Boeing B-29 Superfortress
The Boeing B-29 Superfortress is a four-engine propeller-driven heavy bomber designed by Boeing, flown by the United States during World War II and the Korean War. It was one of the largest aircraft operational during World War II and featured state-of-the-art technology. Including design and production, at over $3 billion it was the most expensive weapons project in the war, exceeding the $1.9 billion cost of the Manhattan Project—using the value of dollars in 1945. Innovations introduced included a pressurized cabin, dual-wheeled, tricycle landing gear, an analog computer-controlled fire-control system directing four remote machine gun turrets that could be operated by one gunner and a fire-control officer. A manned tail gun installation was semi-remote; the name "Superfortress" continued the pattern Boeing started with its well-known predecessor, the B-17 Flying Fortress. Designed for the high-altitude strategic bombing, the B-29 excelled in low-altitude night incendiary bombing. One of the B-29's final roles during World War II was carrying out the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Because of the B-29's advanced design, unlike other wartime bombers, the Superfortress remained in service long after the war ended, with a few being employed as flying television transmitters for the Stratovision company. The B-29 served in various roles throughout the 1950s; the Royal Air Force flew the B-29 as the Washington until 1954. The Soviet Union produced an unlicensed reverse-engineered copy as the Tupolev Tu-4; the B-29 was the progenitor of a series of Boeing-built bombers, tankers, reconnaissance aircraft and trainers including the B-50 Superfortress, a re-engined B-29. The type was retired in the early 1960s. Dozens of B-29s remain as static displays but only two examples and Doc, have been restored to flying status, with Doc flying again for the first time from McConnell AFB on 17 July 2016. A transport developed from the B-29 was the Boeing C-97 Stratofreighter, first flown in 1944, followed by its commercial airliner variant, the Boeing Model 377 Stratocruiser in 1947; this bomber-to-airliner derivation was similar to the B-17/Model 307 evolution.
In 1948 Boeing introduced a tanker variant of the B-29 as the KB-29, followed by the Model 377-derivative KC-97 introduced in 1950. A modified line of outsized-cargo variants of the Stratocruiser is the Guppy / Mini Guppy / Super Guppy, which remain in service with operators including NASA; the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress served as the United States' primary strategic bomber during World War II. However, this aircraft was deemed inadequate for use in the Pacific Theater; the United States Army Air Corps concluded that a long range bomber that could carry a larger payload over 3000 miles was necessary. In response, Boeing began work on pressurized long-range bombers in 1938. Boeing's design study for the Model 334 was a pressurized derivative of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress with nosewheel undercarriage. Although the Air Corps did not have money to pursue the design, Boeing continued development with its own funds as a private venture. In April 1939, Charles Lindbergh convinced general Henry H.
Arnold to produce a new bomber in large numbers to counter the Nazi production. The Air Corps issued a formal specification for a so-called "superbomber", capable of delivering 20,000 lb of bombs to a target 2,667 mi away and capable of flying at a speed of 400 mph in December 1939. Boeing's previous private venture studies formed the starting point for its response to this specification. Boeing submitted its Model 345 on 11 May 1940, in competition with designs from Consolidated Aircraft and Douglas. Douglas and Lockheed soon abandoned work on their projects, but Boeing received an order for two flying prototypes, given the designation XB-29, an airframe for static testing on 24 August 1940, with the order being revised to add a third flying aircraft on 14 December. Consolidated continued to work on its Model 33 as it was seen by the Air Corps as a backup in case of problems with Boeing's design. Boeing received an initial production order for 14 service test aircraft and 250 production bombers in May 1941, this being increased to 500 aircraft in January 1942.
The B-29 featured a fuselage design with circular cross-section for strength. The need for pressurization in the cockpit area led to the B-29 being one of few American combat aircraft of World War II to have a stepless cockpit design, without a separate windscreen for the pilots. Manufacturing the B-29 was a complex task, it involved four main-assembly factories: a pair of Boeing operated plants at Renton and Wichita, Kansas, a Bell plant at Marietta, Georgia near Atlanta, a Martin plant at Omaha, Nebraska. Thousands of subcontractors were involved in the project; the first prototype made its maiden flight from Boeing Field, Seattle on 21 September 1942. The combined effects of the aircraft's advanced design, challenging requirements, immense pressure for production, hurried development caused setbacks; the second prototype, unlike the unarmed first, was fitted with a Sperry defensive armament system using remote-controlled gun turrets sighted by periscopes, first flew on 30 December 1942, this flight being terminated due to a serious engine fire.
