Selecting the Fastest Jet Airplanes
Just after WWII, jet aircraft starting setting speed records at over 600 mph. As the jet technology improved the speeds steadily moved up. The first jet aircraft (not rocket powered) to go supersonic was the North American F86 Super Saber. Today, the list of fastest jet airplanes includes reconnasance aircraft, jet fighters, supersonic airliners and business jets.
The Fastest Jet Airplane
The honor of absolute fastest, pilot flown, jet aircraft goes to the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird. The Blackbird was designed by famous aircraft builder Kelly Johnson. It served as a reconnaissance aircraft for the U.S. Air Force from 1964 until 1998. The SR-71 was so fast its main defensive tactic against surface-to-air missiles was to fly so fast a missile could not catch it.
A SR-71 set the official jet speed record in 1976. On July 29 of that year, the SR-71 flew at a measured speed of 2,193 mph, setting the jet speed record that still stands.
Blackbirds could cruise at well over mach 3 and set several other records in the 1970’s. In 1974, a Blackbird flew from overhead New York City to London in 1 hour and 55 minutes, averaging over 1,800 mph. And the Blackbird had to slow to subsonic speed part way across to hit a tanker aircraft for fuel. On the return trip the same jet flew from London to Los Angeles–5,477 miles–in 3 hours and 47 minutes. The jet had to slow to refuel several times but still averaged over 1,400 mph for the trip.
Fastest Jet Airplanes–Other Types
Here are the fastest jets in some other categories of jet aircraft:
Fastest Jet Fighter: The Russian Mig-25 Foxbat hold the speed record for jet fighters. The Foxbat could hit mach 3 for a short period of time and has an official speed record of 2,115 mph.
Fastest U.S. Jet Fighter: The McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle is the fastest U.S. jet fighter up to this point in time. The Eagle could reach mach 2.5+ or 1,875 mph.
Fastest Airliner: The Russian Tupolev Tu-144 beats out the Concorde as the world’s fastest passenger jet. The Tu-144 could reach a speed of 1,553 mph. The Concorde could clip along at 1,350 mph.
Fastest Business Jet: In 2008 Gulfstream announced that the new Gulfstream 650 would surpass the Cessna Citation X as the world’s fastest business jet. The G650 has a maximum speed of mach 0.925 or 800 mph. This speed just edges out the Citation X which can go mach 0.92.
Fastest Jet of All!
In 2004, the U.S. Air Force dropped an X-43 Scramjet from the wing of a B-52. The X-43 needed a rocket booster to get it up to the speed where the air-breathing scramjet would run. Once it got going the X-43 was able to motor up to mach 10, or 6,600 mph for about 10 seconds. That’s moving!
Fastest Jet Airplanes