Top 10 Best Fighter Jets In The World In 2024

Ken Hyde

By Ken Hyde

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Although ground combat is often widely discussed, the Air Force deserves just as much attention. Countries worldwide have invested heavily in operational jet fighters in the past few decades, and just when we thought they couldn’t get any better, new models kept surprising us with their incredible performance.

Here’s a list of some of the top fighter jets in the world; keep reading to find out more!

Top 10 Best Fighter Planes In The World

With its robust engine and missile sensors, the Lockheed Martin Lightning II F-35 remains the best plane fighter. Still, other jets like Chengdu Mighty Dragon J-20, Lockheed Martin Raptor F-22, and KAI Boramae KF-21 Boramae are also top contenders.

10. Dassault Rafale

Dassault Rafale

France developed the Dassault Rafale separately from the Eurofighter Typhoon to meet its more niche needs. Unlike the Eurofighter, the Rafale includes a new version that can operate from aircraft carriers and carry nuclear weapons launched from above the ground. 

Since its release, the Rafale has seen constant upgrades to stay competitive, namely advanced sensors and numerous air-combat weapon systems. 

Its agility is also impressive, easily tracking up to 40 target aircraft and engaging 4 all at once. The easily-programmable software also allows for faster upgrades regarding avionics, arsenals, and sensor types.

By the time of our writing, the Rafale 4th is in production, with huge upgrades planned for the analog avionic systems and powerful radar. France, India, the United Arab Emirates, and other countries are all eagerly looking forward to these modifications.

Specifically, between 2019 and 2023, France sold about 94 Rafales — nearly a third of its total arms exports at the time — and orders for 193 other Rafales were also placed during the last months of 2023. As of March 2024, SIPRI’s report ranks France as the world’s second-largest weapon exporter.

On another note, given the plane’s abilities, it’s surprising that Europe did not react as warmly to Rafale as other continents. Of all the ten European nations seeking new combat models during the same period (2019 – 2023), only Greece and Croatia chose Rafale.

9. Eurofighter Typhoon

Eurofighter Typhoon

The jet’s advanced maneuverability is all thanks to the two Eurojet engines, each producing 13,500 lbs of thrust (without an afterburner) and 20,200 lbs with an afterburner! 

As a result, the Eurofighter excels in both air interdictions and intercepts. Plus, one of its cutting-edge sensors, the Euroradar Captor, is being upgraded to the Captor-E Active Scanned radar, detecting targets in a flash without mechanical aids. 

At the same time, the PIRATE (Passive InfraRed Air Tracking Equipment (PIRATE) allows the Eurofighter to track down other planes without emitting any detectable radar signal. Infrared pods with laser designators can also be mounted for precise targeting.

Lastly, thanks to the SPEAR EW variant and SPEAR 3 multi-mode guidance missiles, the Eurofighter can jam enemies’ air defense radar. Three of these missiles are mountable on an external pylon, while four can be carried on the internal pylons of both Eurofigter and the A/B/C Panther/Lightning II F-35 (listed below)! 

To complete the design, anti-radiation missiles only give the Eurofighter an even better competitive edge in combat. 

8. Boeing Super Hornet F/A-18E/F

Boeing Super Hornet F/A-18E/F

The Super Hornet is the top multi-role primary weapon for the US Navy, also serving as Australia’s main aircraft. As one of the world’s best combat aircraft, it can engage both surface and air targets and operate from varying aircraft carriers. 

Specifically, this Super Hornet model is an upgraded version of the F/A-18C/D Hornet, with new engines, a larger size, more hardpoints, and refined missile-carrying load. It also has a longer operational range due to better-advanced avionics systems and increased fuel storage, which makes it extremely effective in most modern combat situations.

Also, given its excellent stealth (owing to the effective radar cross-sections), the Super Hornet is versatile enough for various roles, from quick ground attack to air superiority. This design strengthens its dominant position in the US’s maritime defense.

7. Sukhoi Su-35

Sukhoi Su-35

In the Ukraine-Russia War, the Su-35 proved itself as one of the best fighter jets in the world. It blasted GPS-guided bombs, launched anti-radiation rockets, and engaged in long air-to-air combat! 

One of its standout features is the Irbis-E radar, which can detect targets up to 350 kilometers (or 217 miles) away. This design pairs with an infrared and optical scanner (for silent detection of enemy aircraft and other airborne targets) and can be further upgraded with helmet-mounted sights, much like its predecessor, the Su-27.

The Su-35 also includes a datalink (common among many heavy fighters in this list), thrust vectoring engine systems, and a diverse array of extras:

  • Active air-to-air missiles, 300-kilometer range
  • Anti-radiation missiles to suppress air defense 
  • Various precision air-to-ground weapons.

Of all the ten European nations seeking new combat models during the same period (2019 – 2023), only Greece and Croatia chose Rafale. 

6. Boeing Eagler II F-15EX 

F-15 Eagle

The Boeing Eagle F-15, which will turn 52 years old in 2024, is still one of the most advanced fighter jets in the world! It has achieved over 100 airborne kills without losses (a record that remains hard to beat for many), and regular upgrades have kept it strong and effective over the past decades.

