The Best Looking Military Aircraft? Which Ones Qualify And Why?

The Best Looking Military Aircraft? Which Ones Qualify And Why?
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Selection Criteria

Selecting the best look military aircraft is bound to be a very subjective choice. This article uses a combination of historical significance plus an emphasis on clean aerodynamic lines. If you were flying along in a private plane or airliner and one of these airplanes pulled up alongside, you should exclaim: “That is one really good looking airplane!”

Military aircraft designers have produced many great looking airplanes and it is difficult to pick just a handful. Any plane flown by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds should qualify!

Propeller Driven Aircraft

The DR-1 Fokker Triplane was the Red Baron’s ride. Ace german pilot Manfred Von Richthofen flew a bright red model of this World War I aircraft into combat for his 80 kills. Only 320 DR-1 Fokkers were produced and none survive today, only replicas.


The Supermarine Spitfire was one of the hero aircraft of the Battle of Britain. The Spitfire makes this list with its sleek design and gracefully tapered wings.

The Hawker Seafury just edges out the P-51 Mustang as the best looking U.S. built fighter from World War II. The super clean lines and beefy engine cowling and prop spinner have more eye appeal than the slim, guppy shaped Mustang chassis.

Hawker Seafury

Jets And Supersonic Speeds

F-104 Starfighter

The era of jet aircraft started after World War II and the quest for supersonic speed resulted in sleek, streamlined military aircraft. The ability to go faster than the speed of sound tends to make jets look good even going slow.

The Lockheed F-104 Starfighter was the first fighter jet capable of going Mach 2 and could fight at Mach 1.4. The “missile with a man in it” has a long taper fuselage and razor thin wings that look like they need a lot of speed to produce lift. The F-104 was designed by the legendary Kelly Johnson and served in the U.S. and other air forces from the late 1950’s until the mid 1970’s.

T-38 Talon

The T-38 Talon from Northrup is a supersonic trainer aircraft. The T-38 has the classic coke bottle fuselage shape that allowed early supersonic aircraft to more easily push through the shock wave that develops at Mach 1. The clean lines of the Talon project a classic supersonic jet shape. The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds flew the T-38 from 1974 until 1982.

The General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon has been one of the U.S. front line fighters since 1980. This era included the F-14, F-15 and F-18 fighter jets, but the striking shape of the F-16 stands out. Airplane designers can just make a better looking jet when there is only one engine to wrap the fuselage around. Sleek, powerful and maneuverable, the F-16 has it all!

F-16 Falcon


Photo credits, all photos from Flikr, Creative Commons attribution:

  • Spitfire by ahisget
  • Fokker Triplane by Ronnie Macdonald
  • Seafury by Ack Ook
  • F-104 by Robert Couse-Baker
  • T-38 Talon by mashleymorgan
  • F-16 by Air Combat Command

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