Top 5 Best American Fighter Jets In 2024

Ken Hyde

By Ken Hyde

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Many American fighter planes have been developed throughout the country’s aviation history. However, only a select few are universally recognized as the best of the best by all critics. Keep scrolling to discover which ones!

Top 5 Best U.S. Fighter Jet Models

Critics and experts concur that the F-22 Raptor has been the best US aircraft fighter for decades. F-35 Lightning II, F-15 Eagle, B-2 Spirit, and F-16 Fighting Falcons are closely behind.

1. F-22 Raptor

Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor

The F-22 is widely praised as the first fifth-generation fighter jet to combine sensor fusion, supercruise, supermaneuverability, and stealth technologies all in one platform. Since its very first flight in 1997, this supersonic fighter has continued to impress aviation enthusiasts for over twenty years.

Among its standout features are reduced radar cross-sections and double F119 thrust-vectoring turbofan engines. These engines allow the F-22 to redirect energy flow easily, resulting in its excellent agility in most dogfights against enemies.

Regarding weaponry, the F-22 carries two Sidewinder AIM-9 missiles in the two internal weapon bays. It also accommodates either a combination of two GBU-32 JDAM munitions and two AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles or six radar-guided AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles in its center weapons bay.

2. Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II

Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II

These advanced fighter jets are designed for various missions, such as gathering intelligence, attacking ground targets, and defending airspace while staying hidden from radar. 

There are three main types of this multirole fighter: 

  • The F-35A (conventional landing and takeoff)
  • The F-35B (vertical takeoff/landing)
  • The F-35C, tailored for aircraft carriers

They derive from the X-35, part of the JSF (Joint Strike Fighter) program. Alongside Lockheed Martin, corporations like BAE Systems, Northrop Grumman, and Pratt & Whitney were also involved in the building process.

The first F-35 flew in 2006, and the U.S. plans to get 2,443 of these heavy fighter jets. Hence, you can expect them to be a key part of the Navy’s fleets, Air Force, and Marine Corps for years to come.

The U.S. Navy’s version — the F-35C — has bigger wings and tougher landing gear than the other two models and is deemed more suitable for carrier operations. Recently, it had a quick test flight across the Chesapeake Bay; Lieutenant Commander Eric Buus piloted it for about two hours and checked its handling during different maneuvers.

3. McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle

McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle assisting on the flight Nor
McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle assisting on the flight Northrop B-2 Spirit

The F-15 Eagle has been crowned the fastest aircraft in the U.S. Air Force, giving it a significant edge in air combat situations compared to other planes in the fleet. According to Air & Space Forces Magazine, it can reach Mach 2.5  at maximum, surpassing even the F-22 Raptor (this one maxes out at Mach 2.2).

On a global scale, it ranks as the third-fastest operational jet fighter ever made, only trailing behind the supersonic MiG-31 and MiG-25 (Soviet Union) and the testing YF-12 interceptor version of the high-altitude SR-71 Blackbird.

Thus, it’s a surprise to no one that the F-15 Eagle is among the United States’ best fighter jet models and will remain so for years to come. Boeing, the manufacturer, continues to produce the latest F-15EX variant with upgraded operational capabilities and even more advanced weaponry.

4. Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit

Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit

Despite being 30 years old, the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit remains a force to be reckoned with in the skies. Sure, the newer B-21 Raider will eventually replace it, but currently, it’s considered the most powerful stealth bomber worldwide.

Since its deployment in the Cold War era, the B-2 Spirit has seen action in various conflicts, from Afghanistan and Iraq to Kosovo and Libya. So far, it’s the only known aircraft capable of carrying large, standoff air-to-surface weapons while still maintaining a stealthy profile.

Reportedly, this stealthiness is owed to a blend of reduced electromagnetic, acoustic, infrared, radar systems, and visual signatures, which makes it extremely difficult for even the most advanced defense systems to track and detect. 

Critics also attribute its low observability to the special coatings and composite materials, although many details of its other stealth features remain classified.

5. General Dynamics (Lockheed Martin now) Fighting Falcon F-16

Lockheed Martin F-16

The versatile, single-engine fighter jet was first designed as a daytime fighter for air superiority for the U.S. Air Force. However, it later became extremely successful in all-weather air-to-air combat roles. Over 4,500 of these jets have been produced since their approval for production in 1976.

Though the U.S. Air Force no longer purchases new ones, upgraded variants are still being developed for other countries. The whole business was transferred to Lockheed Corporation in 1993, and after merging with Martin Marietta in 1995, it became Lockheed Martin.

As one of US top jet fighter models, the F-16 has some outstanding features, such as:

  • Control sticks (side-mounted) for easier maneuvering
  • A bubble canopy with improved visibility
  • Seats reclining 30° to help pilots handle g-forces better

And it’s also one of the first planes to use a static stability control system! Plus, the jet is armed with a Vulcan M61 cannon inside (not to mention other gear and standard weapons in 11 different places). 

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These jets have been flying for decades and still remain unbeatable models. Plus, with ongoing upgrades from the manufacturers, their performances only keep improving! If you want to learn more about them, feel free to contact us.

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Ken W Hyde

Ken W Hyde

Ken W Hyde is the founder of The Wright Experience™. He is passionate about antique airplanes and has restored many of the Wright brothers' planes, including the 1918 Curtiss Jenny and the 1903 Wright Flyer. He is also a pilot and mechanic who has worked for Capital Airlines, Bendix Corporation, and American Airlines.

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