What Are The 15 Best Fighter Jets Of All Time? A 2024 Guide

The world of fighter jets is fascinating. It is where technology, speed, and firepower come together to shape global power dynamics. If you are wondering what the best fighter jet of all time is, you will find it hard to get one specific answer.

That’s because fighter jets have evolved significantly and faced relentless technological innovation, from the propeller-driven aces of World War I to today’s stealthy, supersonic marvels.

Modern fighter jets are incredibly diverse and advanced, showcasing the cutting-edge of aeronautical engineering. This guide reveals 15 of the top fighter jets of 2024, deciphering the nuances that make them the apex predators of the skies. 

We’ll analyse the cutting-edge technology, unparalleled manoeuvrability, sophisticated armament, and elusive stealth capabilities that define the dominance of each fighter jet in the modern aerial battlefield.

15 Best Fighter Jets In The World

1. Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II

Spearheading the pack is the F-35 Lightning II, a product of the United States, known for its stealth, advanced avionics, and versatility across three variants: F-35A, F-35B, and F-35C.

Each is tailored to specific operational needs: the F-35A is used for conventional takeoff and landing, fitting the traditional air force role; the F-35B features short takeoff and vertical landing capabilities, ideal for Marine Corps operations; and the F-35C is adapted for carrier-based operations, with larger wings and reinforced landing gear.

Operated by numerous countries globally, the F-35 is not just a U.S. asset but an integral part of NATO and allied defence strategies. As of 2024, the F-35 continues to evolve, with ongoing upgrades enhancing its capabilities and addressing early developmental challenges.

2. Sukhoi Su-35S

The Sukhoi Su-35S, a formidable contender from Russia, is known for its long-standing tradition of producing robust and powerful fighter aircraft.

Compared to its predecessor, the Su-27, the Su-35S is particularly renowned for its enhanced manoeuvrability, owed largely to its thrust-vectoring engines.

This advanced jet fighter is equipped with a sophisticated avionics suite, including the Irbis-E passive electronically scanned array radar. It provides the Su-35S a significant advantage in air-to-air and air-to-ground operations, allowing it to detect, track, and engage multiple targets at various ranges.

The Su-35S can also carry a wide array of weaponry, from air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles to guided bombs, making it a versatile platform for various combat missions.

While not a stealth aircraft, the Su-35S incorporates certain features to reduce its radar cross-section, making it less detectable than older-generation fighters. Furthermore, its large internal fuel capacity grants it a considerable operational range, reducing the need for in-flight refuelling on longer missions.

3. Eurofighter Typhoon

The Typhoon is a joint project of the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, and Spain. It excels in both air-to-air and ground-attack missions. It boasts advanced radar, powerful engines, and a comprehensive electronic warfare suite.

It features the Captor-E Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, which provides unparalleled target acquisition and tracking capabilities. With Eurojet EJ200 engines, the Typhoon boasts exceptional speed and agility.

The aircraft can reach top speeds of over Mach 2, making it one of the fastest combat jets in the skies. It is currently operated by various air forces across Europe and the Middle East, where it is used for air superiority missions, ground support, and military surveillance.

4. Dassault Rafale

France’s answer to multirole capability, the Rafale, offers versatility in air dominance and ground support missions. Featuring advanced sensors, including RBE2 AESA radar and SPECTRA electronic warfare system, it excels in threat detection and evasion.

Its delta wing design enhances manoeuvrability, which is crucial for dogfights. The Rafale is equipped with a range of missiles and precision-guided munitions, making it effective in varied combat scenarios.

Operated by several countries, the Rafale is continually updated, showcasing French innovation in aerospace. Its agility, firepower, and advanced technology make it a pivotal asset in modern air warfare.

5. Boeing F-15EX Eagle II

The Boeing F-15EX Eagle II is an advanced evolution of the classic F-15, embodying speed, firepower, and state-of-the-art avionics. It’s designed to be more survivable and versatile, with modernised systems, including a new mission computer and advanced cockpit systems.

