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


Year: 1958

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


Year: 2006

Max take-off weight: 31800 kg (70,000 lbs)

Length:  15.67 m (50 ft 5 in)

13. Le Strike Eagle: Dassault Mirage 4000


Year: 1979

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


Year: 1943

Max take-off weight: 34000 kg (74,000 lb)

Length: 22.6 m (74 ft 9 in)

11. Iranian Topgun: Grumman F-14 Tomcat

5a248fca2f9bc413ac7c5c5ab76b69e6Year: 1970

Weight: 33720 kg (74,350 lb)

Length: 19.1 m (62 ft 9 in)

10. Heavyweight acrobat: Sukhoi Su-30


Year: 1989

Weight: 34500 kg (76,060 lb)

Length: 21.935 m (72 ft 9 in)

9. The Unborn Oligarch: Sukhoi PAK FA


Year: 2010

Weight: 35000 kg (77,160 lb)

Length: 19.8 m (65 ft)

8. China’s Raptor: Chengdu J-20


Year: 2011

Weight: 35381 kg (78,000 lb) – estimated

Length: 20 m (66.8 ft)


7. Foxbatmobile: Mikoyan MiG-25


Year: 1964

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


Year: 1997

Weight: 38000 kg (83,500 lb)

Length: 18.92 m (62 ft 1 in)

5. McNamara’s Folly: General Dynamics–Grumman F-111B


Year: 1965

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

Tupolev Tu-128 Fiddler

Artist: Anthony Cowland

Year: 1961

Max take-off weight: 43700 kg (96,342 lb)

Length: 30.06 m (99 ft)

3. Psycho-reheat: Mikoyan MiG-31


Year: 1975

Max take-off weight: 46200 kg (101,900 lb)

Length: 22.69 m (74 ft 5 in)

2. Skunky nightrider: Lockheed YF-12


Year: 1963

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.

Year: 1982

Max take-off weight: 87090 kg (192,000 lb)

Length: 38.65 m (126 ft 9 in)

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Special thanks to Combat Aircraft’s Thomas Newdick and artist Ed Ward for their generous help.

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Have a look at 10 worst British military aircraftSu-35 versus Typhoon10 Best fighters of World War II top WVR and BVR fighters of today, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes. Was the Spitfire overrated? Want something more bizarre? The Top Ten fictional aircraft is a fascinating read, as is The Strange Story and The Planet Satellite. The Fashion Versus Aircraft Camo is also a real cracker. Those interested in the Cold Way should read A pilot’s guide to flying and fighting in the Lightning. Those feeling less belligerent may enjoy A pilot’s farewell to the Airbus A340. Looking for something more humorous? Have a look at this F-35 satire and ‘Werner Herzog’s Guide to pusher bi-planes or the Ten most boring aircraft. In the mood for something more offensive? Try the NSFW 10 best looking American airplanes, or the same but for Canadians. 

Read an interview with a Super Hornet pilot here.


  1. Todd Meedel

    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.

    • Hush Kit

      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.

  2. Harlan McCartney

    Two things.
    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.

  3. EGG

    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.

      • EGG

        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.

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