7 of the deadliest fighter jets still in active service
- Fighter aircraft are some of the world's most advanced and impressive machines.
- These powerful aircraft are built to rule the skies, participate in air-to-air combat with opposing fighters, carry out ground assaults, and conduct reconnaissance missions.
- Due to their exceptional speed, maneuverability, and cutting-edge technology, many fighter jets have left their imprint on the annals of aviation. But which, if any, are the best of the best today?
Since jet fighters first appeared in the form of the Messerschmitt ME-262 during World War II, they have come to dominate the skies. There have been some fantastic jet fighters throughout the decades since, but the ones here are some of the very best.
We'd love to include venerable aircraft like the Hawker-Siddeley Harrier, F-4 Phantom (albeit a fighter bomber), the Panavia Tornado (another fighter bomber), and many others; we had to make a stand somewhere. So, our cutoff was to choose only those still in active service in their home countries. Not to mention some of our favorites.
What is the best fighter jet in the world?
The following list is our choice of seven of the best out there, and this is not meant to be a definitive list of the best seven.
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. Boeing and Lockheed Martin jointly developed and produced it. Its main job is to fight for air superiority, but it can also attack the ground, fight with electronic weapons, and get information from signals.
The F-22 is one of the most expensive fighter aircraft ever produced. Each unit has a price tag of $150 million (excluding R and D). Its standout features include its low radar profile and powerful array of weaponry. Many other aspects of its avionics remain classified.
While many consider this the best jet fighter, 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 still one of the most dangerous jets around
Country of origin: USA
First entered service: 1976
First use in combat: 1979
The F-15 Eagle and its variants are some of the most capable jet fighters ever. McDonnell Douglas created and produced it primarily as an air superiority tactical fighter.
The Eagle is one of the most successful fighters of the modern era. It has won over 100 battles with forces and never lost a fight in the air. Many other air forces, from Japan to Saudi Arabia, have bought it.
It's not only deadly, but the forces do 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.
Recently 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 one of the best fighter jets
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 slow development process, the French Air Force and Navy finally started using it in 2001.
It has since been exported to many other nations, including India, Egypt, and Qatar. Rafale has also seen active service in many combat arenas, from Afghanistan to Syria.
It has been improved over time and now has some of the most advanced electronics of any plane. The Rafale can track 40 targets at a time and fire 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 the U.K., Germany, Italy, and later Spain
First entered service: 2003
First use in combat: 2007 (U.K.)
The Eurofighter Typhoon tends to split opinions among 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 initially been involved but split early in the program to focus on the Dassault Rafale.
The Typhoon is a highly competent dogfighter and is incredibly agile. Even so, it is considered less effective than the F-22 Raptor, the latest fighter from the United States.
However, many others consider it more capable than the F-15, Rafale, and Su-27. It is anticipated that the Typhoon to remain in active service well into the 2030s when it is replaced by either the New Generation Fighter or BAE Tempest.
5. The F-18 Hornet/Super Hornet is a highly capable American fighter jet
Country of origin: USA
First entered service: 1983
First use in combat: 1986 (U.S.)
The F-18 Hornet is the U.S. Navy's best and most versatile multirole fighter. It has served with distinction for many years and in many combat areas worldwide.
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 significant role in the 1991 Gulf War and later the 2003 Gulf War.
Various air forces use the Hornet, including the Royal Australian Air Force and the Spanish Air Force.
Its more extensive and 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 Sukhoi Su-35 is one of the world's most advanced fighter jets
Country of origin: Russia
First entered service: 2014
First use in combat: N/A
The Sukhoi Su-35 is a multirole fighter based on its aging predecessor, the venerable Su-27. It got "Full Operational Status" in Russia in 2018 and is considered a very advanced and dangerous 4th generation fighter.
The Su-35 is sleek, fast, and highly maneuverable, carrying various armaments. Even though its primary purpose is to dominate the air, it can also attack the ground. It is currently Russia's most advanced fighter in service.
7. F-16 Fighting Falcon is one of the most dangerous fighter jets on the market
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. From Turkey to Brazil, many air forces worldwide have adopted it.
It was initially developed by General Dynamics during the 1970s and first entered service for the U.S. 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 just a fighter for air superiority when it was first made. Since then, more features have been added to make it a competent multirole fighter.
The F-16 has steadily gotten better over the years. Its latest version, the F-16V, has many new features to keep it on par with other fighters worldwide.
And that's your fill for today.
Fighter jets are extraordinary technological and engineering achievements built to thrive in aerial combat and carry out various other military tasks. Modern fighter jets can carry out tasks with accuracy, speed, and maneuverability because they are outfitted with cutting-edge avionics, sensors, and weapons systems.
Fighter jets will continue to play a crucial role in military policy as the world's political landscape changes, and new, cutting-edge models will likely be developed for many years.