In today’s current climate of cost-cutting and economic belt-tightening in the aviation world, it’s surprising to look into the tremendous investments being made in new and experimental aircraft. Luxury aircraft aside, the most expensive aircraft ever produced are military grade due to the technological advancements in safety, practicality, and function. These modern marvels of engineering and design are a far cry from the creations found only a century ago and as such, come with a price tag that would make early aviators gasp. These are among the five most expensive military aircraft ever produced:
Boeing P-8A Poseidon
Likely the most technological and costly aircraft developed for the United States Navy, the P-8 Poseidon is designed for anti-submarine operations as well anti-surface combat and maritime patrol. It’s also among the most sought-after aircraft, with orders coming from India, Australia, and the United States through August 2015.
Total program cost as of 2013: $33.64 billion
Boeing C-17 Globemaster III
One of the most commonly used military transport aircraft ever produced, the C-17 has performed countless airlift, transport, and cargo operations since its introduction to service in 1995. For an aircraft of its size and capability, the C-17 only requires three crew members for complete operation.
Unit cost: $218 million as of 2007
Arguably the most advanced and versatile aircraft ever created, the F-22 Raptor was designed in response to Soviet fighter aircraft in the early 1980s, but has fallen into disuse due to lack of relevant combat adversaries in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. A total of 195 production aircraft were produced by the end of the project’s manufacturing life in 2011.
Total program cost through 2011: $66.7 billion
Northrop B-2 Spirit
Also known as the “Stealth Bomber,” the B-2 Spirit was so expensive that the United States Congress cut the aircraft’s initial order of 132 units to just 21 in 1987. Nearly impossible to detect via a multitude of anti-air systems, the B-2 continues to dominate the air without fear of retaliation.
Total program cost through 2004: $44.75 billion.
Lockheed Martin F-35
The most controversial aircraft project on this list, the Lockheed Martin F-35 is a single-seat multi-role fighter aircraft that remains in development as of the date of publication. The initial development contract was signed in 1996 and since then, the project has been mired by delays and production overruns. While final testing for the aircraft is currently underway, only one branch of the United States military is actively utilizing a variant of the F-35.
Total project cost as of 2015: $1.2 trillion