US Army/Airforce Fighters 1937-2004

Seversky P-35 Lancer Radial engined US Fighter entered service in 1936. Replaced by P-39 Airacobra but remained in second line service until 1943.

Curtiss P-36 Hawk. Standard USAF fighter in 1939/40 being replaced by P-40 in 1941 remained in second line service until 1943 and was also exported to Far Eastern and South American countries.

Curtiss XP-37 Experimental inline engined version of P-36. Developed into P-40

Lockheed P-38 Lightning Twin-engined heavy fighter used for long range and high-altitude operations. Equipped many USAF fighter groups until replaced by P-49. Effective aircraft troubled by unreliable engines.

Bell P-39 Airacobra. Mid-engined single-seat, single engined fighter used extensively by USAF and Russia. Unsupercharged engine impeded performance at medium and high altitude.

Curtiss P-40 Warhawk Definitive inline engined version of P-36. Extensive service in USAF until replaced by P-39, P-38 and P-47. Supplied to Russia but was unpopular and Russians requested P-39s in its place. Also supplied to India, Canada, South Africa and Australia.

Seversky XP-41 Hussar P-35 equipped with supecharged R-1830 engine. Abandoned in favor of P-43.

Curtiss XP-42. Version of P-36 fitted with streamlined cowling and supercharged R-1830 engine. Abandoned in favor of P-43

Republic P-43 Dragoon Developed version of the P-41 with turbocharged R-1830 engine.

Republic P-44 Rocket Further upgrade of P-43. Also used primarily as trainer in the USA.

Bell P-45 Kobrushka P-39 Airacobra fitted with the turbocharged Allison engine originally installed in the XP-39. Greatly improved performance over P-39 variants made this preferred mount of Russian and American fighter units in 1943-44 period. Considered at least equal to Me-109F and G models. Later version with Russian 20mm cannon replacing the 37mm cannon

Curtiss XP-46 Kitehawk Intended as replacement for the P-40 series, this aircraft turned out to be a failure, slow and unmaneuverable leading to prototype being nicknamed the Shitehawk. Abandoned in favor of P-45.

Republic P-47 Thunderbolt Much-developed version of P-44 with R-2800 engine. Became primary fighter of US Air Force from 1943 onwards. Excelled at ground attack and fighter sweeps although inferior to P-45 as a dogfighter. Remained in service until replaced by P-72 from 1946 onwards.

Douglas XP-48 Lightweight fighter abandoned due to failure to meet design requirements

Lockheed P-49 Lightning Originally a developed version of P-38, the XP-49 was redesigned with its 1,325hp Allison inline engines replaced by 2,250hp R-2800 turbocharged radials. Started to replace P-38s in mid-1944, remained in service until 1948.

Grumman XP-50 Skyrocket. Twin engined fighter, abandoned in favor of P-49

North American XP-51 Mustang Version of P-40 with laminar flow wings and mid-belly scoop. Designed to British requirements but abandoned following Halifax-Butler Coup. Later revived and built for USAF as A-36 Apache divebomber and tactical reconnaissance aircraft. Unpopular due to vulnerability of liquid cooled engine to ground fire and replaced by P-47 in these roles. Later formed basis of XF-82 Twin Mustang

Bell XP-52 Experimental heavy fighter with two 20mm and six .5 guns in nose, powered by pusher engine. Never flown in this form but airframe later produced in small quantities and used as testbed for jet engines.

Curtiss XP-53 Further development of P-40 with laminar flow wings. Abandoned in favor of P-60.

Vultee XP-54 Goose. Experimental heavy fighter abandoned in favor of P-49

Curtiss XP-55 Ascender Interceptor using canard configuration and pusher engine. Abandoned in favor of P-49

Northrop XP-56 Bullet. Flying wing fighter with abbreviated fuselage and pusher engine. Viciously bad flying characteristics caused project to be abandoned after first flight. Bill Donovan of the OSS famously remarked that the best contribution this aircraft could make to the war effort would be if the Germans stole the design and copied it.

