How Much Do You Know About Post-WWII Military Planes and Pilots?


By: John Miller

6 Min Quiz

Image: San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives

About This Quiz

During the Second World War, engineers from the Axis and Allies raced to build advanced aircraft that would give their side an advantage. The war finally ended in 1945, but the research and development did not. Warplanes got bigger, faster and better than ever before, and the pilots that flew them did, too. In our jet-fast quiz, we’ll see how much you know about the planes and pilots that came of age following WWII.

During WWII, the first jet aircraft took to the skies over Nazi Germany. Once the war was over, engineers knew they’d have to take the jet concept to ever greater heights. The Americans and Soviets both generated amazing new jet fighters and bombers – do you know the names of these famous aircraft?

Hundreds of designs emerged in the post-WWII era. They included the F-100 Super Sabre, XF-108 Rapier, F-89 Scorpion and other American successes. The Soviets made a lot of notable planes, too, including the Alekeyev I-211, Sukhoi Su-24, Tupolev Tu-16, and a whole lot more, many of which terrified the American public and sparked even greater United States research.

But all of that technology would’ve been wasted without pilots who had the right stuff. Brave men (and women) slid into the cockpits of these cutting-edge aircraft and hoped for the best. Some of them made it home … but many did not.

Prepare for takeoff in our Cold War aircraft quiz! Maybe you’ll dodge those enemy SAMs, or perhaps you’ll wind up as a prisoner of our clever questions. Take our planes and pilot quiz now!

What did U.S. pilot Chuck Yeager do in 1947?

In 1947, just after WWII, Yeager climbed into an experimental jet and blazed into history, becoming the first pilot to break the sound barrier. Yeager went on to become a worldwide celebrity.


U.S. pilot Gary Powers is best known for what?

In 1960, Powers was piloting a U-2 spy plane when he was shot down and was immediately captured by the Soviets. The U-2 incident sparked worldwide headlines and terrible press for America.


The U-2 spy plane could fly at incredible altitudes at around 70,000 feet. How did the Soviets shoot it down?

Gary Powers was at high altitude, but his U-2 plane could not evade a Soviet surface-to-air missile. He ejected from the plane and drifted to the ground, where Soviet forces nabbed him.


What was the full name of the Lockheed F-104?

The Lockheed F-104 Starfighter certainly has one of the most epic names of the post-WWII era. The Starfighter is a supersonic interceptor and fighter introduced in the late 1950s.


In 1953, Chuck Yeager tried to break Scott Crossfield's speed record. What happened?

During a December test flight, Yeager was determined to break Crossfield's Mach 2 record, so he pushed his Bell X-1A ever faster … and then spun out of control. He plummeted toward Earth and finally regained control, but only after losing tens of thousands of feet of altitude.


The F-104 Starfighter was known primarily for its _____.

The Starfighter is a blazingly speedy plane. At full throttle, it can top more than 1,500 mph, and it can climb nearly 48,000 feet in just one minute.


Who built the U-2 spy plane that made headlines in the 1960s?

The U-2 was a Lockheed product, designed expressly for high-altitude reconnaissance. Believe it or not, more than half a century after its introduction, the U-2 is still in service, .


What sort of plane did Chuck Yeager use to break the sound barrier in 1947?

In 1949, Yeager bravely took to the skies in the experimental Bell X-1, which topped 700 mph, breaking the sound barrier and landing Yeager in the history books.


In 1976, how did Soviet pilot Viktor Belenko make history?

In 1976, Viktor Belenko hopped into an advanced Foxbat fighter and flew to Japan, defecting from his home country. President Ford granted him asylum and America gained heaps of knowledge from the stolen plane.


How would a casual bystander recognize the Tupolev Tu-95?

The Tupolev Tu-95 is a huge, four-prop bomber. It has distinctive swept wings, which span nearly 165 feet.


What's particularly notable about the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25?

The USSR introduced the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25 in 1970, and the plane had a distinctive trait -- it was one of the few ever made from stainless steel. And yes, it is a beautiful plane.


What sort of plane is the Tupolev Tu-22M?

The Tupolev Tu-22M is a long-range bomber that came of age during the Cold War and is still in use by the Russian military. It is particularly effective in anti-ship strikes.


True or false, was the Convair B-58 Hustler one of the longest-lived planes of the Cold War era?

Ha! Not even close. The Convair B-58 Hustler was an ultra-expensive bomber that was obsolete from the start, hampered by design issues and vulnerability to Soviet SAMs


The Lockheed SR-71 was named ______.

In the history of aviation, few planes have become as iconic as the SR-71 Blackbird. Half a century later, its space-age shape still makes it look like something from the distant future.


The MiG-31 is called the ______.

The Mikoyan MiG-31 is the Foxhound, a supersonic interceptor introduced in the early '80s. This speedy plane will likely be in service for at least another decade.


The North American F-86 Sabre was an important aircraft during which conflict?

During the Korean War, the North American F-86 Sabre was a counter-punch to the Soviet MiG-15. Its jet engine and load capacity made it suitable as both a fighter and bomber.


What was the primary mission of the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird?

The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird was a long-range reconnaissance plane. It could fly around 2,200 mph and zoom to 80,000 feet.


In terms of performance, the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25 is known for what?

The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25 is one of the fastest planes ever to make it to active military service. If a pilot is feeling lucky, he can push the "Foxbat" to speeds topping Mach 3.


Jacqueline Auriol was a famous female pilot from which country?

In the 1950s, Jacqueline Auriol gained fame as a daring French pilot. She was the first woman to enter military flight training and she set multiple speed records.


What was the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 made to do?

The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 was designed to intercept and shoot down American bombers, such as the B-29. It was one of the most effective warplanes of the Korean War.


What was the purpose of the Convair F-106 Delta Dart?

The Convair F-106 Delta Dart was meant to be the "ultimate" interceptor of the Cold War era. In 1959, an Air Force pilot set a then-speed record of 1,525 mph.


The Lockheed T-33 "T-Bird" was meant for what purpose?

The T-33 T-Bird was a common trainer, made by the thousands to help U.S. pilots hone their skills. Other countries, however, have used the T-33 in combat.


What was a major issue with the Soviet Tupolev Tu-22M?

As with many products of the USSR, the Tu-22M suffered from quality issues. Its engines lasted only a short time due to poor manufacturing standards.


In 1961, a Tupolev Tu-95 made history. How?

In 1961, a Tupolev Tu-95 carried and then dropped the Tsar Bomba, the most powerful nuke ever detonated. The bomb's fireball was so intense that it rose to the altitude of the bomber that dropped it -- the crew was given just a 50% chance of surviving the test, but they did make it home alive.


True or false, is the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird still in active service?

Sadly, the super-futuristic (and crazy fast) SR-71 is no longer in service. The last of its kind were retired back in 1999.


What was one problem with the F-104 Starfighter?

The Starfighter was a gorgeous, silvery, sleek plane And it was terribly difficult to fly. It also suffered from mechanical issues that resulted in pilot deaths.


In 1953, American pilot Scott Crossfield became the first aviator to do what?

Like Chuck Yeager, Scott Crossfield felt the need for speed. In 1953, he became the first person to hit Mach 2, twice the speed of sound.


How did the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird routinely avoid SAMs fired in its direction?

The SR-71 featured neck-snapping speed. SAMs were no problem -- it simply accelerated to more than Mach 3 and left those missiles in the dust.


In 1989, Soviet pilot Aleksandr Zuyev defected from the USSR. How did his escape plan go?

Aleksandr Zuyev made off with a jet fighter, but not before being wounded by gunfire in a series of events fit for a Hollywood blockbuster. Then, he managed to the land the plane in Turkey and ultimately made a new life in the U.S. He died in a 2001 plane crash.


What was special about the F-104 Starfighter's ejection seat?

The F-104's ejection seat blasted through the bottom of the aircrat due to concerns about pilots striking the rear tail fin. Of course, this design created obvious problems for pilots forced to eject at low altitudes.


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