Fighter pilot


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Ilmari Juutilainen, a Finnish WWII fighter pilot with Brewster BW-364 "Orange 4" on 26 June 1942 during the Continuation War.[1]

A fighter pilot is a military aviator trained to engage in air-to-air combat, air-to-ground combat and sometimes electronic warfare while in the cockpit of a fighter aircraft. Fighter pilots undergo specialized training in aerial warfare and dogfighting (close range aerial combat). A fighter pilot with at least five air-to-air kills becomes known as an ace.


Fighter pilots are one of the most highly regarded and desirable positions of any air force. Selection processes only accept the elite out of all the potential candidates. An individual who possesses an exceptional academic record, physical fitness, healthy well-being, and a strong mental drive will have a higher chance of being selected for pilot training. Candidates are also expected to exhibit strong leadership and teamwork abilities. As such, in nearly all air forces, fighter pilots, as are pilots of most other aircraft, are commissioned officers.


Female USAF fighter pilots heading to their jets before takeoff (2006)

Fighter pilots must be in optimal health to handle the physical demands of modern aerial warfare. Excellent heart condition is required, as the increased "G's" a pilot experiences in a turn can cause stress on the cardiovascular system. One "G" is equal to the force of gravity experienced under normal conditions, two "G"s would be twice the force of normal gravity. Some fighter aircraft can accelerate to up to 9 G’s. Fighter pilots also require strong muscle tissue along the extremities and abdomen, for performing an anti-G straining maneuver (AGSM, see below) when performing tight turns and other highly accelerated maneuvers. Better-than-average visual acuity is also a highly desirable and valuable trait.



Modern medium and long range active radar homing and semi-active radar homing missiles can be fired at targets outside or beyond visual range. However, when a pilot is dogfighting at short-range, his position relative to the opponent is decidedly important. Outperformance of another pilot and that pilot's aircraft is critical to maintain the upper-hand. A common saying for dogfighting is "lose sight, lose fight".

If one pilot had a greater missile range than the other, he would choose to fire his missile first, before being in range of the enemy's missile. Normally, the facts of an enemy's weapon payload is unknown, and are revealed as the fight progresses.

Some air combat maneuvers form the basis for the sport of aerobatics:


Pilots are trained to employ specific tactics and maneuvers when they are under attack. Attacks from missiles are usually countered with electronic countermeasures, Flares and chaff. Missiles like the AIM-120 AMRAAM, however, can actively home in on jamming signals.[citation needed]

Dogfighting at 1 to 4 miles (1,600 to 6,400 m) is considered "close". Pilots perform stressful maneuvers to gain advantage in the dogfight. Pilots need to be in good shape in order to handle the high G-forces caused by aerial combat. A pilot flexes his legs and torso to keep blood from draining out of the head. This is known as the AGSM or the M1 or, sometimes, as the "grunt".[citation needed]

Defense against missiles

Many early air-to-air and surface-to-air missiles had very simple infrared homing ("heat seeking") guidance systems with a narrow field of view. These missiles could be avoided by simply turning sharply, which essentially caused the missile to lose sight of the target aircraft. Another tactic was to exploit a missile's limited range by performing evasive maneuvers until the missiles had run out of fuel.

Modern infrared missiles, like the AIM-9 Sidewinder, have a more advanced guidance system. Supercooled infrared detectors help the missile find a possible exhaust source, and software assists the missile in flying towards its target. Pilots normally drop flares to confuse or decoy these missiles by creating more multiple heat signatures hotter than that of the aircraft for the missile to lock onto and guide away from the defending aircraft.[2]

Radar homing missiles could sometimes be confused by surface objects or geographical features causing clutter for the guidance system of either the missile or ground station guiding it. Chaff is another option in the case that the aircraft is too high up to use geographical obstructions. Pilots have to be aware of the potential threats and learn to distinguish between the two where possible. They use the RWR (radar warning receiver) to discern the types of signals hitting their aircraft.