The jet carries a vast array of weapons and showcases improved payload capacity. The F-15EX’s adaptability and resilience in modern warfare come from constant upgrades, ensuring its relevance in contemporary combat scenarios.

This American fighter jet is a testament to enduring design, enhanced to meet the demands of future aerial engagements.

6. Sukhoi Su-57 Felon

The Russian Sukhoi Su-57 Felon is a fifth-generation stealth fighter known for its exceptional manoeuvrability and advanced avionics. It features innovative stealth technology, reducing its radar signature significantly.

Equipped with powerful engines capable of supercruise, the Su-57 combines speed with stealth. It has a sophisticated suite of sensors, including radar and infrared search and track systems, enhancing its situational awareness.

The Su-57 is designed to carry a range of advanced missiles and munitions internally for stealth operations and externally for high-intensity conflicts, marking it as a formidable competitor in modern air combat.

7. Chengdu J-20 Mighty Dragon

The Chengdu J-20, known as the Mighty Dragon, is a cornerstone of China’s military aviation, bringing stealth, speed, and advanced avionics to the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF).

This fifth-generation fighter jet, with its stealthy design, is built for air superiority and precision strikes, showcasing China’s significant strides in aerospace technology.

It features an AESA radar and internal weapon bays. The J-20’s capabilities highlight China’s strategic ambitions and commitment to maintaining a competitive edge in modern aerial warfare.

8. Shenyang FC-31 Gyrfalcon

The Shenyang FC-31 Gyrfalcon, another testament to China’s advancements in stealth technology, is poised to play a significant role in the future of carrier operations.

Although still in development, this twin-engine, fifth-generation fighter jet showcases advanced stealth features and agility to enhance the Chinese Navy’s capabilities.

The FC-31’s design, emphasising reduced radar cross-section and advanced avionics, positions it as a key player in China’s pursuit of expanding its naval air power and asserting its presence in various maritime regions.

9. KAI KF-21 Boramae

The KAI KF-21 Boramae represents a significant leap in South Korea’s aerospace industry, blending advanced stealth capabilities with sophisticated technologies. Developed to be a 4.5-generation fighter jet, it bridges the gap between existing fighters and future fifth-generation models.

Equipped with cutting-edge avionics and designed for multirole capabilities, the KF-21 underscores South Korea’s commitment to advancing its defensive and technological prowess.

This aircraft symbolises South Korea’s emergence as a significant player in developing high-tech fighter jets, reflecting its growing role in global aerospace and defence.

10. Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor

The first 5th generation fighter jet, the American F-22 Raptor, remains unrivalled in air superiority with its stealth, advanced avionics, and groundbreaking manoeuvrability.

Its ability to perform high-speed, high-altitude operations with stealth characteristics makes it nearly invincible in air-to-air combat. The F-22 features next-generation radar and sensor capabilities, allowing it to detect and engage threats at long ranges.

Despite its introduction in the early 2000s, the F-22 continues to be one of the most formidable fighters in the skies, created by U.S. military aviation technology.

11. Saab JAS 39 Gripen E

Sweden’s Saab JAS 39 Gripen E is an embodiment of efficiency and versatility in modern air combat. This advanced multirole fighter is designed for flexibility and low operating costs without compromising performance.

Featuring the latest in avionics and radar technology, the Gripen E is adept at a wide range of missions, from air defence to ground and maritime strikes. Its enhanced sensor suite and network-centric warfare capabilities make it a formidable opponent.

The Gripen E’s combination of operational economy and combat effectiveness makes it attractive to air forces looking for a cost-efficient yet capable solution.

12. HAL Tejas

India’s HAL Tejas, a light combat aircraft, marks a significant achievement in the country’s aerospace industry. As a lightweight, multirole fighter, the Tejas is known for its agility and state-of-the-art avionics.

Developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), it integrates modern design with advanced technology, offering capabilities in air-to-air and air-to-ground combat. The Tejas has a fly-by-wire flight control system and an advanced radar, enhancing its combat effectiveness.