The newest model, the F-15EX Eagle II, further reflects Boeing’s central focus on keeping the jet up-to-date. It introduces advanced weapons, sophisticated radar systems, and far better electronics than its predecessors to stay practical in modern air battles – another proof that the F-15 series will continue to stay ahead in technology.

5. Sukhoi Su-57

Sukhoi Su-57

Russia’s most recent fighter jet, the Su-57, was developed under the PAK FA program and named as such in 2017. Development started in 2001, and the first flight took place around 2010. 

8 years later (2018), early models were transported to Syria. They were meant to replace the degrading Su-27 and MiG-29 fighters and directly rival the United States F-22 Raptor, but a severe crash that same year led to concerns about their future production. 

Hence, mass production only really started in 2022, with the first 2 jets delivered to the Russian Air Force.

Although initially promoted as an air fighter, the Sukhoi Su-57 also proved capable of ground attack. It boasts a reduced radar cross-section (an improvement over the early Su-35) and internal/external hardpoints for various missiles and guided bombs.

4. KAI Boramae KF-21 Boramae

KAI Boramae KF-21 Boramae

KAI Boramae KF-21, developed by South Korea and Indonesia, marks a major milestone in Korean aerospace. It combines advanced AESA radar, stealth features, and technology inspired by the F-35 – and is thus considered to land between a 4.5th-gen and 5th-gen fighter jet.

The KF-21 took its maiden flight in 2022, and multiple prototypes are now being produced and tested. The company plans to deliver these supersonic fighter jets to the army by 2026.

Future improvements are in line for the Boramae, including variants with enhanced sensors and standard weapons bays to improve its stealth capabilities. And that’s not all. An electronic warfare system is also under development to increase KF-21 combat survivability, aiming to make it a real fifth-generation fighter jet!

3. Lockheed Martin Raptor F-22 

Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor

The F-22 was the first 5th-gen fighter plane to enter operation and pioneer stealth technology. 

With constant upgrades from the USAF (United States Air Force), the F-22 Raptor remains among the most well-equipped military aircraft worldwide despite being released over 20 years ago. Its advanced weapons and thrust-vectored engines make it highly effective in close-range dogfights, while the powerful sensors excel in long-range engagements.

Only the USAF operates the F-22 since it was considered too “upgraded” to be shared with other countries. Still, despite this strict exclusivity, the F-22 has been deployed in numerous overseas missions and proved excellent combat capabilities.

2. Chengdu Mighty Dragon J-20 

Chengdu Mighty Dragon J-20 

In 2017, China unveiled its first fifth-gen fighter jet, the Mighty Dragon J-20, which marks a significant advancement for the PLAAF (People’s Liberation Army Air Force). With its effective avionics and overall performance, this powerful fighter is designed to compete with the Sukhoi Su-57 (Russian) and Lockheed Martin  F-22 (U.S.). 

Despite lacking the thrust-vectored exhausts that have improved maneuverability in its rivals, this Chinese aircraft still boasts a highly acclaimed stealthy design. Also, among the upgrades are stronger engines and a brand-new 2-seater variant designed for drone control.

This Chinese fighter jet is armed with two large internal and one side-mounted weapon bays for both long-range and short-range air-to-air missiles, reducing its RCS (radar cross-section).

1. Lockheed Martin Lightning II F-35 

Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II

Despite initial development challenges and high costs in 2006, the Lockheed Martin Lightning II F-35 has emerged as the best fighter aircraft in the world (and for the United States). And thanks to recent cost reductions and performance improvements, it has also enjoyed massive popularity among other countries.

The F-35 introduces cutting-edge features like advanced radars, powerful sensors, the most robust fighter engine available, and exceptional data networking abilities. Its pilots benefit from an augmented reality (AR) helmet that boosts their situational awareness.

This jet excels in beyond-visual-range fighting (with the help of sensor fusion and all-aspect stealth), but it also performs impressively in traditional dogfights. 

During its debut Red Flag drill in 2017, the F-35 achieved a 20 to 1 kill ratio, winning twenty engagements for every loss. This remarkable performance is largely due to its ability to track and pounce on targets from all directions and angles of attack, which made it almost impossible for incoming enemy aircraft to evade.

The F-35 comes in three variants: the F-35A for standard landing and takeoff, the F-35B with vertical landing and takeoff capabilities, and, last but not least, the F-35C designed for aircraft carrier operations.


Which Is The Most Successful Fighter Jet?

Surprisingly, it’s not any of the jets we discussed earlier in the above list. 

The General Dynamics Fighting Falcon F-16 started as a cheap F-15 replacement but has since become the most popular fighter jet worldwide, with more than 4,600 units in operation. 

As earlier models of F-16s are retired, new versions continue to be produced, and more countries are placing orders for this aircraft model. According to Lockheed Martin, the current manufacturer, the F-16 production lines are overwhelmed with global demand, even causing delays in some deliveries!

Which Is The Most Expensive Fighter Jet?

The Lockheed Martin F-35 ($177 million) easily takes the spot! 

Its operational costs are among the highest globally, driven up further since 2022 due to inflation and lower production quantities. A report from the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) in May 2023 also listed extended expenses related to training, technical data, engine and airframe production.

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Lockheed Martin Lightning II F-35 is hand-down the most modern fighter jet (and the most expensive). Yet, General Dynamics Fighting Falcon F-16 holds the top spot regarding the number of units produced. If you have any other questions, 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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