Special Report

Oldest and Newest Fighter Jets Used in Today's Air Forces

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The third generation of modern fighter jets were developed and introduced in the 1950s and 1960s, roughly two decades after the invention of jet propulsion. These jets, some still in use today, were characterized by their supersonic speed and advanced missiles, and can fill multiple roles, including air-to-air and air-to-ground combat.

The fourth generation of fighter jets, which debuted in the mid-1970s, was even more sophisticated, with advanced technologies such as digital systems and fly-by-wire control systems. Many of these jets, too, are still found in the service of militaries around the world. (These are the largest air forces on Earth.)

The focus of the most recent round of fighter jets, the fifth generation, is more towards stealth capabilities and radar denial. Only now emerging on the scene, their prevalence across global militaries is not as pronounced as previous generations.

To identify the oldest and newest modern fighter jets, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed Military Factory’s catalogs of third, fourth, and fifth generation aircraft. We ordered the aircraft by the year they entered service. We included supplemental information from Military Factory regarding the type of aircraft, top speed, country of origin, manufacturer, and production for each aircraft. We excluded aircraft that did not make it out of the prototype or proposal stage. Only aircraft that are currently in service and that had production runs of at least 10 were included.

The earliest fighter jet on our list is the MiG-21, or Fishbed, a third generation fighter jet. The single-seat supersonic interceptor made by Mikoyan-Gurevich was introduced by the Soviets during the Cold War. Over 11,000 MiG-21 have been produced. Although this is not the fastest jet, it proved fundamental to later iterations of the MiG series of fighter jets, which are renowned for their impressive speed. (The newest fighter jet on our list is also a MiG.) An iconic third generation U.S. fighter jet is the F-4 Phantom.

Another Cold War fighter jet, one seen in the movie “Top Gun,” is the fourth generation F-14 Tomcat. First introduced in the mid-’70s, this jet is capable of Mach 2. Although the U.S. military would move away from this design in favor of the F-Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, the F-14 Tomcat still holds its place as one of the most iconic fourth generation fighter jets. The Super Hornet was prominently featured in the movie’s highly-popular sequel, “Top Gun: Maverick.” (Here is the newest aircraft in the U.S. Air Force.)

While China and Russia already have operational fifth generation jets, other nations are developing them. Also, the sixth generation is on the drawing board and it will be interesting to see what new tech will be instituted next.

Here is a look at the oldest and newest modern fighter jets.

42. MiG-21 (Fishbed)
> Year introduced: 1959
> Type: Single-seat supersonic fighter aircraft
> Maximum speed: 1,386 mph
> Country of origin: Soviet Union
> Manufacturer: Mikoyan-Gurevich
> Production run: 11,496

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41. F-4 Phantom II
> Year introduced: 1960
> Type: Carrier-based strike fighter aircraft
> Maximum speed: 1,473 mph
> Country of origin: United States
> Manufacturer: McDonnell Douglas
> Production run: 5,195

40. Mirage III
> Year introduced: 1961
> Type: Interceptor aircraft / Strike fighter
> Maximum speed: 1,312 mph
> Country of origin: France
> Manufacturer: Dassault Aviation
> Production run: 1,422

39. Sukhoi Su-17 / Su-20 / Su-22 (Fitter)
> Year introduced: 1970
> Type: Strike fighter aircraft
> Maximum speed: 718 mph
> Country of origin: China
> Manufacturer: Sukhoi
> Production run: 2,867

38. MiG-23 (Flogger)
> Year introduced: 1970
> Type: Swing-wing figher-interceptor aircraft
> Maximum speed: 1,553 mph
> Country of origin: Soviet Union
> Manufacturer: Mikoyan-Gurevich
> Production run: 5,047

37. Mirage F1
> Year introduced: 1973
> Type: Interceptor aircraft
> Maximum speed: 1,453 mph
> Country of origin: France
> Manufacturer: Dassault Aviation
> Production run: 750

36. Grumman F-14 Tomcat
> Year introduced: 1974
> Type: Swing-wing, carrier-based fleet defense fighter
> Maximum speed: 1,544 mph
> Country of origin: United States
> Manufacturer: Grumman Aircraft
> Production run: 712

35. IAI Kfir (Lion Cub)
> Year introduced: 1976
> Type: Multi-role combat aircraft
> Maximum speed: 1,516 mph
> Country of origin: Israel
> Manufacturer: Israel Aircraft Industries
> Production run: 230

