n aerial skirmishes, even a small performance disadvantage can lead to failure, pilot deaths, and tens of millions of dollars in losses. Especially since the 2010s, a fighter’s capability has been determined primarily by its ability to work with other weapons, whether it’s drones, AEW aircraft or satellites.
However, the capabilities of the individual fighters are key. This is the most capable fighter that is still a hot topic of discussion. Recently, Military Watch Magazine has selected a shortlist of the top 8 most capable fighters currently in service. The ranking will be based on the performance, availability rate or cost effectiveness, outstanding features of the fighter.
1. J-20A (China)
China’s fifth-generation fighter J-20 (Image: Military Watch Magazine)
First entered service with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLA) in 2016, the J-20 today represents one of only two fifth-generation fighters in the world that have just been produced. manufactured and equipped at the squadron level with the US F-35.
However, unlike the F-35, it uses a heavy twin-engine airframe, has a large radar cross-section and can carry more weapons, enabling significantly longer range and allowing it flies farther and faster, the altitude and maneuverability of the J-20A is much greater. The improved J-20A variant entering production in 2019 further improves the fighter’s stealth and integrates the new WS-10C engine, making it the only fighter in its class. The current generation is capable of flying at supersonic speeds for long periods of time without the use of afterburners.
The J-20 shares a number of features in common with the F-35 including the use of a distributed aperture system and the combination of sensors provided by modern avionics, both of which fall far behind the aircraft. America’s previous stealth fighter was the F-22 this clause. The fighter is highly regarded for its ability to reach short- and long-range air-to-air missiles P-10 and PL-15, both of which are strong contenders compared to missiles of the same class. where the PL-15 boasts a longer range than its Western rivals.
The J-20 is currently being produced in greater numbers than any other heavy fighter outside of China. Its capabilities are improving day by day. More and more experts consider the J-20A to be the world’s leading air superiority fighter.
2. F-22 (USA)
US Air Force F-22A Raptors (Image: Military Watch Magazine)
The F-22 is the first 5th generation fighter to enter military service around the world. The F-22A Raptor joined the US Air Force in December 2005 after years of delays and post-Cold War budget cuts hampered the launch schedule. The Raptor’s two F119 engines were revolutionary and continue to provide the fighter with more thrust than any other engine in the world.
The stealth capabilities of the F-22 have so far been considered superior to other stealth aircraft models. The high performance of the F-22 is supported by the use of thrust vectoring engines to improve maneuverability, with the F-22 being the only Western fighter to use this technology. However, this aircraft was affected by avionics, which significantly hindered its performance at all ranges compared not only to the F-35 and J-20, but even to other aircraft. modern variants of fourth-generation aircraft such as the F-15EX or F-16. The fighter’s AESA radar is considered increasingly obsolete, the ability to share data with units other than the F-22 still poor. Furthermore, the lack of a viewfinder makes it impossible for them to hit targets out of sight.
The F-22 was discontinued in mid-2009, less than three and a half years after entering service, and its extremely high maintenance requirements and relatively low durability were among the factors that made it so popular. expected to be retired earlier than expected.
3. Su-57 (Nga)
Russia’s fifth-generation fighter Su-57 (Image: Military Watch Magazine)
The Su-57 is Russia’s second attempt to create a fifth-generation air superiority fighter after the ambitious MiG 1.42 program was canceled due to economic and industrial decline. Russia in the 1990s.
The Su-57 had its first flight in 2010, although the program’s delay means it has yet to enter service at the squadron level. However, the Su-57 is the only one of its generation that has been tested in real combat, carrying out anti-air missile attacks, deploying cruise missiles against Islamic insurgents. in Syria and ground units in Ukraine. Russia also boasts that the Su-57 has a host of unique features not seen on American or Chinese aircraft.
Despite being less stealthy than other fighters of its generation, the Su-57 benefits from access to more discrete radars, providing a very high level of situational awareness and tracking capabilities. track 60 planes at once. With sensors operating in different wavebands, this also offers many options for electronic warfare and anti-stealth operations.
The Su-57 has the longest range in the world, is more versatile than any competitor and has an air-to-air range of more than 400km thanks to the use of derivatives of the R-37M air-to-air missile. With the Himalayas electronic warfare system distributed on the airframe and armed with APAA air-to-air guided missiles with a very long ‘escape range’, the Su-57 has great potential in any role.
4. F-35A/C (USA)
The US F-35 fifth generation fighter (Image: Military Watch Magazine)
The only single-engine fighter of its generation, the F-35 is a relatively light aircraft, designed as a shortened version of the F-22, with low cost and low maintenance requirements. . However, the cancellation of F-22 production has caused the number of F-35A/C aircraft to surpass the F-22. The F-35A/C stands out for its avionics.