When maneuvering fiercely during engagements, pilots are subjected to high G-force. G-forces express the magnitude of gravity, with 1G being equivalent to Earth's normal pull of gravity. Because modern jet aircraft are highly agile and have the capacity to make very sharp turns, the pilot's body is often pushed to the limit.

When executing a "positive G" maneuver like turning upwards the force pushes the pilot down. The most serious consequence of this is that the blood in the pilot's body is also pulled down and into their extremities. If the forces are great enough and over a sufficient period of time this can lead to blackouts (called G-induced loss of consciousness or G-LOC), because not enough blood is reaching the pilot's brain. To counteract this effect pilots are trained to tense their legs and abdominal muscles to restrict the "downward" flow of blood. This is known as the "grunt" or the "Hick maneuver". Both names allude to the sounds the pilot makes, and is the primary method of resisting G-LOCs. Modern flight suits, called G-suits, are worn by pilots to contract around the extremities exerting pressure, providing about 1G of extra tolerance.

Notable fighter pilots

Some notable fighter pilots, including some for being flying aces and others who went on to non-fighter pilot notoriety (record breaking test pilots, astronauts and cosmonauts, politicians, business leaders, etc.):

Female fighter pilots

Sabiha Gökçen in front of a Breguet 19, circa 1937
Sabiha Gökçen in front of a Breguet 19. circa 1937.
2nd Lt. Ajeng Tresna Dwi Wijayanti, Indonesia's first female fighter pilot - 2020

Until the early 1990s, women were disqualified from becoming fighter pilots in most of the air forces throughout the world. The exceptions being Turkey where Sabiha Gökçen became the first female fighter pilot in history in 1936 and went on to fly fast jets well into the 1950s,[3] and the USSR during the Second World War 1942–1945 where many women were trained as fighter pilots in the 586th Fighter Aviation Regiment including Lilya Litvyak who became the top scoring woman ace of all time with 12 kills and Katya Budanova a close second with 11 kills, although both were killed in combat.[4] During the 1990s, a number of air forces removed the bar on women becoming fighter pilots:

