Skip to comments.The Five Worst Fighter Aircraft of All Time
Posted on 01/11/2014 8:25:52 AM PST by Sir Napsalot
Over the last century of military aviation, several fighters have earned the nickname flying coffin. Military aviation inherently pushes up against the limits of technology and human endurance, particularly where fighter and pursuit aviation is concerned. Flying a fighter is remarkably dangerous, even when no one is trying to shoot you down.
Engineering a capable fighter plane is also a struggle. Relatively small changes in engine, armament, and airframe design can transform a clunker into an elite fighting machine; many of the best fighters in history were initially viewed askance by their pilots. But elite status rarely lasts for long, especially in World War I and World War II. Fighters that dominated the sky in one year become flying coffins as technology and tactics move forward.
And thus the difference between a great fighter and a terrible fighter can be remarkably small. As with the previous list, the critical work is in determining the criteria. Fighters are national strategic assets, and must be evaluated as such:
· Did this aircraft fail at the tactical tasks that it was given? Did it perform poorly against its direct contemporaries?
· Did the fighter show up, or was it in the hangar when it was needed? Was it more of a danger to its pilots than to enemy fighters?
· Did it represent a misappropriation of national assets?
So what are the worst fighter aircraft of all time? For these purposes, well be concentrating on fighters that enjoyed production runs of 500 or more aircraft (listed in parentheses); curiosities such as the XF-84H Thunderscreech need not apply.
(Click through the pages for the *top* 5 list)
(Excerpt) Read more at nationalinterest.org ...
Sorry, the date of the article should have been 1-11-2014!
Glad they mentioned the F-35 at the end.
I trust Pierre Sprey on this:
The article was way to long and not well enough written to keep me reading. I didn’t even see a one though five listing.
Wrong! The author can't even copy-paste material from a reliable source.
Bumping this for later and more detailed response. The guy is full of sh!t on multiple levels in both facts and analysis.
The Lockheed F-104 Starfighter earned the unofficial name of “post hole digger” I think in Germany....the story goes the pilots sometimes would auger straight into the ground. IIRC, the problem actually was an on-board oxygen supply system depot level where the oxygen generation systems for supply tanks were located near the exhaust of some other combustion source. Tainted oxygen causing the pilots to black out.
Also, one of the first fighters I can recall that had a thrust-to-weight ratio of greater than 1. Could climb like a bullet....
Thanks for the post. Although I think most of the century series were to combat Russian bombers more than to engage in fighter-on-fighter combat
However I would list the Zero as the first which became the worst. The lack of armor, self sealing tanks and some with out radios made them into flying bombs that needed only a few hits to make them explode.
Didn’t George W. Bush fly one of the Century series fighters during his term of service with the Air National Guard?
Either incredibly brave or incredibly stupid. Sometimes impossible to distinguish between the two, so maybe the same thing.
A flying stovepipe with wings. And that series was not even particularly automated.
That’s a smart guy.
He flew the F102, and it’s doubtful he did so out of choice. It was the plane the USAF assigned to the Texas ANG to fulfill the role of intercepting Soviet bombers based in Cuba. Anything less than a skilled (and lucky) pilot flying a super sonic stiletto with stubby delta wings would not last long, much less for 500 plus flying hours.
I once heard a Phantom jockey declare that that aircraft was “living proof that with a big enough engine, you can make a piano fly.”
The F111 was a good plane after the bugs were worked out. The Aussies just retired the last of theirs last year.
The F4 as a Dishonorable mention? This guy had rocks in his head. It was a great plane and did a lot of countries well.
Really? Phantom in dishonorable mention?
"The F-4 Phantom. With a smoke trail a blind man could follow it is proof positive that with a large enough engine even a brick can fly."
He sure did and the 102 was NOT a easy or forgiving aircraft for dopes.
Yes, the F-104 and the Mig-21 orginated as “point defense fighters;” to climb quickly and take out incoming bombers that had gotten through the outer defensive layers. And just before, for the US, the Nike series of missiles that were placed around the major cities.
