Fokker Eindecker / 1915
Based on a prewar scout design, the Fokker E-series emerged in 1915 as an
armed-combat aircraft. ;e airframe was moderately capable by contemporary
standards but became the first “system aircraft” when mated to a synchronized
Maxim machine gun. ;erefore, it became the most innovative fighter of WW I and
established the pattern for so many that followed. (Photo by Luigino Caliaro)
Air Command. But our definition is broader.
Because fighters are inherently defensive
in nature—but must be used aggressively—
they lack the war-winning potential of
bombers. Yet three of our choices influenced
the course of their wars: the Mitsubishi Zero
and the Grumman Hellcat in the Pacific, and
the P- 51 Mustang in Europe. In that regard,
they remain unusual in aviation history.
Here then, in chronological order of
first flight, is our selection of the 10 most
important fighters. We are certain of only
one thing: Some readers will be dismayed at
our omissions—hence, we’re wa;ing things
with an “honorable mentions” section.