The ability to aggregate data from a vast network of content offers a significant situational awareness advantage at longer ranges, while the use of the viewfinder allows the F-35A/C to strike targets at angles extremely difficult, which the F-22 cannot do. The F-35 is limited by its low maneuverability, small internal payload, less stealth than the F-22, and most of all, its approximately 800 defects, which were the main factors that made the Pentagon reject approval. approval of large-scale production. The F-35 is primarily designed for air-to-ground operations, but with built-in features, the F-35 can also perform well in the air-to-air role.
5. MiG-31BM/BSM (Nga)
Russian MiG-31 Foxhound interceptor (Image: Military Watch Magazine)
As the world’s largest mass-produced fighter aircraft, the MiG-31 is arguably the most capable fighter/interceptor in service with the Russian Air Force. Newer variants of the MiG-31 are also deployed for anti-satellite operations and as attack fighters armed with hypersonic missiles.
The MiG-31 is equipped with a radar with a larger cross-section than any other fighter or interceptor in the world and is the fastest modern fighter jet in service capable of operating at high speeds. Mach 2.8 degree. The MiG-31 is equipped with R-37M missiles with a range of 400km, a speed of Mach 6 and a warhead weighing 60kg. Although the R-37M missile is very heavy, the MiG-31 can carry six at once plus six R-77 missiles.
The MiG-31 can fly supersonic for a long time, has high durability and is capable of operating in extreme temperatures and landing on slippery runways. This makes them ideal for defending Russia’s disputed regions in the Arctic. Whether the aircraft will continue to be modernized in the mid-2020s, however, will greatly depend on how much progress has been made towards its “successor” currently under development under the PAK program. DP (MiG-41).
6. J-16/J-15B (China)
China’s J-16 heavy fighter (Image: Military Watch Magazine)
China purchased its first Su-27 Flanker fighter from the Soviet Union in 1991, with three delivered that year, and subsequently invested heavily in its improvement to develop variants. native is likely better. While the Su-27 was considered by many to be the deadliest fighter of the Cold War era, China built on the design of the Su-27 to create a new family of aircraft, the J-16.
This type of fighter inherits the very high durability, large sensor capacity and excellent flight performance of the Su-27. In addition, the J-16 possesses fifth-generation avionics and advanced weapons, most notably the PL-10 and PL-15 missiles. The J-16 is capable of deploying the oversized PL-XX air-to-air missile said to have the longest range in the world.
The fighter has been at the heart of PLA Air Force modernization plans for its fighter fleet since the mid-2010s. A derivative of the Flanker integrates many of the same technologies freely. The PLA Navy deployment, the J-15B, was developed for carrier operations. It uses one seat instead of two, is more focused on air superiority, and has many of the same performance strengths as the J-16. The J-16’s avionics were also used as the basis for modernizing older Chinese Flanker variants, namely the J-11B series as J-11BG, which similarly combines the Its powerful flight performance with modern sensors, missiles, data link and sensor fusion capabilities.
7. Su-35S (Nga)
Russian Air Force Su-35 fighter (Image: Military Watch Magazine)
Joining the Russian Air Force at the beginning of 2014, the Su-35S is derived from the Su-27 Flanker and benefited significantly from the work on the development of advanced derivatives in the 1990s in the Su-27M, Su program -37 and Su-35BM. The fighter finally put the ‘Super Flanker’ concept into service after significant delays due to lack of funding, with the technologies available to do this effectively perfected in the 1990s. but at that time only offered for export.
The Su-35S boasts three radars, including two L-band AESA radars optimized for electronic warfare and anti-stealth missions, and uses more powerful engines than any other aircraft. Flanker no other, only slightly weaker than the F-22 (using the F119) in terms of thrust. The lightweight airframe along with the use of three-dimensional propulsion give the Su-35S excellent flight performance.
Despite the lack of advanced avionics and stealth capabilities compared to China’s Flanker variants, the Su-35 has a much longer range, can reach altitudes faster, and possesses high dynamics. better muscle. The Su-35S is designed to be able to take on NATO’s fifth-generation jets. The technologies incorporated on the Su-35S include the AL-41 engine that has been used to modernize older Su-30 fighters to the Su-30SM2 standard.
8. F-15EX (USA)
US Air Force F-15EX Eagle II fighter (Image: Military Watch Magazine)
Entering service from 2021, the F-15EX is the only heavy fighter to be produced in the West, the F-15EX lacks the advanced stealth capabilities of the F-22 but is superior in most combat aircraft. other aspect. The F-15EX is much more versatile and can deploy a variety of air-to-ground and anti-ship weapons.
The aircraft incorporates a more powerful radar as well as an infrared search and track system, and has much lower maintenance requirements. With the latest standard avionics, the F-15EX is far more suited to network-focused operations and can deploy a much larger arsenal of air-to-air missiles, while simultaneously It is expected in the future to deploy oversized missiles with extremely long ranges. The F-15EX has much more