Current jet fighters have been classified as 4th generation, 4++ generation, and so on, with 5th generation being the latest, i.e F- 22. What is the criteria for such segregation? B-2 is a stealth aircraft but considered 4th generation whereas Mig-35 is classified as 4++.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ How can the B-2 be classified as a 4th generation fighter? $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Oct 20, 2017 at 12:12
  • $\begingroup$ B-2 was a bomber aircraft so might be wrong example here, its counterpart F-117 Nighthawk was 4th Gen. $\endgroup$
    – Huntkil
    Oct 20, 2017 at 14:47
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ F117 isn't really a fighter, either. $\endgroup$ Oct 20, 2017 at 15:34
  • $\begingroup$ In terms of stealth, the F117 is really 5th gen, if you subscribe to these marketing terms. $\endgroup$
    – Penguin
    Oct 20, 2017 at 22:13

2 Answers 2


The Wikipedia Page for Fighter Generations has a relatively comprehensive list on how they derive at the "generation" of the fighter. For example, here is how the Air Force classifies them:

  • 1: Jet propulsion : F-80, Me 262
  • 2: Swept wings; range radar; infrared missiles : F-86, MiG-15
  • 3: Supersonic, pulse radar, Beyond-visual-range missiles : Century Series, F-105, F-4, MiG-17, MiG-21
  • 4: Pulse-doppler radar; high maneuverability; look-down/shoot-down missiles : F-15, F-16, Mirage 2000, MiG-29.
  • 4+: High agility; sensor fusion; reduced radar signature : Eurofighter Typhoon, Su-30, F/A-18E/F, Rafale
  • 4++: Active electronically scanned arrays; continued reduced signatures or “active” (waveform canceling) stealth technology, supercruise : Su-35, F-15SE
  • 5: All-aspect stealth with internal weapons bays, extreme agility, full-sensor fusion, integrated avionics, some or full supercruise : F-22, F-35,
  • 6: extreme stealth, morphing capability, smart skins, highly networked, extremely sensitive sensors, optionally manned, directed energy weapons.

Until we have a major leap in technology, it would seem we are capped off at 5th generation fighters for the moment.

  • $\begingroup$ Regarding 6th gen, what exactly is "morphing" defined as? $\endgroup$
    – Kxy
    Oct 20, 2017 at 20:48
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure, but I think it may be somewhere in science fiction fantasy. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Oct 20, 2017 at 20:50
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Ksery: Changing the shape of the aircraft. Think a bird's wing, not Transformers. $\endgroup$ Oct 21, 2017 at 15:53
  • $\begingroup$ Frontiers are blur. 4th and 5th generation get frequent upgrades that make them have features from 5th and 6th generation (sensor fusion, (active) stealth, networked, better and better avionics and sensors). And also what's the difference between "high agility" and "extreme agility"? is there a list of aerobatic maneuver that cannot be done if you are only "highly agile"? $\endgroup$
    – Manu H
    May 20, 2020 at 13:02

There is no criteria because there is no such thing as an X-Generation fighter. That Fourth Generation / Fifth Generation stuff is a marketing gimmick cooked up and used by aerospace OEMs to sell hardware at defense trade shows. Nobody in the real world subscribes to this or even considers such nonsense. There are either fighters or there are targets. Nothing more, nothing less.


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