Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
An interceptor aircraft (or simply interceptor) is a type of fighter aircraft designed specifically to intercept and destroy enemy aircraft, particularly bombers. A number of such aircraft were built in the period starting just prior to World War II and ending in the late 1960s, when they became less important due to the shifting of the strategic bombing role to ICBMs.
There are two types of interceptors, emphasizing different aspects of performance. Both types of aircraft sacrifice performance in the air superiority fighter role (ie fighting enemy fighter aircraft). The result is that interceptors often look very impressive on paper, typically outrunning, outclimbing and outgunning less dedicated designs, yet they tend to fare poorly in combat against those same "less capable" designs. In the 1970s, the utility of interceptors waned as the role became blurred into the roles of the heavy air superiority fighters dominant in military thinking at the time.
Point defense interceptors, usually of European origin, are designed to defend specific targets. They are designed to take off and climb to altitude as quickly as possible, destroy the incoming bombers, and then land. A particularly extreme example of a point defense interceptor is the rocket-powered Messerschmitt Me 163.
Examples of point defense interceptors:
- Supermarine Spitfire
- Messerschmitt Me 109
- Messerschmitt Me 163
- English Electric Lightning
- Saab Draken
- Saab Viggen (JA 37 variant)
The F-16 Fighting Falcon was designed originally as a lightweight point defense interceptor but grew into a robust, capable and versatile multirole air superiority fighter.
Area defense interceptors usually of North American or Soviet origin, are designed to defend a large area of territory from attack. The design emphasis is on range, missile carrying capacity and radar quality rather than on acceleration and climb rate. They usually carry long-range or medium-range air-to-air missiles, and often had no bomb carrying capability.
Examples of area defense interceptors:
- F-101B Voodoo
- F-102 Delta Dagger
- F-106 Delta Dart
- F-14 Tomcat
- Avro CF-100
- Avro Arrow
- Tornado F3
- Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25 and MiG-31
- Sukhoi Su-15
- Tupolev Tu-28
- Yakovlev Yak-28
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