Military fighter jets can get in the air and to their target in minutes and faster than almost all other aircraft. How do they achieve this considering that a normal pre-flight alone takes ~10-15 minutes?


2 Answers 2


(Source - My many years on fighter jet flightlines. F-111E, F-106, F-15, F-16)

Peacetime alert

The designated jets are fully preflighted. Munitions fully loaded. INS aligned, IFF code laid in, most but not all of the safety devices removed. The jet is ready to go except for the pilot and engine start. Assigned alert pilots and ground crew are hanging around. Alert hangar right next to the runway. Can get in the air in under 5 minutes.

We had to scramble F-106 from Griffiss AFB more than once, to escort Russian Bears down the East coast.

Elevated threat

All of the above, except the aircrew may be sitting in the seat. Rotate pilots every X hours.

Wartime or imminent threat

All of the above, but engines may be idling. All safety pins pulled.


Typically you would do a preflight like this, but it's obviously different from place to place, depending on local requirements.

Before placing the aircraft on quick response status, you would do the normal preflight procedures like inspecting the aircraft exterior, checking cockpit, following your pre-engine start check, and starting the engine.

After this, during the post engine start check, you don't remove the ground safety pins.

The aircraft is now ready for scramble, per local policies and directives - and the only thing the pilot needs is for the flight engineer to remove the safety pins.

So TLDR: They do the preflight before placing the planes on the quick response status.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ If I didn't misunderstand, the engines are kept running? Is that with or without the pilot in the cockpit? I always thought the plane is preflighted except for the engine start, which is very quick to start. Or am I describing something different from that "quick response status"? $\endgroup$
    – user14897
    Jan 3, 2022 at 10:28
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    $\begingroup$ @ymb1 Pre-started without the pilot in the cockpit. But it's very different from place to place depending on local requirements. You can definitely find places where the engine is not started, but just prepared for start. This of course adds time before takeoff, due to the post engine startup check :) Hope this helps! $\endgroup$
    – Noddle
    Jan 3, 2022 at 11:09
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    $\begingroup$ @TayE The entire point of “quick response” aircraft is to be ready to intercept inbound hostiles likely moving at supersonic speed. Waiting to start your engines until after detection means the hostiles get inside your security perimeter before you can engage and maybe even destroy you while you’re still on the ground. That’s much worse than wasting a little fuel idling the engines. $\endgroup$
    – StephenS
    Jan 3, 2022 at 18:39
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    $\begingroup$ Presumably there is another level of readiness in which the engine is not started, and which takes slightly longer to get into the air, but which can be maintained for hours. $\endgroup$ Jan 3, 2022 at 21:07
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    $\begingroup$ @DJClayworth, yes, the alert posture is highly dependent on the threat level. Sitting on the ground with turning would be extremely rare, and would mean a strike is imminent, or you are spare for an airplane already launched or planning to launch. $\endgroup$ Jan 4, 2022 at 15:38

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