A strike fighter is a fighter aircraft which is also capable of attacking surface targets, including ships. It differs from an attack aircraft in that the aircraft remains a capable fighter. Previously, an airstrike on a ground target would usually involve bombers, defended by fighters. Strike-fighters can attack targets unaided, while remaining maneuverable and well-equipped enough to defend themselves.
The term "strike fighter" is almost synonymous with the term "fighter-bomber
", first seeing usage in the 1950s to describe a new generation of attack aircraft like the Blackburn Firebrand
. The term can be considered more politically correct
, as bomber aircraft
can be portrayed as dropping bombs indiscriminately over a target area. Precision attacks are commonly termed "surgical strikes
", a term that implies extremely accurate modern weapons and intelligence.
A strike fighter is differentiated from a multirole fighter in that the multirole fighter can equally perform both air combat and ground attack, while the strike fighter has an emphasis on ground attack with a minor role of air combat.
- The Panavia Tornado was originally known as a fighter-bomber, and later became a strike fighter. The Tornado strike fighter is designated IDS, meaning ‘Interdiction/Strike’. IDS is the European equivalent of the US F/A designation. The term fighter-bomber remains in use when describing the Tornado, however, because it falls into an arbitrary class of older, slower, and less maneuverable strike fighters.
- The Xian JH-7 is a Chinese strike fighter, although more of a fighter-bomber, in service with the PLA Air Force and Naval Air Force.
- Recently, the term has become blurred. The F-117 Nighthawk is often referred to as a strike fighter, although it has no air-to-air capability and is therefore a pure attack aircraft. The F-22 Raptor was designated a F/A-22 between 2003 and 2005, implying a Fighter/Attack role, though it has since been returned to a fighter designation.
- The latest generation of strike fighters are the Russian Sukhoi Su-30, US Boeing F-15E Strike Eagle, F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and Eurofighter Typhoon, though current European parlance describes the Typhoon as a 'swing-role' aircraft. The F-35 Lightning II program is designing a multirole fighter with ground attack capability.
- India is in the initial stages of developing a 5th generation strike aircraft under the program name Medium Combat Aircraft.
is also the name of a Sega arcade game
simulating an F/A-18 Hornet strike fighter, this game is a spiritual successor to the earlier After Burner
series and its semi-sequel, G-LOC: Air Battle
. In fact, Strike Fighter
was ported as After Burner III
on the Sega Mega-CD
. A sequel, Sega Strike Fighter
was released for the Sega Naomi
arcade board, though this game plays more like the Ace Combat