Indian Defence

Top 5 Fastest Active Fighter Jets In 2024

In the ever-evolving landscape of aerial combat, speed remains a defining factor in the effectiveness of fighter jets. However this list isn’t one containing the names like the fastest SR-71 Blackbird or the experimental X15, instead scroll down to know more about the top 5 fastest fighter jets currently operational in 2024.

#5.  Sukhoi Su-35 – Mach 2.25

Source – Wallpaper.flare

The Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker-E is the most advanced variant of Russia’s staple Su-27 Flanker family. As a dedicated air-superiority fighter jet, it is also one of the best super-maneuverable aircrafts with potentially the F-22 being the only one in this list clearing it off in maneuverability. This single-seat twin engine fighter depicts almost the same base framework of the Su-27 but overloaded with better upgrades. Powered by 2 Saturn AL-41F1S afterburning turbofan engines capable of producing 86.3 kN dry run thrust and 137.3kN – 142.2kN in afterburning stage, which takes the jet to a maximum speed of Mach 2.25.

The Flanker-E uses a Byelka N035 Irbis-E Passive Electronically Scanned Array (PESA) radar, an upgrade from the Su-27’s N011M radar which can a target with 3 sq.m from 200-350km and can engage with two targets simultaneously in track-while-scan mode. Bigger targets can be tracked from a distance of 400km. It is also capable of long-distance recon with high-resolution images using synthetic aperture. A newer upgrade has a stepped up the radar’s capabilities to detect upto 30 targets and engage with upto 8 targets from the same distance. The Su-35 is equipped with the Su-34 fighter bomber’s countermeasures – Khibiny L-175V ECM system which helps in delaying the aircraft detection, masking its reflections and tampering with enemy radar making it difficult to get the actual speed and angular positions. What more? Its fantastic capability of maneuverable due to thrust vectoring nozzles which makes it able to pull off death-skimming maneuvers in engaging situations and moves like pitch and roll, falling-leaf, Pugachev’s Cobra etc.

A Su-35 comes with a default 30mm GSh-30-1 autocannon loaded with a maximum of 150 rounds for dogfight situations and 12 hardpoints to be able to carry a maximum of 8000kg of ordnance. This platform can be equipped with weapons according to mission specialty consisting of complete aerial warfare / ground warfare / anti-ship / anti-radiation / bombing configuration. It is able to carry 8 R-27s / 6 R-73s / 6 R-74s / 12 R-77s for air-to-air weapons loadout, 6 Kh-29s / 3 3M14 Kalibr missiles for ground operations / Zvezda Kh-35 for anti-ship missions able to strike down 5000 tonne vessels, 6 Kh-31s and 3 Kalibrs for anti-ship roles and 8 KAB-500 bombs for ground bombing operations.

Right now Russia and China are the only two operators of this jet. 24 Su-35s are believed to be in possession of China while there are 120-130 jets with Russia. The jet was introduced in Russian active duty in 2014 and 2016 was the debut operational year when it was deployed in the 2015-onwards Russian military intervention in Syria. The platform is being also used in the 2022-ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine where reportedly 6 Su-35s have been downed by Ukrainian forces, two of which have been confirmed to be shot down by the US-lent MIM-104 Patriot air-defense system.

Image Credits – The Aviation Geek Club

#4. Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor – Mach 2.25

Image Credits –, USAF Fact Sheet

As much as it is regarded like this around the world across experts and media, the F-22 Raptor is indeed the best fighter jet in active service peaking in versatility, stealth, firepower and obviously in its fearsome aura from the design which is now being set up as a tried-and-tested baseline for upcoming 5th gen fighter aircrafts of various countries. It is a single-seat, twin-engine, all-weather multirole stealth fighter designed for air superiority, ground support and EW missions. The F-22 is powered by two Pratt & Whitney F119-PW-100 augmented turbofan engines which can pull off 116kN dry thrust and 156kN thrust in afterburner stage, taking the jet to a maximum of Mach 2.25. It is also the only jet that has the supercruise ability to pull of supersonic speed in cruise stage without using afterburners (Mach 1.82 in high altitude). The engines feature advanced thrust vectoring nozzles, allowing for precise control of pitch and yaw during flight maneuvers, enhancing the aircraft’s agility and combat effectiveness. The nozzles have a range of +-20 degrees in 360 degrees rotation to pull off the tight moves from any point in flight. Central to the F-22’s air dominance is its advanced AN/APG-77 radar system.

