Advanced aerial warfare has reached new heights with the development of 5th generation fighter jets. These aircraft boast unparalleled technological innovation, combat prowess, and network-centric capabilities.
Stealth, superior avionics, and agility make these machines the ultimate tool for modern warfare. While several countries have successfully developed 5th Generation Fighter Aircraft, many are still in the process of development. Here is a list of all the combined 5th Generation Fighters, including those that are still under development. Let’s get started without delay.
The first 5th Generation fighter to become operational was the American F-22 Raptor, which entered service in 2005. This marked the initial instance of integrating supercruise, supermaneuverability, stealth, and sensor fusion within a single aircraft, thereby enabling effective counter-air operations in contested environments. It is designed primarily for air superiority and encompasses ground attack, electronic warfare, and signals intelligence capabilities.
The fusion of stealth, aerodynamics, and mission systems in the F-22 propelled a significant advancement in air combat capabilities, setting the standard for its generation.
F-35 Lightning II
Following the F-22, the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, operational since 2015, represents a family of single-engine, supersonic, stealth multirole fighters. Noteworthy for its emphasis on low observables, advanced avionics, and sensor fusion, it provides high situational awareness and long-range lethality. This fighter plays a pivotal role in the USAF’s execution of suppression of enemy air defense missions, thanks to its advanced sensors and mission systems.
The intricate mission systems of the F-35, involving avionics and sensor fusion, amplify pilot situational awareness command and control capabilities and facilitate network-centric warfare.
The World’s third operational fifth-generation fighter aircraft, after the American F-22 and F-35, is the Chinese Chengdu J-20, which entered service in 2017. Designed as an air superiority fighter, it boasts precision strike capabilities.
The J-20 features a long, blended fuselage, chiseled nose section, and frameless canopy. It aims to achieve situational awareness through advanced sensor fusion while leveraging stealth and electronic warfare to limit adversary situational awareness. Its stealth capabilities are substantial, although not on par with those of the F-22 or F-35.
The Russian Sukhoi Su-57, operational since 2020, is the World’s fourth operational fifth-generation fighter aircraft. It incorporates attributes like stealth, supermaneuverability, supercruise, integrated avionics, and a sizeable internal payload capacity. The Su-57 employs various techniques to diminish its radar signature. In addition to its stealth features, the fighter accentuates supermaneuverability across all axes, extensive internal payload bays for versatile roles, and advanced sensor systems like an active phased-array radar synchronized to achieve notable automation levels.
Now, let’s shift our focus to the fifth-generation fighters still developing. We start with the X-2 Shinshin, an experimental fifth-generation fighter technology demonstrator developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which completed its inaugural flight on April 22, 2016. Japan joined the ranks of the United States, China, and Russia as the fourth country to test-fly an indigenous 5th-generation stealth aircraft.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is collaborating with the Japanese Ministry of Defense’s Technical Research and Development Institute to create a multimillion-dollar demonstration project for the Japan Air Self-Defense Force. It’s important to note that the Shinshin serves as a technology demonstrator rather than a prototype intended for imminent production.
The Shenyang FC-31 Gyrfalcon, also known as the J-31, is a Chinese prototype mid-sized twinjet 5th-generation fighter aircraft developed by Shenyang Aircraft Corporation. The J-31 is smaller than the Chengdu J-20 and will likely be inducted as a carrier-based naval fighter.
It incorporates certain stealth characteristics such as forward-swept intake ramps with diverters, supersonic inlet bumps, a two-piece bubble canopy, contoured weapon bays, and two oblique vertical stabilizers. The J-31 is equipped with two internal weapons bays that carry two medium-range missiles, two heavy hardpoints, and one light hardpoint on each wing.
Up next is the Korean KAI KF-21 Boramae. KAI intends to commence mass production by 2026, aiming to replace the obsolete F-4s and F-5s in the Republic of Korea Air Force by the end of the decade. The classification of the KF-21 as a fifth-generation jet is debatable.
Some experts categorize it as such, while others designate it as a 4.5th-generation aircraft. As per available information, it will incorporate certain fifth-generation features like stealth and networking capability, though lacking attributes like supercruise and an internal weapons bay. Plans include delivering at least 40 aircraft by 2028, with a total deployment of 120 by 2032 anticipated by South Korea.
Shifting focus to the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA), this fifth-generation fighter was developed for the Indian Air Force and Navy. It’s designed as a stealthy all-weather swing-role fighter with a single seat and two engines. The maiden flight is projected for 2025-26, and serial production is anticipated to commence in the 2030s. The AMCA stands as India’s sole fifth-generation fighter under development. With diverse roles, including air superiority, ground strike, Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses, and electronic warfare, the AMCA would succeed the IAF’s Sukhoi Su-30MKI air superiority fighter.
Next, Turkish Aerospace Industries is working on the TAI TF-X, a fifth-generation stealth twin-engine all-weather air superiority fighter, with BAE Systems as a subcontractor. Aimed at replacing Turkish Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons and appealing to global markets, its maiden flight is planned for 2025, with service entry projected in the 2030s. Digital twin technology contributes to its design and production, with ASELSAN developing advanced radar featuring gallium nitride technology for the TF-X program.
The Flygsystem 2020 program by the Swedish Air Force targets the development of a fifth-generation low-observable fighter jet by 2035.
However, limited public information is available about this project, and official progress announcements are absent. While a video suggests a prototype test, the Saab or Linköping University Generic Future Fighter project serves as a technology testbed. Although stealth concepts are widely understood, the aircraft’s specifics are likely to remain undisclosed, granting a comprehensive understanding of its capabilities only to acquiring air forces.
Lastly, the SU-75 Checkmate was unveiled at the MAKS 2021 air show. Developed by Russia and the United Aerospace Company, it integrates 5th-generation technologies and is expected to take its maiden flight soon. The initial batch is slated for production in 2026, with Moscow aiming to manufacture 300 units over 15 years. Like other stealth designs, the Su-75 features an interior weapons compartment for missiles. The prototype is equipped with air-launched weapons similar to the Su-35 and Su-57, as indicated by exhibit information plaques.