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The 20 Most Expensive Military Planes in the World

Military Airplanes have been rapidly evolving with the installation of new advancements in technology that increases efficiency, capability and safety. This also means that the price is also going up. The fact of the matter is that within a few years after a military aircraft is built, improvements in the technology that will make it more efficient in performing the necessary tasks and although the price tag for the initial build may seem astronomical, in the long run, it will be cost effective over the model that it replaces.

We see this trend repeatedly in the design and engineering of military aircraft and it is an ongoing process that is not likely to change because of the changing world that we're living in, increased military and security threats and advancements in aeronautics technology. The cost is great, there is no doubt, but what is the security of an entire nation worth? When it comes to matters of national defense, most countries would agree that having the ability to protect the homeland is well worth the cost.

Here are the top 20 most expensive military planes in the world:

20. F-16 Fighting Falcon -Cost: $40 million

The twentieth most expensive military aircraft in the world is the F-16 Fighting Falcon, coming in at a mere $40 million in USD. This jet is a single engine supersonic craft that was originally designed as a multi-role fighter. The craft was originally a development of General Dynamics corporation which is now named Lockheed Martin for the United States Air Force. The initial concept of the craft was that it would be used for an air superiority day fighter. The jet then evolved into an all-weather aircraft that was successfully used as a multirole jet. More than 4.500 of this model has been built after production commenced in 1976. Although the United States Air Force no longer purchases these craft, there are still improved models being built and sold for export customers. In 1993, General Dynamics sold the manufacturing company to the Lockheed Corporation, which merged with Martin Marietta in 1995, becoming the Lockheed Martin Corporation. The original name of the craft, Fighting Falcon was soon replaced by its crews and pilots to "Viper." because of the jet's resemblance to a snake. The plane's most important feature for its day was the bubble canopy without a frame which was designed for optimal visibility. The control stick was also mounted to the side to give pilots greater ease when maneuvering the craft. A 30-degree reclining of the seat helped to reduce the effects of the G forces on the pilot during high speeds and extreme maneuvers. The jet also features an internal M61 Vulcan cannon with 11 different locations for mounting mission equipment and other weapons.

19. AV-88 Harrier II - Cost: $50 million

The AV-8B Harrier II is built by the former McDonnell Douglas manufacturers which has now become Boeing. The craft is a single engine that was designed originally for ground attack. It is the second-generation model line of the Harrier Jump Jet family. The jet has the capacity for performing short and vertical takeoffs and landings. This model was first designed in the late 1970s by Siddeley Harrier, the British Hawker. It was the first aircraft with operational VSTOL. It was named after a bird of prey for the task of performing light attacks and for achieving multi-role missions. These included armed reconnaissance or a closer support of troops on the ground. The craft is used by the Marine Corps of the United States as well as the Italian Navy and the Spanish Navy. The British Aerospace Harrier II is a variant of this model which was designed for the British military for use as a trainer in accordance with a cooperative agreement that took place between the United Kingdom and the United States. This jet was upgraded to a newer design that featured an elevated cockpit, a new wing, and redesign of the fuselage in 1981. In 1985, the new version took its place with the United States Marine Corps as a standard part of the craft flown. Boeing and BAE Systems supported the work of the program after the corporate mergers of the 1990s had taken place and produced 340 of these aircraft within a 22-year production program that concluded its run in 2003.

18. F/A-18 Super Hornet - Cost: $60 million

The F/A-18 Super Hornet is a fighter jet that was used in September of 2005 by the United States Navy to fly on a mission over the Persian Gulf. The craft is a multirole fighter of role carrier base crafted originally in the United Sttes by the manufacturers McDonnell Douglas Boeing Defense Space & Security. The maiden flight of this aircraft occurred on November 29 of 1995. It was introduced to the United States Navy in 1999 and was used in by the United States Navy as well as by the Royal Australian Air Force. Production began in 1995 and continues through the present.
The Super Hornet is an upgraded version of its predecessor and it carries 33 percent more fuel internally giving it an increase of range mission by forty one percent. over the FA-18 E/F. The upgraded craft was a high success. The craft was produced on schedule with an added bonus of coming in four hundred pounds under the predicted weight, which was good news for the military because it meant that there would be more room for equipment and weapons.

