The US Air Force has been at the top of the game for military jets since its inception over a century ago, a proud holder of some of the world’s most advanced top fighter jets.
From Lockheed’s F-22 Raptor stealth fighters (considered to be 4th generation in stealth by the US Air Force) producing lightning speeds and precise targeting systems, to Boeing’s seminal F/A-18 Super Hornets with massive payload offerings, the Air Force arsenal keeps getting better and better.
These 21st-century fighters offer serious firepower that rivals any other country’s current military assets, giving the US military an edge in combat and air superiority against adversaries worldwide.
With advances in technology and strategy, this trend has continued through the years. An array of sophisticated military aviation machines come together to create one powerful force that can defend against any potential threat with just the touch of a button – and that’s only scratching the surface. Today we take an inside peek at some of these cutting-edge war machines and examine what makes them superior combat platforms to their predecessors.
F-16 C/D Block 70/72
“Today, F-16 Today’s F-16 –the Block 70/72 –is the most advanced 4th generation fighter ever built and brings a new level of capability to air forces around the world,” says Lockheed-Martin’s website.
The F-16 Fighting Falcon, also known as the Viper to her pilots and crews, is a single-engine supersonic fighter aircraft developed by Lockheed Martin (formerly General Dynamics). Its latest version is the F-16 C/D Block 70/72, which has been in service since 1978.
Originally developed as a lightweight, high-performance air superiority fighter with the ability to engage in air-to-air combat and ground attack missions, its design was heavily influenced by the need for a cost-effective replacement for the aging fighter aircraft in the US Air Force inventory.
The first F-16A/B entered service with the US Air Force in 1979. Since then, over 4,600 aircraft have been produced for 29 countries, making it one of history’s most successful fighter aircraft.
This fighter aircraft, used in various missions, including air-to-air combat, ground attack, reconnaissance, and electronic warfare, features several upgrades over previous versions.
- Advanced Avionics: This fighter jet features a modern glass cockpit with advanced avionics and mission systems, allowing the pilot to have better situational awareness, making the aircraft more effective in combat.
- Advanced Weapons: The F-16 C/D Block 70/72 can carry many weapons, including air-to-air, air-to-ground, and bombs. The aircraft also has a 20mm cannon, making it effective in close-range combat.
- Upgraded Engine: This military aircraft is powered by an F110-GE-129 engine, providing more thrust than previous aircraft versions. This allows the aircraft to fly at higher speeds and altitudes, making it more effective in combat.
- Stealth Technology: This jet fighter features several stealth technologies, including a reduced radar cross-section and advanced electronic warfare systems. This makes the aircraft more difficult to detect and track by enemy radar systems.
In addition to these features, the F-16 C/D Block 70/72 has several other upgrades, including improved radar, communication, and navigation systems.
These upgrades make the aircraft more effective in various combat scenarios.
With a maximum speed of Mach 2 and a maximum ceiling of 50,000 feet, the aircraft has a range of 2,280 miles and can be refueled in flight.
Several countries, including Bahrain, Bulgaria, Slovakia, and Taiwan, have purchased the F-16 C/D Block 70/72.
Saving The Pilots of Tomorrow
With this fighter jet, the Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto GCAS) was designed to prevent deadly crashes. It has already saved the lives of numerous pilots and F-16s since it entered service with the Air Force in late 2014.
The Auto GCAS is intended to reduce incidents of controlled flight into terrain, or CFIT. According to Air Force statistics, CFIT incidents account for 26% of aircraft losses and 75% of all F-16 pilot fatalities.
International Collaboration For F-16 Jet Fighters
During a ceremony at Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) wing assembly line, IAI delivered the first sets of F-16 aerostructures manufactured at IAI’s recently reopened assembly line, including the F-16 Conformal Fuel Tanks, to Lockheed Martin. In addition, the 200th F-35 fighter aircraft wing set was delivered by IAI.
Following a contract signed in 2011, IAI is also expected to produce 811 pairs of F-35A wings with a potential value of more than $2 billion by 2034.
In 2018, the US State Department approved the sale of 16 F-16 C/D Block 70/72 aircraft to Bahrain for $2.3 billion. In the same year, the government of Slovakia announced its intention to purchase 14 F-16 C/D Block 70/72 aircraft from the US.
With its advanced avionics, weapons, engine systems, and electronic warfare capabilities, the F-16 has a distinguished combat record, proven to be a highly effective fighter aircraft in various missions.
Meanwhile, the F-16 C/D Block 70/72 is proof and testament to the ongoing efforts to upgrade and improve this legendary aircraft.
