What is a jet fighter

A fighter jet is a military aircraft designed primarily for air-to-air combat with other aircraft, as opposed to a bomber, which is designed primarily to attack ground targets. The hallmarks of a fighter are its small size, speed and maneuverability. Many fighters have secondary ground-attack capabilities, and some are dual-roled as fighter-bombers. It is not unusual for aircraft that do not fulfill the standard definition to be labelled or described as fighters. This may be for politicial or national security reasons, for advertising purposes or other reasons.

Fighters are the means by which armed forces gain air superiority over their opponents in battle. Since World War I, achieving and maintaining air superiority has been essential for victory in conventional warfare. Alternatively Guerrilla warfare attempts to find victory without air superiority but may only do so at a great cost in lives. The initial purchase price represents only small part of the total cost so that maintaining 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 term for such aircraft until after World War I. In Great Britain’s 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. The French chasseur and German jagdflugzeuge are terms that continue to be used for fighters, and mean “hunter” and “hunting aircraft” respectively. This lead has been followed in most languages except Russian where the fighter is an “истребитель” (pronounced “istrebitel”), meaning “exterminator”.

As a part of military nomenclature, a letter is often 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 in various countries differ – in the English speaking world, “F” is now used to indicate a fighter (eg F-35) or Spitfire F.22 though when the pursuit designation was used in the US, they were “P” types (such as with the P-40). In Russia “I” was used (I-16), while the French continue to use “C”.

Although the term “fighter” specifies aircraft designed to shoot down other aircraft, such designs are often also useful as multirole fighter-bombers, strike fighters, and sometimes lighter, fighter-sized tactical ground-attack aircraft. For example, in World War II the USAAF and RAF would later favor fighters over dedicated light bombers or dive bombers, and types such as the P-47 Thunderbolt and Hawker Hurricane which were found to be no longer competitive as fighters were relegated to ground attack. A number of aircraft such as the F-111 and F-117 had no fighter capability despite carrying the designation but did so for political reasons – the F-111 was originally intended to fulfill a fighter role with the Navy but this variant was cancelled, while the F-117 was thus designated for national security reasons. This blurring follows the use of fighters from their earliest days for “attack” or “strike” operations against enemy troops, field positions, vehicles, and facilities by means of strafing or dropping small bombs and incendiaries. Versatile multirole fighter-bombers such as the 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 F-14 Tomcat, F-22 Raptor and F-15 Eagle were employed as all-weather interceptors as well as air superiority fighter aircraft, while commonly developing air-to-ground roles late in their careers. An interceptor is generally an aircraft intended to target (or intercept) bombers and so often trades speed or maneuverability for climb rate.