Special Report

The Combat Aircraft of the Future

Italy+F-35 | 2d Audiovisual Squadron Creates Air Force Space Command Production
my_public_domain_photos / Flickr

The current geopolitical state of the world is causing many national militaries to reevaluate their assets, as instability is springing up in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Air forces, in particular, are readying their fleets through upgrades or even buying new aircraft in an effort to be prepared for whatever may come. (These are the 42 most popular fighter jets used in today’s air forces.)

Many countries are ordering combat aircraft to bolster their forces and act as a deterrent to other nations seeking to expand their borders and capture more resources. The United States produces many of these combat aircraft that will ultimately be the future face of many other national air forces.

To identify the combat aircraft of the future, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 2024 World Air Forces report from FlightGlobal, an aviation and aerospace industry publication. We ordered these aircraft by how many are currently on order. We also included supplemental data on the type of aircraft, how many of these aircraft are in active service, and what militaries employ these aircraft.

The F-35 Lightning II is the most widely ordered combat aircraft in the world with over 2,700 fighter jets on order. It only entered service in 2016 but Lockheed Martin has produced hundreds of these jets with many more on the way to fill out the ranks of other allied air forces. (These are the world’s most iconic strike fighter aircraft since World War II.)

The B-21 Raider is one stealth bomber on order for the United States that is shrouded in secrecy. It is meant to take over for the B-2 Spirit but it is unclear when these stealth bombers will enter the service. So far there reportedly have been test flights but not much else.

Here is a look at the combat aircraft of the future:

26. L-39NG

Source: friedebach / Flickr
  • Total aircraft on order: 4
  • Total active aircraft: 0
  • Militaries with this aircraft: Hungary

25. Su-34

Source: my_public_domain_photos / Flickr
  • Total aircraft on order: 4
  • Total active aircraft: 134
  • Militaries with this aircraft: Russia

24. IA-63

Source: sdasmarchives / Flickr
  • Total aircraft on order: 5
  • Total active aircraft: 10
  • Militaries with this aircraft: Argentina

23. J-10C

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
  • Total aircraft on order: 7
  • Total active aircraft: 18
  • Militaries with this aircraft: Pakistan

22. AT-6

  • Total aircraft on order: 12
  • Total active aircraft: 0
  • Militaries with this aircraft: Thailand, Tunisia

21. B-250

  • Total aircraft on order: 24
  • Total active aircraft: 0
  • Militaries with this aircraft: United Arab Emirates

20. Hurkus C

  • Total aircraft on order: 24
  • Total active aircraft: 0
  • Militaries with this aircraft: Turkey

19. JF-17

Source: my_public_domain_photos / Flickr
  • Total aircraft on order: 47
  • Total active aircraft: 128
  • Militaries with this aircraft: Pakistan, Myanmar

18. J-15/Su-30/33

  • Total aircraft on order: 50
  • Total active aircraft: 45
  • Militaries with this aircraft: China

17. Tu-160

Source: sdasmarchives / Flickr
  • Total aircraft on order: 50
  • Total active aircraft: 15
  • Militaries with this aircraft: Russia

16. Su-57

Source: Dmitry Potashkin / iStock Editorial via Getty Images
  • Total aircraft on order: 62
  • Total active aircraft: 14
  • Militaries with this aircraft: Russia

15. MiG-29/35

  • Total aircraft on order: 68
  • Total active aircraft: 302
  • Militaries with this aircraft: Russia, Algeria, Yemen

14. Eurofighter Typhoon

Source: lynothehammer / Flickr
  • Total aircraft on order: 77
  • Total active aircraft: 95
  • Militaries with this aircraft: Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia

13. Eurofighter

Source: JohnnyPowell / E+ via Getty Images
  • Total aircraft on order: 80
  • Total active aircraft: 201
  • Militaries with this aircraft: Germany, Spain

12. FA-50 GF/PL

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
  • Total aircraft on order: 82
  • Total active aircraft: 2
  • Militaries with this aircraft: Poland, Malaysia

11. AT-802 L/U

  • Total aircraft on order: 87
  • Total active aircraft: 0
  • Militaries with this aircraft: Kenya, United States

10. Su-27/30

Source: pkaren / Flickr
  • Total aircraft on order: 94
  • Total active aircraft: 781
  • Militaries with this aircraft: Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, India

9. B-21

Source: U.S. Air Force
  • Total aircraft on order: 100
  • Total active aircraft: 0
  • Militaries with this aircraft: United States

8. F/A-18E/F

Source: my_public_domain_photos / Flickr
  • Total aircraft on order: 108
  • Total active aircraft: 421
  • Militaries with this aircraft: United States, Kuwait

7. F-15

Source: tomasdelcoro / Flickr
  • Total aircraft on order: 162
  • Total active aircraft: 410
  • Militaries with this aircraft: Indonesia, Qatar, United States

6. Gripen E

Source: ajw1970 / Flickr
  • Total aircraft on order: 164
  • Total active aircraft: 6
  • Militaries with this aircraft: Brazil, Sweden

5. KF-21

Source: KF-21A / Wikimedia Commons
  • Total aircraft on order: 170
  • Total active aircraft: 0
  • Militaries with this aircraft: Indonesia, South Korea

4. Tejas

Source: multiplyleadership / Flickr
  • Total aircraft on order: 180
  • Total active aircraft: 32
  • Militaries with this aircraft: India

3. F-16 A/C/V

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
  • Total aircraft on order: 237
  • Total active aircraft: 202
  • Militaries with this aircraft: Ukraine, Taiwan, Romania, Morocco

2. Rafale

Source: Andrew_Harker / iStock Editorial via Getty Images
  • Total aircraft on order: 362
  • Total active aircraft: 211
  • Militaries with this aircraft: France, Egypt, Croatia, India, United Arab Emirates

1. F-35 A/B/C/I

Italy+F-35 | 2d Audiovisual Squadron Creates Air Force Space Command Production
Source: my_public_domain_photos / Flickr
  • Total aircraft on order: 2,703
  • Total active aircraft: 661
  • Militaries with this aircraft: United States, Israel, Poland, Canada

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