Top 10 Most Expensive Military Planes Manufactured In America

What is the most expensive military plane manufactured in America? It’s the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber costing at $737 million. Designed to carry nuclear arsenal deep in enemy territory, the plane is virtually undetected by radar, infrared and electromagnetic equipment. It’s more than twice as expensive as the  F-22 Raptor stealth fighter, which is price at $350 million. Here’s our updated list of the most expensive military planes manufactured in America for 2022.

  1. B-2 Spirit: $737 million
  2. F-22 Raptor: $350 million
  3. C17A Globemaster III: $328 million
  4. P-8A Poseidon: $290 million
  5. VH-71 Kestrel: $241 million
  6. E-2D Advanced Hawkeye: $232 million
  7. F-35 Lightning II: $122 million
  8. V-22 Osprey: $118 million
  9. EA-18G Growler: $102 million
  10. F/A-18 Hornet: $94 million

The United States is the premier military force in the world and it has a sanctioned a $686 billion military budget for FY2019 according to The nation will spend a good part of the money to increase its combat squadrons from 55 to 58 in the future, buy 10 new naval ships, and raise its manpower by 25,900. In addition, $66.8 billion will be spent on mission support activities, $55.2 billion on aircraft and related systems, $33.1 billion on shipbuilding and maritime systems, and $20.7 billion on missiles and munitions. To bolster the US Air Force, $30 billion has been allocated for 15 KC-46 tanker replacements.

China has emerged as a major rival to the US on economic and military fronts. In 2018, the nation plans to increase its defense spending by 8.1% and will spend $175 billion to modernize its armed forces reports A large part of the budget increase will be spent on improving training conditions of troops, enhancing the welfare of servicepersons, and upgrading equipment. The nation has vastly improved the capabilities of its armed forces with the intention of portraying itself as a growing world power.

There is no doubt that the United States’ greater military spending has enabled it to operate the best air force in the world. Let’s take a close look at the top 10 most expensive military planes manufactured in America that help the nation showcase its superior air power in all corners of the world.

10. F/A-18 Hornet: $94 million

The Hornet has the reputation of being America’s first strike fighter. It is a combination of a fighter and a bomber. Therefore, it can attack both aerial and ground targets and can also be used for air combat if the need arises. The Hornet helped the US win the first Desert Storm conflict in the early 1990s. Other nations that utilize the Hornets in their air force include Switzerland, Kuwait, Israel, France, and Canada.

The Hornet can top Mach 1.8 (1,190 mph) at 40,000 ft. It can carry a range of missiles and bombs, including air-to-ground and air-to-air as well as the 20-mm M61 Vulcan cannon. The fighter’s two GE F404 turbofan engines give it a high thrust-to-weight ratio and the plane has top rate aerodynamic characteristics. It is mainly used for aerial reconnaissance, close air support, suppressing enemy air defenses, fleet air defense, and fighter escort. On the flip side, the Hornet lags behind in payload and range compared to the earlier F-14 Tomcat, LTV A-7 Corsair II, and A-6 Intruder. This fighter provides the baseline design for the larger and improved F/A18E/F Super Hornet.

9. EA-18G Growler: $102 million

The EA-18G Growler is an improvement over the Super Hornet aircraft. It includes all the Super Hornet’s capabilities but is lightly armed and not equipped for aggressive air excursions. The Growler hosts radar jamming equipment that interferes with enemy radar devices and disrupts their communications. This capability is provided by Northrop Grumman. This aircraft was added to the US Navy in 2009. Australia inducted 12 Growlers into its air force in 2017.

8. V-22 Osprey: $118 million

The highlight of the Osprey is its tiltrotor technology that enables it to function as both a plane and a helicopter. This innovation enables the aircraft to take off and land like a helicopter while having the range and speed of an airplane. The advantages are the time needed to fly is minimized and you don’t need a landing strip. However, US Vice President Dick Cheney stopped production of the Osprey after an accident involving the aircraft killed 30 people. But, because of its versatility, the plane continues to be used today. It received rave reviews when it was pressed into medevac and transportation operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, and Libya.

The Osprey has both short takeoff and landing (STOL) and vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) capabilities. This aircraft’s production program began in 1981 and testing started in 1989. Many years of development were needed to get right the tiltrotor innovation. The US Marine Corps included the Osprey in 2007 and the US Air Force in 2009.

