Special Report

The US Air Force’s Favorite Planes

As the war in Ukraine rages on, the U.S. Air Force is helping shield NATO allies from additional aggression. As part of the premier air force in the world, U.S. fighter jets have been deployed along the Baltic Sea region to augment the alliance’s capabilities to safeguard NATO’s eastern borders.

The United States Air Force is one of the most dominant and versatile aerial combat forces in the world. As such, it incorporates a wide range of aircraft to maintain its supremacy. Here is a look at some of its most common aircraft.

To identify the 25 most common planes in active service in the U.S. Air Force, 24/7 Wall St. referenced the 2023 report, World Air Forces, from FlightGlobal, an aviation and aerospace industry website. We ranked aircrafts by the number of units in active service, considering only those with more than 25 units. Supplemental data regarding the type of aircraft, how many are in active service, and how many are on order came from FlightGlobal. Data on each aircraft’s first flight came from various military and historical sources.

The backbone of U.S. aerial warfare is its extensive fleet of multi-role fighters. Two of the most numerous of these aircraft in the Air Force are the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon and the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle/Strike Eagle. These aircraft are capable of performing air-to-air and air-to-ground attacks. (See if these are among the world’s 20 fastest warplanes.)

Currently, over 770 F-16 Fighting Falcons are in service as well as over 400 F-15 Eagles. The F-15 Eagle is a twin-engine, all-weather, tactical fighter that plays multiple roles including air dominance and ground attack capabilities. Variants of the F-16 Fighting Falcon and the F-15 Eagle are also some of the most numerous. 

Other aircraft that are relatively common in the U.S. Air Force are fifth generation fighters, including the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II, which represent the next level of stealth, avionics, and overall capabilities. (These are the most expensive planes in the U.S. Air Force.)

The F-35 Lightning II program, in particular, is set to become one of the most numerous planes in the Air Force considering orders for the coming years. There are more than 300 F-35 Lightning IIs currently in service and over 1,400 on order. With evolving technologies, the F-35 Lightning II is poised to become one of the most crucial additions to the U.S. Air Force, supplementing and eventually replacing many of the older aircraft.

The wide range of aircraft ensures that the Air Force remains versatile and well prepared to confront challenging situations across different terrains and operational requirements. 

Here is a look at the 25 most numerous planes within the U.S. Air Force.

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