Inspired by ttyymmnn and my own desire to procrastinate by looking at pictures of planes, have a ranking of jump jet, tilt rotors, tail sitters, and other plane-like aviation oddities (some aircraft have been omitted for being too helicopter-like, while I’ve probably just missed others):

1. EWR VJ 101

Powered by six small turbojets, four in rotating pods and two as lift jets behind the cockpit, the VJ 101 was an attempt to give West Germany (who feared their airfields would be destroyed or overrun in any war with the Soviets) a VTOL fighter similar to their existing F-104s. The VJ 101 was the first jump jet to achieve supersonic flight, and it was hoped it would eventually be capable of Mach 2.


Photo: Airwolfhound

2. Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey

After a trying development period, the Osprey has quietly become a major part of the Marine Corps’ airlift capability while also offering its services to special forces, search and rescue, and even a planned carrier onboard delivery role.

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Photo: US Navy

3. Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II

Despite its massive delays and cost overruns, the F-35B has succeeded in something no other jump jet has done. It has produced a STOVL fighter with relatively minor drawbacks compared to its peers. It is the first such jet that didn’t have to make massive sacrifices for its short takeoff capability.

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4. Hawker Siddeley Harrier

Arguably the most successful VTOL plane, the Harrier family has served with half a dozen nations, and proved itself in the Falklands War and more recent conflicts. It was developed from the earlier Hawker Siddeley
P.1127/Kestral prototypes in the 1960s, with versions also made by McDonnell Douglas for the US, Spain, and Italy.

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5. Bell X-22

A test of using ducted fans (powered by the turbojets in the rear wing) the X-22 was intended to provide a possible basis for a futuristic new transport aircraft. Testing continued into the late ‘80s helping lead into the Osprey.

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Photo: Ken Videan

6. Yakovlev Yak-141

The result of a Soviet attempt to build a supersonic STOVL fighter, the Yak-141 was more or less ready for large scale production when it was cancelled due to the fall of the Soviet Union. It would have replaced the troubled Yak-38 on Moscow’s Kiev class carriers. Lockheed consulted with Yakovlev after the breakup of the USSR leading to a similar lift system on the F-35B, though it uses a lift fan powered by the main engine rather than the twin lift jets of the Yak-141.

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Photo: Ralf Manteufel

7. Dornier Do 31

While West Germany explored a number of VTOL fighters, they were also looking for flexible transport aircraft for the same reason. The result of their search was the Do 31, which packed eight liftjets in pods at the end of the wing. High costs and poor performance doomed the project.

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8. Bell XV-15

A tilt-rotor testbed, the XV-15 provided much of the knowledge for the development of the Osprey, which shares the same basic configuration.

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9. AgustaWestland AW609

A long in development civilian tilt-rotor, originally designed in partnership with Bell was thought to be nearing production, but a crash in 2016 presented a major setback for AgustaWestland.

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10. Dassault Balzac V/Mirage IIIV

French attempts to build a Mach 2 jump jet, these prototypes featured an absurd nine-engine configuration, with eight lift jets surrounding a single main engine.
Not surprisingly this proved impractical and NATO chose an enlarged Harrier variant, the Hawker Siddeley P.1154 for the role instead, though that program ended in failure as well.

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11. Curtiss-Wright X-19

An innovative tilt-rotor transport, the X-19 was cancelled following a crash of one of the prototype aircraft.

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12. Rockwell XFV-12

America’s effort to product a supersonic VTOL fighter, it was abandoned when the aircraft proved unable to produce enough vertical thrust to get the plane off the ground.

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13. Dornier Do 29

A rare pusher configuration, the Do 29 featured propellers that tilted down behind the aircraft to achieve STOVL flight.

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14. VFW VAK 191B

Similar in configuration to the Harrier, this West German prototype was instead intended as a supersonic nuclear bomber. Like so many aircraft in that role, it was rendered irrelevant by advances in air defense and missile technology.

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15. Bell Model 65

Twin tilting turbojets were used to power this bizarre kitbash of plane, glider, and helicopter.

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16. LTV XC-142

Tilting its whole wing for better takeoff/landing performance, this design actually proved fairly successful compared to its contemporaries, but some technical issues limited interest enough that the design never went into production.

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17. Short SC.1

This strange little aircraft was the first VTOL plane to be equipped with a fly-by-wire system.

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18. Ryan XV-5 Vertifan

Lift fans in the wings! One of the test aicraft was lost when the dummy it was “rescuing” was sucked in.

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Photo: Vladimir Rodionov

19. Yakovlev Yak-38

One of the few production aircraft on this list, the Soviet’s answer to Harrier suffered from extremely poor payload, range, and hot weather performance.

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20. Ryan X-13 Vertijet

It was a vertical jet!


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21. Boeing X-32

Not pretty, and lagging behind the X-35 in capabilities, the X-32 was still quite a capable aircraft.


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22. Convair XFY Pogo

Like other tailsitters, the Pogo proved to complicated and too slow to be relevant.


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23. Lockheed XFV

A slightly more conventional design than the Pogo, the XFV was even less relevant.


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24. Lockheed XV-4 Hummingbird

The Army’s attempt at a VTOL surveillance aircraft, both prototypes were lost to accidents.


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25. Doak VZ-4

Another Army design, the VZ-4 somehow managed to look goofy despite wingtip mounted ducted fans.


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26. Bell XV-3

An ancient ancestor of the Osprey, the XV-3 tested tilt-rotor tech before being destroyed in a wind-tunnel accident.


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27. Yakovlev Yak-36

Those are certainly some intakes. Unlike the later Yak-38 and Yak-141, the Yak-36 relied exclusively on vectored thrust from its main engines for lift. It proved too underpowered to be effective.


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28. Canadair CL-84

Like the XC-142, Canada’s tiltrotor rotated it’s entire wing, but it also featured a tailrotor to provide lift at the back of the aircraft.


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29. Hiller X-18

Built from spare and scavenged parts, the X-18's tech was later used in the XC-142.


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30. SNECMA Coléoptère

Never accuse of the French of not doing their own thing. This closed wing tailsitter perhaps unsurprisingly ended in failure after the prototype crashed.


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31. Bell X-14

Let no one say the Yak-36 had a monopoly on big dumb intakes. The X-14 was actually quite successful, and was still flying tests into the early ‘80s when a landing incident forced its retirement.


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32. Vertol VZ-2

An early tiltrotor, it impressively didn’t crash.