A fighter can also be used for ground attacks such as bombing. The signature characteristics of fighters are their speed, maneuverability, and small size relative to other combat aircraft.
The main purpose of combat aircraft is to establish air superiority over a battlefield. Since the advent of modern warfare beginning in World War I, the most important things are achieving and maintaining air superiority. This is an essential part of winning in conventional warfare.
It wasn’t until after WW I that fighter aircraft become known as fighters. England’s Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force called their aircraft “scouts” until the early 1920s. The United States Army called our fighters “pursuit” aircraft starting in 1916 until 1940.
The French tagged their fighters as chasseur, while the German Jagdflugzeuge aircraft were known as hunter or hunting aircraft. Russians called their aircraft exterminators. The Israelis named theirs simply battle planes.
The following list was complied after doing some research on combat aircraft. The ranking of the aircraft on this list is a result of a MilitaryFactory.com study. MilitaryFactory.com’s list has the most comprehensive factors in determining the top aircraft.
According to their site, fighter aircraft are chosen based on a specific set of criteria, which include the following:
Based on production numbers, combat performance and a general assessment of their effect during their particular period in aviation history.
Note: The reason this list is not called the top 10 fighters of all-time is because one day, there might be some better aircraft built that could make this list obsolete. Therefore, this Examiner is being careful not to call anything the "best of all-time."