The 15 most insanely heavyweight fighters of all time
The lightest fighter on this list of titanic pugilists weighs in at an astonishing 31 tonnes, the heaviest at over 63 tonnes, is the same weight as 12 adult elephants.These formidable fighter aircraft were created in such generous proportions for a reason, and are generally long-ranged, very fast and extremely well armed. Almost half of them failed to reach front-line service, often crippled by the huge costs incurred by such heavy advanced fighter projects. The joker in the pack is the Boeing YB-40, a long-range escort fighter version of the B-17 bomber. Armed with up to 30 ‘fifty-cal’ guns (and sometimes a 40-mm cannon) this ferocious gunship proved too heavy and draggy to keep up with the bombers it was created to protect. After a 25 aircraft operational trial it was cancelled.
The weight given is the maximum take-off, apart from when otherwise specified.
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15. Maple Regrets: Avro Canada CF-105 Arrow
Max take-off weight: 31120 kg (68,605 lb)
Length: 23.71 m (77 ft 9 in)
14. Military Industrial Oedipus Complex: Lockheed Martin F-35A/C Lighting II
Max take-off weight: 31800 kg (70,000 lbs)
Length: 15.67 m (50 ft 5 in)
13. Le Strike Eagle: Dassault Mirage 4000
Max take-off weight: 32000 kg (70,548 lb)
Length: 18.70 m (61 ft 4 in)
12. The Reluctant Gunbus: Boeing YB-40 Flying Fortress
Max take-off weight: 34000 kg (74,000 lb)
Length: 22.6 m (74 ft 9 in)
11. Iranian Topgun: Grumman F-14 Tomcat
Weight: 33720 kg (74,350 lb)
Length: 19.1 m (62 ft 9 in)
10. Heavyweight acrobat: Sukhoi Su-30
Weight: 34500 kg (76,060 lb)
Length: 21.935 m (72 ft 9 in)
9. The Unborn Oligarch: Sukhoi PAK FA
Weight: 35000 kg (77,160 lb)
Length: 19.8 m (65 ft)
8. China’s Raptor: Chengdu J-20
Weight: 35381 kg (78,000 lb) – estimated
Length: 20 m (66.8 ft)
7. Foxbatmobile: Mikoyan MiG-25
Weight: 36720 kg (80,952 lb)- (loaded not maximum)
Length: 19.75 m (64 ft 10 in)
6. Reagan’s Lamborghini: Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor
Weight: 38000 kg (83,500 lb)
Length: 18.92 m (62 ft 1 in)
5. McNamara’s Folly: General Dynamics–Grumman F-111B
Max take-off weight: 39900 kg (88,000 lb)
Length: 20.98 m (68 ft 10 in)
4. Fiddler on the roof: Tupolev Tu-128
Max take-off weight: 43700 kg (96,342 lb)
Length: 30.06 m (99 ft)
3. Psycho-reheat: Mikoyan MiG-31
Max take-off weight: 46200 kg (101,900 lb)
Length: 22.69 m (74 ft 5 in)
2. Skunky nightrider: Lockheed YF-12
Max take-off weight: 63504 kg (140,000 lb)
Length: 30.97 m (101 ft 8 in)
1. South Atlantic hunter-killer: Hawker Siddeley Nimrod MR.2P
In preparation for the Falklands war of 1982, the RAF gave their Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft the ability to carry two AIM-9 Sidewinders. The primary intent was not self-defence – but to destroy Argentinian maritime reconnaissance aircraft – arguably making the Nimrod the heaviest fighter ever to fly.
Max take-off weight: 87090 kg (192,000 lb)
Length: 38.65 m (126 ft 9 in)
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I was a F-111 Crew Chief…. Let me assure you the F-111 was a Fighter simply due to treaty limitations, we were not allowed to have intermediate ranged bombers in Europe so we put an F in front and called it a fighter. The AIM-9 Rails were not wired to fire, the F-111 was designed to fly low and fast, not to dogfight… My bird does not even belong on this list, nor does the Y-12, as it never went into production.
Hi Todd, I would love to know more about your experiences with the F-111, a fascinating and by all accounts formidable, weapon system. The F-111B was indeed a fighter. It was intended to fulfill the role that was eventually given to the F-14. Interesting that the Sidewinders weren’t wired to fire on the F-111 and the reason behind the F (and FB) -designation. As you can see from the introduction, cancellation does not preclude aircraft from this list (this gives us a chance to include often overlooked -and very interesting – aeroplanes). l hope this answers your query. I would very much like to chat to you more about your experiences with the F-111. Thanks for getting in touch, Joe.
The F-15’s MTO of 68K is a peace time limit. It has a wartime option of 72K. The C-130’s 155,000 normal/175,000 wartime. This is reduce stress, MTO launches put extreme stress on the air-frame and gear.
Where did you find that takeoff weight for the F-35? I cannot find a source that list over 70k. I have a fiend at Luke, he had no clue how the F-35A is going to reach 70K (mathematically impossible). But the F-35C’s can more fuel and structure.
Very interesting points thank you, I will look into these and adjust the article accordingly.
You could include the Nimrod MR2, it was fitted with Sidewinder rails during the Falklands war, MTO 87 tonnes.
I’ve read sidewinders were also considered for the Victor K2 tanker, but never implemented. However they certainly were for the MR2.
An interesting point, but these were only for last ditch self-defence.
For the Mirages it was defensive, but against the Argentinean B707’s that were doing maritime reconnaissance up near Ascension, it was offensive. The main reason they were installed was a close encounter between a Nimrod and a B707 early on when neither had weapons.
They even had a zap badge made up stating “Worlds Biggest Fighter”: