How far a fighter jet can fly without refueling can vary substantially by the aircraft.

The range can vary from approximately 1,000 miles to over 3,000 miles, though even the range of two same models of fighter jet can vary depending on their payload.

While it may seem logical to design and build fighter jets with a maximum range as possible, depending on the plane’s purpose and development costs, this often isn’t necessary.

How Far Popular Fighter Jets Can Fly Without Refueling

Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning (1,350 miles)

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning is a fighter jet with a seemingly disappointing range.

It can fly 1,350 miles without refueling.

However, it certainly shouldn’t be underestimated with its electronic warfare and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities.

The F-35 Lightning is also capable of short take-off and vertical-landing. In other words, this plane can hover. Pretty cool, right?

Related: How Much Does an F-35 Cost?

Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor (1,864 miles)

The Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor is a single-seat, twin-engine, all-weather stealth tactical fighter aircraft that is primarily used by the United States Air Force.

Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor

It has ground attack, electronic warfare, and signals intelligence capabilities.

While there are still 187 operational aircraft, the last F-22 was delivered in 2012.

The Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor has a relatively short range of 1,864 miles.

Chengdu J-20 (2000 miles)

The Chengdu J-20 is a twin-jet, all-weather, stealth, fighter jet.

It is China’s most powerful fighter jet, and is designed as an air superiority fighter with precision strike capability.

China is notoriously secretive, but it is estimated that the J-20, which is known as the Mighty Dragon, has a range of up to 2,000 miles.

Boeing Martin F-18 (2,069 miles)

This twin-engine, carrier-capable, multirole fighter jet is primarily used by the US Navy and can carry air-to-air missiles and air-to-surface weapons.

The Boeing Martin F-18 has a range of 2,069 miles.

McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle (2,300 miles)

The McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle is one of the most successful fighter jets in modern history, with a staggering record of having won over 100 aerial battles without suffering any casualties.

The F-15 is primarily used as an air superiority tactical fighter and has a range of 2,300 miles.

Lockheed Martin F-16 (2,622 miles)

Originally designed as an air superiority day fighter, though now employed as a successful all-weather multirole aircraft, the Lockheed Martin F-16 has participated in numerous conflicts, most of them in the Middle East.

The Lockheed Martin F-16 has a range of 2,622 miles.

A red F-16C/D plane

Sukhoi Su-57 (3,418 miles)

The Sukhoi Su-57 is a fifth-generation Russian single-seat, twin-engine stealth multirole fighter jet that is capable of aerial combat as well as ground and maritime strike.

Tested during combat in Syria, the Sukhoi Su-57 has a range of 3,418 miles.

How Long Can a Jet Fly Without Refueling?

Commercial planes, such as the Boeing 737, Boeing 747 etc., that are widely used in the travel industry generally have a longer range than fighter jets.

Boeing 747 plane on the ground

The Boeing 737, for example, has a range of over 3,000 miles, the Boeing 747-400 has a staggering range of 8,400 miles, and the Airbus A350 XWB Ultra Long Range, which is currently the longest range jetliner in service, has a range of almost 10,000 miles.

Fighter Jets Can Be Refueled in Midair

A fighter jet’s range can be extended by refueling in midair.

Typically, the aircraft that will refuel the fighter jet is specially designed for this purpose, though refueling pods can be fitted to existing aircraft.

The number of times a fighter jet can be refueled in midair is only limited by crew fatigue and engineering factors such as engine oil consumption.

two Sukhoi Su-30MKIs being refueled in midair

Refueling a fighter jet usually works as follows:

  1.  Deploy the hose: The fighter jet’s fuel hose and basket, which is also known as a drogue, is released
  2. The approach: The fighter jet gently accelerates and lines up to insert the probe into the inflated basket to collect fuel
  3. Filling the tank: Once accurately lined up, the fuel valve will open and jet fuel will fill the tank
  4. The disconnect: The fighter jet reduces its speed and pulls away from the hose while closing its fuel valve

How Much Fuel Does a Fighter Jet Hold?

The amount of fuel a fighter jet can hold varies by model.

A fighter jet such as the Sukhoi Su-57 with its impressive 3,418 mile range has a fuel tank capacity of 10,300 kg (22,700 lb), whereas the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor with its 1,864-mile range has a fuel tank capacity of 1,200 gallons (600 gallons for each fuel tank)

Helen Krasner holds a PPL(A), with 15 years experience flying fixed-wing aircraft; a PPL(H), with 13 years experience flying helicopters; and a CPL(H), Helicopter Instructor Rating, with 12 years working as a helicopter instructor.

Helen is an accomplished aviation writer with 12 years of experience, having authored several books and published numerous articles while also serving as the Editor of the BWPA (British Women Pilots Association) newsletter, with her excellent work having been recognized with her nomination of the “Aviation Journalist of the Year” award.

Helen has won the “Dawn to Dusk” International Flying Competition, along with the best all-female competitors, three times with her copilot.