Almost touching two decades in active service and the F22 is still considered as the best stealth fighter compared to other in-house and global competitors. The RCS (Radar Cross Section) is reportedly 0.0001 sq. m which is actually the size of a honeybee – the main reason why a single F-22 absolutely dominates multiple other aircrafts during the multilateral air force practices. Serpentine inlets provide supreme smoothness air flow avoiding the catch up heat and the classified mixture of stealth composites and paint make enemy radars even more frustrated. Such superior is its situational awareness and avionics, that the equipment have been blended with the best of products from Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Electric, Sanders, Texas Instruments and Raytheon.

The Raptor has three internal weapons to render enemy radars useless from catching up to the heat from hanging weapons and missiles. It comes with a 20mm M61A2 Vulcan Gatling gun with a maximum of 480 rounds at 6000 rounds per minute. The internal weapon bays can carry upto 6 AIM-120 AMRAAM BVR missiles and 2 AIM-9X Sidewinder short-range AAMs. Among them 4 AMRAAMs can be exchanged with two 450kg JDAMs / eight 110 GBU-39s for ground support. The jet also has 8 additional hardpoints where it can bring more firepower in compensation of the stealth factor and can carry 4 extra AIM-120s or 2270kg of 600 gallon US gallon drop tanks for extended range support.

As devious as the platform is, nobody knows the true potential of the F-22 Raptor due to extreme confidentiality from US government, ban in exports, lack of actual frontline combat deployment yet it continues to demolish other aircrafts in the military exercises it participates in with other countries. It is the 2nd fastest operational jet after the F-15 E/X Strike Eagle/II. Right now Lockheed Martin isn’t producing this beast anymore and USAF has 186 operational Raptors. Although they will be eventually replaced by the under-development 6th gen NGAD (Next Generation Air Dominance) programme, the Raptor is still the most devious aircrafts in terms of both performance and visuals furthermore what has said as a benchmark for upcoming 5th gen designs.

F-22 Raptor in an USAF hangar (Image Credits – pexels)

#3. Mikoyan Mig-29 – Mach 2.3

The Mikoyan MiG-29, nicknamed by the NATO as the Fulcrum, renowned for its agility, versatility, and combat prowess, stands as a symbol of Russian aerospace engineering excellence. The MiG-29 is propelled by two powerful RD-33 afterburning turbofan engines, each capable of generating up to 88.3 kN of thrust with afterburner. This impressive thrust-to-weight ratio allows the MiG-29 to achieve a maximum speed of Mach 2.3 and an operational range of approximately 1,400 kilometers (870 mi) with internal fuel. However the true speed which can be actually achieved upwards of 2.3 is debatable.

Its aerodynamic design and powerful engines allow it to pull off high-G maneuvers, exceeding +9 g and -4 g forces. This makes it a formidable opponent in close-quarters dogfights, capable of outmaneuvering many contemporary fighters. The MiG-29 also boasts a high rate of climb, exceeding 37,000 feet per minute, allowing it to quickly reach optimal interception altitudes. The MiG-29 utilizes the RP-29 radar system (NATO designation N-009), a Doppler radar capable of tracking up to 10 targets simultaneously while engaging four of them from a distance of 120km. While not the most advanced system at the time, it provided adequate detection ranges for air-to-air combat. The MiG-29 also incorporates an infrared search and track system (IRST) called the OLS-27, which allows for target detection and tracking in low-light conditions or when the radar is being jammed. The MiG-29 is equipped with a basic electronic countermeasures (ECM) suite to counter enemy radar threats. It utilizes chaff and flare dispensers to confuse incoming radar-guided missiles. Additionally, the MiG-29’s radar signature is minimized through radar-absorbent materials incorporated into its construction. Its delta-wing configuration, along with leading-edge root extensions (LERX), enhances lift and maneuverability at high angles of attack.

