Since jet fighters first appeared in the form of the Messerschmitt ME-262 in during WW2, they have come to dominate the skies. There have been some fantastic jet fighters throughout the decades since, but these are some of the very best.
As much as we'd love to include venerable aircraft the likes of the Hawker-Siddeley Harrier, F-4 Phantom (albeit a fighter bomber), and the Panavia Tornado (another fighter-bomber), and many others, we had to make a stand somewhere. Our cut-off, therefore, has been to choose only those still in active service by their origin nations.
Not to mention some of our favorites.
The following list is simply our choice of 7 of the best out there, and this is not meant to be a definitive Top 7. This list is also in no particular order.
1. The F-22 Raptor is one mean jet fighter
Country of origin: USA
First entered service: 2007
First use in combat: 2007
The F-22 Raptor is one of the world's most advanced and capable fighter jets. It was developed and produced jointly by Lockheed Martin and Boeing. Whilst its main role is as an air superiority fighter, it can also perform various other functions including ground attack, electronic warfare and signal intelligence.
The F-22 is one of the most expensive fighter aircraft ever produced. Each unit has a price tag in the order of $150 million (excluding R and D). Its standout features include its low radar profile and powerful array of weaponry. Many other of its avionics remain classified.
Whilst many consider this the best jet fighter ever produced, it is not invincible. NATO wargames conducted in 2009 revealed that it can be defeated in combat by the much older, yet still highly capable, Dassault Rafale.
2. F-15 Eagle is a classic
Country of origin: USA
First entered service: 1976
First use in combat: 1979
The F-15 Eagle and its variants are one of the most capable jet fighters of all time. Used primarily as an air superiority tactical fighter, it was developed and built by McDonnell Douglas.
The Eagle is one of the most successful fighters in modern times which has racked up well over 100 victories for no losses in aerial combat. It has been widely exported to many other air forces from Japan to Saudi Arabia.
It's not only deadly but really does look the part. For any child of the 1980s, this fighter is forever burned into their memory thanks to cartoon characters like Starscream from the Transformers.
More recent upgraded variants, like the twin-seater F-15E Strike Eagle, have allowed this aging fighter to remain relevant in modern combat. It is still in service with the USAF and is expected to be in service well into the 2020s.
3. The Dassault Rafale is still formidable
Country of origin: France
First entered service: 2001
First use in combat: 2002
The French-made Dassault Rafale is one of the world's most capable multirole fighters. After a long, and often delayed, development program it finally entered active service for the French Airforce and Navy in 2001.
It has since been exported to many other nations including India, Egypt, and Qatar. The Rafale has also seen active service in many combat arenas from Afghanistan to Syria.
It has been upgraded throughout time, and currently has some of the most advanced avionics on any aircraft. The Rafale is capable of tracking 40 targets at a time and firing simultaneously on 4 of them.
This aircraft is still deadly, as was proved by its ability to 'shoot down' an F-22 Raptor in 2009. It is currently estimated this aircraft will remain in service until the 2030s.
4. The Eurofighter Typhoon was a joint effort
Country of origin: Consortium effort between UK, Germany, Italy, and later Spain
First entered service: 2003
First use in combat: 2007 (UK)
The Eurofighter Typhoon tends to split opinion between aircraft enthusiasts. Despite this, there is no doubt it is one of the world's most capable multirole fighters in active service.
It was developed as a joint effort between The United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, and later Spain. France had originally been involved but split early during the program to focus on the Dassault Rafale.
The Typhoon is a highly competent dogfighter and is incredibly agile. Despite this, it is deemed to be less effective than the U.S.'s latest fighter the F-22 Raptor.
However, many others consider it to be more capable than the F-15, Rafale, and Su-27. It is anticipated for the Typhoon to remain in active service well into the 2030s when it will be replaced by either the New Generation Fighter or BAE Tempest.
5. The F-18 Hornet/ Super Hornet still holds its own
Country of origin: USA
First entered service: 1983
First use in combat: 1986 (US)
The F-18 Hornet is widely considered to be the US Navy's best and most versatile multirole fighter. It has served with distinction for many years and in many combat arenas around the world.
It was developed by McDonnell Douglas and Northrop in the 1970s and went into active service in the 1980s. Its first combat action was during the 1986 bombing of Libya, and it also played a major role in the 1991 Gulf War and later the 2003 Gulf War.
The Hornet is currently in use by various Air Forces including the Royal Australian Air Force and Spanish Air Force.
Its larger and more technically capable variant, the F-18 E/F Super Hornet, features updated avionics and other improvements to bring the aircraft up to modern standards.
6. The controversial Sukhoi Su-35
Country of origin: Russia
First entered service: 2018
First use in combat: N/A
The Sukhoi Su-35 is a multirole fighter based on its aging predecessor the venerable Su-27. It only recently achieved Full Operational Status for Russia in 2018 and is considered to be a highly advanced and deadly 4th generation fighter.
The Su-35 is sleek, fast and highly maneuverable that can carry a wide range of armaments. Whilst it is primarily designed for air superiority, it is very capable as a ground attack jet.
It is currently Russia's most advanced fighter in service but lacks some of the more advanced avionics of other aircraft on this list.
7. F-16 Fighting Falcon is very popular around the world
Country of origin: USA
First entered service: 1978
First use in combat: 1981 (Israel)
The F-16 Fighting Falcon is one of the most popular fighters in the world. It has been adopted by many Air Forces around the world from Turkey to Brazil.
It was originally developed by General Dynamics during the 1970s and first entered service for the US in the late 1970s. The F-16 has since proven its worth in combat and is the main fighter for many countries air forces.
It was initially developed as a pure air superiority fighter but has since added more strings to its bow to become a highly capable multirole fighter.
The F-16 has been steadily improved over the years with its most recent variant, the F-16V, possessing many enhancements to keep it up to date with other fighters around the world.