On 18 February 1943, the second prototype, flying out of Boeing Field in Seattle, experienced an engine fire and crashed. The crash killed Boeing test pilot Edmund T. Allen and his 10-man crew, 20 worker
The Boeing P-12/F4B was an American pursuit aircraft, operated by the United States Army Air Corps and United States Navy. Developed as a private venture to replace the Boeing F2B and F3B with the United States Navy, the Boeing P-12 first flew on 25 June 1928; the new aircraft was smaller and more agile than the ones it replaced but still used the Wasp engine of the F3B. This resulted in a higher top speed and overall better performance; as result of Navy evaluation 27 were ordered as the F4B-1. Boeing supplied the USAAC with 366 P-12s between 1929 and 1932. Production of all variants totaled 586. F4B-1 The F4B-1 was built using traditional construction techniques of the day; the fuselage was a steel tube truss design with formers and longerons to define the aerodynamic shape. Wings were of traditional construction and covered by fabric. Ailerons were of a tapered design with corrugated aluminum covering; the Pratt & Whitney R-1340 nine-cylinder radial engine was uncowled and sported prominent cooling fairings behind each cylinder which were removed in service.
P-12s were flown by the 17th Pursuit Group at March Field and the 20th Pursuit Group at Barksdale Field, Louisiana. Older P-12s were used by groups overseas: the 4th Composite Group in the Philippines, the 16th Pursuit Group in the Canal Zone, the 18th Pursuit Group in Hawaii; the P-12 remained in service with first-line pursuit groups until replaced by Boeing P-26s in 1934–1935. Survivors were relegated to training duties until 1941, when most were grounded and assigned to mechanic's schools; the production runs are shown below with the P-12 designations for Army aircraft and the F4B designations being for the Navy. The remaining aircraft are export. Model 83 One prototype with spreader-bar landing gear and 425 hp Pratt & Whitney R-1340-8 engine designated XF4B-1 for Navy evaluation. Model 89 One prototype with split-axle undercarriage and provision for a 500 lb bomb on ventral rack designated XF4B-1 for Navy evaluation. P-12 Model 102, U. S. Army Air Corps version of the F4B-1 with a 450 hp R-1340-7 engine, nine built.
XP-12A Model 101, 10th built P-12 with NACA cowl a 525 hp R-1340-9 engine and shorter undercarriage, one built. P-12B Model 102B, as P-12 with larger improvements tested on XP-12A, 90 built. P-12C Model 222, as P-12B with spreader-bar undercarriage, 96 built. P-12D Model 234, as P-12C with a 525 hp R-1340-17 engine, 35 built. P-12E Model 234, as P-12D with semi-monocoque metal fuselage, redesigned vertical tail surfaces, some were fitted with tailwheels instead of skids, 110 built. P-12F Model 251, as P-12E with a 600 hp R-1340-19 engine, 25 built. XP-12G P-12B modified with a R-1340-15 engine with side-type supercharger, one converted. XP-12H P-12D modified with a GISR-1340E experimental engine, one converted. P-12J P-12E modified with a 575 hp R-1340-23 engine, special bomb sight, one conversion. YP-12K P-12E and P-12J re-engined with a fuel injected seven temporary conversions. XP-12L YP-12K temporary fitted with a F-2 supercharger, one converted. A-5 designation for proposed use of P-12 as a radio-controlled target drone XF4B-1 Designation given to two prototypes for Navy evaluation, the former Model 83 and the former Model 89.
