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    Aerial Titans: The World’s Most Advanced Fighter Jets and Their Roles

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    ZHUKOVSKY, RUSSIA - AUGUST 30, 2019: Four Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets of the Russian Air Force at the MAKS-2019 air show.
    ZHUKOVSKY, RUSSIA – AUGUST 30, 2019: Four Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets of the Russian Air Force at the MAKS-2019 air show.

    Combat aircraft are marvels of modern technology, showcasing an incredible integration of speed, stealth, and firepower. Their existence is crucial to asserting air superiority in conflicts, as well as providing multifaceted mission capabilities. The latest evaluations of advanced fighter jets have placed a spotlight on some of the most formidable aircraft in the skies today.

    MOSCOW, RUSSIA - MAY 3,2019: Sukhoi SU-35 flying over Red Square on  Victory Day airshow Den Pobedy
    MOSCOW, RUSSIA – MAY 3,2019: Sukhoi SU-35 flying over Red Square on Victory Day airshow Den Pobedy

    Starting with the Russian Sukhoi Su-35, this aircraft is revered for its long-range radar capabilities and versatile weapons systems. The Irbis-E passive electronically scanned radar, with a range of up to 350 kilometers, alongside infrared and optical scanners, enables silent targeting of airborne threats.

    Moscow Russia Zhukovsky Airfield 25 July 2021: Aerobatic teams Russian Knights on planes Su-35 of the international aerospace salon MAKS-2021.
    Moscow Russia Zhukovsky Airfield 25 July 2021: Aerobatic teams Russian Knights on planes Su-35 of the international aerospace salon MAKS-2021.

    This jet also has a datalink and a payload capable of a broad array of munitions, from air-to-air missiles for air superiority to precision air-to-ground ordinance.

    Moscow Russia Zhukovsky Airfield 31 August 2019: aerobatic Su-35 perfoming demonstration flight of the international aerospace salon MAKS-2019.
    Moscow Russia Zhukovsky Airfield 31 August 2019: aerobatic Su-35 perfoming demonstration flight of the international aerospace salon MAKS-2019.

    This capability was demonstrated in Russia’s War on Ukraine, where Su-35s employed anti-radiation missiles and GPS-guided glide bombs.

    Eurofighter Typhoon
    Eurofighter Typhoon

    In a close contest with the Dassault Rafale and Saab Gripen E/F, the Eurofighter Typhoon secured its position due to its impressive range, combat-proven record, and armament capacity.

    Eurofighter Typhoon
    Eurofighter Typhoon

    It stands out with the Euroradar Captor and its upgrade, the Captor-E Active Electronically Scanned Array radar, plus its Passive InfraRed Airborne Tracking Equipment (PIRATE). These allow it to detect and track other aircraft without emitting detectable radar signals.

    The EA-18G Growler in the skies over the 2023 Thunder and Lightning Over Arizona airshow in Tucson, Arizona.
    The EA-18G Growler in the skies over the 2023 Thunder and Lightning Over Arizona airshow in Tucson, Arizona.

    The F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler, the latter notably absent from the “Top Gun: Maverick” screen, boasts significant electronic warfare and surveillance capabilities.

    Two Naval Aviators return after performing a demonstration of the EA-18G Growler at the 2023 Thunder and Lightning Over Arizona airshow in Tucson, Arizona.
    Two Naval Aviators return after performing a demonstration of the EA-18G Growler at the 2023 Thunder and Lightning Over Arizona airshow in Tucson, Arizona.

    As the only one on the list capable of serving as an aerial tanker, this pair of aircraft is slated for a Block III upgrade.

    An F-15EX Eagle II assigned to the 40th Flight Test Squadron, 96th Test Wing, out of Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., conducts aerial refueling operations above Northern California, May 14, 2021. The aircraft participated in exercise Northern Edge 21 in Alaska earlier this May. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ethan Wagner)

    The F-15EX Eagle II is the latest version of the renowned F-15 Eagle, bringing more weapons carrying capacity and improved sensors, including a Raytheon AN/APG-82(V)1 AESA radar.

    210426-F-XG347-1008” by pqgw is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

    Michelle Styczynski from Raytheon highlighted that the F-15EX, equipped with powerful radar, is best when working in conjunction with the F-35.

    US Air Force F-35A Lightning II pictured at the 2018 Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire.
    US Air Force F-35A Lightning II pictured at the 2018 Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire.

    At the pinnacle, the F-35 Lightning II family stands out, not only for its stealth but its groundbreaking sensor integration and cockpit technology. It can carry a more extensive array of weapons and features a helmet-mounted display that allows pilots to ‘see through’ the aircraft.

    Oshkosh, Wisconsin USA - July 30th, 2022: USA Military Aircraft Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.
    Oshkosh, Wisconsin USA – July 30th, 2022: USA Military Aircraft Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.

    The F-35’s capabilities are complemented by the Northrop Grumman AN/APG-81 AESA radar and the Electro-Optical Targeting System (EOTS), obviating the need for external targeting pods.

    F-35 Lightning II performance by the F-35 Lightning II Demo Team at the Lockheed Martin Space and Air Show in Sanford, Florida, on October 31, 2020
    F-35 Lightning II performance by the F-35 Lightning II Demo Team at the Lockheed Martin Space and Air Show in Sanford, Florida, on October 31, 2020

    This era of aerial combat prioritizes versatility, the capacity to provide kinetic or electronic effects, and persistence. The advanced jets mentioned excel not just in speed or stealth, but in the ability to engage, support, and prevail in varied mission profiles, demonstrating the complexity and sophistication of modern air warfare.

    F-16 Figting Falcon of Polish Air Force
    F-16 Figting Falcon of Polish Air Force

    Combat aircraft enthusiasts should take note of the nuances that set apart fighter and attack aircraft. For example, the F-16 Fighting Falcon, a staple of the fighter jet community, is built for air superiority, with a large engine and small wings for extreme acceleration and maneuverability.

    A-10 Thunderbolt II
    A-10 Thunderbolt II

    On the other hand, the A-10 Warthog, a ground-attack aircraft, has large wings for extended loiter times, plenty of fuel capacity, and hard points for ordnance.

    Relevant articles:
    Top 5: The World’s Most Advanced Fighter Jets, simpleflying.com
    What’s The Difference Between A Fighter Jet & An Attack Aircraft?, Simple Flying
    “Jet Fighter” or “Fighter Jet”?, Pilots of America
    What Is the Difference Between Attack and Fighter Aircraft?, Hill Aerospace Museum

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