One of the Slovakian Mig29s handed over to Ukraine

The MiG-29 is primarily an air-to-air combat fighter. The main armaments include 4 Vympel R-60 (AA-8 Aphid) – Short-range, heat-seeking missiles / 4 R-27 (AA-10 Alamo) – Medium-range, radar-guided or semi-active radar homing missiles / R-73 (AA-11 Archer) – Highly maneuverable, short-range, heat-seeking missiles. India’s Mig-29 Fulcrum is able to be equipped with 4 Astra indigenous BVR missiles. It also has a 30mm GSh-30-1 autocannon carrying a maximum of 100-150 rounds for close quarter combat.

The Fulcrum is one of the most common jets around the world having 1600+ units produced worldwide, originating from Russia. Algeria, Belarus, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Sudan, Ukraine, India are among the main users. India also fields the Mig-29K Fulcrum, the jet’s naval variant, which is a bit slower and taps out below Mach 2.2, and is deployed on the INS Vikramaditya and INS Vikrant.

#2. Boeing F-15 EX Advanced Eagle family / Strike Eagle II – Mach 2.497

Image Credits – Flight Global

The EX is the latest variant of the legendary Cold-war era origin McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle platform. It has been a staple for United States Air Force due to its long-range precision, electronic warfare capability and overall mission versatility, and even in an inventory where stealth is overflowing in the names of F-35, F-22, B2 Spirit and B21 Raider, the country is still investing billions to keep upgrading its Eagle fleet. The Eagle II comes in both single and double crew platforms, powered by 2 General Electric F110-GE-129 afterburning turbofan engines capable of 76.31kN dry thrust and 131kN in afterburning stage each. And there’s a good reason why the F1-5 Strike Eagle as in cumulative is considered as one of the best if not the one among 4th Gen++ fighter platforms in terms of quality of equipment, longevity and delivery of performance.

This jet comes with the Raytheon AN/APG-82(V)1 all-weather multimode AESA radar which combines the processor and performance of the AN/APG-79 used in the E/A 18G Growler and the antennae of the earlier F-15C variant. The Growler’s EW radar is the best in class in US’ inventory in electronic warfare segment and this hybrid setup helps a group of EXs enable the jamming operations simultaneously without having any intra-Eagle issues. The EX Eagle II comes with Lockheed Martin’s AN/AAS-13/14 LANTIRN and AN/AAQ-33 Sniper XR (the same pod used in the F-35 Lightning II) which offers positive target identification, autonomous tracking, real-time GPS coordinate generation and precise weapons guidance from extended standoff ranges. Furthermore, it shows off the BAE Systems’ Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivality System (EPAWSS) – a state-of-the-art countermeasure system which gives the pilot a 360 degrees battlespace view, exceptional jamming capabilities, fiber optic towed decoys and leverages EW tech direct from the 5th gen platforms while also reducing lifecycle costs.

In the ranks of the most versatile fighter jets this day, the F-15 EX Eagle II is the fastest jet in the USAF arsenal. And so is its stacked inventory armed to the teeth. The Eagle II comes with the default 20mmx105mm M61A1 Vulcan gatling gun having 500 rounds, capable of shredding metals to mincemeat in 6000 rounds per minute fire rate. This jet is a true showpiece of the ‘Beast’ mode variant having 12 hardpoints to carry a mixture of AIM-9 Sidewinder AAMs, AIM-120 AMRAAMs and the would-be-in-service AIM-260 Joint Advanced Tactical Missile, US’ deadliest air-to-air missile in development to replace the previous twos. It can also carry an unknown proportion of the stealthy AG-158 JASSM, AGM-88 HARM and AGM-183 ARRW missiles, GBU-31/38/39 JDAMs in ground warfare and bombing config.