7. F-35 Lightning II – Cost: $122 million

The F-35 Lightning II program cost a total of $345 billion which makes it one of the most expensive production schemes in aeronautics history. This fighter jet boasts stealth features and is equipped with top rate weaponry and speed that make it a top gun in aerial dogfights. Another notable point is the aircraft is one of the first jet fighters to be capable of vertical takeoff maneuvers.

The F-35 Lightning II is a single-engine, single-seat, all-weather stealth fighter. It is capable of performing air superiority missions and ground attack. The F-35 is based on the X-35 which won the design award for the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program. The aircraft is manufactured by an aerospace team that includes Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, Pratt & Whitney, and Northrop Grumman. The US plans to buy 2,663 units of this plane to bolster its marine corps, navy, and air force. F-35 deliveries to the US military are scheduled till 2037 and service life is expected to last until 2070.

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

The Advanced Hawkeye is equipped with top class radar and communications equipment and is an improvement over its predecessor, the E-2C Hawkeye. This version of the reconnaissance plane is not yet operational. It is a carrier-capable, all-weather, tactical airborne early warning (AEW) airplane.

The E-2 has been been nicknamed “Super Fudd” as it took the place of the E-1 Tracer “Willy Fudd” and the  “Hummer” because of its unique turboprop engine sound which is different from that of turbofan and turbojet engines. Besides the US, E-2s are used by the militaries of Taiwan, Singapore, Mexico, Japan, Israel, France, and Egypt.

5. VH-71 Kestrel: $241 million

The Kestrel had been designed to replace the US president’s helicopter fleet. But President Barack Obama thought otherwise and stopped its production and ordered that the funds be used to maintain his old chopper fleet. He made this order as the Kestrel production cost had reached astronomical heights and gone beyond the White House’s budget.

The Kestrel was developed by a consortium that included Lockheed Martin Systems Integration – Owego (LMSI), Bell Helicopter, and AgustaWestland. However the production program was plagued by engineering issues, cost overruns, and delays which were attributed by Lockheed to new and unanticipated modifications demanded by the US government. In 2009, the US Navy canceled the contract after getting nine VH-71s. These choppers were sold to Canada for $164 million, which used it as a spare parts source for its squadron of AgustaWestland CH-149 Cormorant helicopters.

4. P-8A Poseidon – Cost: $290 million

The P-8A Poseidon used by the US Navy is an improved version of the Boeing 737-800ERX. The commercial plane was converted into a military craft equipped with depth charges, torpedoes, and anti-ship missiles. This gives the plane a distinct advantage in sea conflicts with enemy submarines as it can “rain death from above”.

The Poseidon is capable of performing electronic support measures such as early warning self-protection, shipping interdiction, anti-surface warfare, and anti-submarine warfare. In addition, the plane can drop and track sonobuoys. Besides the US Navy, the P-8 is used by the Indian Navy and the air forces of Australia, UK, and Norway.

3. C17A Globemaster III: $328 million

The Globemaster III is one of the best military transport planes in the world as it can deliver soldiers, military equipment, and vehicles across the globe. The aircraft is capable of carrying and dropping 102 fully equipped combat fighters inside enemy lines and can also drop vehicles such as Humvees and tanks. Thus, this plane gives the US military a big advantage in conflicts that involve ground operations.

The Globemaster III transport aircraft was developed by McDonnell Douglas in the 1980s and early 1990s. Boeing continued its production after its merger with McDonnell Douglas in 1997. Besides the US, this plane is also used by the armies of Kuwait, India, NATO, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Canada, Australia, and UK. The final C-17 was manufactured at the Long Beach, California plant in 2015.

2. F-22 Raptor: $350 million

Considered one of the world’s best fighter planes, the Raptor was built to combat Russia’s sophisticated SU Flanker and MIG Fulcrum aircraft. Its production was initiated in the 1980s to meet the Russian threat during the cold war. When the danger passed, production was halted and a total 187 Raptors have been provided to the US military.

