Military

The Most Widely Used Fighter Jets on Earth

bfk92 / E+ via Getty Images

Fighter aircraft have been a major component of warfare since they emerged en masse on the battlefield in World War II. The modern iterations of these fighter aircraft, we know as fighter jets did not come about until many years after the Second World War but the proliferation of these aircraft since has been nothing short of impressive. Among the diverse range of fighter jets that have been produced over the years, a few stand above the rest. Even after 50 years of service, some of these jets are still in use today across the globe. (Exploring the fastest and most powerful fighter jets in existance.)

Here, 24/7 Wall St. is taking a closer look at some of the most popular fighter jets out there. To determine the most widely used fighter jets in the world, 24/7 Wall St. referenced the report, 2024 World Air Forces, from FlightGlobal, an aviation and aerospace industry website. Aircraft were ranked here by the number of units in active service across the world’s militaries. Supplemental data regarding manufacturer, first flight, notable variants, and initial use came from Military Factory, an online database of military vehicles, aircraft, arms, and more.

Topping this list is the F-16 Fighting Falcon, originally developed by General Dynamics and now produced by Lockheed Martin. It has been the backbone of many air forces worldwide since its introduction in 1978. Renowned for its maneuverability, high speed, and light-weight construction, the F-16 can perform various operational roles. These features have allowed the F-16 to become NATO’s primary fleet aircraft and serve in over 25 air forces.

The next generation of fighter jets is headed up by the F-35 Lightning II, and it is being produced at an incredible rate by Lockheed Martin. This next generation of fighter jets will allow more countries to effectively defend themselves using the most advanced avionics and stealth on the planet.

Overall, the fighter jets that comprise this list have proven their effectiveness in conflicts around the world. These jets have earned an iconic status within many militaries for their lethality, speed, and firepower. (This is every modern fighter jet ranked from slowest to fastest.)

Here is a look at the top 10 most widely used fighter jets in the world:

Why Are We Covering This?

Su-34+Fullback | Sukhoi SU-34 FULLBACK (DEFENDER) (Су-34)
Source: my_public_domain_photos / Flickr

Understanding the most widely used fighter jets in the world provides insight into global military capabilities and defense strategies. Also knowing these aircraft helps in threat assessment and the development of effective countermeasures.

10. J-7 Fishcan

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
  • Number of fighter jets in service: 452
  • Manufactured by: Aviation Industry Corporation of China
  • First flight: 1966
  • Initially used by: China
  • Notable variants: J-7 I/II/III

9. Su-25 Grach Frogfoot

Source: my_public_domain_photos / Flickr
  • Number of fighter jets in service: 468
  • Manufactured by: Sukhoi OKB
  • First flight: 1972
  • Initially used by: Soviet Union
  • Notable variants: Su-25 Frogfoot-A, Su-25KM Scorpion

8. Eurofighter Typhoon

Source: my_public_domain_photos / Flickr
  • Number of fighter jets in service: 533
  • Manufactured by: BAe Systems
  • First flight: 1986
  • Initially used by: Germany
  • Notable variants: Typhoon F1, Typhoon T1

7. F-5 Freedom Fighter

Source: my_public_domain_photos / Flickr
  • Number of fighter jets in service: 558
  • Manufactured by: Northrop Grumman
  • First flight: 1963
  • Initially used by: United States
  • Notable variants: F-5E Tiger II

6. F-35 Lightning II

Italy+F-35 | 2d Audiovisual Squadron Creates Air Force Space Command Production
Source: Robert Sullivan / Public Domain / Flickr

  • Number of fighter jets in service: 869
  • Manufactured by: Lockheed Martin
  • First flight: 2006
  • Initially used by: United States
  • Notable variants: F-35 Lightning II A/B/C

5. Mikoyan MiG-29

Source: my_public_domain_photos / Flickr
  • Number of fighter jets in service: 898
  • Manufactured by: United Aircraft Corporation
  • First flight: 1977
  • Initially used by: Soviet Union
  • Notable variants: MiG-29 Fulcrum A/B/C/D/E/F

4. F-15 Eagle

Source: usairforce / Flickr
  • Number of fighter jets in service: 1,044
  • Manufactured by: Boeing
  • First flight: 1976
  • Initially used by: United States
  • Notable variants: F-15E Strike Eagle, F-15K Slam Eagle, F-15I Ra’am

3. F/A-18 Hornet

  • Number of fighter jets in service: 1,108
  • Manufactured by: Boeing
  • First flight: 1978
  • Initially used by: United States
  • Notable variants: F/A-18E Super Hornet, Growler

2. Sukhoi Su-27/30/34/35

Source: Artyom_Anikeev / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

  • Number of fighter jets in service: 1580
  • Manufactured by: United Aircraft Corporation
  • First flight: 1985
  • Initially used by: Soviet Union
  • Notable variants: Su-27 Flanker, Su-34 Fullback

1. F-16 Fighting Falcon

Source: my_public_domain_photos / Flickr
  • Number of fighter jets in service: 2,767
  • Manufactured by: Lockheed Martin
  • First flight: 1978
  • Initially used by: United States
  • Notable variants: F-16 A/B/C/D/E

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