“No one else can match this weapons integration experience,” says its product site.
“In concert with the US Air Force and multiple F-16 Foreign Military Sales customers, Lockheed Martin has certified more than 3,300 carriage and release configurations for greater than 180 weapon and store types.”
The F-15EX Eagle II
“A challenge from the US Air Force: To outpace future threats, take the battle-proven F-15 and make it even better. Challenge accepted,” says Boing F-15 EX officials on its website.
The F-15EX Eagle II is the latest and most advanced version of the F-15 Eagle fighter jet, in service since the 1970s.
Manufactured by Boeing, this aircraft is designed to be an air superiority fighter capable of engaging and defeating enemy aircraft in all weather conditions.
Boeing and the United States Air Force collaborated to deliver the F-15EX Eagle II, made possible by innovation and forward-thinking processes.
The latest version of the legendary fighter incorporates the most advanced systems available, including next-generation design and technology built on a digital thread, ensuring that the US Air Force will fly it for decades to come.
The F-15EX, which incorporates the latest in software development and Open Mission Systems architecture, is ready to conduct the most demanding missions of tomorrow today.
To get here, the Boeing team transformed its culture through agile, innovative software, open architecture systems, and digital engineering initiatives.
The F-15EX is based on the F-15QA, developed for the Qatar Air Force. It features several upgrades over previous versions of the F-15, including advanced avionics, a more powerful engine, and improved weapons systems.
Equipped with advanced stealth technology, this jet fighter makes detecting and tracking by enemy radar systems more complex.
One of the critical features of the F-15EX is its advanced avionics, which provides the pilot with better situational awareness.
The aircraft’s cockpit features large color multifunction displays, which provide the pilot with critical information about the aircraft’s systems and the surrounding environment.
Further, it is also equipped with a digital flight control system, which makes it more responsive and easier to fly.
Advanced Weapon Systems On A Low-Maintenance Aircraft
This fighter jet’s advanced weapons systems include air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons, including the AIM-9 Sidewinder, the AIM-120 AMRAAM, and the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM). It is also equipped with a 20mm cannon, which can be used for close-range combat.
Designed to be a low-maintenance aircraft, this fighter jet has several features that make it easier to maintain and operate.
For example, the aircraft has a modular design, allowing for easy component replacement. It is also equipped with a health management system, which monitors the aircraft’s systems and provides real-time data to ground crews.
The F-15EX has been designed to replace older aircraft in the Air Force’s fleet, including the F-15C/D and the F-15E Strike Eagle.
As highly advanced and capable fighter jets designed to meet the needs of the modern battlefield, these jet-powered military aircraft are equipped with the latest avionics systems, advanced weapons, and stealth technology, making them one of the most capable fighter jets in the world.
Unique Air Vehicle Infrastructure
The Air Force laid out its digital acquisition strategy in clear and compelling terms, emphasizing plans designed to disrupt input/output carrier signals of analog thinking.
The process also explained how the so-called “digital trinity” of agile software, open architecture, and digital engineering results in better ways of building systems.
The benefits: faster design, seamless assembly, and easier upgrades for air forces of the 21st century.
This enables two acquisition objectives for F-15EX: First, rapid fielding will quickly recapitalize the current F-15C fleet with launch-ready configuration plus quick production ramp-up. Second, technology insertion means the fleet maintains operational relevance.
The F-15EX’s technology demonstration test bed role ensures the Air Force can leverage its unique air vehicle infrastructure powerfully. This includes future innovations such as user experiences (UX) to improve and modernize the human-machine interface.
Also, a newly developed large area display (LAD) is part of the Advanced Cockpit System (ACS). These software improvements to the shows and symbols boost the sensor input and display capability previously constrained by the legacy hardware.
The F/A-18E/F Block III
Boeing manufactures the F/A-18E/F Block III, the latest variant of the F/A-18 Hornet family. The Hornet was initially designed in the 1970s and has undergone several upgrades to remain a capable fighter jet.
As a highly advanced fighter jet, a single-seater, twin-engine aircraft designed explicitly for carrier-based operations, the F/A-18E/F Block III’s development began in 2013, with the aircraft’s first flight in 2019.
In 2019, the US Navy awarded Boeing a $4 billion contract modification to manufacture and deliver 78 F/A-18 Block III Super Hornets.
According to the US Department of Defense, the modification converts a previously awarded advanced acquisition contract to a fixed-price-incentive-firm-target multiyear contract.