F4B-1 Boeing Model 99 for the United States Navy, split-axle landing gear and ventral bomb rack, 27 built. F4B-1A One F4B-1 converted to unarmed executive transport for the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, fuel tank moved to upper wing centre section. F4B-2 Boeing Model 223, spreader bar landing gear, frise ailerons, tailwheel replacing skid, 46 built. F4B-3 Boeing Model 235, as F4B-2 but with semi-monocoque metal fuselage and equipment changes, 21 built. F4B-4 Boeing Model 235, as F4B-3 but with redesigned vertical tail surfaces, 550 hp R-1340-16 engine, underwing racks for two 116 lb bombs, last 45 built had an enlarged headrest housing a life raft, 92 built and one built from spares. F4B-4A 23 assorted P-12 aircraft transferred from USAAC for use as a radio-controlled target aircraft. Model 100 Civil version of the F4B-1 with upper wing tank, four built. Model 100A Two-seat civil version for Howard Hughes converted to a single-seater, one built. Model 100D One Model 100 temporary used as a P-12 demonstrator.
Model 100E Export version of the P-12E for the Siamese Air Force, two built, one transferred to the Japanese Navy under the designation AXB. Model 100F One civil variant of the P-12F sold to Whitney as an engine test bed. Model 218 Prototype of the P-12E/F4B-3 variant, after evaluation sold to the Chinese Air Force. Model 256 Export version of the F4B-4 for Brazilian Navy, 14 built. Model 267 Export version for Brazil with an F4B-3 fuselage and P-12E wings, nine built. BrazilBrazilian Air Force ChinaChinese Nationalist Air Force PhilippinesPhilippine Army Air Corps SpainSpanish Air Force ThailandRoyal Thai Air Force operated Boeing 100E variant. United StatesUnited States Army Air Corps United States Navy 31-559 – P-12E on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB near Dayton, Ohio. 32-017 – P-12E on display at the Planes of Fame Air Museum in Chino, California. This airframe is painted as an F4B-1. 32-092 – P-12F on display at the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida.
This airframe is restored to look like an F4B-4 and painted with the markings of Fighting Squadron 6B "Felix the Cat". 9241 – F4B-4 on display in the "Sea-Air Operations" Gallery at the National Air and Space Museum in Washing
The Boeing XB-15 was a United States bomber aircraft designed in 1934 as a test for the United States Army Air Corps to see if it would be possible to build a heavy bomber with a 5,000 mi range. For a year beginning in mid-1935 it was designated the XBLR-1; when it first flew in 1937, it was the most massive and voluminous aircraft built in the US. It set a number of load-to-altitude records for land-based aircraft, including carrying a 31,205 lb payload to 8,200 ft on 30 July 1939; the aircraft's immense size allowed flight engineers to enter the wing through a crawlway and make minor repairs in flight. A 5,000 mi flight took 33 hours at its 152 mph cruising speed; the specification that produced the XB-15 began in mid-1933 as "Project A", USAAC discussions regarding the possibility of flying a large bomber with a range of 5,000 mi. In April 1934 the USAAC contracted with Boeing and Martin to design a bomber capable of carrying 2,000 lb at 200 mph over a distance of 5,000 miles. Boeing gave the project the internal name of Model 294, while the USAAC called it the XB-15.
Martin's design, the XB-16, was judged inferior by the USAAC before a prototype was built, was canceled. The Boeing design team, headed by Jack Kylstra intended the aircraft to use 2,600 hp Allison V-3420 liquid-cooled W engines. Starting in August 1934, Boeing began designing the Model 299 in answer to a proposal by the USAAC to replace the Martin B-10 bomber; the Model 299 design team incorporated elements of the Boeing 247 and the Model 294 its use of four engines. The Model 299 design team worked alongside Klystra's team, but difficulties in fabricating such a large aircraft slowed progress on the 294; the Model 299 flew first, on 28 July 1935. In mid-1935, the USAAC combined Project A with Project D; the combined program was designated BLR for "Bomber, Long Range". The XB-15 was renamed the XBLR-1; the next year, the XBLR was dropped and the Boeing prototype was once again the XB-15. Unusual features that the XB-15 pioneered included an autopilot, deicing equipment, two gasoline generators used as auxiliary power units to power the 110-volt electrical system.
