Air Force 1 is sometimes escorted by fighter jets, either for security reasons or for show. Given that Air Force 1 is a very large aircraft that produces an extremely large amount of jet blast and may very well blow and peel off certain flight critical parts of a fighter jet not designed for that type of air speed. It produces wake turbulence as well.

What is the safe distance at which fighter pilots fly their jets? How do they measure this?

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    $\begingroup$ Wouldn't that be rather similar to any other Boeing 747? I also question your assessment that an engine of a 747 "may very well suck an aircraft the size of a fighter jet" to the point that it becomes a problem. Fighters are still pretty large, and they have a pretty good amount of excess power when cruising alongside an airliner. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Jun 3 '18 at 12:22
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    $\begingroup$ Note that fighter jets typically fly 8-9 m from a tanker aircraft (which is also very large) during aerial refueling. $\endgroup$
    – Relaxed
    Jun 3 '18 at 12:29
  • $\begingroup$ Fighter jets are typically designed for rather high airspeeds. $\endgroup$ Jun 3 '18 at 18:14
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    $\begingroup$ @CptReynolds and high G-loads. And damage. It may be uncomfortable, but I imagine the difference between uncomfortable and dangerous to be really, really large for many fighters... $\endgroup$
    – vidarlo
    Jun 3 '18 at 19:08

They can fly as close as they like so long as they're upwind of the wake turbulence. I can't imagine the engines giving them much grief, but again, it's a case of being in the right place.

Bear in mind that while Air Force One is indeed a large aircraft, fighter jets are by no means small and they also carry significant thrust.

Rather than formation flying which is far more tactical than just flying close, especially when escorting, take a look at interceptions. You'll see fighter pilots will get in very close indeed to intercepted aircraft. As an example see this interception (starts at 19:40):

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As a bonus, and also in that video, check out air to air refueling.

In short, fighter aircraft are capable of getting within a few feet of almost any other aircraft quite safely - assuming stable flight and cooperation of course.


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