See these three websites:
I just had to look up the Thunderscreech... turboprop?? Seriously, they were designing prop fighters in the mid-50’s? Why??
Night interceptor, brave and capable.
156 built.... this article is about those with production runs of 500 or more.
That thing looks really long, and it was built for carriers??
And proved it by shooting down MiGs. . .those “tiny, maneuverable MiGs” as the article states.
I remember those NIKE sites as a kid. We had one just down the road from us in Arlington Heights.
The promised, more detailed response.
F2A Buffalo: at the time it was ordered it was better than the Grumman F4F alternative. So at the time it was a good aircraft. However the F4F had better growth potential so by the time the US got into the war the Buffalo was obsolescent and on its way out of service. It was put into combat by the US and Dutch as a desperation measure because nothing else was available.
Comparing it to the Bf-109 is a joke. The F2A was designed as a carrier-capable fighter with decent range for Pacific operation. The Bf-109 as a short range fighter designed around European operations. Comparing it to the A6M is a joke - the A6M was something of a surprise to the US, and achieved its initial dominance through massive sacrificing of weight through ditching things like armor and self-sealing fuel tanks. Once the US figured out these weaknesses, they were able to adapt tactics of the inferior F4F (Thatch Weave, for instance) to blow them out of the sky.
The F-101 was not ever, as the writer claims, a “fighter-bomber”. Either in design or in actual use. It was designed as a long-range escort to USAF nuclear bombers, then adapted to recce (which it performed well) and interception for the Continental defense role (which it performed very well).
The F-102 (which George W Bush flew in the TX ANG) was put into service as an interim interceptor as the “ultimate” interceptor (F-106) was being developed. Yes, it had a lot of issues, but it wasn’t designed as anything as a quick gap-filling capability. It did deploy to Vietnam and contrary to the writer’s assertions actually performed pretty well. Especially in the ground-attack role - where pilots were able to take out VC campsites by using their infra-red guided AIM-4 Falcom missiles.
The F-104 was a fast, lightweight point-defense fighter mainly designed to protect airfields from inbound enemy bombers. Go in a straight line (as has already been mentioned) very very fast and shoot down the other side. Yeah, like any fast aircraft with low wing loading it was a real challenge to fly (see the B-26 Marauder), but the Taiwanese and Pakistanis used them pretty well in small scale combat engagements. The Italians only retired theirs a couple/few years ago.
The F-105 wasn’t a fighter, despite the “F” designation. It was (the author seems to admit) pretty much a fast, one-way tactical nuclear bomber. Saying it sucked because it was used in a war (Vietnam) it wasn’t designed at all for is patently unfair. By the end of the war it had actually proven itself pretty adaptable to the SEAD/Wild Weasel role - it was really the first effective dedicated counter-radar platform.
The MiG-23 was a small, lightweight fighter/fighter-bomber (in the MiG-27 version) that used variable geometry wings to convey better short/rough field characteristics. It was the direct successor to the MiG-21. The writer really shows his ignorance here in saying that it was designed to counter the F-14. That’s a massive amount of Barbara Streisand right there. Yes, it was a crappy aircraft - but it was also designed (much like the F-105) to have an exceedingly short lifespan in actual combat in an equation that favored early and overwhelming quantity over smaller numbers of quality. Which pretty much sums up the WarPac vs. NATO paradigms.
As to the “dishonorable mention” category the guy includes the F-4 Phantom???? That pretty much crushes his credibility to dust. The F-111 had some initial teething problems, but really turned into a very, very good interdiction and (for the Aussies) recce platform. The Naval version would have performed the mission it was designed for (air-to-air missile truck designed to take down Soviet bombers as far away from the carrier as possible) pretty well too - but thanks to the experience with Vietnam the mission changed. The Bf-110 (heavy two-engined fighter) and the Defiant (big heavy turret with four machine guns, but no forward-firing guns - stupidstupidstupid) both deserve to be on the actual list, imho. As does the Yak-38 Forger.