The main engines were serviceable in flight using an access tunnel inside the wing. The aircraft contained a sizable crew compartment with a galley and a lavatory. In September 1937 construction was finished, on 15 October it first flew, its double-wheel main landing gear remained down from takeoff to landing. On 2 December 1937, the XB-15 flew from Seattle to Wright Field in Ohio to be accepted by the USAAC for testing. With the Twin Wasp radial engines installed — the same number and type of engines fitted to the Consolidated B-24 Liberator, with individual turbochargers added on the Liberators' Twin Wasp powerplants — the specified speed of 200 mph for the Twin Wasp-powered XB-15 was not quite reached when the aircraft was empty. Loaded with the specified 2,000 pounds, the maximum speed was a disappointing 145 mph; this was considered too slow for a combat aircraft, the project was abandoned. However, Boeing engineers projected that the prototype would be capable of carrying the heaviest air cargo to date: a load of 8,000 lb.
The design challenges stemming from the great size of the XB-15 were difficult to master, but the lessons learned by Boeing were applied to the Model 314 flying boat, which used the XB-15's wing design with four of the more powerful Wright Twin Cyclone fourteen-cylinder radials for power. In 1938, the USAAC proposed to update the XB-15 to make the larger Y1B-20, again using four Wright Twin Cyclones as with the Boeing 314, but the Secretary of War, Harry Hines Woodring, canceled the project before construction began, in favor of the expensive Douglas XB-19. Boeing went ahead with an internal redesign of the XB-15 called Model 316, a heavy bomber with a high wing, a pressurized cabin and tricycle gear; the Model 316 was not built. The progression of design work starting with the XB-15 bore fruit with the Model 345 presented to the USAAC in May 1940, the heavy bomber which resulted in the USAAF's Boeing B-29 Superfortress; the single prototype was assigned to the 2nd Bombardment Group at Virginia.
Following the 24 January 1939 Chillán earthquake in Chile, the prototype flew a relief mission, carrying medical supplies. Commanded by Major Caleb V. Haynes, the aircraft carried 3,250 lb of American Red Cross emergency supplies to Santiago, making only two stops along the way, at France Field in the Panama Canal Zone, at Lima, Peru. Haynes was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Order of the Merit of Chile, the whole crew earned the MacKay Trophy. Haynes piloted the XB-15 again on 10 June 1939 to return home the body of Mexican flier Francisco Sarabia who had died in a crash in the Potomac River. After flying back from Mexico City and his copilot William D. Old undertook flight tests at Ohio with heavy loads; the XB-15 lifted a 22,046 pounds payload to a height of 8,228 feet, 31,164 pounds to 6,561.6 feet, setting two world records f
The Boeing Model 200 Monomail was an American mail plane of the early 1930s. The aircraft marked a departure from the traditional biplane configuration for a transport aircraft, instead featuring a single, low set, all metal cantilever wing. Retractable landing gear and a streamlined fuselage added to the aerodynamic efficiency of the aircraft. A single example was constructed for evaluation by both Boeing and the US Army but no mass production ensued, the aircraft joined Boeing's fleet on the San Francisco-Chicago air mail route from July 1931. A second version was developed as the Model 221, with a fuselage stretched by 8 inches that sacrificed some of its cargo capacity to carry six passengers in an enclosed cabin; this version first flew on 18 August 1930. Both the Model 200 and the Model 221 were modified for transcontinental service as the Model 221A, with slight fuselage stretches to give both a cabin for eight passengers; these aircraft were flown on United Air Lines' Cheyenne-Chicago route.
The advanced design of the Monomail was hampered by the lack of suitable engine and propeller technology. By the time variable-pitch propellers and more powerful engines were available, the design had been surpassed by multi-engined aircraft, including Boeing's own 247. However, many advancements of the Monomail were incorporated into the designs of the most advanced bomber and fighter aircraft of the early 1930s, the Boeing B-9 and the Model 248, respectively. Model 200 mailplane Model 221 mailplane with capacity for 6 passengers Model 221A Model 200 and 221 converted as 8-passenger airliners United StatesBoeing Air Transport United Air Lines General characteristics Crew: One pilot Capacity: 6 passengers Length: 42 ft Wingspan: 59 ft Airfoil: Boeing 106 Gross weight: 8,000 lb Powerplant: 1 × Pratt & Whitney R-1860 Hornet B radial engine, 575 hp Propellers: 2-bladedPerformance Maximum speed: 158 mph Cruise speed: 135 mph Range: 575 mi Service ceiling: 14,700 ft Aircraft of comparable role and era Lockheed Model 9 Orion Northrop Alpha Boeing History - Boeing Monomail Transport Retrieved June 17, 2006.