See also


  1. ^ Blomberg, valokuvaaja. "Lentomestari Juutilainen, Mannerheim-ristin ritari koneineen". Retrieved 2020-01-19.
  2. ^ Stephens, Gus. "The Difference Between Chaff & Flare in a Jet". Our Pastimes.
  3. ^ a b ""First Female Combat Pilot"". Guinness World Records Official Web Site. Retrieved 15 May 2016.CS1 maint: others (link)
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-06-20. Retrieved 2014-01-19.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ Научноинформационен център „Българска енциклопедия“ (2012). Голяма енциклопедия "България". Том 6 (in Bulgarian). София: Книгоиздателска къща „Труд“. p. 2280. ISBN 9789548104289.
  6. ^ "Leman Bozkurt Altincekic First Woman Jetpilot of Nato".
  7. ^ "Hakima Abdessamad, la première et dernière pilote de chasse algérienne". (in French). Archived from the original on 2017-03-12.
  8. ^ "YouTube".
  9. ^ "Deanna Brasseur -, Women in Canadian History".
  10. ^ BUGGE, STELLA (15 November 1992). "Norwegian Women Stake Claim in Male Bastions as Fighter Pilots, on Submarines" – via LA Times.
  11. ^ "Villafranca".
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-01-11. Retrieved 2014-01-11.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^ "BBC News - In pictures: Key moments in RAF history, 1994: Historic first".
  14. ^ "Saab News and Press releases". Saab Corporate.
  15. ^ "From fighter pilot to courageous mother: the story of Caroline Aigle".
  16. ^ "Viper Pilot Flying Hours -".
  17. ^ "Gripen first for SA woman fighter pilot". Archived from the original on 2011-06-13.
  18. ^ Gross, Tom (7 July 2001). "Female fighter pilot joins Israel's top guns" – via
  19. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-02-03. Retrieved 2014-01-19.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  20. ^ "Las primeras aviadoras de combate de América Latina son uruguayas". 14 June 2002.
  21. ^ "OFICINA DE GENERO Córdoba".
  22. ^ "S'pore's first & only female fighter pilot".
  23. ^ "First Danish female F-16 pilot takes the sky".
  24. ^ "En seis años podrá volar el F-16 La oficial "piocha roja" es la única mujer de combate que tiene Chile y a corto plazo estará en la primera línea aérea". (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 2016-11-01.
  25. ^ "A 4 Años del Primer Vuelo de Una Mujer en un Avión de Combate de la Fuerza Aérea".
  26. ^ "Female pilot breaks sound barrier in Chile". MercoPress.
  27. ^ "Patricia Yapp is first Asian woman fighter pilot to fly the MiG-29". 18 August 2017.
  28. ^ "Patricia wanita Sandakan terbangkan MiG-29". 27 September 2017.
  29. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on February 3, 2014. Retrieved January 19, 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  30. ^ "Fashion designer Andre Kim ties a red neck scarf..." 3 July 2008.
  31. ^ "Piloto é a primeira mulher no país a lançar bomba de um caça". 14 June 2012.
  32. ^ Cadari, Luciano. "Primeira mulher a pilotar um caça da FAB, RankBrasil - Recordes Brasileiros".
  33. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-01-28. Retrieved 2014-01-20.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  34. ^ F_161. "PLAAF's first-batch of female fighter pilots with double bachelor degrees debuts - People's Daily Online".
  35. ^ "Most Viewed Business News Articles, Top News Articles". The Economic Times.
  36. ^ ISIS Fight: Mariam Al Mansouri Is First Woman Fighter Pilot for U.A.E. Erin McClam September 25, 2014 Charlene Gubash and Ayman Mohyeldin NBC News 2014
  37. ^ "Meet country's first women fighter pilots- The Times of India".
  38. ^ "Landmark event in IAF history: Meet India's first 3 women fighter pilots - Firstpost".
  39. ^ Japan sees first woman qualify as fighter jet pilot August 24, 2018 Japan Times Retrieved December 12, 2018
  40. ^ "Switzerland has its first female fighter jet pilot" (in German). Neue Zürcher Zeitung. 19 February 2019. Retrieved 18 September 2020.
  41. ^ [1] Kompas Retrieved November 30, 2020
  42. ^ Female pilots Royal Australian Air Force Retrieved September 12, 2021