Its induction into the Indian Air Force and Navy represents India’s strides towards self-reliance in defence technology and its growing presence in the international defence market.

13. PAC JF-17 Thunder

This fighter jet is a joint venture between Pakistan and China. It has gained recognition for its cost-effectiveness and adaptability in various combat roles. It has modern avionics and is capable of carrying a variety of weapons to fulfil multiple roles, including air-to-air combat and ground attack.

Its affordability and performance make it a popular choice for countries with smaller defence budgets, playing a significant role in the defence strategies of several nations.

14. Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon

The Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon has been a mainstay in the air forces of many countries worldwide. Known for its versatility and reliability, the F-16 remains a relevant combat aircraft due to ongoing modernisation and upgrades.

With its advanced avionics and weapons systems, it can be used for a wide range of missions, including air superiority, ground attack, and reconnaissance. The F-16’s enduring presence in global air forces is a testament to its effectiveness and adaptability in various combat scenarios.

15. FA18

The F/A-18 Hornet is a fighter jet used by the US Marine Corps and Royal Australian Air Force. It is a multi-role aircraft that is known for its dual capability in air-to-air combat and ground attacks. It features advanced avionics and a multifunction radar that enables precise targeting. 

The carrier capability of the aircraft adds strategic flexibility. The twin-engine design provides exceptional speed and agility while its robust airframe enhances survivability. The F/A-18 has been continuously upgraded, and variants such as the Super Hornet have been introduced.

Uses Of Fighter Jets

Fighter jets are more than just military hardware. They are integral components of national security strategies and play an important role in international diplomacy and global military equilibrium.

Their impact extends from the battlefield to global politics and diplomatic engagements. 

  • Air Superiority and Interception: Essential for gaining and maintaining control of the airspace, these jets engage enemy aircraft and intercept threats, playing a pivotal role in national defence.
  • Ground and Naval Attack: Fighter jets conduct precise strikes on ground and maritime targets, supporting ground troops and naval operations and playing a critical role in offensive and defensive strategies.
  • Reconnaissance and Surveillance: With advanced sensors, fighter jets undertake crucial intelligence-gathering missions, monitoring enemy activities and providing valuable information about strategic areas.
  • Strategic Bombing and Deterrence: These jets carry out strategic bombing to disrupt enemy infrastructure and serve as a deterrent, showcasing a nation’s military strength and capability to respond to threats.
  • Humanitarian Missions: In addition to combat roles, fighter jets are sometimes deployed in humanitarian missions, particularly for rapid reconnaissance in crisis regions or enforcing no-fly zones during international peacekeeping operations.

Conclusion About The Best Fighter Jets

So what is the best fighter jet of all time? It’s tough to pick one as each fighter jet in this list has unique features and capabilities and is playing a pivotal role in shaping the dynamics of modern aerial warfare and global defence. 

As we look towards the future, these jets will continue to evolve, introducing groundbreaking innovations that will further revolutionise the skies.

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Frequently Asked Questions About The Best Fighter Jets

What Makes A Fighter Jet ‘the Best’?

The title of ‘the best’ fighter jet depends on several factors, like technological advancements, manoeuvrability, firepower, stealth capabilities, and versatility in missions. An air force’s specific needs and strategies also significantly determine which jet best suits its requirements.

Can These Fighter Jets Be Used For Commercial Purposes?

No, fighter jets are designed for military use and unsuitable for commercial aviation. Their design, capabilities, and functions are tailored for combat and defence operations.

What Is The Future Of Fighter Jets?

The future of fighter jets likely includes further advancements in stealth technology, enhanced network-centric warfare capabilities, integration of artificial intelligence, and possibly the development of sixth-generation fighters with even more advanced features.

Are Stealth Fighter Jets Invisible To Radar?

Stealth fighter jets are not completely invisible to radar, but their design and materials significantly reduce their radar cross-section, making them harder to detect.

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