Often we receive many questions which is the best fighter aircraft in the world. Which is the greatest modern fighter and why. Our Top 10 analysis is based on the combined score of stealthiness, armament, speed, range, maneuverability and technology. We also considered pilot opinion on capabilities of various warplanes during dog-fight training. All of these aircraft mentioned here are incredibly powerful and devastating, however none of them have seen combat against each other during military operations yet. Our analysis is based on specifications, available data and technical comparison. Pilot training is also important, as performance of the actual aircraft depends from the pilot performance. This list do not contains aircraft that are currently under development of at the prototype stage. It includes only operational warplanes.
Currently top 10 fighter aircraft in the world are these:
Nr.1 Lockheed Martin / Boeing F-22 Raptor (USA)
The F-22 Raptor air superiority fighter is almost invisible to radars. This aircraft carries a powerful array of weaponry. It is the most advanced and most expensive production fighter aircraft to date. Many of sensors and avionics of this plane remain classified.
Engines of the raptor allow the aircraft to supercruise over long ranges, while thrust-vectoring nozzles, combined with a triplex fly-by-wire flight control system, make it exceptionally maneuverable.
The F-22 started life as a straightforward air superiority fighter. However since its introduction this aircraft lacks a formidable air threat from other countries fighters. Later it evolved towards the multi-role fighter, as strike capability was added.
This advanced aircraft was never offered for export customers, even other allies and NATO countries. Currently it is the best fighter aircraft ever built.
Nr.2 Lockheed Martin F-35 (USA)
The F-35, also known as the Lightning II, is a new multi-role fighter. One of its variants, the F-35B achieved initial operational capability with the US Marine Corps in 2015.
The F-35 was developed under a Joint Strike Fighter program, which was intended to replace existing aircraft types with a common fighter. In the near future the F-35 will replace the AV-8B, A-10, F-16 and F/A-18 warplanes in service with the US military. Also it will be exported to a number of countries.
The F-35 has a configuration similar to that of Lockheed Martin's own F-22 design, however it is slightly smaller and has one engine. It exploits stealth technology, which reduces its radar cross-section and makes it harder to detect for radars
This multi-role fighter can perform on air defense missions, close air support and tactical bombing. It is compatible with the latest air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles.
This aircraft is proposed in three main variants, including the F-35A conventional take-off and landing aircraft, F-35B short take-off and vertical landing aircraft, and F-35C carrier-based aircraft. These variants share about 80% of their parts to keep development and production costs low. It also requires less logistic support.
Nr.3 Chengdu J-20 (China)
The Chengdu J-20 is the new China's stealth fighter. It was designed to compete against other fifth-generation fighters, such as the US F-22 Raptor and Russian PAK-FA. It is speculated, that development of the J-20 was assisted by the Russian MiG aviation company. Low-rate initial production of this stealthy aircraft commenced in 2015. First operational J-20 stealthy fighters were delivered to Chinese air force in 2016.
During the last decade China has taken a more transparent approach to its military programs. Still though there is little official information on this plane.
Most likely that the new J-20 is a long-range air superiority fighter, which might also have a secondary ground attack capability. The new Chinese warplane might actually be an advanced forth-generation fighter, rather than a true fight-generation fighter.
This Chinese fighter has two large internal weapon bays for long-range air-to-air missiles and two small side-mounted weapon bays for short-range air-to-air missiles. Missiles are stored in these weapon bays in order to reduce the radar cross-section. It also has large fuel tanks for long-range missions. It carries more fuel and weapons than the American F-22 Raptor. Furthermore this aircraft is capable of high speed operations.
Nr.4 Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet (USA)
Currently the Super Hornet is the most capable US Navy's multi-role fighter. It is based on the aircraft carriers can attack both air and surface targets. The Super Hornet is also in service with Australia as the main fighter aircraft.
The F/A-18E/F is a larger and more capable derivative of the F/A-18C/D Hornet. The Super Hornet is fitted with new engines. It has additional hardpoints and can carry more missiles. This aircraft has extended range due to larger internal storage of fuel. The Super Hornet also has improved avionics. Some measures were taken to reduce radar cross section of this aircraft.
Nr.5 Eurofighter Typhoon (European Union)
In 1986 the Eurofighter consortium was formed by Germany, Italy, the UK and, later, Spain, to develop a new multi-role combat aircraft, optimized as a beyond visual range interceptor with a secondary ground-attack capability. This aircraft carries advanced European-designed missiles. it is fitted with a very modern and comprehensive avionics package.
