NATO, or “The West” always appeared to be one step ahead of the Warsaw Pact when it came to the use of technology and weapons. However its achilles heel may have been the fact that each country tended to produce its own equipment which may not have been standard across all forces. However, when it came to aircraft this was not such a problem, as the USA was probably the main supplier of combat aircraft for most European airforces. The UK and Italy being the exceptions, as they had the capability to produce their own combat aircraft, more so the UK.
Most European airforces relied on US built combat aircraft, typically aircraft like the F-5 Freedom Fighter, or the F-104 Star Fighter and not forgetting the ubiquitous F-4 Phantom.
In later years, the Europeans began to work together to produce new combat aircraft to replace ageing US kit. These collaborations produced some outstanding aircraft, such as the Sepcat Jaguar (Britain and France), Panavia Tornado (Britain, Germany and Italy), Alpha Jet (France and Germany) and later the Euro Fighter (Britain, Germany and Italy).
Britain was in a good position to produce its own combat aircraft, and in the early years of the Cold War, produced some of the iconic aircraft of the period. Such aircraft as the “V” bombers, Valiant, Victor and Vulcan. Sleek and Spitfire like Hawker Hunter, the ground breaking Hawker Harrier and the Westland Lynx, still the worlds fastest helicopter.
Although France was not part of NATO, she would have undoubtedly fought against any Warsaw Pact invasion of Europe, and France was a very successful manufacture of combat aircraft. The Dassult company producing the outstanding Mirage III and the ship killing Super Entendard. I’ll add a few French aircraft to the site, even though they are not part of NATO.
Italy, not known for its aircraft, did build some useful kit. The Fiat G-91 Light Attack aircraft springs to mind, and the Fiat G-222 transport aircraft.
Index to featured NATO aircraft
Below is the index and links to the aircraft featured on this site. Click on the image to see more details about the particular aircraft.