Can You Identify These Military Aircraft from a Photo?


By: Mark Laufgraben

7 Min Quiz

Image: By Richard Watt , via Wikimedia Commons /// By w:United States Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kenneth G. Takada, via Wikimedia Commons /// By Tequask, from Wikimedia Commons

About This Quiz

Since the dawn of humanity there has been war, and since the dawn of flight humanity has weaponized the air. The propeller-driven aircraft of early warfare have given way to jets and rotors, and the genius of man has been aided and even supplanted at times by the newest weapon to take flight: the UAV. We were obsessed with flight from earliest caveman days, and just like the caveman turned fire, rocks and wheels into weapons, we couldn't wait to put guns on our flying machines.

Air supremacy, stealth, reconnaissance, ground attack and even the terrifying Wild Weasel - these machines can do it all! And they range from multi-engine giants that pack an entire flight crew to tiny drones that can literally be launched from an open palm. From the gargantuan to the minuscule, the air is filled with weapons of war! 

Do you know enough about these aircraft to prove your mastery? Here you will find a comprehensive list of some of the most deadly beasts to ever rule the skies, and they run the gamut from American-made Warthogs to the mighty Soviet MiGs. How far does your knowledge go? Are you the original Top Gun? Do you feel the need ... the need for SPEED?

This carrier jet was the holder of a speed record, at 752.943 mph.

The F-6 Skyray was introduced in 1956 by the Douglas Aircraft Company, it was named after the manta ray, which it allegedly resembled due to its delta shaped wings.


A prototype lightweight fighter!

The YF-17 Cobra was an attempt at creating a lightweight fighter. It lost out to the Fighting Falcon in its original design, but made a comeback as the more robust Hornet!


A Marine Corps reconnaissance craft

The Dragon Eye UAV was designed by the Naval Laboratories for reconnaissance purposes. The entire unit weights a mere 5 lbs, and is controlled by a goggle-wearing Marine.


They jokingly nicknamed it "All 3 Dead"

The A-3 Skywarrior – Douglas (formerly designated A3D) was designed as a strategic bomber for the Navy, but it actually spent much of its later life as a platform for electronic warfare.


Also known as the "Predator B"

The General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper is a UAV designed for remote-controlled OR fully autonomous missions. It is a Hunter-Killer, frequently armed with Hellfire class missiles.


Considered the most effective air-to-air US fighter of the '60s

The F-5 Freedom Fighter was designed by Northrop to be a relatively inexpensive air-to-air fighter with a long window for expansion- 10 years! In reality, some of the models are still in service today!


VTOL capabilities and it fits in a backpack!

The RQ-16 T-Hawk is a tiny, VTOL drone used to search for roadside bombs. Early trials proved to be tremendously successful, as an original order for 20 ballooned to no less than 372!


A max speed of approximately 1500 MPH!

The F-22 Raptor – Lockheed Martin is a fifth-generation fighter with fourth-generation stealth capabilities. With 187 in service, it forms the core of the USAF's striking power and is considered unmatched by any current or projected fighter.


Known as the "Warthog", or just the "Hog"!

The A-10 Thunderbolt II is an enormously effective ground-attack aircraft, designed around its 30 mm GAU-8 Avenger rotary cannon. It is enormously durable and has short takeoff and landing time, making it perfect for deploying near the front.


Designed based around experience fighting MiGs in 'Nam.

Though now supplanted by the Super Hornet, the F-14 Tomcat was the mainstay of naval fighting aviation for a long time. Even today, it is still used by the Iranian air force, where it maintained a sterling record during their Iraqi conflict.


This ground attack craft first saw action in the Vietnam war.

The A-6 Intruder saw decades of service as a ground attack aircraft. Intended to be replaced by the (canceled) A-12 project, it has been superseded by the Hornet and Super Hornet.


It has a twin-tailboom empennage and an inverted V-tail.

Like its comic book namesake, the Shadow system is perfect for reconnaissance, particularly of an active battlefield. It can aid in tactical relay of information, battle damage assessment and target acquisition.


It was just retired in March of 2018!

The MQ-1 Predator Drone was used for combat operation in Afghanistan and the Pakistani border regions. It was also used for surveillance and reconnaissance gathering missions.


Flown by the Demonstration Squadron called The Blue Angels!

With a top speed of Mach 1.8, the Hornet is an incredibly versatile multi-role fighter, useful for air-to-air combat, ground attack, fleet air support, aerial reconnaissance and darn near anything it's needed for. If it has a weakness, it is its comparatively light payload.


The only jet-powered fighter ever deployed by the Royal Canadian Navy!

A single-seater carrier-based jet, the F-2 Banshee was notable for her use in the Korean War, but the early annihilation of the Korean air force meant that she faced little in the way of actual opposition. Most of the MiG fighting was taken care of by other models.


Originally known as the "Black Shark"

The Kamov Ka-50 is a single-seat attack helicopter that is also used for forward reconnaissance. Some of the original units actually had false windows painted on the side to disguise the nature of the weapon system by modifying its profile!


NATO calls it the "Fullback."

Entering service in 2014, the Sukhoi Su-34 is a Russian fighter-bomber. While a multi-role craft, it is primarily a ground attack weapon with surprisingly long range, and has been used as part of the Russian intervention on behalf of the Syrian government.