It is claimed that Typhoon is half as combat effective as the American F-22 Raptor. It is an approximate estimate, however it seems that Typhoon is superior to the F-15F, French Rafale, evolved Russian Su-27 variants and many other aircraft.
The Eurofighter Typhoon will form the cornerstone of European air power until well into the 21st century.
Nr.6 Dassault Rafale (France)
The Rafale is in service both with the French Air Force and Navy. This multi-role fighter features some of the very latest avionics systems. Also some measures were taken to reduce radar cross section of this aircraft. This aircraft is very maneuverable. The Rafale can track 40 targets and fire at four targets simultaneously.
This aircraft can hold its own against the latest versions of the American F-16. The Dassault Rafale will form the cornerstone of French air power until well into the 21st century.
Nr.7 Sukhoi Su-35 (Russia)
The Su-35 multi-role fighter is a significantly developed version of the Su-27. It is being offered for export as a replacement for the Su-27 and MiG-29 fighters. In 2012 it has been adopted by the Russian Air Force.
Developers refer the Su-35 as 4++ generation fighter. It is a very fast and highly maneuverable fighter with very long range, high altitude capability and heavy armament. It poses great threat to Western 4+ generation fighters
The Su-35 is primarily an air superiority fighter. However it has secondary air-to-ground capability. This aircraft can carry enormous amount of weapons. It has 12 wing and fuselage hardpoints and can carry ordnance with a maximum weight of up to 8 000 kg.
Its large and powerful engines give it ability to supercruise for a long time. Also its engines allow to reach supersonic speeds without using an afterburner. Engines have a three-dimensional thrust vectoring and make this aircraft very maneuverable.
However Russia still lags behind in the development, acquisition and employment of some of the latest technologies.
Recently a new Sukhoi PAK FA stealthy air superiority fighter is being developed in Russia. First operational aircraft might be delivered to the Russian air force in 2017-2018.
Nr.8 McDonnel Douglas F-15 Eagle (USA)
The F-15 Eagle is a purpose-built air superiority fighter designed to penetrate enemy defense. Although now in service for over 30 years, it remains a formidable warplane. This aircraft scored more than 100 air kills and is considered among the most successful Cold War era fighters.
The F-15 is equipped with weaponry and electronics, enabling it to detect, acquire, track and attack enemy aircraft, while operating in enemy-controlled airspace. This fighter carries a wide range of air-to-air missiles and is extremely maneuverable. Also it has strong high-speed maneuverability. Through modifications and upgrades the F-15 has been constantly improved.
The F-15 Eagle is still in service with the US Air Force and is expected to remain operational at least until 2025. This aircraft has been exported to Israel, Japan and Saudi Arabia.
Nr.9 Mikoyan MiG-31 (Russia)
The MiG-31 (NATO designation Foxhound-A) was developed as part of an overall programme to provide the Soviet air defenses with the ability to meet the threat posed by NATO low-level strike aircraft and cruise missiles.
This interceptor has a high speed, altitude and rate of climb, however it sacrifices maneuverability in order to achieve these capabilities. The MiG-31 is among the fastest production aircraft. It uses missiles to shot-down enemy aircraft at long distances.
The latest version is the MiG-31BM; this is billed as a true multi-role Foxhound, able to undertake long-range interception, precision strike and defense suppression tasks. Both cockpits feature advanced displays allowing the crew to deploy precision-guided munitions. A project to upgrade Russian interceptors to the MiG-31BM standard was begun in 2010. This interceptor continue to form the back bone of Russia's air defenses.
Nr.10 Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon (USA)
The F-16 was lighter, less expensive alternative to the F-15 Eagle. Unlike the F-15, which is purely an air superiority fighter, the F-16 is a multi-role aircraft, capable of attacking air and ground targets.
The F-16 has been produced in large numbers and participated in numerous conflicts. Over 4 500 aircraft have been built. It has been widely exported and is currently operational with 26 countries around the world. The F-16 is battle proven.
This aircraft is small, but highly maneuverable. The F-16 has a bubble single-piece canopy for excellent pilot visibility, which becomes during close combat.
The F-16 is still in service with the US Air Force and will remain operational until 2025. In the future it will be replaced by the new F-35 Lightning II.