17. F/A-18E/F Hornet - Cost: $65 million

The F/A-18E/F Hornet is the predecessor of the Super Hornet. It is a twin engine supersonic aircraft that features a multi-role, all weather combat jet that is designed for being both an attack aircraft and a fighter. It reaches a top speed of 1,190 miles per hour. It is primarily used by the United States Navy, the United States Marine Corps, the Royal Australian Air Force and the Spanish Air Force. It was developed from the Northrop YF-17 and developed into the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and the Boeing X-53Aeroelastic Wing. The manufacturers are Boeing, McDonnell Douglas, Boeing Defense, Space & Security, Northrup Corporation.

16. F-15 Eagle C - cost: $65 million

This jet was manufactured by the McDonnell Douglas Boeing Defense Space & Security manufacturer. Its maiden flight was July 27, of 1972 and it was first introduced to the United States Air Force in 1976 which was a primary user of the craft along with the Royal Saudi Air Force, the Japan Air Self-Defense Force along with the Israeli Air Force. There was a total of 1,198 units manufactured and distributed throughout the various Air Forces of the world. The plane is an American twin engine that was designed to be an all-weather tactical fighter aircraft. This was the original design that inspired the variants McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle and the McDonnell Douglas F-15 STOL/MTD, and the Boeing F-15SE Silent Eagle Mitsubishi F-15J. The original intent o this craft was to gain and keep air supremacy when involved in aerial combat. The US Air Force chose the McDonnell Douglas design or meeting the service's needs for a dedicated fighter with air supremacy in 1967. Export of this craft to other nations began in 1989.

15. The F-15E Strike Eagle strike fighter - Cost: $80 million

The United States Air Force F-15E is the chosen jet which flew over the Mediterranean Sea as the craft used by the 494th Fighter Squadron. This jet is a Multirole fighter combination strike fighter. It originated in the Unites States at the McDonnell Douglas Boeing Defense, Space & Security manufacturing company. The fighter made its first flight on December 11th of 1986. It was formally introduced in April of 1988 and was used primarily by the United States Air Force, followed by the Royal Saudi Air Force, The Republic of Korea Air Force, The Israeli Air Force and several others. It was produced from 1985 and is still currently being manufactured.

14. F-111 Aardvark - Cost: $80 million

This craft was first introduced in 1967 as a Strategic bomber, fighter bomber and Role interdictor. It originates the United States with the design and build being done by General Dynamics prior to its acquisition by Lockheed Martin. The first flight of this craft took place on December 21 of 1964. The primary users were the United States Air Force and the Royal Australian Air Force. It has been retired from use since 2010.

13. F/A-18 Hornet - Cost: $94 million

The F/A-18 Hornet was placed into service during the 1980s. It was the first strike fighter to be used by America that was both a bomber and a fighter. It has the capacity for attacking either ground or Arial targets and it can also engage in air combat when the situation requires. The Hornets are the aircraft which were instrumental in the United States' victory during the 1990s Operation Desert Storm conflict. These fighter planes performed exceptionally well. Other nations which use this craft include Kuwait, Israel France, Canada and Switzerland Air forces.

12. F-35A Joint Strike Fighter -Cost: $100 million

The F-35A Joint Strike Fighter is the first in the line of the Lightning II variants built in the United States by the Lockheed Martin Aeronautics manufacturer. The primary users of this craft are the United States Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy. The F-35A was first introduced to the United States Air Force on August 2 of 2016. It is still currently in use by military personnel. As of March, of 2017, a total of 231 units have been built. Production began in 2006 and continues through the present. The total cost of the program is estimated at $1.508 trillion.

