Aircraft designed primarily to secure control of essential airspace by destroying enemy aircraft in combat. Designed for high speed and maneuverability, they are armed with weapons capable of striking other aircraft in flight. Developed early in World War I, they engaged in aerial combat with other fighters, shot down enemy bombers, and conducted various tactical missions. Most were biplanes with wooden frames and cloth skins, equipped with light machine guns synchronized to fire through the propeller. World War II saw the development of all-metal monoplanes that exceeded speeds of 450 mph (725 kph). Famous fighters of the period included the Focke-Wulf 190, the P-47 and P-51, and the Zero. Jet aircraft were produced at the end of the war, and jet fighters such as the U.S. Sabre and the Soviet MiG saw extensive service in the Korean War and later conflicts. See also air warfare, F-15, F-16.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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