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Global Combat Fighter Market (2018 Edition)

The 4th Generation Fighter market continues to dominate foreign purchases as air services of the globe look to restock their inventories with more capable types.

If one is in the market for a 4th/5th Generation Fighter platform today (2018), there are a handful of warplanes to choose from. The group currently includes the Boeing F/A-18E/F "Super Hornet" and Lockheed F-35A "Lightning II" from the United States, the Dassault "Rafale" of France, the Eurofighter "Typhoon" (via European consortium), the Saab JAS39 "Gripen" from Sweden and the Sukhoi Su-35 "Super Flanker" from Russia. There is no clear runaway winner in the pack so the customer is forced to do a fair amount of research to find the best possible match for a respective air service within a given budget. Of these, only the F-35A represents a 5th Generation type - but this advanced technology comes at a steep price -and is the only one that can hold ordnance internally. Only the Super Hornet, Rafale, Typhoon and Su-35 have been proven under real life combat conditions.

NOTE: Showcased below are only those combat fighter platforms of note - those under serious consideration by any one power and expected to make headlines in 2018 through competition and foreign purchases.

Boeing F/A-18E/F "Super Hornet"
The F/A-18E/F is the current workhorse of the United States Navy and has seen years of consistent operational service. It holds a wingspan of 44.9 feet with a length of 60.3 feet and height reaching 16 feet. Wing area totals 500 sq/ft. Gross weight reaches 66,000lb. The aircraft is powered through a twin turbofan engine arrangement - increasing crew/aircraft survivability and operational ranges - encompassing 2 x General Electric GE F414-400 units outputting 22,000lb of thrust each with afterburning engaged. the propulsion scheme pushes the vehicle to speeds over Mach 1.8. Up to 17,750lb of stores can be held externally, supporting air-to-air and air-to-surface munitions as needed. Read All About It

Photo of the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter taking off
Introduced in 1999, the Super Hornet has seen hundreds built and is the mainstay fighting platform of the United States Navy.

Lockheed F-35A "Lighting II"
The Lockheed F-35A Lightning II is as advanced as the current available foreign fighter stock gets, offering all-modern digital processing and inherent stealth capability as well as the expected multi-role capability. The product has been the recipient of bad press for its ballooning, runaway development costs which has dampened global interest - however there is enough potential in the program to warrant consideration for those air services looking forward to the next two decades for a viable fighting platform which the F-35A seems capable of becoming. The base form sees a single-seat, single-engine arrangement with dimensions covering a wingspan of 35 feet with a length of 51.4 feet and a height of 14.4 feet. Wing area is 460 sq/ft and gross weight totals 70,000lb. Power is from a single Pratt & Whitney F135-100 turbofan engine delivering 43,000lb of thrust and allowing for speeds to reach the Mach 1.6 envelope. Ordnance-carrying capabilities reach up to 18,000lb and this can be a mix of air-to-air and air-to-surface munitions, held either internally or externally or both. Read All About It

Dassault "Rafale C"
The Dassault Rafale is the pinnacle of modern Dassault fighter design which stems back to the 1950s. It superseded the capable M2000 Mirage line and maintains a prominent standing in both the French Air Force and Navy services with recent, growing interest seen by foreign powers. Dimensions include a wingspan of 35.8 feet, a length of 50.2 feet and a height of 17.4 feet. Wing area reaches 492 sq/ft and gross weight totals 54,000lb. Power is through a twin turbofan engine arrangement offering afterburning capability. Each Safran N88-4E unit outputs 16,860lb of thrust each and propels the aircraft up to speeds of Mach 1.8. The ordnance load reaches 21,000lb, all held externally, and can consists of air-to-air and air-to-surface weaponry. Read All About It

Photo of the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter taking off
The French Rafale has been slowly, but steadily, gaining market interest in the realm of 4th Gen fighters.

Eurofighter Typhoon
The Typhoon was born through a European consortium and has matured into a capable frontline 4th Gen platform. It is capable of air-to-air and air-to-ground combat with equal fervor and is a proven warplane in recent actions. Dimensions include a wingspan of 35.1 feet, a length of 52.4 feet and a height of 17.4 feet. Wing area reaches 538 sq/ft and gross weight totals 51,600lb. Power is from a twin-engine arrangement made up of 2 x Eurojet EJ200 turbofans offering 20,000lb of thrust each with afterburner engaged. Speeds reach Mach 2 and the aircraft's war load can total 16,535lb of externally-mounted munitions. Read All About It

Saab JAS39E "Gripen"
The JAS39 is the culmination of decades of work on fighter planes by the nation of Sweden, choosing to go the route of indigenous designing/developing with foreign-born engines added in. The Gripen is an advanced 4th Gen platform capable of air-to-air and air-to-surface operations in the lightweight class (it represents the lightest offering of this lineup). It measures a wingspan of 32.4 feet with a length of 49.9 feet and a height of 14.8 feet. Wing area totals 323 sq/ft. Gross weight reaches 36,300lb and power is from a single GE F414G turbofan engine with afterburning, producing a thrust output of 22,000lb. The Gripen is capable of speeds in the Mach 2 range and can carry a mixed war load of 13,200lb, all externally. Read All About It

Sukhoi Su-35S "Super Flanker"
The Su-35 (in its Su-35S form) is the largest and most powerful fighter of the showcased group. It has a wingspan of 48.2 feet with a nose-to-tail length of 571.9 and a height of 19.4 feet. Wing area reaches 667 sq/ft and gross weight exceeds 76,000lb. The Super Flanker is a twin engine design, aiding survivability and range, powered by 2 x NPO Saturn 117S series turbofans capable of 31,970lb thrust each unit with afterburning engaged, propelling the vehicle to speeds of Mach 2.25 as needed. The combat war load reaches 17,640lb of ordnance, all held externally, and consisting of air-to-air and air-to-surface munitions. Read All About It

Photo of the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter taking off
The Super Flanker is an all-around performer for the interested customer - if one doesn't mind reliance on Russian support.