The Advanced Eagle family is meant to replace all the old-gen F-15 C/Ds and provide deep support and interdiction with the simultaneously growing 5th gen jets of USAF. Israel, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia are in active contracts for acquisition of the new-gen Strike Eagles. Israel is also in the talks for a long time now to equip the F-15EXs with the GBU-57 30000 pound Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) bunker buster – a weapon which is only possessed by the US till now.

Legacy of the F15 Eagle still goes on in its prime as best ever dogfighter with 100+ aerial victories and 0 crashes and Boeing entered with the F-15EX in India’s MRFA tender in the ongoing race along with the likes of Rafale, Eurofighter, Gripen etc. to bag the deal of approx. $18 billion to acquire 114 new jets in Indian Air Force.

A Strike Eagle breaking course from a F22 Raptor group-up

#1. Mikoyan Mig 31 – Mach 2.83

Image Credit – UAC/BulgarianMilitary

Termed as the Foxhound by NATO, the Mig 31 is the fastest active service fighter jet in the world. Also it is the only aircraft in this list which has a different role other than being a dedicated fighter jet – a supersonic interceptor. The Foxhound is considered as the best supersonic interceptor in active service now. Having its origins from the Cold war era, Russia is still going strong with the Foxhound fleet and has always been considered as a trump card weapon when push comes to shove.

It is a dual crew jet powered by 2 Solodiev D-30F6 afterburning turbofan engines which are capable of producing 93kN dry thrust and 152kN in afterburning stage. At a staggering max speed of Mach 2.83 and having a Mach 2.35 cruise speed, this platform beats the hell out of everybody this date. Mig 31 is actually the successor of the Mig 25 Foxbat and its serial production started in 1979 while also being the first operational aircraft to have a Passive Electronically Scanned Array Radar (PESA) – known as the Zaslon S-800 which can track upto 10 targets simultaneously from a maximum range of 200km. It consists of an unique datalink between military platforms, almost similar to the operating system of S-300 SAMs – the aircraft can share its data through its APD-518 indigenous datalink between multiple servers of SAM systems and compatible aircraft systems (including the Beriev A50 AEW&C). Being a dedicated interceptor as its primary role, it has a highly efficient sensor suite. Unlike traditional radar systems that use mechanically steered antennas, the Zaslon S-800 employs a phased-array antenna design. This allows for electronic scanning of the radar beam without the need for physical movement of the antenna. It also has the ability to detect targets with infrared vision from a distance of 56 km.

Being a supersonic interceptor, the Mig 31 exhibits a fearsome weapon capacity due to armed interception and fighter-bomber roles. Its primary armament are 4 Vympel R-33 AAMs and a 6-barreled 23mm GSh-6-23 cannon having 260 rounds of ammunition. The additional four hardpoints give spaces for 4 Molniya R60 infrared homing AAMs, 4 Vympel R-73 AAMs or 4 Vympel R-77 BVR air-to-air missiles. For bombing and ground warfare, the Foxhound can be configured to have 6 Kh-31 and 3 Kh-59 anti-ship missiles / 6 KAB-1500 laser guided bombs or 8 KAB-500 bombs. The jet has a maximum range of 3000k with 2 additional drop tanks armed with 4 R-33s and a fascinating service ceiling of 25000m. Right now, Kazakhstan is the only country having 20-31 Foxhounds other than Russia which hosts an unknown number of active service 31s among the 519 of them built till date.

What makes it more deadly? The mix of the range of the Foxhound, its speed and being the only aircraft in Russia’s conventional jet inventory to carry the Kh-47 Kinzhal – a 500km range nuclear-capable hypersonic air-launched ballistic missile coupled with a the ability to touch Mach 10 speed.