11. EA-18G Growler - Cost: $102 million

The EA-18G Growler is a modification of the Super Hornet aircraft. It features all of the capabilities, but this aircraft is not fitted for aggressive air excursions and it is lightly armed. The Growler comes with radar jamming equipment mounted inside for the use of disrupting enemy communications and interfering with their radar devices.

10. V-22 Osprey - Cost: $118 million

The Osprey is a combination aircraft that features both airplane and helicopter features. It makes uses of tiltrotor technology that is particularly innovative in allowing the Osprey to take off and land just as conventional helicopters do, but it also has the range and speed of an airplane. This combined technology makes a big reduction in the amount of time that is needed to take off and land, and it eliminates the necessity for having a landing strip. There was a tragic accident involved with the Osprey in which thirty people were killed. This was cause for the United States Vice President at the time, Dick Cheney to cease all production of the craft. Even though it is no longer in production, it is still recognized as among the most versatile military aircraft and military leaders still use it for performing functions of duty. the Osprey was used in both Afghanistan and Iraq and during the conflicts, there were positive reviews given on its performance.

9. F-35 Lightning II - Cost: $122 million

The F-35 Lightning II is a breakthrough that offers a fighter jet with stealth features. It doesn't sacrifice either speed or weaponry. This craft is totally invisible to radars of the enemy and it can perform the function of a fighter - bomber. It is also heavily armed with a variety of weaponry that makes it fit for dogfighting encounters in the sky if the need arises. It also has the ability to perform vertical take of maneuvers which makes the F-35 the first aircraft that is a jet fighter and also has this shot takeoff capacity. Although this jet has a cost of $122 million per unit for production, it is the most expensive jet ever made in the history of aeronautics with regard to its production costs and everything that it includes to get the plans approved and the production lines up and going. The total cost in USD was $345 billion.

8. The Marine Corps' F-35B - Cost: $131.6 million

With so many different variants of the same basic craft available, it's not easy for the lay person to keep track of which is which. The Marine Corps' has a preference for the F-35B which is a short takeoff vertical landing variant. It is the first supersonic STOVL stealth aircraft in the world. By design, this aircraft has the capability for operating from air capable ships near the front lines of combat zones and for operating in from austere bases. It also can take off and to land conventionally when longer runways on major bases are available. On July 31 of 2015, the first squadron of ten F-35B aircraft were ready to be deployed throughout the world having reached their initial operational capability. On an interesting note, the STOVL operation of the F-35B is accomplished through use of the LiftFan propulsion system with an engine that has the capacity for completing a 90- degree swivel in the short takeoff/ vertical landing mode. This technology is patented by the Rolls-Royce auto manufacturing company which has now taken an interest in working within the aeronautics industry. Because of the smaller internal fuel capacity of this craft, it has been designed for use with the probe and drogue method of aerial fueling as the range of this craft has been reduced due to the installation of STOVL technologies. This craft is in use by the United States Marines and the Royal Air Force. There are future plans in place for the Italian Air Force to begin use in the near future.

7. F-35C Joint Strike Fighter - Cost: $131.2 million

The F-35C Joint Strike Fighter is one expensive aircraft and the development of the what is now called the world's most advanced fighter jet has been expensive and difficult for the Department of Defense. Most of the kinks have been ironed out in the design and engineering phase, but the fact that the overall program has a price tag of $400 billion, is causing a new set of problems. The Pentagon has the sincere desire to hurry the production so the military fleet can induct the new aircraft into their fleet much faster, but tone of the major holdups is the price negotiations. At a cost of $131.2 million per jet, there aren't that many orders being placed from foreign buyers. The unresolved issues include landing on a final selling price and securing commitments from foreign buyers. There is a total estimated 2,443 of these craft designated for use by the United States Marine Corps, Navy and the Air Force. This is what has been proposed as the contract that will be issued by the government on behalf of the military. Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor that is currently engaged in contract negotiations and while there is still some quibbling about the cost along with fees, so far, a $5.6 billion interim contract has been agreed upon for 74 of the commissioned aircraft with more to come, in the future.

