The Top 7 Most Iconic Fighter Jets in the U.S. Air Force

Aerial combat is as fascinating as it is risky. For years the U.S. and her allies have dominated the skies with sleek designs and hyper-advanced technology. Below is a list of the most iconic fighter jets ever in service.

1. The F-14 Tomcat


Easily the most recognizable fighter jet in the U.S. Air Force, the Grumman F-14 Tomcat holds a special place in the hearts of Americans. In its prime, the F-14 Tomcat could achieve supersonic speeds with its twin engines and carry two pilots. Although it was officially retired in 2006, a few are still used as training jets.

F-14 Facts:

  • Featured in movies such as Top Gun & Executive Decision
  • Its radar could track up to 24 targets simultaneously
  • All spare parts have been destroyed

2. The F-22 Raptor


Lockheed Martin created the F-22 Raptor in 2005 and stole the show with its low profile. Constructed with twin engines, it housed one pilot and could handle anything the Air Force required. Unfortunately, the F-22 Raptor was officially retired in 2017.

F-22 Facts:

  • Production was cut due to high costs
  • It costs $35,000 per flight hour to operate
  • Mainly used as a bomber escort

3. The F-16 Fighting Falcon


Also known as the “Viper,” the F-16 was crafted as a single-pilot, single-engine day fighter, but quickly earned a reputation for versatility. The F-16 was first introduced into service in 1978 when Battlestar Galactica was released. The starfighter from the television program bears a striking resemblance to the F-16.

F-16 Facts:

  • Oldest fighter jet still in service
  • Over 4,600 have been built since 1976
  • Key feature was a frameless bubble canopy for good visibility

4. The F-15 Eagle


McDonnell Douglas designed the F-15 Eagle in 1972 and entered service in 1976. The iconic jet features an American twin-engine with a single seat. In addition, the F-15 Eagle has been featured in an IMAX film, a Tom Clancy book, and several other media.

F-15 Facts:

  • Zero losses in aerial combat
  • Over 100 victories
  • 2nd oldest fighter jet still in service

5. The F-35 Lightning II


The class of F-35 fighter jets is iconic primarily due to its controversial beginnings. The U.S. and her NATO allies funded the production of the F-35 in the early 2000s, hoping for a new aerial fighter to dominate the skies. The F-35 was finally put into service in 2015.

F-35 Facts:

  • The U.S. plans to purchase over 2,400 F-35s by 2044
  • Severe mechanical failures halted initial production
  • Projected to be the main aerial combat fighter for the U.S. until 2070

6. The F/A-18E/F Super Hornet


Boeing produced the Super Hornet jet as a carrier-based multi-role fighter capable of extended flight and can be used as an air-to-air refueling system. Its wing and tail configuration help it to stand out among other fighter jets, but its size is the easiest way to identify it. The Super Hornet entered the service in 1999 and is still serving today.

Super Hornet Facts:

  • Boasts single and tandem seat variants
  • Can carry up to 5 additional fuel tanks
  • Informally referred to as the “Rhino”

7. The T-45 Goshawk


No longer used in combat, the Goshawk is a training jet used on carriers for pilots to practice their aerial agility. Originally produced by McDonnell Douglas, the Goshawk entered into service in 1991, but Boeing took over production in 1999. The T-45 Goshawks are recognizable by their bright orange noses, wings, and tails.

T-45 Facts:

  • Limited altitude range due to oxygen system issues
  • Officially grounded in 2022
  • A maximum speed of 625 mph
Pat Johnson

Author Pat Johnson

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