A Kinzhal strapped on the belly of the Foxhound, the air-launched hypersonic ballistic ‘Russian Dagger missile’

Honorary Mentions and Clarifications

McDonnell Douglas’ F4 Phantom II which was once among the best 3rd gen fighter jets has an astonishing maximum speed of Mach 2.23. Although USA has retired all the Phantoms, it is still in active service in Greece, Turkey and Iran’s air forces all of which were lent in Cold War era times.

First introduced in 1973, Israel’s IAI Kfir is an all-weather multirole 3.5 Gen+ aircraft which is based on the design of the French Dassault Mirage integrated with Israeli avionics and sensor suite. It has a top speed of Mach 2.3, easily clearing the F-22 and the Su-35, yet this jet has not been included in the list because (1) US’ select few units and Israel have retired this jet and Sri Lanka is the only force keeping it in active duty with around 20 units,, (2) it is highly debatable if this jet can actually touch Mach 2.3 in this date with a 3rd gen jet design and modernized airspace full of advanced enemy defense systems.

The Northrop Grumman F14 Tomcat, US Navy’s carrier fleet backbone before the introduction of the Boeing F/A-18 Hornet/Super Hornet, has a top speed of Mach 2.34. It’s actually still in active service, so why isn’t included in this list? USA was the only major operator of this jet and has retired all of them after the F18 took over. However in 1974 Iran made a deal for 80 Tomcats but right now it’s reported the number is close to less than 24. Moreover it’s only one country not having a global firepower showoff with less than a squadron worth unit maintained to the best of quality this jet has a legend status for. Regardless, props to the Tomcat.

An active Iranian F14’s weapons breakdown (Image Credits – The National Interest)

Another aircraft with Mach 2.35? Yep, the Mikoyan MiG-23 Flogger, a Soviet 3rd gen variable-geometry fighter bomber which was first inducted in 1967. Russia, Bulgaria and India had been the major users of this jet along with several other countries all of which have retired the jet except one. India phased out these aircrafts between 2007 and 2009. Syria is the only country having active service Mig 23s with 87 units. Yet again not in this list due to its primitive status compared to the modern advancements and it easily loses the matchup with the current 4th and 5th gen fighters especially from a country lacking global firepower showoff.

Also Read, Tejas MK1 Vs Tejas Mk1A: Sharpened claws

India’s fastest active service fighter jet – the Sukhoi Su-30 MKI. The Su-30MKI boasts a top speed of Mach 2 and is an advanced variant of the Su-27 base model. It is also one of the best variants in the Su-27 Flanker family. The Su-30MKI is powered by two AL-31FP turbofan engines, each capable of producing up to 123 kN of thrust with afterburner. It is equipped with a sophisticated avionics suite, including the N011M Bars radar, which provides long-range detection and tracking capabilities against air and ground targets. The aircraft features an array of sensors, including infrared search and track (IRST) systems, electronic warfare (EW) suites, and data link capabilities for network-centric warfare operations. It can be equipped with 10 R-77 / Derby/ Astra BVR missiles, 6 R-27 / R-73s or 3 K-100 AWAC-killer missiles. It can be also equipped with 3 Kh-59s and will likely be able to carry upto 2 air-launched Nirbhay missiles. It is also able to carry upto 3 KAB-1500L / 8 KAB-500L laser guided bombs, 3 Sudarshan laser-guided bombs, Spice 2000s, 20 FDRDO SAAW glide bombs or 28-32 OFAB 100-270 pound bombs in ground warfare/bomber configurations.

Indian Air Force Su-30 MKI in sunset (Source – Pinterest)

Subhodip Das

An Average Mechanical Engineering student from Jadavpur University, Kolkata who dreams of having a fully customized AR-15 draped on the wall....very childish ain't it ! Well apart from that, Art is the one absolute thing I practically live for.

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