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The U.S. Military’s 5 Best Fighter Jets Ever (Yes, the F-35 Is On the List)

F-35
An F-35A Lightning II from the 354th Fighter Wing, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, flies behind a KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to the 117th Air Refueling Squadron, Forbes Field Air National Guard Base, Kansas, over the Indo-Pacific, March 10, 2022. Aircrews routinely fly missions aimed at sharpening the necessary skills needed to respond to emerging situations at a moment’s notice. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Yosselin Perla)

U.S. Military’s 5 Best Fighter Jets: You could argue that the U.S. military has the best group of fighters in the world. Whether it is the Air Force or Navy, this fighter fleet is the envy of many. China and Russia try to develop their own warplanes to match American might. Allied countries order American fighters for their own militaries. And the United States is always upgrading existing airframes. Let’s examine the five best American fighters.

U.S. Military’s 5 Best Fighter Jets: F-35

The F-35 Lightning II heads this list. It can evade enemy air defense networks and relay targeting information to other airplanes. The F-35 can fly at MACH 1.6 and is as stealthy as they come. It’s known as a flying computer that can serve as the “head coach” in a formation of drones (someday) and bombers. This means the F-35 leads the world in its acquisition of situational awareness in the sky. Its Pratt & Whitney F135 engine puts out 40,000 pounds of thrust with an afterburner. It can fight with air-to-air missiles or engage in ground strikes with precision-guided bombs. The F-35 comes in three variants for conventional take-off, aircraft carrier operations, and vertical takeoff and landing.

F-35

A U.S. Air Force F-35 Lightning II aircraft assigned to the 34th Fighter Squadron receives fuel from a KC-10 Extender aircraft over Poland, February 24, 2022. U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Joseph Barron/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

U.S. Military’s 5 Best Fighter Jets: F-22

The 5th generation F-22 Raptor has it all when it comes to air dominance. The F-22 has great speed and maneuverability, lethal long-range munitions, unmatched radar evasion, excellent dogfighting, and enviable sensors. Two Pratt & Whitney F119-PW-100 engines give it a speed of MACH 2. Take it from an F-22 pilot. Air Force Colonel Terry Scott explained to Task and Purpose: “The flight controls … are phenomenal,” Scott said. “Having come from a fourth-generation background, it’s eye-watering how nimble the jet is. Even when I’m flying offensive against another Raptor, that airplane is eye-watering when it starts maneuvering visually.”

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F-22 Raptor. Image: Creative Commons.

U.S. Military’s 5 Best Fighter Jets: F/A-18

You only need to watch Top Gun: Maverick to see what the F/A-18 E/F Block III Super Hornet can do. Oh, I know, it’s only a movie, but the Super Hornet does not disappoint in real life. It’s a MACH 1.7 bird with a 1,275 nautical mile range. The Super Hornet has better survivability, fuel storage, and endurance compared to the earlier Hornet. After being alerted about enemy airplanes, the Super Hornet can engage bogeys in less than a minuteInfrared Sidewinders and radar-guided Sparrows make up its deadly armaments. It can also carry precision-guided bombs for ground strike. It has a reduced radar cross-section. The Navy is happy that 78 new F/A-18E/F Block III fighters will be added to the fleet by 2024.

F/A-18

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At sea aboard USS John C. Stennis, December 18, 2001 – After an early morning round of flight operations, an F/A-18 Hornet awaits the next round of combat flight operations aboard the USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). Stennis and her embarked Carrier Air Wing Nine (CVW-9) are supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Jayme Pastoric

U.S. Military’s 5 Best Fighter Jets: F-15EX

The F-15EX Eagle II can really bring it. This is the most advanced Eagle in the Air Force inventory. Speed, weapons payload, and decreased maintenance costs are all features of the new Eagle. Two F100-PW-229 turbofans produce 29,000 pounds of thrust with afterburners and a raging speed of MACH 2.5. The range is 2,700 miles with a ceiling of 60,000 feet. The F-15EX can be outfitted with Sidewinders, AMRAAMs, and air-to-ground munitions. The airplane also features a 20mm six-barrel cannon.

F-15EX Eagle II

The Air Force’s newest fighter, the F-15EX Eagle II, was revealed and named during a ceremony, April 7, 2021, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The aircraft will be the first Air Force aircraft to be tested and fielded from beginning to end, through combined developmental and operational tests. (U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

U.S. Military’s 5 Best Fighter Jets: F-16

The F-16 Fighting Falcon is world-famous and has been highly improved over the decades. It has been built since 1975 and at least 4,500 were produced. Now it has fly-by-wire controls. The pilot has great visibility due to the bubble canopy and heads up display. The airplane allows for easy software upgrades. The fighter is compact with excellent maneuverability and can withstand nine G’s. Avionics and navigation are top notch. The electronic countermeasure pods make it highly survivable. It is an outstanding bomber too.

Greece F-16

Greek Air Force Lockheed Martin F-16DJ Fighting Falcon taking off at Chania

Take your pick, they are all good. Depending on your mission and requirements, you can find the right fighter from this list, and you won’t be disappointed. Dog fighting, bombing, air superiority, or interception of enemy airplanes – all missions can be executed in an outstanding way. We hope you have at least one of these fighters on your own top five list.

Now serving as 1945’s Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood.

Written By

Now serving as 1945s New Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer.

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