Before the fiscal years 2018 to 2021, the contract calls for the full-rate production and delivery of 61 F/A-18E and 17 F/A-18F aircraft.
US Navy officials said the multiyear agreement would save at least $395 million.
“This multiyear contract will provide significant savings for taxpayers and the US Navy while providing the capacity it needs to help improve readiness,” said Dan Gillian, vice president of Boeing’s F/A-18 and EA-18G programs.
“A multiyear contract helps the F/A-18 team seek out suppliers with a guaranteed three years of production instead of negotiating year to year. It helps both sides with planning, and we applaud the US Navy for taking the appropriate steps to help solve its readiness challenges.”
The aircraft’s Block III configuration includes advanced network capability, a more extended range, a smaller radar cross-section, an advanced cockpit system, and an improved communication system. It also extends the fighter jet’s life from 6,000 to 10,000 hours.
“The program office achieved significant cost savings while providing our warfighters with the best capability on a tight timeline,” Gillian added.
Boeing intends to convert existing Block II Super Hornets to Block III early next decade.
With a length of 60.3 feet, a wingspan of 44.9 feet, and a height of 16 feet. It has a maximum takeoff weight of 66,000 pounds and can carry up to 17,000 pounds of weapons and fuel.
This jet fighter aircraft is powered by two General Electric F414-GE-400 engines, providing a thrust of 22,000 pounds each.
A fighter jet with the latest avionics systems includes a digital cockpit, advanced radar and targeting systems, and a high-resolution display system.
This aircraft also has a fly-by-wire flight control system, which gives the pilot precise control over the plane.
The said jet features advanced electronic warfare systems, which can detect and jam enemy radar signals,
Further, it is also equipped with a powerful AN/APG-79 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar system, which can track multiple targets simultaneously and provide the pilot with real-time situational awareness.
This is another low-maintenance aircraft with several features that make it easier to maintain and operate, with its modular design allowing for easy component replacement.
More Than 1600 Satisfied Customers Worldwide
With the F/A-18E/F Block III, this is the latest and most advanced variant, with significant upgrades compared to previous versions.
Boeing, which has a long history of producing advanced military aircraft, has delivered more than 1,600 F/A-18s and Super Hornets to customers worldwide and has a proven track record of producing high-quality fighter jets.
The first F/A-18E/F Block III aircraft was delivered to the Navy in June 2020, and the remaining aircraft are expected to be delivered over the next decade.
The F/A-18E/F Block III has several significant upgrades compared to its predecessors. It was created to replace older aircraft in the Navy’s fleet, including the F/A-18A/B/C/D and F/A-18E/F Block II Super Hornets.
This jet-powered aircraft’s most notable upgrades include introducing the AN/APG-79 AESA radar system, which provides superior target tracking and identification capabilities.
Its radar system can also operate in a jamming environment and detect low-observable targets. Additionally, the aircraft has an upgraded cockpit, which includes a 10 x 19-inch touchscreen display that provides the pilot with enhanced situational awareness.
New Warfare Capabilities With The Next-Generation Jammer
The F/A-18E/F Block III also features a new weapon system, including the Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW) and the Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile (AARGM).
JSOW is a long-range, precision-guided missile that can be launched safely, while the AARGM is an air-to-ground missile that can locate and destroy enemy radar and communication systems.
The fighter jet also has advanced electronic warfare capabilities, with the introduction of the Next Generation Jammer (NGJ) system.
The NGJ is a highly advanced electronic warfare system that can detect and jam enemy radar signals, providing the F/A-18E/F Block III with a significant advantage in combat.
Further, this military aircraft has been used in several conflicts worldwide, including in Iraq and Syria. The aircraft has proven highly effective in combat, with its advanced systems and weapons providing a significant advantage over enemy forces.
As a highly advanced fighter jet designed for carrier-based operations, this fighter plane is equipped with the latest avionics systems, weapons, and electronic warfare capabilities, making it one of the most capable fighter jets in the world.
From the iconic F-16C/D Block 70/72 and the advanced F-15EX Eagle II to the multirole agile F/A-18E/F Block III, these brilliant machines have been precisely engineered to provide superior defense against national security threats.
Whether it’s a fast and agile jet or an advanced and powerful military aircraft, the improved technology means more immediate reactions, agility, and enhanced victory at all costs in any conflict situation.
The US Air Force continues to possess some of the most state-of-the-art aircraft available on earth, thanks to decades of innovation that have kept national security safe and secure.
More ground-breaking news on US Air Force defense systems is coming up, so stay tuned to SOFREP.