Here's How Many Fighter Jets Exist In The World Today

The world's first operational fighter jet made its battlefield debut during World War II. The Messerschmitt Me 262 (nicknamed Schwalbe) attacked a British Havilland Mosquito that was flying over Munich. Messerschmitt produced more than 1,400 Me 262s during the war, but only around 300 actually saw combat — some were destroyed on the ground by American troops, while others couldn't fly due to technical issues.

British, American, and Soviet fighter jets also arrived on scene during WWII. Serious improvements to technology were made in the 1950s and 1960s, but some of the most substantial innovations were seen in the early 1990s, with the introduction of fifth generation fighter jets. With more powerful engines, advanced avionics, and improved firepower capabilities, these fighter jets are shaping the future of aerial combat.

At present, several nations are investing significant resources in developing sixth generation fighter jets. The U.S. Military, for example, is working on a fighter jet that will be equipped with an adaptive engine. The question is, how many fighter jets exist in the world today?

How many fighter jets are there?

According to FlightGlobal's 2024 World Air Forces directory, 53,000 military aircraft are in use globally. The U.S. accounts for 25% of this number. There has been a net increase of 136 from the year prior, which suggests that the overall number of military aircraft has remained relatively stable.

Per the directory, there are 14,665 operational combat aircraft in the world today. Unsurprisingly, the U.S. has the largest active fleet, with 2,750 active combat aircraft. China is in second place with 1,578 combat aircraft in use. These are followed by: Russia, India, North Korea, Pakistan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Taiwan. Other countries account for the remaining 5,585 combat aircraft.

Not all combat aircraft are fighter jets, but most are. According to the report, the number one most used combat aircraft in the world is the F-16 fighter jet, constituting 15% of the total active. Following closely are Su-27/30/34/35 models. The F-15 ranks third and is followed by: F-18, MiG-29, F-35, Eurofighter Typhoon, J-7, Su-24, and Su-25. Other combat aircraft accounts for the remaining 6,230, or 42%.