Finally, regarding the F-35, I’ll make the point I usually make which is that it is NOT a “fighter”. It’s a stealthy light-strike platform, with a respectable head-on air-to-air engagement capability. It should be seen as the direct successor to the F-117 and A-7 and something of an improvement upon the AV-8B ... but not as a successor to the fighter-side capabilities of either the F-16 or the F/A-18.
South Korea still has 68 F-4’s in service, I bet they aren’t the only ones either.
I remember seeing one on Lake Michigan during a trip to Chicago. And here is an almost “everything Nike” website:
and the Nike Historical Society: http://nikemissile.org/links.shtml
It’s in threads like this where I learn just how little I know about military aircraft, well except for the non-fighter RC-135. And even then I know just where I sat on it and little else....
I guess that explains it well enough. Just in case, sort of?
Tank, thanks for a detailed reply to Sir Napshot.
I will add, in the category of ‘was there a post-fighter life’ that both the Bf-110 and the BP Defiant ended up doing fairly well performing as nightfighers, especially the 110.
“. . .but not as a successor to the fighter-side capabilities of either the F-16 or the F/A-18”
Should add the A-10 to your list, as it is supposed to perform the CAS role (”replace” the Hog).
The Luftwaffe made the wrong choice in selecting the Bf 110 over the Focke-Wulf Fw 187. If the Fw 187 had gotten the Daimler-Benz DB 601 engines originally promised for the plane, the Fw 187 would have a top speed just over 400 mph—phenomenal for 1939! It would have out-run even the Spitfre Mk. I/1A models, and that would have given a lot of problems for the RAF, especially given the Fw 187 had a combat radius from French bases as far north as Newcastle upon Tyne.
Of the 500+ F-102s built, about 20%, or over 100, were lost in peacetime operations, usually taking the pilot with it. It never saw any actual combat, just flying in it was a danger. But they had pilots standing in line, maybe not very happy, but still ready to fly it.
Robert McNamara wanted the USAF and USN to share a common aircraft to save costs. The Navy never wanted the F-111 because they didn't want a USAF airplane.
In an attempt to kill the project the USN insisted that the design have a swing-wing, side-by-side seating, escape capsule and an internal bomb bay.
The USAF had no need for a tactical fighter-bomber with the above specs. They wanted tandem seating with conventional ejector seats, external bomb loads and conventional.
But, the USN's insistance on the above feature set meant the aircraft would never meet the weight goals they, themselves, set. Since it never met the USN goals, the F-111B was canceled.
Because the politicians were in charge, they went ahead with the F-111A and made the USAF integrate it into service.
I recall F-105s, A-4s, F-4s, AC 130s and all manner of helicopter gunships from the rice plains and mountains of I Corps. But there must be a few I’ve forgotten. I can still see them flying their missions. Will they be remembered as personal memory dies? Or carried forward as documentaries that reflect what they tried so valiantly to do?
The latter is the key.
You would think that the O2 thing would have been fixed by now, but even the F-22 was having problems with its SOTA O2 concentrator...
The Vigalante looked great in the air, though.
The “Screech” was designed to take advantage of new supersonic propeller technology and theoretically would have had better acceleration and range than its F-84 platform with a turbojet. What wasn’t anticipated were the intense harmonics of that prop and thunderous noise. Made everyone violently ill in a wide radius, including the pilot! Not a great idea.
The dimwit who wrote up that list wanted to include the F-4 Phantom? What an idiot! Like many others, I owe my existence to some well-delivered close air from a Marine Phantom. It took brass balls the size of regulation bowling balls to fly that thing in combat - but so what? We had those guys in spades.
As a civilian, I think the F-4 Phantom II looks really cool.
The Canadians that flew them called them lawn darts.
There is a resemblance...
haha, ya had the turning radius of a mid sized country, but it sure served it’s purpose.
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