Tucker XP-57 A proposal for a lightweight fighter,issued at a time when the trend was toward fighters of increasing weight and complexity. However, by February of 1941, before even any construction drawings had been completed, the Tucker company had gotten themselves into some severe financial difficulties, and the XP-57 project stalled. Since the trend was toward fighters of increasing weight and complexity, the XP-57 contract was allowed to lapse, and no prototype was ever completed.

Lockheed P-58 Chain Lightning. Further development of the P-49 powered by two 2,500hp R-3350 turbocharged radials. Entered service in 1947 but production was cut short by the end of the War. The survivors served until the early 1950s.

Bell P-59 Airacomet. The first US jet fighter, a twin-engined single seater. Despite performance being inadequate for front line use, the P-59 was built in significant numbers and supplied to the USAF and Russian Air Force as trainers.

Curtiss XP-60. Radial-engined version of XP-53. Prototype showed no performance advantages over existing aircraft and was abandoned

Northrop P-61 Black Widow A heavy nightfighter, replaced by the P-65. Used with great success as a night intruder and light bomber.

Curtiss XP-62 Experimental fighter based around R-3350 engine. Performance proved grossly inadequate and aircraft scrapped.

Bell P-63 Kingcobra. The ultimate development of the P-39/P-45 family, the P-63 was a new design that combined a turbosupercharged Allison rated at 1,860 horsepower with a laminar flow wings and a new Russian-designed high-velocity, high rate of fire 37mm cannon. The result was an interceptor that could fight the best German piston-engined fighters on equal terms. The first P-63s reached the front in 1944 and the type served with both the Russian and US Air Forces. The last examples remained in service until the mid-1950s.

North American P-64 Coyote. Designed by North American for the Royal Thai Air Force in 1938, the aircraft continued in production as a fighter trainer, essentially clearing the floors of factories producing aircraft considered to be more valuable types.

Grumman P-65 Tigercat Land-based version of the Grumman F7F Tigercat twin-engined fighter built for the US Navy. Procured by the USAF and used as a tactical strike fighter and night fighter.

Vultee P-66 Vanguard Another 1930s aircraft intended for the export market that was pushed into service as a trainer in the early 1940s.

McDonnell XP-67 Bat. Twin engined heavy fighter abandoned in favor of the P-58 due to handling difficulties and excessive production time

Vultee XP-68 Tornado. Developed version of the XP-54 with a R-3350 engine. Only one prototype built, never flown

Republic XP-69 Proposed heavy fighter to replace P-47. Abandoned in favor of F-72

Douglas P-70. Nightfighter conversion of A-20 light bomber. Served extensively in Russia both as nightfighter and night intruder until replaced by P-61 and P-65

Curtiss P-71 Stormbird The largest, heaviest fighter to serve in WW2, the P-71 Stormbird was originally intended to be a bomber destroyer. It was powered by two R-4360 radial engines driving pusher propellers. It was used primarily for ground attack due to its awesome forward firing armament of a semi-automatic 75mm cannon, two 37mm cannon and eight .50 caliber machine guns couples with underwing racks for rockets and 6,400 pounds of bombs. Only 50 aircraft were built before production was canceled as a result of more pressing requirements for the R-4360 engine. The P-71 was the last US fighter to carry the “P for pursuit” designation

Republic F-72 Thunderstorm Essentially a R-4360 powered P-47, the F-72 was the fastest piston-engined fighter to see service in WW2.

Grumman XF-73 Jaguar. The first of a group of F-designation fighters known to aviation historians as the “Sinful Sevens” because their designations fall mysteriously out of sequence. The XF-73 was purely a research aircraft. On hearing that the Germans were building a swept-wing fighter, the Ta-183, the USAF ordered an aircraft to test the effects of various degrees of sweep on aircraft. The XF-73 was designed with wings that could be set (on the ground) at varying angles of sweep from 0 degrees (straight-winged) to 42.5 degrees of sweep. These experiments showed that sweeping the wings caused unfavorable flying characteristics but conferred no advantages at the speeds expected from airframe/powerplant combinations then in service.

North American F-74 Fury. Design work on the F-74 started in 1945 as a replacement for the F-80 Shooting Star, making its designation wildly out of sequence. Why this is happened has never been explained. The F-74A started to replace the F-80E in service from mid-1947 onwards, the first examples seeing combat just weeks before the end of the war. It became prominent post war due to its high-altitude performance. Widely exported at rock-bottom prices after WW2, it was many air force’s first introduction to the jet era. Redesigned with swept wings, an afterburning engine and a radar/rocket armament it became the F-86 Sabredog.