34. F-15 Eagle
> Year introduced: 1976
> Type: Air superiority fighter aircraft
> Maximum speed: 1,875 mph
> Country of origin: United States
> Manufacturer: McDonnell Douglas / Boeing
> Production run: 1,500

33. F-16 Fighting Falcon
> Year introduced: 1978
> Type: Lightweight multi-role fighter aircraft
> Maximum speed: 1,317 mph
> Country of origin: United States
> Manufacturer: General Dynamics / Lockheed Martin
> Production run: 4,604

32. Mirage 2000 (M2000)
> Year introduced: 1979
> Type: Strike fighter aircraft
> Maximum speed: 1,453 mph
> Country of origin: France
> Manufacturer: Dassault Aviation
> Production run: 611

31. Panavia Tornado IDS
> Year introduced: 1979
> Type: Low-level strike aircraft
> Maximum speed: 1,491 mph
> Country of origin: United Kingdom
> Manufacturer: Panavia Aircraft GmbH / British Aviation Systems
> Production run: 400

30. Mig-31 (Foxhound)
> Year introduced: 1979
> Type: Supersonic interceptor aircraft
> Maximum speed: 1,864 mph
> Country of origin: Soviet Union
> Manufacturer: Mikoyan OKB / United Aircraft Corporation
> Production run: 500

29. Shenyang J-8 / J-8 II (Finback)
> Year introduced: 1980
> Type: Fighter-bomber aircraft
> Maximum speed: 1,453 mph
> Country of origin: China
> Manufacturer: Aviation Industry Corporation of China
> Production run: 325

28. F/A-18 Hornet
> Year introduced: 1983
> Type: Carrier-based strike fighter aircraft
> Maximum speed: 1,190 mph
> Country of origin: United States
> Manufacturer: McDonnell Douglas / Boeing / Northrop
> Production run: 1,480

27. MiG-29 (Fulcrum)
> Year introduced: 1984
> Type: Lightweight multi-role fighter aircraft
> Maximum speed: 1,519 mph
> Country of origin: Soviet Union
> Manufacturer: Mikoyan OKB / United Aircraft Corporation
> Production run: 1,625

26. AV-8B Harrier II
> Year introduced: 1985
> Type: Short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) strike aircraft
> Maximum speed: 665 mph
> Country of origin: United States
> Manufacturer: McDonnell Douglas / Boeing / BAE Systems
> Production run: 500

25. Sukhoi Su-27 (Flanker)
> Year introduced: 1985
> Type: Multi-role air superiority fighter
> Maximum speed: 1,553 mph
> Country of origin: Soviet Union
> Manufacturer: Sukhoi OKB / United Aircraft Corporation
> Production run: 809

24. F-15E Strike Eagle
> Year introduced: 1988
> Type: Strike fighter aircraft
> Maximum speed: 1,653 mph
> Country of origin: United States
> Manufacturer: McDonnell Douglas / Boeing
> Production run: 420

23. Panavia Tornado ECR
> Year introduced: 1990
> Type: Suppression of Enemy Air Defense (SEAD) Aircraft
> Maximum speed: 1,491 mph
> Country of origin: Germany
> Manufacturer: Panavia Aircraft GmbH / British Aviation Systems / MBB
> Production run: 52

22. KAI KF-16 Fighting Falcon
> Year introduced: 1991
> Type: Multi-role fighter aircraft
> Maximum speed: 870 mph
> Country of origin: South Korea
> Manufacturer: Korean Aerospace Industries
> Production run: 140

21. Xian JH-7 (Flounder) / FBC-1 (Flying Leopard)
> Year introduced: 1992
> Type: Fighter-bomber aircraft
> Maximum speed: 1,118 mph
> Country of origin: China
> Manufacturer: Xian Aircraft Industry Corporation
> Production run: 240

20. F-CK-1 (Ching-Kuo)
> Year introduced: 1994
> Type: Lightweight multirole fighter aircraft
> Maximum speed: 1,379 mph
> Country of origin: Taiwan
> Manufacturer: Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation
> Production run: 131

19. Sukhoi Su-33 (Flanker-D)
> Year introduced: 1994
> Type: Carrier-based air defense fighter aircraft
> Maximum speed: 1,553 mph
> Country of origin: Russia
> Manufacturer: Sukhoi OKB
> Production run: 35

18. Sukhoi Su-30 (Flanker-C)
> Year introduced: 1996
> Type: Twin-engine air superiority strike fighter aircraft
> Maximum speed: 1,317 mph
> Country of origin: Russia
> Manufacturer: Sukhoi Design Bureau
> Production run: 635