Taylor, Michael J. H.. Jane's Encyclopedia of Aviation. London: Studio Editions. World Aircraft Information Files. London: Bright Star Publishing. Fiddlergreen.net: Monomail Colorado Wreck Chasing: Glendo Crash Site
McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle
The McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle is an American all-weather multirole strike fighter derived from the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle. The F-15E was designed in the 1980s for long-range, high-speed interdiction without relying on escort or electronic-warfare aircraft. United States Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles can be distinguished from other U. S. Eagle variants by darker aircraft camouflage and conformal fuel tanks mounted along the engine intake ramps; the Strike Eagle has been deployed for military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, among others. During these operations, the strike fighter has carried out deep strikes against high-value targets and combat air patrols, provided close air support for coalition troops, it has been exported to several countries. The McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle had been introduced by the USAF as a replacement for its fleet of McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom IIs. However, unlike the F-4, the F-15 was designed for the air-superiority mission with little consideration for a ground-attack role.
In service, the F-15 has been a successful fighter, with over 100 aerial combat victories and zero losses in air-to-air combat as of 2007. Despite a lack of official interest, McDonnell Douglas worked on an F-15-derived interdictor fighter; the company envisaged the aircraft as a replacement for the General Dynamics F-111 and the remaining F-4s, as well as to augment the existing F-15s. In 1978, the USAF initiated the Tactical All-Weather Requirement Study, which looked at McDonnell Douglas's proposal and other options such as the purchase of further F-111Fs; the study recommended the F-15E as the USAF's future strike platform. In 1979, McDonnell Douglas and Hughes began a close collaboration on the development of the F-15E's air-to-ground capabilities. To assist in the F-15E's development, McDonnell Douglas modified the second TF-15A prototype, AF serial number 71-0291, as a demonstrator; the aircraft, known as the Advanced Fighter Capability Demonstrator, first flew on 8 July 1980. It was used to test conformal fuel tanks designed for the F-15 under the designation "FAST Pack", with FAST standing for "Fuel and Sensor, Tactical.
It was subsequently fitted with a Pave Tack laser designator targeting pod to allow the independent delivery of guided bombs. The demonstrator was displayed at the 1980 Farnborough Airshow. In March 1981, the USAF announced the Enhanced Tactical Fighter program to procure a replacement for the F-111; the program was renamed the Dual-Role Fighter competition. The concept envisioned an aircraft capable of launching deep air interdiction missions without requiring additional support by fighter escort or jamming. General Dynamics submitted the F-16XL, while McDonnell Douglas submitted the F-15E; the Panavia Tornado was a candidate, but since the aircraft lacked a credible air-superiority fighter capability, coupled with the fact that it is not American-made, it was not considered. The DRF evaluation team, under the direction of Brigadier General Ronald W. Yates, ran from 1981 through 30 April 1983, during which the F-15E logged more than 200 flights, demonstrated takeoff weight of more than 75,000 pounds, validated 16 different weapons-carrying configurations.
McDonnell Douglas, to assist 71-0291 in the evaluation, added to the program other F-15s, designated 78-0468, 80–0055, 81-0063. The single-engined F-16XL was a promising design, which with its radically redesigned cranked-delta wing boosted performance. On 24 February 1984, the USAF chose the F-15E; the USAF was expected to procure 400 aircraft, a figure revised to 392. Construction of the first three F-15Es started in July 1985; the first of these, 86-0183, made its maiden flight on 11 December 1986. Piloted by Gary Jennings, the aircraft reached a maximum speed of Mach 0.9 and an altitude of 40,000 feet during the 75-minute flight. This aircraft had the full F-15E avionics suite and the redesigned front fuselage, but not the aft fuselage and the common engine bay; the latter was featured on 86-0184, while 86-0185 incorporated all the changes of the F-15E from the F-15. On 31 March 1987, the first completed F-15E made its first flight; the first production F-15E was delivered to the 405th Tactical Training Wing, Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, in April 1988.