Fisher F-75 Eagle. Work on this aircraft started in 1941 as the P-75, making its designation also wildly out of sequence. The first of many attempts to build a satisfactory long-range escort fighter, it was abandoned in 1943 then revived a year later as a proposed escort for the B-29s that were taking brutal casualties in their attempts to launch raids on the German industry. Small numbers of F-75s were built but proved too large and clumsy to provide a satisfactory escort and production was terminated

McDonnell XF-76 Jetbat. Jet-engined version of the XP-67. Much favored and was actually approved for production as a replacement for the P-49/P-58 but was canceled due to end of WW2. Again, designation falls significantly out of sequence.

Bell XF-77. Lightweight fighter using non-strategic materials designed in 1941. Again, designation significantly out of sequence. Design abandoned in 1943 since if wooden fighters were required, the Russian Yak and Lavochkin designs offered significantly better performance. Once again, the designation is wildly out of sequence and the reason for it is a mystery

North American XF-78. Proposed version of P-51 Mustang using British Merlin engine built by Packard. Design abandoned when plans to produce the Merlin in the USA were canceled. redesigned with a jet engine, this aircraft became the F-74 Fury. This is the last of the out-of-sequence “sinful sevens”.

Northrop XF-79. Northrop proposal for a flying wing fighter with rocket propulsion. The prototype proved to be slower than the jets then entering service, was short-ranged, critically unstable, grossly underarmed and its service ceiling was disappointingly low. The aircraft was so defective that it would be forty years before the USAF considered a Northrop fighter design for service.

Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star First US jet powered fighter to enter service. Used by US Navy as FV-1

Convair XF-81 Mixed-power escort fighter with jet and turboprop engines. Abandoned in favor of GB-36/F-85 concept

North American XF-82 Twin Mustang Twin fuselage derivative of A-36 Mustang tactical recon fighter and dive-bomber. Intended as night/all-weather interceptor, abandoned due to demonstrated lack of performance against B-36.

Bell XP-83 Long-range escort fighter abandoned in favor of GB-36/F-85 concept

Republic F-84 Thunderjet/Thunderstreak/Thunderflash Extended family of tactical fighters used for ground attack, air superiority and long-range escort. Thunderstreak and Thunderflash variants had swept wings. This type was plagued throughout its service life by poor reliability.

McDonnell F-85 Goblin Parasite fighter carried by GB-36. Provided long-range escort for B-36 formations until B-36 was withdrawn from service

North American F-86 Sabredog Limited all-weather fighter equipping NORAD during 1950s. First fighter to have reasonable capability against B-36 type bombers. Day fighter derivative was canceled due to lack of operational requirement

Curtiss F-87 Blackhawk Jet nightfighter replacement for F-61 Black Widow and F-65 Tigercat. Very limited production and short service life

McDonnell F-88 Voodoo Long range escort fighter procured by SAC as replacement for F-84s.

Northrop F-89 Scorpion Heavy fighter used by NORAD until F-102 available. Plagued by unreliability, NORAD pilots claimed that the only time the F-89's wings didn't fall off was when its engines exploded first.

Lockheed F-90 Long range escort fighter ordered by SAC as complement to F-88 but canceled prior to delivery

McDonnell XF-91 Ghoul. Updated and improved version of F-85 intended for deployment from GB-60. Canceled in favor of F-98

Convair XF-92A Prototype interceptor for NORAD. Developed into F-102

North American F-93A Long-range escort fighter derivative of F-86. Small numbers procured but never issued to operational units.

Lockheed F-94 All-weather interceptor for NORAD, used extensively until replaced by F-101/102/106

North American XF-95A Advanced version of F-86 with new engine and sharply swept wings. Abandoned in favor of F-101

Republic XF-96 Advanced version of F-84F Thunderstreak. Canceled in favor of F-105

Lockheed XF-97 Single-seat fighter-bomber version of F-94 Starfire.

McDonnell XF-98 Supersonic parasite fighter intended for deployment from GB-52. Abandoned in favor of RB-58 concept.