Fly like a fighter: Minimum fuel

Further reading


  • Amir, Amos. Brig Gen.Fire in the Sky : Flying in Defence of Israel. Pen & Sword Aviation (2005). ISBN 1-84415-156-5
  • Franks, Norman, Bailey, Frank, and Guest, Russell. Above the Lines : A Complete Record of the Fighter Aces of the German Air Service, Naval Air Service and Flanders Marine Corps 1914–1918. Grub Street (1994). ISBN 0-948817-73-9
  • Bell, Ken. 100 Missions North : A Fighter Pilots Story of the Vietnam War. Brassey's, Inc (1993). ISBN 1-57488-639-8
  • Lewis, Cecil Sagittarius Rising. Warner Books (1936). ISBN 0-7515-0931-0
  • O'Grady, Scott with Coplan, Jeff. Return with Honour. Harper (1995). ISBN 0-06-101147-9
  • Olynk, Frank.Stars & Bars : A Tribute to the American Fighter Ace 1920–1973. Grub Street (1995). ISBN 1-898697-17-5
  • Romm, Giora. Major Gen. Solitary: The Crash, Captivity and Comeback of an Ace Fighter Pilot. Black Irish (2014). ISBN 978-1-936891-28-3
  • Shores, Christopher and Williams, Clive. Aces High : A Tribute to the Most Notable Fighter Pilots of the British and Commonwealth Forces in WWII. Grub Street (1994). ISBN 1-898697-00-0
  • Shores, Christopher, Franks, Norman, and Guest, Russell. Above the Trenches : A Complete Record of the Fighter Aces and Units of the British Empire Air Forces 1915–1920. Grub Street (1990). ISBN 0-948817-19-4
  • Spector, Iftach. Brig Gen. Loud and Clear : The Memoir of an Israeli Fighter Pilot. Zenith Press (2009). ISBN 978-07603-3630-4
  • Toliver, Raymond F and Constable, Trevor J. Horrido : Fighter Aces of the Luftwaffe. Arthur Barker Ltd (1968). ISBN 0-213-76381-8
  • Toliver, Raymond F and Constable, Trevor J. The Blonde Knight of Germany : A Biography of Erich Hartmann. TAB Aero (1970). ISBN 0-8306-8189-2
  • Jackson, Robert. Fighter : The Story of Air Combat 1936–1945. Arthur Baker Ltd (1979). ISBN 0-213-16717-4
  • Olds, Robin with Olds, Christina, and Rasimus, Ed. Fighter Pilot: The Memoirs of Legendary Ace Robin Olds. St Martins Press (2010). ISBN 978-0-312-56023-2
  • Rosenkranz, Keith.Diary of a Gulf War Fighter Pilot. McGraw Hill (2002). ISBN 0-07-140040-0
  • Polak, Tomas with Shores, Christopher.Stalins Falcons : The Aces of the Red Star. Grub Street (1999). ISBN 1-902304-01-2
  • Ward, Nigel 'Sharkey'.Sea Harrier Over the Falklands. Orion (1992). ISBN 1-85797-102-7
  • Yeager, Chuck with Janos, Leo.Yeager : An Autobiography. Century Huitchinson (1985). ISBN 0-7126-9493-5
  • Chesire, John Flitetime: A U.S. Navy Fighter Pilot Autobiography, by John Chesire


  • Berent, Mark. Eagle Station. G P Putnam's Sons (1992). ISBN 0-399-13722-X
  • Berent, Mark. Phantom Leader. Jove Books (1991). ISBN 0-515-10785-9
  • Berent, Mark. Rolling Thunder. Corgi Books (1989). ISBN 0-552-13620-4
  • Berent, Mark. Steel Tiger. Jove Books (1990). ISBN 0-515-10467-1
  • Berent, Mark. Storm Flight. G P Putnam's Sons (1993). ISBN 0-399-13814-5
  • Deighton, Len. Goodbye, Mickey Mouse. Hutchinson and Co (1982). ISBN 978-0-586-05448-2
  • Robinson, Derek. A Good Clean Fight. Harper Collins (1993). ISBN 0-00-647605-8
  • Robinson, Derek. A Splendid Little War. Maclehose Press (2013). ISBN 978-0-85705-232-2
  • Robinson, Derek. Goshawk Squadron. Maclehose Press (1971). ISBN 978-0857052247
  • Robinson, Derek. Hornet's Sting. The Harvill Press (1999). ISBN 1-86046-606-0
  • Robinson, Derek. Piece of Cake. Pan (1983). ISBN 0-330-28404-5
  • Robinson, Derek. War Story. Pan (1987). ISBN 0-00-647332-6
  • Salter, James. The Hunters. Vintage International (1956). ISBN 0-375-70392-6
  • Smith, Frederick E. A Killing for the Hawks. Harrap (1966) ISBN B0000CN76J
  • Yeates, V M. Winged Victory. Jonathon Cape (1934). ISBN 0-907675-45-X

External links

  • Air Aces Homepage (A.Magnus)
  • Air Aces Website (Jan Šafařík)
  • Air Combat Information Group Website
  • An Autobiographical Sketch of a U. S. Naval Aviator and Fighter Pilot


  • New Zealand Fighter Pilots Museum