The Raptor is a stealth, all-weather, twin-engine, single-seat, fifth-generation aircraft designed for the US Air Force. It boasts signal intelligence, electronic warfare, and ground attack capabilities, and is used mainly as an air superiority fighter. The plane’s weapons systems and airframe were built by Lockheed Martin, while Boeing supplied the training systems, avionics integration, aft fuselage, and wings.

The Raptor’s combination of situational awareness, aerodynamic performance, and stealth capabilities make it a top gun in aerial combat. However, issues such as development of the improved F-35, export ban, lack of missions due to delays in Chinese and Russian fighter programs, and prohibitive cost led to the stoppage of F-22 production.

1. B-2 Spirit: $737 million

The B-2 Spirit stealth plane heads our list of top 10 most expensive military planes manufactured in America. The fighter jet resembles an alien spaceship in design and it can evade radar, visual, electromagnetic, and infrared signals to enter deep into enemy region without getting detected and drop bombs accurately on given targets. It was originally built to carry nuclear bombs, but was later improved to carry other types of missiles too.

The B-2 Spirit production program cost a total of $45 billion and 21 units were delivered to the US military. The high cost is worth it as the plane’s large payload space, aerodynamic efficiency, stealth technology, and advanced avionic radar systems make it a unique and lethal fighter that has become a valuable asset to the US air force.

Each B-2 Spirit plane cost $2.1 billion to make in 1997 adding up the engineering, development, and testing costs. Out of the 21 units, one was destroyed in a crash in 2008 and the US Air Force plans to use the remaining 20 till 2032. The B-2 was first used during the Kosovo War in 1999 to drop conventional ordnance and later it was pressed into service in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya.

Jenny Chang

By Jenny Chang

Jenny Chang is a senior writer specializing in SaaS and B2B software solutions. Her decision to focus on these two industries was spurred by their explosive growth in the last decade, much of it she attributes to the emergence of disruptive technologies and the quick adoption by businesses that were quick to recognize their values to their organizations. She has covered all the major developments in SaaS and B2B software solutions, from the introduction of massive ERPs to small business platforms to help startups on their way to success.

Solo says:

the U.S. clearly has the most advanced high tech weaponry for offensive capabilities to takeover any nation we wish to yet we're sitting like ducks in a pond

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Alex Wang says:

Well, you have to think about ethics too. Would it be ethical to send in b-2 spirit bombers into North Korea and eliminating the Kim family and erasing famine and failure from the country? No, not only will the people still not listen to you and many other contributing factors, but it would not be ethical to do so. Ethics is just a part of being human.

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M Rown says:

Nice article. Couple of corrections -

F35 isn't the first VTOL fighter. That was the Harrier in the 1960s.

The P8A Poseidon is a modified 737, not a 747.

Reply to this comment »
topper says:

Perhaps one should say the first supersonic VTOL fighter.

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zenoelea says:

Makes you wonder why all these costs to build an army against what? Afghanistan? Iraq? North Korea? Clearly the US armed forces is designed as an offensive army, employing the latest technology to run down an imagined enemy.

Reply to this comment »
Dstrong says:

The world is becoming very wicked by the day because the heart of men are desperately wicked. This the reason you must be well military equipped to confront the evil of today's enemy.

Reply to this comment »
JENNY says:

I like your common sense

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Troydman says:

That raptor is a beast. Technically more advanced than the f18 by a generation in stealth, firepower, and speed. In fact, the raptor's other super advantage besides its stealth (it leaves a radar trace similar to a small bird)is its ability to cruise at supersonic speed for hours. The f18 can run supersonic but it has to switch the afterburner, which only gives it minutes of cruising. Oh, the price of the raptor is worth every inch of this beast.

Reply to this comment »
Stephan B. Feibish says:

(it leaves a radar trace similar to a small bird)

How many birds travel at that speed.

Reply to this comment »
In reply to Stephan B. Feibish's comment, Vinny Dontinelli says:

But, the point is -- Radar would not pick up a single bird (only a dense flock), so they would not know it was there no more than if single hawk was flying that high.

In reply to Stephan B. Feibish's comment, Vito says:

Certain species of canaries.

Void says:

well technically, the superhornet is considered a gen 4.5 fighter, and the whole carrier takeoff and landing gives it some advantages over the 22, not to mention the more appealing price tag, and no issues with exhaust being fed to the pilot's oxygen. The super hornet is a very good plane, too

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