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Fighter aircraft

The meaning of «fighter aircraft»

Fighter aircraft are fixed-wing military aircraft designed primarily for air-to-air combat. In military conflict, the role of fighter aircraft is to establish air superiority of the battlespace. Domination of the airspace above a battlefield permits bombers and attack aircraft to engage in tactical and strategic bombing of enemy targets.

The key performance features of a fighter include not only its firepower but also its high speed and maneuverability relative to the target aircraft. The success or failure of a combatant'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, and the numbers and performance of those fighters.

Many modern fighter aircraft have secondary capabilities such as ground attack and some types, such as fighter-bombers, are designed from the outset for dual roles. Other fighter designs are highly specialized while still filling the main air superiority role, these include the interceptor, heavy fighter, and night fighter.

A fighter aircraft is primarily designed for air-to-air combat.[1] A given type may be designed for specific combat conditions, and in some cases for additional roles such as air-to-ground fighting. Historically the British Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force referred to them as "scouts" until the early 1920s, while the U.S. Army called them "pursuit" aircraft until the late 1940s. The UK changed to calling them fighters in the 1920s, while the US Army did so in the 1940s.[citation needed] A short-range fighter designed to defend against incoming enemy aircraft is known as an interceptor.

Of these, the Fighter-bomber, reconnaissance fighter and strike fighter classes are dual-role, possessing qualities of the fighter alongside some other battlefield role. Some fighter designs may be developed in variants performing other roles entirely, such as ground attack or unarmed reconnaissance. This may be for political or national security reasons, for advertising purposes, or other reasons.[2]

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 often favored fighters over dedicated light bombers or dive bombers, and 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 originally intended for a fighter role with the U.S. Navy, but it was canceled. 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 multi role fighter-bombers such as the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet are a less expensive option than having a range of specialized aircraft types.

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