Fastest plane in the world

NASA's X-43 is the fastest aircraft in the world. On 16 November 2004, the X-43 reached Mach 9.6 (7,000 mph or 11,265 km/h) according to NASA.  The X-43 is an unmanned aircraft, which launches not from the ground but from a B-52 at about 40,000 feet (12.2 kilometers) in the air. This was the cruise speed for the vehicle design, and demonstrating this ability was a mission goal. X-43 aircraft was a small unpiloted test vehicle measuring just over 3.7 m in length. It was part of the X-plane series and specifically of NASA's Hyper-X program. The scramjet Air-Breathing engine is the key enabling technology for this program. The unique aspect of the X-43A vehicle is that the body of the aircraft itself forms critical elements of the engine, with the forebody acting as the intake for the airflow and the aft section serving as the nozzle. Conventional rocket engines are powered by mixing fuel with oxygen. The Hyper-X vehicles will carry only hydrogen. Other X-43 vehicles were planned, but as of June 2013 have been suspended or cancelled.

X-15 is the fastest plane in the world. Powered by a rocket engine, the X-15 is said to have reached speeds of Mach 6.85, or 4,520 miles per hour (7,274 kilometers per hour). Like the X-43, it too is launched mid-air from a B-52. The X-15 has also achieved altitude records by reaching 67 miles (107.8 kilometers) on 22 August 1963. The X-15 is powered by a rocket engine, however, so it is technically half rocket, arguably eliminating it from the running of fastest airplane in the world. The X-15 was probably the most important experimental aircraft in the development of hypersonic flight. As well as proving that an aircraft could fly from air to space and back again, other achievements from the X-15 programme include the development of the first space suits, the study of thermal protection systems for re-entering the atmosphere. The program's final flight was performed on October 24, 1968.

The fastest fighter planes to ever enter service are the MiG-25 developed in the Soviet Union during the 1960s and the related MiG-31 that followed in the 1970s. The MiG-25 began as an experimental project called the Ye-155 and was built by the Mikoyan Gurevich design bureau with research assistance from the Central Aerodynamics and Hydrodynamics Institute (CASI or TsAGI). The goal of the effort was to build a high-speed interceptor capable of speeds near Mach 3. The MiG-25 'Foxbat', despite Western panic about its tremendous performance, made substantial design sacrifices in capability for the sake of achieving high speed, altitude, and rate of climb. This is a twin-finned, high-wing monoplane with slightly swept wings and a variable-angle tail plane. The MiG-25P constitutes a part of the Russian S-155P missile interceptor system. It is one of the highest-flying military aircraft and the second fastest after the SR-71.


When discussing the world's fastest airplane, Lockheed' s  SR-71 often comes up. Also referred to as the Blackbird, the SR-71 made its maiden flight on 22 December 1964. It's a jet-powered and piloted airplane, which is said to have reached Mach 3.2 (2,094 miles or 3,370 kilometers per hour) making it the fastest airplane in the world. But those world records may not stay unbroken for long. The aircraft were built by American aerospace company Lockheed under a 'black project' - a highly classified military defence project. By some accounts, the SR-71 cost as much as $200,000 per hour to operate when all of its ancillary expenses were factored in. The SR-71 was in service with the U.S. Air Force from 1964 to 1998. Twelve of the thirty-two aircraft were destroyed in accidents, but none were ever lost to enemy action.

New world records

At the moment, the SR-72 is still only a concept, though Lockheed has now confirmed that the plane is in active development. The unmanned SR-72 would be equipped with an integrated turbine engine and dual-model ramjet. The hypersonic aircraft is designed for both long-range strike and reconnaissance. The plane would use a two-phase propulsion system. A standard jet turbine would propel the plane as fast as Mach 3, then a ramjet would kick in and accelerate the craft to hypersonic speeds. At hypersonic speeds, the SR-72 will be able to traverse any continent in around an hour. The SR-72 is to use a turbine-based combined cycle system to use a turbine engine at low speeds and a scramjet engine at high speeds. Lockheed Martin has been working to develop a method to integrate an off-the-shelf turbine with a supersonic combustion ramjet air breathing jet engine to power the aircraft from standstill to Mach 6. The aerospace company says it may have a scaled demonstrator of the SR-72 technology flying by 2023.


The fastest airplane commercially was the Tupolev Tu-144, nicknamed the Konkordski, which is said to have reached Mach 2.35 (1,550 miles or 2,494 kilometers per hour). Technical and safety problems, however, lead the Russian company to retire the Tu-144 after a short time. Its normal cruising speed was up to Mach 2.2, more than twice the speed of sound. Chief Designer and Manager was Alexey Tupolev. Tu-144 onception and future layout was originated under his leadership and with best aviation science specialists involved. Flying at high speeds can get noisy, but passenger peace and quiet will be critical to the success of the next-generation supersonic passenger jet.One of the fastest commercial airliners was the Concorde, which generally flew at Mach 2.02.

Speed is the next aviation advancement to counter emerging threats in the next several decades.