Production continued into the 2000s with 236 produced for the USAF through 2001. The F-15E was to be upgraded with the Raytheon APG-82 Active Electronically Scanned Array radar after 2007, the first test radar was delivered to Boeing in 2010, it combines the processor of the APG-79 used on the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet with the antenna of the APG-633 AESA being fitted on the F-15C. The new radar upgrade is to be part of the F-15E Radar Modernization Program; the new radar was named APG-634 until it received the APG-82 designation in 2009. The RMP includes a wideband radome, improvements to the environment control and electronic warfare systems. Having a sturdier airframe rated for twice the lifetime of earlier variants, the F-15E is expected to remain in service past 2025; as of December 2012, the USAF's F-15E fleet had an average age of 21 years a
The Boeing F2B was a biplane fighter aircraft of the United States Navy in the 1920s, familiar to aviation enthusiasts of the era as the craft of the Three Sea Hawks aerobatic flying team, famous for its tied-together formation flying. The Boeing Model 69, it was inspired by the results of tests on the FB-6, powered by a Pratt & Whitney R-1340B Wasp radial engine. Boeing set out to use this engine in a fighter designed for carrier operations, using the same welded-tubing fuselage and wooden-frame wings as for the Model 15, adding a large spinner to reduce air drag around the engine. Armament was either one.30 in and one.50 in. First flight of the F2B prototype was November 3, 1926; the Navy acquired the prototype as XF2B-1, capable of reaching speeds of 154 mph, was sufficiently impressed to order 32 F2B-1s. In addition to omission of the large streamlined spinner cap, the production versions had a balanced rudder. Delivery began on January 20, 1928, with some assigned to fighter squadron VF-1B and others to bomber squadron VF-2B, both operating from the carrier Saratoga.
Although the Navy did not order any more F2Bs, Boeing built two more, as Model 69Bs, exporting one to Brazil and the other to Japan. In 1927, Lt. D. W. "Tommy" Tomlinson CO of VF-2B, created the first U. S. Naval aerobatic team. Drawing from VB-2B squadron at Naval Air Station North Island, San Diego, the team used three Boeing F2B-1 fighters, its first unofficial demonstration in January 1928 at San Francisco gave rise to a popular nickname: "Suicide Trio" although the team was called "Three Sea Hawks". The first public performance as an official team representing the Navy was between September 8 and 16, during National Air Races week at Mines Field; the Boeing F2B-1 was unable to fly inverted without the engine quitting. At the end of 1929, the Three Sea Hawks team is disbanded. XF2B-1 One prototype serial number A7385 F2B-1 Single-seat fighter biplane for the U. S. Navy, serial numbers A7424 to A7455 Model 69B Two aircraft similar to the F2B-1, one each to Brazil and Japan. BrazilBrazilian Naval Aviation JapanImperial Japanese Navy Air Service United StatesUnited States Navy Data from "The Complete Encyclopedia of World Aircraft" General characteristics Crew: 1 Length: 22 ft 11 in Wingspan: 30 ft 1 in Height: 9 ft 2.25 in Wing area: 243 ft² Empty weight: 1,989 lb Max.
