA X-43 flies at a speed of- hold your breath- a mind boggling speed of Mach 9.6. Hands down the fastest aircraft on record with 7366 miles per hour clocking of speed at about 110,000 feet, the X-43A shattered all standing records on November 16, 2004. And that wasn’t even all about it. Also in development was another upgraded version named the X-43D which would have exhibited an even tremendous Mach 15 speed! However, with the D version only studied and not yet functional, we stick to the X-43 as the fastest flying plane in the world ever.
The Soviet Union’s intended answer to the American SR 71 Blackbird was the Mikoyan MiG-25 which made it essential therefore to be a jet characterised by its speed. And indeed with a clocking of 2170 miles per hour, the MiG-25 did come close to its rival with a maximum Mach 3.2 capacity. Among the fastest military aircraft to enter service when it was introduced into action in 1970, the MiG-25 was in fact also a symbol of the Cold War. It remains one of the highest-flying military aircraft, one of the fastest serially produced interceptor aircraft, and also the second-fastest serially produced aircraft after the SR-71 reconnaissance aircraft.
The MiG-25 also has been one of the fastest manned serially produced aircraft in operational use and the fastest plane that was offered for supersonic flights and edge-of-space flights to civilian customers. Codenamed the Foxbat when it was first brought into service, the MiG-25 combined high speed with high altitude tolerance and a heavy weapons load to be one of the world’s deadliest fighters. In limited service even now even when the last production dates back to 1984 and some of the 25s having been upgraded into MiG-31s, the MiG truly had been a force to reckon in speed as well as in maneuverability.
In the Mach 2-3 range, the Bell X-2, nicknamed the Starbuster was developed as an an X-plane research aircraft by the United States that however had a very limited life span of just about a couple of years. Nevertheless however, with a top notch speed of 2,094 mph attained on a flight under USAF Captain Milburn G. Apt on September 27, 1956, the X-plane model still became one of the fastest planes around at that time. Apt also made his way to the record books as he became the first man to exceed Mach 3 on flight, with a precise reaching of Mach 3.196. However, in exceeding the maximum speed limit achievable on the aircraft, both Apt and the Bell X-2 was lost forever on that very flight.
Mikoyan MiG-31 BSM
The MiG-31 or the Foxhound was intended as a replacement of the preceeding Foxbat model by the Soviet Air Forces during the Cold War and in fact shares design elements with the latter. With the distinction of being one of the fastest combat jets ever, it’s easy to see why the MiG-31 made it to our list of fastest plane in the world. A home-defense interceptor that was neither exported nor used in combat, the MiG-30 continues to be in operation with the Russian and Kazaksthan air forces till the present day and is expected to remain in action for at least another decade.
Featuring a then sparse “look down, shoot down” capability to detect and target low-flying aircraft, the 2.83 Mach capacity fighter has been in operation since 1981. The MiG-31 also additionally set the record for the most height reached in the least time while being capable throughout of getting to altitude in record time and stay there for extended periods. With a speed of 1,900 mph at 70,538 ft and an equally functional, adaptable low altitude speed of 930 mph equivalent to Mach 1.21, the Mig-31 is not only Russia’s super fast interceptor, it also is almost a space- plane.
McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle
Fastest fast reputation apart, the in service status of the F-15 Eagle even now does well to it being widely claimed as one of the most successful aircraft ever built. The U.S. Air Force’s primary fighter jet aircraft and intercept platform for decades, the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle is a Mach 2.5 capacity machine that is intended to be in the air force until 2025. With over 100 confirmed aerial combat victories and no losses, this 1,650 miles per hour high-speed all- weather, integrated fighter aircraft is definitely the ace performer in air-to-air combat.
Another Russian machine in the list of the fastest flying plane in the world, the Sukhoi Su-27, known also as the Flanker, is a supermaneuverable fighter aircraft that boasts of top notch speeds equalling a Mach 2.35. Introduced in 1985, the Su-27 was likely the Soviet’s counterattack in response to the American fighter F-15 Eagle and remains in service till today owing to its superior technological assertion. This high flying Soviet aircraft exhibited speeds of 1804 miles per hour and was once even available for passenger fun flights with MiGFlug!
At a top speed of Mach 2.2 translating to 1688 miles per hour, China’s fastest combat aircraft Chengdu J-10 also is one among the fastest plane in the world. Nicknamed by the NATO as the Firebird, the multirole, all- weather fighter jet has been in service since 2006 as an aircraft though it was conceived initially as a specialized fighter.
Capable of attaining speeds amounting to Mach 2.45 equivalent to 1,883 miles per hour, the Mikoyan Ye-152 was another fast flier developed during the Cold War period by the Soviet forces. Iterated into subsequent versions like the Ye-152A, P and Ms, the Ye-152 family however remained prototypes all along, falling short of translating their speed potential in real life combat.
Convair F-106 Delta Dart
The maximum speed of the then intended ‘Ultimate Interceptor’ of the United States, christened the Convair F-106 was gauged at Mach 2.3 making it one of the high speed aircraft in the world. The primary all-weather interceptor aircraft of the United States Air Force from the 1960s through to the 1980s, the Delta Dart proved to be the last dedicated interceptor in the U.S. Introduced in 1959 and retiring altogether in 1998, this rare breed of first-generation fighter jets proved also to be the last fighter jet to prioritize speed over visibility in air-to-air combat with its speed of 1764 miles per hour.