What is the smallest jet fighter in the world? The McDonnell XF-85 Goblin is generally considered to be the smallest jet fighter in the world and was known as the “flying egg” due its extremely small dimensions.
The aircraft was only 4.5 metres in length and the tiny, very short fuselage was fitted with foldable swept wings with a 6.44 metre span. It was designed to dock with the parent aircraft using a trapeze and retractable hook system. Small enough to fit snugly inside the bomb bay of larger aircraft, the XF-85 Goblin was deployed in the event of enemy attack.
The tiny jet fighter plane was tested using the legendary B-29 bomber since a suitable B-36 bomber was unavailable. It took its maiden flight in 1948 and early tests showed that although the plane was stable and easy to fly, it was severely affected by turbulence around the larger aircraft. Since the XF-85 Goblin did not carry landing gear, this was a potential problem as the aircraft needed to be able to successfully dock back on to its mother ship.
The Goblin research program was subsequently canceled in 1949 following justified fears that recovery of the Goblin was potentially hazardous. The tiny jet fighter was also no match for other jet interceptors of the day as it was too slow and lightly armed. Not long after the program was canceled, jet engine technology improved and increases in fuel consumption meant that larger escort jets could travel further, which made them more effective. Shortly after, the Goblin became obsolete.
Two prototypes of the Goblin XF-85 are still in existence today; one of which is on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force near Dayton, Ohio.
Other than the Goblin, what is the world’s smallest jet fighter?
According to the Guinness Book of Records, the world’s smallest jet plane in the world is the Bede BD-5. This miniature jet plane was created by Bede Aviation in the late 1960’s and hit the market as a kit plane. The first official flight was in 1971 and although only a few hundred were ever completed, many of these are still flying today.
Early examples of the Bede BD-5 had an abysmal safety record and there were many crashes reported. Wing design was later modified and the current world record holder for the lightest plane in its class is a BD-5A. Later versions, including the BD-5B, mostly crashed due to pilot error. But by the mid 1970’s the Bede Aviation Company had gone bust and many builders were forced to find their own solutions to the various kit problems. As a result, the aircraft still flying today boast a host of different engines and designs, and it remains a rewarding, if somewhat demanding, aircraft.
If you are wondering: what is the smallest jet fighter plane in the world today in modern aircraft design, it is considered to be the HAL Tejas, a small lightweight tailless compound light combat aircraft developed in India.