This American Plane Is the Most Widely-Used Fighter Jet on Earth

This American Plane Is the Most Widely-Used Fighter Jet on Earth

October 5, 2023

The F-35 Lightning II, hailed as the next-gen fighter jet, is currently in rapid production. As Russia’s war in Ukraine persists, NATO members are acquiring these aircraft to bolster their air forces. (See, these are the largest air forces in the world.)

Fighter jets have played a pivotal role in military operations and national defense strategies since their emergence post-World War II. Among the multitude of fighter jets developed over the years, a select few continue to hold a prominent place, with some still in active service worldwide even after half a century.

To determine the most widely-used fighter jets on Earth, 24/7 Wall St. referenced the report, 2023 World Air Forces, from FlightGlobal, an aviation and aerospace industry website. We ranked aircrafts by the number of units in active service across the world’s militaries. Supplemental data regarding manufacturer, first flight, notable variants, and initial use came from Military Factory, an online database of military vehicles, aircraft, arms, and more.

Topping this list is the F-16 Fighting Falcon, originally developed by General Dynamics and now produced by Lockheed Martin. It has been the backbone of many air forces worldwide since its introduction in 1978. Renowned for its maneuverability, high speed, and light-weight construction, the F-16 can perform various operational roles. These features have allowed the F-16 to become NATO’s primary fleet aircraft and serve in over 25 air forces.

On the other side of the world, the Su-27 Flanker was introduced by the Soviet Union in 1985. It was developed by Sukhoi to counter the United States’ F-15 Eagle. Like many other modern fighter jets, the Su-27 plays a number of operational roles, and it has been in service in more than 10 other air forces, including China, Vietnam, Ukraine, and Russia. Apart from its exceptional dogfighting capabilities, the Su-27 was later upgraded to include ground attack and electronic warfare capabilities. More than 1,100 Su-27s are presently operational worldwide. (Also see, every plane in Russia’s air force.)

Noticeably on this list, most of these aircraft come from the United States and Russia, or the Soviet Union. A majority of the aircraft developed by these two countries were produced during the Cold War and were part of the military buildup on both sides. When the Cold War came to an end, however, there was a surplus of military supplies, including aircraft, that were sold to respective allies of the United States and Russia, which explains the proliferation of these arms across the globe.

The fighter jets that comprise this list have proven their effectiveness in conflicts around the world. These jets have earned an iconic status within many militaries for their lethality, speed, and firepower. 

Here is a look at the most widely-used fighter jets on Earth.

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