17. JAS 39 Gripen (Griffin)
> Year introduced: 1997
> Type: Lightweight multi-role fighter aircraft
> Maximum speed: 1,370 mph
> Country of origin: Sweden
> Manufacturer: Saab AB
> Production run: 247

16. Shenyang J-11 (Flanker B+)
> Year introduced: 1998
> Type: Multi-role air superiority fighter
> Maximum speed: 1,553 mph
> Country of origin: China
> Manufacturer: Shenyang Aircraft Corporation / Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC)
> Production run: 255

15. F/A-18 Super Hornet
> Year introduced: 1999
> Type: Carrier-based strike fighter aircraft
> Maximum speed: 1,187 mph
> Country of origin: United States
> Manufacturer: McDonnell Douglas / Boeing
> Production run: 615

14. Mitsubishi F-2
> Year introduced: 2000
> Type: Multi-role fighter aircraft
> Maximum speed: 1,553 mph
> Country of origin: Japan
> Manufacturer: Mitsubishi / Lockheed Martin
> Production run: 98

13. Dassault Rafale
> Year introduced: 2001
> Type: Fighter-bomber aircraft
> Maximum speed: 1,383 mph
> Country of origin: France
> Manufacturer: Dassault Aviation
> Production run: 201

12. Eurofighter Typhoon (EF2000)
> Year introduced: 2003
> Type: Fighter-bomber aircraft
> Maximum speed: 1,550 mph
> Country of origin: Germany
> Manufacturer: BAE Systems / Eurofighter GmbH
> Production run: 570

11. Chengdu J-10 (Vicious Dragon)
> Year introduced: 2005
> Type: Fighter-bomber aircraft
> Maximum speed: 1,452 mph
> Country of origin: China
> Manufacturer: Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation (CAIC) / Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC)
> Production run: 350

10. F-22 Raptor
> Year introduced: 2005
> Type: Air dominance fighter aircraft
> Maximum speed: 1,599 mph
> Country of origin: United States
> Manufacturer: Boeing / Lockheed Martin
> Production run: 195

9. PAC JF-17 Thunder
> Year introduced: 2007
> Type: Lightweight multi-role fighter aircraft
> Maximum speed: 1,218 mph
> Country of origin: Pakistan
> Manufacturer: Pakistan Aeronautical Complex
> Production run: 132

8. Shenyang J-15 (Flying Shark)
> Year introduced: 2013
> Type: Carrier-based multi-role fighter aircraft
> Maximum speed: 1,305 mph
> Country of origin: China
> Manufacturer: Shenyang Aircraft Corporation / Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC)
> Production run: 25

7. Sukhoi Su-35 (Flanker-E / Super Flanker)
> Year introduced: 2014
> Type: Multi-role heavy combat fighter aircraft
> Maximum speed: 1,491 mph
> Country of origin: Russia
> Manufacturer: Sukhoi OKB
> Production run: 130

6. HAL Tejas LCA
> Year introduced: 2015
> Type: Lightweight multirole fighter aircraft
> Maximum speed: 1,227 mph
> Country of origin: India
> Manufacturer: Hindustan Aeronautics Limited
> Production run: 33

5. F-35 Lightning II
> Year introduced: 2016
> Type: Advanced multi-role strike fighter aircraft
> Maximum speed: 1,199 mph
> Country of origin: United States
> Manufacturer: Lockheed Martin / Northrop Grumman / BAE Systems
> Production run: 785

4. F-16V (Viper)
> Year introduced: 2017
> Type: Multi-role fighter aircraft
> Maximum speed: 917 mph
> Country of origin: United States
> Manufacturer: Lockheed Martin / Hellenic Aerospace Industry
> Production run: 100

3. Chengdu J-20 (Black Eagle)
> Year introduced: 2017
> Type: Multi-role fighter aircraft
> Maximum speed: 1,305 mph
> Country of origin: China
> Manufacturer: Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation (CAIC) / Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC)
> Production run: 55

2. Sukhoi Su-57 (Felon)
> Year introduced: 2019
> Type: Multi-role stealth aircraft
> Maximum speed: 1,616 mph
> Country of origin: Russia
> Manufacturer: Sukhoi OKB / United Aircraft Corporation
> Production run: 25

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1. MiG-35 (Fulcrum-F)
> Year introduced: 2020
> Type: Multi-role fighter aircraft
> Maximum speed: 1,491 mph
> Country of origin: Russia
> Manufacturer: Russian Aircraft Corporation MIG
> Production run: 10

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