Special Report

The 25 Most Widely Used Military Aircraft on Earth

VanderWolf-Images / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

In the ever evolving landscape of modern warfare, aircraft have become indispensable for the sheer tactical and strategic benefit that they yield. Whether it is a combat aircraft or a tanker, each has its own role to play in the military. 

To identify the military aircraft that are most widely used, 24/7 Wall St. referenced the report 2023 World Air Forces from FlightGlobal, an aviation and aerospace industry website. We ranked each aircraft by the number of units in service in the 163 countries reporting to FlightGlobal. Supplemental data regarding the type of aircraft, how many are on order, and notable countries that use these aircraft also came from FlightGlobal.

Among the combat aircraft mentioned, the F-16 Fighting Falcon dominates this list as well as the world skies. Originally manufactured by General Dynamics, and now by Lockheed Martin, it is employed by more than 25 countries. This aircraft is known for its speed and versatility, capable of playing multiple roles on the battlefield. Since its inception in the late 1970s, the F-16 has been upgraded to include more advanced avionics, improved armament, and the integration of latest weapon systems. (Here are the top 10 most used fighter jets in the world.)

Helicopters are also indispensable in modern warfare, and this is reflected by their use in multiple militaries. The American twin-engine UH-60 Black Hawk, in the family of the Sikorsky S-70, is a prime example of a widely-used military helicopter. Developed by Sikorsky Aircraft, the UH-60 is employed for various mission types, including transport of troops and equipment, medical evacuation, and search and rescue operations. Its track record has made it one of the most popular in the world. (These are the most widely used combat helicopters on Earth.)

The vast majority of this list consists of combat aircraft and combat helicopters. Militaries tend to have fewer tankers, transports, and special mission aircraft because their roles are limited, while combat aircraft are more effective to project power.

The lone instance of a transport, tanker, and special mission aircraft on this list is the versatile C-130 Hercules and its multiple variants. Designed by Lockheed Martin, this aircraft is used in multiple roles on and off the battlefield, including humanitarian aid, disaster relief, and military logistics.

Here is a look at the most widely-used military aircraft in the world.

25. NH90 Caiman
> Active aircraft: 446
> Aircraft on order: 147
> Type: Combat helicopter
> Notable countries: Australia, France, Netherlands

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24. Chengdu J-7 Fishcan
> Active aircraft: 452
> Aircraft on order: 0
> Type: Combat aircraft, training aircraft
> Notable countries: China

23. Bell 206 JetRanger
> Active aircraft: 478
> Aircraft on order: 0
> Type: Combat helicopter, training aircraft
> Notable countries: Argentina, Germany, Iraq, Italy

22. Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot
> Active aircraft: 489
> Aircraft on order: 0
> Type: Combat aircraft, training aircraft
> Notable countries: Armenia, Belarus, North Korea, Russia

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21. Eurocopter H145
> Active aircraft: 533
> Aircraft on order: 88
> Type: Combat helicopter, training aircraft
> Notable countries: Albania, Germany, United States

20. Ah-1 Cobra
> Active aircraft: 573
> Aircraft on order: 46
> Type: Combat helicopter, training aircraft
> Notable countries: Bahrain, Iran, Jordan, Pakistan

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19. T-38 Talon
> Active aircraft: 575
> Aircraft on order: 0
> Type: Training aircraft
> Notable countries: Turkey, United States

18. Aero L-39 Albatros
> Active aircraft: 575
> Aircraft on order: 36
> Type: Combat aircraft, training aircraft
> Notable countries: Libya, Mali, Russia

17. MD500 Defender
> Active aircraft: 588
> Aircraft on order: 86
> Type: Combat helicopter
> Notable countries: Argentina, Colombia, North Korea

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16. F-5 Tiger II
> Active aircraft: 611
> Aircraft on order: 0
> Type: Combat aircraft, training aircraft
> Notable countries: Brazil, Chile, South Korea, Switzerland

15. F-35 Lightning II
> Active aircraft: 716
> Aircraft on order: 2758
> Type: Combat aircraft, training aircraft
> Notable countries: Canada, Israel, United States

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14. Mil Mi-17 Hip
> Active aircraft: 765
> Aircraft on order: 65
> Type: Combat helicopter
> Notable countries: Bangladesh, India, Venezuela

13. Mil Mi-24 Hind
> Active aircraft: 828
> Aircraft on order: 33
> Type: Combat helicopter
> Notable countries: Armenia, Russia, Ukraine

12. Mikoyan MiG-29
> Active aircraft: 899
> Aircraft on order: 79
> Type: Combat aircraft, training aircraft
> Notable countries: Belarus, Bulgaria, Cuba, Egypt

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11. Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker
> Active aircraft: 964
> Aircraft on order: 87
> Type: Combat aircraft, training aircraft
> Notable countries: China, Kazakhstan, Russia

10. CH-47 Chinook
> Active aircraft: 925
> Aircraft on order: 202
> Type: Combat aircraft
> Notable countries: Australia, Germany, United States

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9. T-6 Texan
> Active aircraft: 980
> Aircraft on order: 68
> Type: Combat aircraft, training aircraft
> Notable countries: Thailand, United States, Iraq

8. F-15 Eagle
> Active aircraft: 1,066
> Aircraft on order: 222
> Type: Combat aircraft, training aircraft
> Notable countries: Indonesia, Israel, Japan, United States

7. Bell UH-1 Iroquois
> Active aircraft: 1,105
> Aircraft on order: 33
> Type: Combat helicopter, training aircraft
> Notable countries: United States, Turkey, South Korea

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6. F/A-18 Hornet
> Active aircraft: 1,111
> Aircraft on order: 116
> Type: Combat aircraft, training aircraft
> Notable countries: Canada, Spain, Switzerland, United States

5. C-130 Hercules
> Active aircraft: 1,133
> Aircraft on order: 119
> Type: Combat aircraft, special mission, tanker, transport
> Notable countries: United States, Austria, Israel

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4. AH-64 Apache
> Active aircraft: 1,233
> Aircraft on order: 324
> Type: Combat helicopter
> Notable countries: Greece, India, United States

3. Mil Mi-8 Hip
> Active aircraft: 2,039
> Aircraft on order: 17
> Type: Combat helicopter
> Notable countries: Algeria, Croatia, Cuba, Russia

2. F-16 Fighting Falcon
> Active aircraft: 2,763
> Aircraft on order: 156
> Type: Combat aircraft, training aircraft
> Notable countries: Bahrain, Belgium, Denmark, Egypt

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1. S-70 Black Hawk
> Active aircraft: 3,909
> Aircraft on order: 806
> Type: Combat helicopter, training aircraft
> Notable countries: United States, Saudi Arabia, Poland

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