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Fifth Generation: The Most Advanced Fighter Jets of 21st Century

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Since the 1940s, military aviation has developed four generations of jet-powered fighters and with fifth generation fighters coming to the fray now. Following the United States, Russia and China, other countries are designing multi-role fighters with the latest technology.

The requirements to be a fifth-generation jet fighter include stealth (anti-radar anti-thermal camouflage), supercruise (supersonic speed achieved without afterburners), maneuverability, versatility, a compartment for weapons and an advanced automated on-board guidance system, which is incorporated into a military network and allows conducting full-spectrum attacks.

© REUTERS / Toby Melville The US F-22 Raptor fighter is the world’s first fifth generation fighter aircraft, which formally entered service in December 2005 and was produced in several series. Production is currently terminated, but there are regular offers to start it again.
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The US F-22 Raptor fighter is the world’s first fifth generation fighter aircraft, which formally entered service in December 2005 and was produced in several series. Production is currently terminated, but there are regular offers to start it again.
© AFP 2021 / JUNG YEON-JEThe F-22 was manufactured as a heavy multirole fighter for the gradual replacement of the F-15 Eagle. A total of 187 operational F-22 fighters are in service within 11 fighter wings of the US Air Force. The machine is not available abroad.
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The F-22 was manufactured as a heavy multirole fighter for the gradual replacement of the F-15 Eagle. A total of 187 operational F-22 fighters are in service within 11 fighter wings of the US Air Force. The machine is not available abroad.
CC BY-SA 2.0 / mashleymorgan / F-35 Lightning IIThe F-35 Lightning II, the second US fifth-generation jet, will replace the F-16 for US forces and for many of Washington’s allies. The total F-35 production is expected to reach 2,500 planes. In 2015 and 2016, the Air Force and Marine Corps started trial operation of the F-35; the Navy will get its version by 2018.
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The F-35 Lightning II, the second US fifth-generation jet, will replace the F-16 for US forces and for many of Washington’s allies. The total F-35 production is expected to reach 2,500 planes. In 2015 and 2016, the Air Force and Marine Corps started trial operation of the F-35; the Navy will get its version by 2018.
© UK Ministry of Defence The jet fighter has been criticized for its low performance. One chassis has become the basis for three different types of jet (for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps); as a result, all three fighter versions have similar features. The machine’s accordance to the full range of requirements needed by fifth-generation jets has also been questioned.
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The jet fighter has been criticized for its low performance. One chassis has become the basis for three different types of jet (for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps); as a result, all three fighter versions have similar features. The machine’s accordance to the full range of requirements needed by fifth-generation jets has also been questioned.
© Sputnik / Alexei Druzhinin / Go to the photo bankThe Russian response to the Raptor and the heir to the late Soviet I-90program is now called the PAK FA (Prospective Airborne Complex of Frontline Aviation). The Sukhoi heavy multi-purpose fighter hasn’t been named yet; the T-50 is the name of the prototype aircraft. The design will be used by India for their fifth generation fighters as well.
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The Russian response to the Raptor and the heir to the late Soviet I-90program is now called the PAK FA (Prospective Airborne Complex of Frontline Aviation). The Sukhoi heavy multi-purpose fighter hasn’t been named yet; the T-50 is the name of the prototype aircraft. The design will be used by India for their fifth generation fighters as well.
© Sputnik / Vladimir Astapkovich / Go to the photo bankThe Russian Sukhoi T-50 fifth generation fighter conducted its first flight in January 2010; now it’s in the final testing stage. According to military statements, 12 units are soon to undergo trial operations and serial deliveries will begin in the 2020s.
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The Russian Sukhoi T-50 fifth generation fighter conducted its first flight in January 2010; now it’s in the final testing stage. According to military statements, 12 units are soon to undergo trial operations and serial deliveries will begin in the 2020s.
© Flickr / Anna ZverevaThe MiG-1.44 prototype light fighter built in 2000, will never take to the skies again, but it will remain an engineering step forward. The Mikoyan Project 1.44/1.42 was the Soviet Union's answer to the US’ Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF), incorporating many fifth-generation jet fighter aspects. After two test flights, the program was cancelled when the PAK FA was introduced.
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The MiG-1.44 prototype light fighter built in 2000, will never take to the skies again, but it will remain an engineering step forward. The Mikoyan Project 1.44/1.42 was the Soviet Union's answer to the US’ Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF), incorporating many fifth-generation jet fighter aspects. After two test flights, the program was cancelled when the PAK FA was introduced.
© AP Photo / Li Gang/XinhuaChina is also building fifth-generation jets. The twinjet J-20 took off for the first time in January 2011 and it combines original design ideas and solutions from other countries (F-22, MiG-1.44 and F-35 in particular). In November 2016, the stealth fighter made its public debut at Airshow China in Zhuhai and a month later, China's Air Force received the first operational machines.
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China is also building fifth-generation jets. The twinjet J-20 took off for the first time in January 2011 and it combines original design ideas and solutions from other countries (F-22, MiG-1.44 and F-35 in particular). In November 2016, the stealth fighter made its public debut at Airshow China in Zhuhai and a month later, China's Air Force received the first operational machines.
© AP Photo / Xinhua, Liu DaweiAnother product of the Chinese aviation industry, the J-31, made its first flight in October 2012 and two prototypes are currently being tested. As in the case of the J-20, some experts dispute whether the aircraft really belongs to the fifth generation class.
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Another product of the Chinese aviation industry, the J-31, made its first flight in October 2012 and two prototypes are currently being tested. As in the case of the J-20, some experts dispute whether the aircraft really belongs to the fifth generation class.
© REUTERS / KyodoThe lightweight X-2 Shinshin fighter, formerly called ATD-X, has been developed in Japan since 2004 after the US officially refused to sell F-22s to Tokyo. It is alleged that in the final version of the vehicle it will be able to supercruise and have a very low radar signature.
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The lightweight X-2 Shinshin fighter, formerly called ATD-X, has been developed in Japan since 2004 after the US officially refused to sell F-22s to Tokyo. It is alleged that in the final version of the vehicle it will be able to supercruise and have a very low radar signature.
© Photo : Johnxxx9 In addition to the FGFA program aircraft, developed on the basis of the Russian T-50, India wants to obtain another fifth-generation fighter, the HAL Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. Works on the jet have been carried out since 2008, although the project officially kicked off only in 2011. At the moment, only basic technical elements of the machine appearance have been determined.
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In addition to the FGFA program aircraft, developed on the basis of the Russian T-50, India wants to obtain another fifth-generation fighter, the HAL Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. Works on the jet have been carried out since 2008, although the project officially kicked off only in 2011. At the moment, only basic technical elements of the machine appearance have been determined.
© AP Photo / ISNA, Amir PourmandThe Iranian Qaher-313 or Dominant-313 fighter jet was unveiled in February 2013. According to officials’ claim, it can evade radar. However, some experts doubt that it is able to meet the fifth-generation requirements.
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The Iranian Qaher-313 or Dominant-313 fighter jet was unveiled in February 2013. According to officials’ claim, it can evade radar. However, some experts doubt that it is able to meet the fifth-generation requirements.
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