Boeing XF-99 Concept for rocket-powered point-defense fighter. Abandoned in favor of F-104

North American F-100 Super Sabre Supersonic fighter-bomber used by NORAD

McDonnell F-101 Voodoo Long-range interceptor development of F-88 used by NORAD

Convair F-102 Delta Dagger Primary interceptor of NORAD throughout late 1950s and early 1960s. Extremely demanding and difficult aircraft to fly but capable of being very effective in right hands. Best known as fighter flown by Lieutenant George W Bush (later 43rd President)

Republic XF-103 Ultra-high-speed, high altitude interceptor. Canceled in favor of F-106

Lockheed F-104 Starfighter Point defense interceptor very widely used by Air National Guard of NORAD throughout 1960s to 1980s. Exported widely but acquired reputation for being difficult and dangerous to fly. Was subject of famous Perry Como song “Catch a falling Starfighter”

Republic F-105 Thunderchief Tactical bomber used by NORAD. Early F-105B version was purchased by Thailand.

Convair F-106 Delta Dart Supersonic interceptor extensively used by NORAD until early 1980s

North American XF-107 Proposed interceptor development of F-100. Abandoned.

North American F-108 Rapier Long range escort fighter used by SAC until the end of the 20th century.

Bell XF-109 proposed VSTOL fighter. Canceled due to lack of operational requirement

McDonnell F-110 Spectre Version of Navy F4H Phantom. Replaced both F-100 and F-105 in NORAD Very widely exported.

Boeing XF-111 Proposal for long-range low-altitude fighter-bomber. Abandoned due to lack of operational requirement. A very similar aircraft, the B10N Shuka entered service with the Chipanese Navy and there have been many allegations that the Japanese designers stole the American design. This is possible although there are many detail differences between the two aircraft and it is just as likely that the two design teams simply reached similar conclusions.

Lockheed F-112 Blackbird Long-range high-altitude interceptor using airframe developed for B-71 bomber and SR-71 reconnaissance aircraft. Currently in NORAD service

Northrop F-113 Lightweight fighter designed for export. Never ordered by the USAF but two-seat version procured as a trainer. Marked return of Northrop as a supplier to the USAF,

Grumman F-114 Tomcat Land-based derivative of Navy F13F-1 Tomcat heavy fighter. Currently used by NORAD.

McDonnell F-115 Eagle Multirole fighter-bomber currently used by NORAD. Replaced F-105 and F-110.

Convair F-116 Viper Point defense interceptor used by ANG. Replaced F-104. Also known as "Lawn Dart" due to its high accident rate.

Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk Light strike aircraft with suppressed radar and thermal signatures. First so-called stealth aircraft. Primarily used by SOCOM for special operations.

North American F-118 Starslayer Fighter derivative of Dynasoar program used for ASAT and other space-based operations. First surface-to-orbit capable aircraft when launched from GB-100 mothership. Developed for SAC in late 1980, entered service 1992. Quickly became obsolete due to development of turboscramjet/rocket hybrids.

Hindustan F-119 Hindustan Aviation Gnat F.10 procured by USAF Red Sun training range as aggressor operations force.

Northrop F-120 Advanced version of F-113 with single engine. Canceled due to lack of operational requirement

Convair F-121 Delta Demon Space-based fighter developed for defense of US orbital, lunar and Lagrange installations. Entered full operational service in 1994.

McDonnell XF-122 Lightning II Long-range fighter-bomber combining speed of F-115 with signature suppression of F-117. Under development for NORAD. Production future uncertain due to doubts over combat value due to introduction of turboscramjet fighters with much greater speed and service ceiling.

Northrop XF-123 Black Widow Long-range escort fighter combining range, speed and F-108 with signature suppression of F-117. Under development for SAC but production future uncertain due to doubts over combat value due to introduction of turboscramjet fighters with much greater speed and service ceiling.

Lockheed F-124A Raven. Turboscramjet powered fighter developed as replacement for F-112. Operational ceiling 275,000 feet, speed Mach 12. Started entering service 2002

North American F-125A Scimitar. Turboscramjet powered long range escort fighter developed to replace F-108 Rapier. Started entering squadron service 2001.


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