It is a "loitering weapon."

The Switchblade is designed to prowl the battlefield looking for targets, identify them and then "kamikaze" into them, activating the bomb within it. It is therefore an expendable UAV.


The program to develop it took $1.508 *trillion*.

The F-35 Lightning II is a multi-role stealth fighter whose repertoire includes missile interdiction. It also has stealth capability. Critics cite its expense to maintain as well as its tendency toward being a Jack of All Trades, but a true master of none.


It was the first jet to shoot *itself* down!

A carrier-based jet aircraft, the F-11 Tiger was only in use for a limited window. Its engine was ultimately deemed insufficient, and its overall performance inferior to several rival craft.


Originally created for a nuclear strike role.

The A-5 Vigilante saw use in Vietnam in the role of a tactical strike/surveillance bomber. Its bomber role ended with the Navy's shift to use of sub-launched missiles for ground strikes, wedging it further in the surveillance role, which suited its speed well.


Works in tandem with the Apache helicopter!

MQ-1C Gray Eagle is an armed drone system that is stationed in Iraq and South Korea. It can act as an extension of manned aircraft, allowing its sensors and weapons to be activated remotely from a helicopter in use to further increase its reach over the battlefield.


It only weight 75-79 lbs!

The MQ-19, currently developed by Aerosonde, is actually a weather drone that has been adapted to military and surveillance use. It was the first UAV to cross the Atlantic Ocean!


The design's origin dates back to Operation Paperclip!

The CQ-24A K-MAX is actually a helicopter vehicle that has had an unmanned model created as an addendum to its product line, so not a typical UAV at all! It is used for supply delivery into dangerous areas, and has been used for both military and civilian purposes.


This Russian wears many hats in combat!

The Mikoyan MiG-29 was originally designed for air-to-air combat, but in true Russian style has proved to be immensely customizable as multi-role fighters. With over a dozen separate variants, this fighter is still in use by the Russian Federation today.


NATO called it "Blackjack".

The Tupolev Tu-160 is a long ranged strategic bomber. Although it was deployed as far afield as Venezuela to show solidarity against the US, its combat debut has been in the Russian intervention in Syria.


Iran has recently captured two of these.

The RQ-11 Raven is a tiny, hand launched UAV for short ranged reconnaissance with a range of 6.2 miles. You actually just give it a solid throw into the air and off it goes!


It was nicknamed "Spad"!

The A-1 Skyraider was a propeller driven craft with an incredibly lengthy career- it saw service from the '40s to the '80s! It was primarily a dive or torpedo bomber.


It weighs slightly more than half an ounce!

The Black Hornet Nano is a micro UAV in use by the British and several European militaries. It can fit in a single hand and carries a camera for enhanced battlefield awareness. It does not, in fact, pack a sting.


Known as the "Lion Cub".

The F-21 Kfir C-2 – Israel Aircraft Industries Kfir C-2 is a multirole combat fighter that has found its way into many South American countries, and is used for aggressor training by the US.


There are models that land on air and models that land on the sea.

The RQ-12 Wasp is a UAV used for Air Force Special Operations. It can act autonomously, and is used to expand battlefield awareness with its twin mounted cameras.


A seaplane prototype!

In order to avoid the limitations of carrier take off and landing, the F-7 Sea Dart was designed to take off from the sea, and was the only such plane capable of supersonic speeds!


Developed by the so-called "Skunk Works"

Although nicknamed, the "stealth fighter," the F-117 Nighthawk was actually not a fighter at all, but a single-seat attack aircraft. Only one was ever lost in combat, struck by a Yugoslavian surface to air missile during the Bosnian conflict.


Delivered atomic payloads with nearly perfect stealth

The Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit was a nuclear-armed strategic stealth bomber. In spite of its astonishing technology, it was not long before it became a solution to a problem that no longer existed, when the USSR broke up!


Made of a special, rugged polypropylene!

Made by the secretive "Skunk Works" over at Northrupp, the DH3 is an upgrade to the original DH drone, made for longer flight times and a more rugged exterior. It is used for surveillance and battlefield awareness.


100+ victories, ZERO losses in aerial combat!

Introduced in 1976, F-15 Strike Eagle was a product of the lessons learned by the US in the Vietnam War. While a multirole fighter with numerous variants, its primary responsibility was straight up air superiority- a mission at which, as indicated above, it excelled!


18,000 lbs of weapons on 9 hard points!

First flown in 1958, the F-4 Phantom II was used for Wild Weasel missions (suppression of enemy air defenses) as late as the Gulf War! It initially lacked an internal cannon, but later models fixed this deficiency.


A collaboration between 5 separate nations!

A multirole fighter, the Eurofighter Typhoon saw its combat debut in NATOs Libyan intervention in 2011, where it was used in both reconnaissance and ground attack roles.


Used by the North Vietnamese against the US

The YF-114 MiG-17 was a subsonic air superiority fighter designed by the USSR and deployed in client states like North Vietnam. 3 of the NVAF Aces from the Vietnam war chose to fly MiG 17s, possibly due to their high agility.


Nicknamed "The Chair" due to its excellent visibility.

Introduced in 1956, the F-3 Demon was fraught with problems. The engine both lacked the power it needed AND was unreliable. In spite of this, many were ordered and it was an important weapon in the interwar years between Korea and Vietnam.


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