Fighter jets have become an integral part of the modern military, with countries around the world investing in advanced technology to maintain their military supremacy.
These sophisticated flying machines come with a hefty price tag, and the cost is only increasing as technology advances. In this article, we will take a look at the top 10 most expensive fighter jets in the world, along with their unique features and capabilities.
1. B-2 Spirit: $2.1B
The B-2 Spirit is a fighter jet designed to resemble an alien spaceship, and it has advanced stealth technology that allows it to evade detection from radar, visual, electromagnetic, and infrared signals. This allows the jet to penetrate deep into enemy territory undetected and drop bombs on specific targets. Initially designed to carry nuclear bombs, it was later upgraded to carry other types of missiles as well.
The total cost of building the B-2 Spirit was a staggering $45 billion, with the US military acquiring 21 of them. The initial unit cost was $737 million, making it the most expensive plane ever produced at the time. However, after retrofitting and modifications in 1997, the final cost increased to $2.1 billion. The hourly operating cost for the B-2 is $135,000. Sadly, one of the 21 units was lost in an accident in 2008, but the US Air Force intends to continue using the remaining 20 planes until 2032.
2. F-22 Raptor: $350M
The Raptor is considered to be one of the best fighter jets in the world, designed specifically to combat Russia’s advanced SU Flanker and MIG Fulcrum planes during the Cold War. Its production began in the 1980s, and it is manufactured by Lockheed Martin and Boeing, with a price tag of around $350 million per aircraft. The entire program is estimated to cost approximately $66 billion.
The Raptor is equipped with fifth-generation technology, boasting a single-weapon platform with supercruise, super maneuverability, stealth, and sensor fusion capabilities. It measures 44.5 feet in width and 62 feet in length, weighing 43,340 pounds with an MTOW of 83,500 pounds. The F-22 has a range of 2,960 km and a rate of climb of 62,000 km/min.
3. Air Force One: $325M
The two aircraft used by the US president, known as “Air Force One,” are modified military versions of the Boeing 747-200. These planes are equipped with advanced communication and air defense systems to ensure the safety and security of the US president during air travel. The Boeing VC-25s, as they are officially called, were put into service in 1990 and each one costs $325 million.
The VC-25 has a maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of 374,850kg and is powered by four General Electric CF6-80C2B1 engines, each of which can produce 56,700 lbs of thrust. This allows the plane to reach a top speed of 629mph and fly as high as 45,100 feet. With the ability to refuel while in flight, the VC-25 can travel up to 13,000 km.
4. Eurofighter Typhoon: $124M
The Eurofighter Typhoon is a fighter jet that is still in use and is known for its exceptional combat capabilities. It is often considered a flagship fighter for air forces that have the budget to afford one. The plane is compatible with a wide range of missiles, including the Brimstone, Storm Shadow, and Marte ER. The Eurofighter Typhoon is one of the older planes on this list, having been completed in 1994. The Future European Fighter Aircraft Programme, a group of engineers from various countries, worked on the plane since 1983, with participants from Italy, France, Germany, Spain, and the UK.
The average price per unit for the Eurofighter Typhoon is around $124 million. After the end of the Cold War, there was less demand for fighters, which delayed the plane’s service until 2003. However, since then, 571 of them have flown for air forces in various countries, including Italy, Germany, Austria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and others.
5. F-35 Lightning II: $122M
In December 2006, Lockheed Martin released the F-35 Lightning II fighter jets (F-35A) for sale. The F-35 is built by several companies, including Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Pratt and Whitney, and BAE Systems. It has three different versions: the F-35A, which costs $89.2 million, the F-35B at $115.5 million, and the F-35C priced at $107.7 million.
The F-35 Lightning II measures between 50.5ft to 51.4ft in length and 15ft to 15.5ft in height. The wingspan is 35 feet for the F-35A and F-35B, while the F-35C has a wingspan of 43 feet. The weight of the F-35 is between 22,500 and 30,000 pounds, and its MTOW is 60,000 pounds. It can reach a top speed of 1,864 mph and has a service ceiling of approximately 50,000 feet. The F-35 can climb at a rate of 45,000 feet per minute.
6. Dassault Rafale: $115M
The French fighter jet, Dassault Rafale, was named after the French word for “gust of wind” due to its high-speed capabilities. It was completed in 2001 and is still in use by the French Air Force, Space Force, and Navy, as well as the air forces of India and Qatar Emiri.
Originally, the Dassault Rafale was proposed as part of the Future European Fighter Aircraft program, which aimed to develop a state-of-the-art plane for European air forces. However, France decided to pursue its ideas and create the Dassault Rafale separately.
The cost of building this fighter jet was approximately $115 million. It boasts advanced features such as an infrared search and track system, integrated direct voice input, and an AA active electronically scanned array radar.
7. Chengdu J-20 Black Eagle: $110M
The Chengdu Aerospace Corporation of China created the Chengdu J-20 “Mighty Dragon” stealth fighter, which is a single-seater fifth-generation aircraft. It made its maiden voyage in January 2011 and has been in service with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force since March 2017. It is the first Chinese stealth aircraft.
Each J-20 costs approximately $110 million, with the total program estimated to cost around $4.4 billion. The J-20 is designed for hazardous ground attack missions. It can attain supersonic speeds of about 1,305mph and reach an altitude of 59,055 feet. It can climb at a rate of 60,000 feet per minute and travel at speeds of 2,100 kilometers per hour.
When the afterburners are activated, each of the two WS-10G turbofan engines generates 30,000lb of thrust. The plane is 75.46 feet long, 49.21 feet wide, and 16.40 feet tall. It weighs 38,801 pounds and has an MTOW of around 77,162 pounds.
8. F-117 Nighthawk: $107.7M
The F-117 Nighthawk was the U.S. Air Force’s first stealth aircraft, which was developed, procured, and constructed under strict secrecy. To contradict the enemy’s expectations, the American fighters’ standard practice of being named with numbers deviated. The F-19 would have been the designation for the F-117 Nighthawk. This stealth attack plane first flew in 1982 and was retired the following year.
The F-117 Nighthawk is powered by two General Electric F404-F1D2 turbofans, allowing it to reach a top speed of over 700 mph. It is ranked #5 on the list of the most expensive military aircraft in the world, with a cost of $107.7 million.
9. EA-18G Growler: $102M
Boeing Defense developed the EA-18G Growler, a two-seater aircraft for the US Space & Security program, in 1995. It is an upgraded version of the Super Hornet, featuring added electronic warfare systems. Although it is more expensive than the Super Hornet, the EA-18G Growler is not as well-armed and is not designed for aggressive flights. Its cost is $102 million to build and sell.
Northrop Grumman has provided the aircraft with systems that use electromagnetic signals to control the energy spectrum in the surrounding space. These systems can be used to prevent enemy aircraft from using the electromagnetic spectrum in the area, giving these planes an advantage in modern combat.
10. McDonnell Douglas F-15EX Strike Eagle: $87.7M
The F-15 was never intended to be a low-cost plane, and its newest version, the F-15EX, is a testament to that. The aircraft itself is more expensive than the F-35A, so the lower cost comes mostly from its lower operating cost.
However, its operating costs are relatively low, with a projected cost of $29,000 per hour, and the US government hopes to reduce this to $36,000 by 2024. This, combined with its similarity to other F-15 models, makes the F-15EX an attractive option for many countries.