When it comes to the best fighter jets in the world, there is no small amount of competition.
Since planes were first used offensively over 100 years ago in World War 1, aerial warfare has become infinitely more complex and technologically advanced.
Gone are the days of biplanes limping over trenches armed with easily jammed machine guns; now, we have supersonic fighter jets that streak across the sky in the blink of an eye, armed with smart missiles that can level entire city blocks.
Modern aerial warfare is so packed with impressive fighter jets, in fact, that it’s difficult to choose examples of the very best from them.
Nevertheless, that is the task that we’ve set ourselves for today: picking out the 8 very best fighter jets from around the world in 2023.
Let’s take a look, then, at the cream of the crop when it comes to the world’s best fighter jets.
Sukhoi Su-35s is an Icon of the Russian Air Force
The Su-35s is the culmination of Russian fighter-jet technology, the very best of the Su family that provides not only Russia with the bulk of its aerial fighting force but also China – their Shenyang J-16 is derived from the same technology.
One of the most impressive things about this aircraft is its thrust-vectoring nozzles, which make for incredible maneuverability and mean that the Su-35s can turn on a dime.
So maneuverable is it, in fact, that it forgoes canards altogether – an essential in earlier models to guarantee stability.
F-35 Lightning II Had Rocky Beginnings
Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lighting II had a long and troubled development period, which saw it go massively over budget and take far too long to get to the production stage – so much so that most industry watchers were convinced that it would be a disaster upon launch rather than a successful advanced fighter jet.
However, the F-35 has managed to exceed all expectations. The key to its exceptional performance is its impressive suite of sensors, which work together holistically to allow the pilot to develop a situational awareness of the situation and make the best tactical choice at any given moment.
It may not be the fastest or pack the most firepower, but as they say, knowledge is power – and no fighter jet provides knowledge quite as valuable as the F-35.
Dassault Rafale of the French Air Force
This French fighter jet is very similar to the Eurofighter Typhoon – hardly surprising when you realize that they started life as the very same craft.
In the mid-80s, France decided that the Typhoon project wasn’t suiting their purposes, and they decided to go their own way with it. The Dassault Rafale is the result of that decision.
The Rafale fighter jet has borne many variations, including stealth and carrier-borne versions.
Currently in development is the Rafale F4, which promises to be the most technologically advanced of the line yet.
With India and the UAE both enthusiastic buyers of Rafale aircraft, we can easily class it as one of the best fighter jets in the world and be sure to see variants on it dominating the skies across the world for some time to come.
F-22 Raptor is an Ideal Stealth Aircraft
It may lose out to the F-35 when it comes to sensor packages, but the F-22 Raptor makes it for it pretty much everywhere else.
It’s one of the most advanced fighter jets that is extremely fast, supremely maneuverable, and very well-suited to stealth missions.
The F-22 fighter jet features the same thrust-vectoring technology as the Sukhoi Su-35s, and it puts it to devastating use.
It’s also possibly the best stealth fighter jet in the world, with serpentine bends and edge-alignment design making it tough to spot either on radar or with the naked eye.
This is one of the few fighter jets that use flat thrust-vectoring nozzle tech to reduce its infrared profile, making it nigh-impossible to see coming.
Eurofighter Typhoon can be Equipped with Air to Air Missiles
This jointly developed fighter jet was designed to be used, as you might have guessed, by many European countries as it is said to be one of the best fighter jets in the world.
However, it’s such an impressive fighter aircraft that it’s received attention from many countries beyond the borders of Europe: The UK, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia have all expressed an interest in the powerful fighter jet.
There is no small number of reasons for this international interest in the Typhoon. The Tranche 3 variant was already one of the most powerful fighter jets in the world, and the Tranche 4 – which debuted in 2020 – took this even further, with amazing speed and nimbleness and incredibly advanced sensor suites and weapon systems such as air to air missiles.
The Chengdu J-20 “Mighty Dragon” Fighter Jet of the Chinese Air Force
The notoriously secretive PRC hasn’t released the full technical specifications of the J-20. However, from what has been observed, it is easily one of the best fighter jets in the world.
It’s believed that the J-20 boasts a larger complement of weapons than its US counterpart (the F-22), with dual side-bays and internal bays for the storage of both long- and short-range missiles.
Its internal bays also reduce the ability of the enemy to detect it on radar, and it is able to reduce its heat signature to further evade detection.
The J-20’s top speed is unknown, and some sources suspect the Chinese government of overstating the capabilities of their flagship fighter jet. Nevertheless, it is believed the J-22 tops out at over Mach 2.
KAI KF-21 Boromae is the Brainchild of South Korea and Indonesia
This fighter jet is the product of a joint development between South Korea and Indonesia. It boasts an advanced radar suite, excellent stealth capabilities, and a liberal borrowing of technologies from the USAF’s F-35.
The KF-21 has only been in circulation since the summer of 2022, so the jury is very much still out on its overall performance.
It’s currently undergoing further testing and refinements to improve its electronic warfare and stealth capabilities, and it’s expected to enter regular rotation sometime around 2026.
JAS 39e Gripen is one of the Most Advanced Fighter Jets in the World
Sweden is not exactly a major world power, but that may well change with the introduction of this truly impressive fighter jet.
It’s one of the world’s first jets to integrate artificial intelligence (AI) technology to assist the pilot in making decisions in the sky and boasts an expansive sensor suite that further aids in those decisions.
At present, the 39e is used only to protect Swedish airspace (airspace that is seldom violated), but given its impressive attributes, we may well see this cutting-edge craft in the fleets of other countries going forward, should Sweden wish to sell the technology on.
This List of The Best Fighter Jets in the World is Sure to Change Over Time
Though this is hardly an exhaustive list of the best jet fighters in the world in 2023, it is almost assuredly the most refined one.
From Sweden’s AI-powered jet to the unmatched superiority of the craft of the US Air Force, you’d be hard-pushed to find finer fighter craft anywhere else in the world.
That said, this list is sure to change over time, and in 2024, we may be looking at some very different jets on this list.
Be sure to check back in then to see how our list has changed!