How Many Stealth Warplanes Are There In The World—And Who Has Them?

How Many Stealth Warplanes Are There In The World—And Who Has Them?

How Many Stealth Warplanes Are There In The World—And Who Has Them?

Get started on your Homeland Security Degree at American Military University.

Lots of countries are developing stealth warplanes. Fewer actually are acquiring them. And of those that are, just one—the United States—is acquiring them in large numbers.

That’s the inescapable conclusion of a survey of all the world’s radar-evading aircraft programs. In the 37 years since the first flight of the U.S. Air Force’s F-117, the very first operational stealth warplane, the roster of air arms with their own low-observable aircraft steadily has grown.

Despite this, America still is the world’s leading operator of stealth aircraft. By a huge margin.

As of early 2020, there were a little over 700 warplanes in all the world that qualify as “stealth,” meaning their designs feature deliberate and effective efforts to minimize their signature on enemy sensors, particularly radar.

Around half of the stealth planes are F-35s. American F-22s account for another quarter of the global fleet. For all their prominence in the press and in Western and allied planning, the Russian Su-57 and Chinese J-20 remain few in number, respectively 10 and nine years after their first flights.

To be clear, there are many more manned stealth planes in development than currently appear in the inventories of the world’s air arms, to say nothing of in-service and in-development stealth drones.

The U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy each have begun developing new manned stealth fighters to follow the F-22 and F-35.

The Chinese aerospace industry is working on as many as four new radar-evading types—potentially the H-20 bomber, the J-18 jump jet, the JF-XX fighter-bomber plus an unspecified fighter type.

Russian industry is working on the PAK DA stealth bomber.

Then there are the outliers. The U.K.-Italian Tempest. Japan’s F-3. The KF-X that South Korea is developing alongside Indonesia. Turkey’s TF-X. All of these programs are in their earliest conceptual stages. It’s possible, even likely, that most of them will fail to deliver a single operational warplane.

The stealth warplanes you can count are the ones that are under construction or on tarmacs. Comparing air arms’ real low-observable inventories reveals the huge gap between the U.S. military’s stealth capabilities … and everyone else’s.

Consider the above chart, which draws on data from two databases—the 2020 edition of Flight Global’s World Air Forces warplane survey and the online inventory that Scramble, a Dutch aviation website, maintains. The chart excludes many F-35 customers that so far have taken delivery of only a handful of planes, such as The Netherlands with its so-far seven F-35s.

This snapshot of stealth-warplane inventories of course is already out of date, and for one major reason. While Lockheed Martin LMT built its last F-22 in 2011 and the B-2 and F-117 likewise ended production many years ago, Lockheed has been delivering new F-35s to customers all over the world at a rate of around 10 per month. The U.S. military alone expects to order no fewer than 2,300 F-35s over the lifetime of the program.

Against this, all other low-observable aircraft programs are statistical rounding errors. The United States is set to remain by far the world’s leading builder and operator of stealth warplanes, thanks mostly to the trillion-dollar F-35 program.

When it comes to stealth, talk is cheap, airplanes are expensive. America has the biggest radar-evading aircraft fleet because it has spent hundreds of billions of dollars building it. No other country has made, or is likely to make, anything like the same investment.


This article was written by David Axe from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to



Learn From The Leader

American Military University (AMU) is proud to be the #1 provider of higher education to the U.S. military, based on FY 2018 DoD tuition assistance data, as reported by Military Times, 2019. At AMU, you’ll find instructors who are former leaders in the military, national security, and the public sector who bring their field-tested skills and strategies into the online classroom. And we work to keep our curriculum and content relevant to help you stay ahead of industry trends. Join the 64,000 U.S. military men and women earning degrees at American Military University.

Request Information

Please complete this form and we’ll contact you with more information about AMU. All fields except phone are required.

Validation message here
Validation message here
Validation message here
Validation message here
Validation message here
Validation message here
Validation message here
Validation message here
Validation message here
Ready to apply? Start your application today.

We value your privacy.

By submitting this form, you agree to receive emails, texts, and phone calls and messages from American Public University System, Inc. which includes American Military University (AMU) and American Public University (APU), its affiliates, and representatives. I understand that this consent is not a condition of enrollment or purchase.

You may withdraw your consent at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy, terms, or contact us for more details.