Special Report

The 42 Most Popular Fighter Jets Used in Today’s Air Forces

Andrew_Harker / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

In the wake of World War II, third generation fighter jets emerged on the scene and took their place in world militaries for several decades. They were soon, however, overshadowed by the fourth generation, which debuted in the 1970s with advanced avionics, engines, and weapons. Fourth generation aircraft were widely produced and still have a large presence in militaries around the world. Now, interest is shifting to the fifth generation of fighter jets, which has made an appearance over the last two decades. (Surprisingly, the fifth generation jets are not necessarily the fastest. Here is every modern fighter jet ranked from slowest to fastest.)

Each generation of fighter jets has been building on the technology of its predecessors, often incorporating more advanced versions of some popular aspects of the previous iterations into the new generation. Fighter jets that were the most widely produced have seen their technology passed on to the following generations — and improved upon.

To determine the most widely produced modern fighter jets that are still in use today, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed Military Factory’s catalogs of third, fourth, and fifth generation aircraft. We ranked each aircraft by the total number of units that were manufactured. We included supplemental information from Military Factory regarding the type of aircraft, top speed, country of origin, manufacturer, and when each aircraft was introduced. We excluded aircraft that did not make it out of the prototype or proposal stage and included only aircraft that are currently in service and that had production runs of at least 10 units.

The MiG-21 Fishbed tops this list as the most widely produced fighter jet of the modern era. It has been in service in over 50 countries since it was introduced in 1959. Considering the MiG-21 was one of the first jets in the third generation, and given it was easy to operate and maintain, it is not surprising to find it ranking among the most produced fighter aircraft ever. In the 1980s, it was replaced in the Soviet fleet by the Mig-29 Fulcrum, but it is still in service in the Indian air force, which upgraded the MiG-21s to potentially serve through 2025, which speaks to the longevity and reliability of this jet. (These are the nations with the most fighter jets.)

On the other end of the spectrum, the new MiG-35 Fulcrum is one of the newest modern fighter jets with only a few aircraft produced so far. At the moment, only 10 of these aircraft have been manufactured, but it was only introduced in 2020. 

It is worth noting that there is a relative correlation between the age of the aircraft and how many units were actually produced. However, there are other factors involved that might contribute to the number of units that have been produced such as military contracts with other nations or specific operational needs that require more aircraft.

Here’s a look at the most widely produced modern fighter jets.

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

 

41. Shenyang J-15 (Flying Shark)
> Total units manufactured: 25
> 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)
> Year introduced: 2013

 

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

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

 

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

37. Panavia Tornado ECR
> Total units manufactured: 52
> 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
> Year introduced: 1990

 

36. Chengdu J-20 (Black Eagle)
> Total units manufactured: 55
> 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)
> Year introduced: 2017

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

28. Dassault Rafale
> Total units manufactured: 201
> Type: Fighter-bomber aircraft
> Maximum speed: 1383 mph
> Country of origin: France
> Manufacturer: Dassault Aviation
> Year introduced: 2001

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

 

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

 

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

24. Shenyang J-11 (Flanker B+)
> Total units manufactured: 255
> 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)
> Year introduced: 1998

 

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

22. Chengdu J-10 (Vicious Dragon)
> Total units manufactured: 350
> 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)
> Year introduced: 2005

 

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

 

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

19. AV-8B Harrier II
> Total units manufactured: 500
> 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
> Year introduced: 1985

 

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

17. Eurofighter Typhoon (EF2000)
> Total units manufactured: 570
> Type: Fighter-bomber aircraft
> Maximum speed: 1,550 mph
> Country of origin: Germany
> Manufacturer: BAe Systems / Eurofighter GmbH
> Year introduced: 2003

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

12. Mirage F1
> Total units manufactured: 750
> Type: Interceptor aircraft
> Maximum speed: 1,453 mph
> Country of origin: France
> Manufacturer: Dassault Aviation
> Year introduced: 1973

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

3. MiG-23 (Flogger)
> Total units manufactured: 5,047
> Type: Swing-wing fighter-interceptor aircraft
> Maximum speed: 1,553 mph
> Country of origin: Soviet Union
> Manufacturer: Mikoyan-Gurevich
> Year introduced: 1970

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

 

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

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