Takeoff weight: 2,805 lb Powerplant: 1 × Pratt & Whitney R-1340-8 Wasp Radial, 425 hp Performance Maximum speed: 158 mph Cruise speed: 132 mph Range: 315 mi Service ceiling: 21,500 ft Rate of climb: 1,890 ft/min Armament Guns: 1 ×.50 in M2 Browning and 1 ×.30 in forward firing M1919 Browning machine guns or 2 × 0.30 in machine guns in the forward fuselage Bombs: 5 × 25 lb bombs carried under the fuselage and lower wing Related development Boeing XP-8 Related lists List of military aircraft of the United States List of fighter aircraft Boeing F2B-1 Archived version as of 10 November 2016
A fighter aircraft is a military aircraft designed for air-to-air combat against other aircraft, as opposed to bombers and attack aircraft, whose main mission is to attack ground targets. The hallmarks of a fighter are its speed and small size relative to other combat aircraft. Many fighters have secondary ground-attack capabilities, some are designed as dual-purpose fighter-bombers; this may be for national security reasons, for advertising purposes, or other reasons. A fighter's main purpose is to establish air superiority over a battlefield. Since World War I, achieving and maintaining air superiority has been considered essential for victory in conventional warfare; the success or failure of a belligerent's efforts to gain air superiority hinges on several factors including the skill of its pilots, the tactical soundness of its doctrine for deploying its fighters, the numbers and performance of those fighters. Because of the importance of air superiority, since the early days of aerial combat armed forces have competed to develop technologically superior fighters and to deploy these fighters in greater numbers, fielding a viable fighter fleet consumes a substantial proportion of the defense budgets of modern armed forces.
The word "fighter" did not become the official English-language term for such aircraft until after World War I. In the British Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force these aircraft were referred to as "scouts" into the early 1920s; the U. S. Army called their fighters "pursuit" aircraft from 1916 until the late 1940s. In most languages a fighter aircraft is known as hunting aircraft. Exceptions include Russian, where a fighter is an "истребитель", meaning "exterminator", Hebrew where it is "matose krav"; as a part of military nomenclature, a letter is assigned to various types of aircraft to indicate their use, along with a number to indicate the specific aircraft. The letters used to designate a fighter differ in various countries – in the English-speaking world, "F" is now used to indicate a fighter, though when the pursuit designation was used in the US, they were "P" types. In Russia "I" was used, while the French continue to use "C". Although the term "fighter" specifies aircraft designed to shoot down other aircraft, such designs are also useful as multirole fighter-bombers, strike fighters, sometimes lighter, fighter-sized tactical ground-attack aircraft.
This has always been the case, for instance the Sopwith Camel and other "fighting scouts" of World War I performed a great deal of ground-attack work. In World War II, the USAAF and RAF favored fighters over dedicated light bombers or dive bombers, types such as the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt and Hawker Hurricane that were no longer competitive as aerial combat fighters were relegated to ground attack. Several aircraft, such as the F-111 and F-117, have received fighter designations though they had no fighter capability due to political or other reasons; the F-111B variant was intended for a fighter role with the U. S. Navy, but it was cancelled; this blurring follows the use of fighters from their earliest days for "attack" or "strike" operations against ground targets by means of strafing or dropping small bombs and incendiaries. Versatile multirole fighter-bombers such as the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet are a less expensive option than having a range of specialized aircraft types; some of the most expensive fighters such as the US Grumman F-14 Tomcat, McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle, Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor and Russian Sukhoi Su-27 were employed as all-weather interceptors as well as air superiority fighter aircraft, while developing air-to-ground roles late in their careers.
An interceptor is an aircraft intended to target bombers and so trades maneuverability for climb rate. Fighters were developed in World War I to deny enemy aircraft and dirigibles the ability to gather information by reconnaissance over the battlefield. Early fighters were small and armed by standards, most were biplanes built with a wooden frame covered with fabric, a maximum airspeed of about 100 mph; as control of the airspace over armies became important, all of the major powers developed fighters to support their military operations. Between the wars, wood was replaced in part or whole by metal tubing, aluminium stressed skin structures began to predominate. On 15 August 1914, Miodrag Tomić encountered an enemy plane while conducting a reconnaissance flight over Austria-Hungary; the Austro-Hungarian aviator waved at Tomić, who waved back. The enemy pilot took a revolver and began shooting at Tomić's plane. Tomić fired back, he swerved away from the Austro-Hungarian plane and the two aircraft parted ways.
It was considered the first exchange of fire between aircraft in history. Within weeks, all Serbian and Austro-Hungarian aircraft were armed; the Serbians equipped their planes with 8-millimetre Schwarzlose MG M.07/12 machine guns, six 100-round boxes of ammunition and several bombs. By World War II, most fighters were all-metal monoplanes armed with batteries of machine guns or cannons and some were capable of speeds approaching 400 mph. Most fighters up to this point had one engine.