6. E-2D Advanced Hawkeye: $232 million

The E-2D Advanced Hawkeye comes fully loaded with top of the line radar and communications equipment. It truly is an advanced aircraft that amounts to the ultimate in reconnaissance aircraft. This version has not yet been entered into service, but the advocates and designers of the Advanced Hawkeye have total confidence that this craft will render a superior stream of performance than did its predecessor the E-2C Hawkeye.

5. VH-71 Kestrel - Cost: $241 million

The VH-71 Kestrel was originally intended to be the replacement for the American President's chopper fleet. This was prior to the election of President Barack Obama, but by the time that he took office, he had ordered a stop of the production and instead channeled the funds designated to build the Kestrel into the maintenance of his old fleet of choppers. The new president believed that the astronomical cost of this new aircraft was something that he was willing to forego to help decrease the amount of spending that was commissioned by the White House.

4. P-8A Poseidon - Cost: $290 million

The P-8A Poseidon is a modified version of the Boeing 747 jet airliner, but with the difference that it has been fitted to accomplish the intentions of the United States Navy. The aircraft is a commercial air liner that has been turned into a military craft that is fully equipped with missiles, torpedoes and depth charges. The mission of this conversion is to "rain death from above" in encounters with enemy submarine vessels. The P-8A Poseidon gives the United States military the advantage when involved with conflicts on the seas.

3. C17A Globemaster III - Cost: $328 million

The C17A Globemaster III is a military transport plane, but it has been designed for extraordinary circumstances. It has the capability for delivering military equipment, soldiers and vehicles to any location in the world. The Globemaster III can carry up to 102 fully loaded combat personnel in times of conflict. In addition to this is can drop soldiers, Humvees, tanks and other vehicles to locations that lie deep inside of enemy lines. This capability gives the United States military a distinct advantage over adversaries in a conflict that involves boots on the ground operations.

2. F-22 Raptor - Cost: $350 million

In the opinion of many military leaders and servicemen, the F-22 Raptor is considered to be the best jet fighter in the world. The aircraft was designed and manufactured to be the response to the advanced MIG Fulcrum, and the SU Flanker of Russia. The plans for the F-22 Raptor were first conceived in the 1980s. The United States military was in a race to produce a combat aircraft that had the capacity for facing the best planes that Russia could manufacture. Now that the threat of Russia has been reduced, there has been a halting of the production of the Raptor. Less than two hundred Raptors have been delivered to the United States military.

1. B-2 Spirit - Cost: $737 million

The B-2 Spirit is a military aircraft that looks more like a spaceship that aliens would land in than it does a war plane, but it is the ultimate stealth bomber that is currently used by the military today. The Spirit is invisible to electromagnetic, infrared, visual and radar signals. This capability makes it easy for the B-2 Spirit to fly into the territory of the enemy without being detected for the crew to deliver the payload of damaging bombs. This craft was originally designed to transport nuclear explosives and it has the capacity to carry a wide range of bombs. The revolutionary new aircraft is a Strategic winner in every possible way. The total cost of the program that brought the airplane to life is estimated at $45 billion. The American government placed an order for 21 of these craft but then ended production because of the vast expense of building them. Even though the cost was so high, the program was deemed a success because of the advanced and complex avionic radar systems and the stealth technology complete with a flying wing shape that increased aerodynamic efficiency while offering a larger payload space. Besides, 21 craft were all that the country needed to begin with.

Garrett Parker

Written by Garrett Parker

Garrett by trade is a personal finance freelance writer and journalist. With over 10 years experience he's covered businesses, CEOs, and investments. However he does like to take on other topics involving some of his personal interests like automobiles, future technologies, and anything else that could change the world.

Read more posts by Garrett Parker

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