Just to clarify: I am explicitly not referring to the Bell X-1, or any other early experimental supersonic aircraft that were rocket-powered. I'm curious as to the first supersonic aircraft powered by an air-breathing jet engine, as well as (if possible) the technological innovations needed to transition from rocket-powered to air-breathing supersonic flight.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ in level flight? Or during a dive? $\endgroup$ – rul30 Apr 18 '16 at 19:47
  • $\begingroup$ @rul30 I meant in level flight. Thanks for the catch! $\endgroup$ – Timpanus Apr 18 '16 at 20:28

One ME-262 Pilot claims to have exceeded Mach 1 in a dive, but the conditions are disputed due to compressibility and later tests that find the aircraft uncontrollable above Mach .84. The first U.S. fighter plane to exceed Mach 1 in level flight is the F-100 Super Sabre.

For research on how the sound barrier was broken as it results to aircraft design is to read Wikipedia: Sound Barrier.

Wikipedia also has a good read on Supersonic Aircraft that lists aircraft by manufacture date.

As for technological innovations, I would suggest reading about the turbofan engine, specifically inlet design since the air must be slowed sub-sonic before entering the compressor stages.

  • $\begingroup$ It appears, from your "Supersonic Aircraft" link that the F-100 was manufactured in 1953. The MiG-19 was also built in 1953, while the Saab 32 Lansen was manufactured in 1952, and the Convair XF-92 was built in 1948. Was the F-100 the first to attain stable Mach1+ level flight? $\endgroup$ – FreeMan May 12 '16 at 15:44
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The F-100 is the first American aircraft to sustain Mach 1+, and as far as I can tell the first fighter to sustain it. The XF-92 was only able to hit Mach 1+ in a dive (and it was a 1-off prototype). The Saab 32 was in development in 1952 but not manufactured until 1955 (plus its top speed was Mach 1.031 on a good day). Really when you get down to it you are probably talking months between a few models so its difficult to nail down which one had it first. $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer May 12 '16 at 16:01
  • $\begingroup$ Just wondering since you specifically called out the first US fighter, while the question asked for first. I'm good with your answer and explanation. $\endgroup$ – FreeMan May 12 '16 at 16:10
  • $\begingroup$ @FreeMan for other countries accurate data is often not available (especially the USSR and China come to mind). Dates for aircraft as to first flight, in service date, etc. are often guessed from when the aircraft is first seen and where by spy cameras rather than official documents. $\endgroup$ – jwenting Jun 14 '18 at 9:50

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.