The 18 Most Expensive Planes in the US Air Force


The Department of Defense just released their new budget proposal for the 2024 fiscal year. Included in the staggering $842 billion budget is $13.6 billion for the problematic F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, as well as $5.3 billion for the Northrop Grumman-developed B-21 Raider, the single-wing stealth bomber that is meant as the replacement for the B-2 spirit. The military is expected to spend at least $20 billion developing the plane before the first will enter service, which could be as late as 2027. (Here is a look at the 35 billion dollar weapons in the 2024 U.S. military budget.) 

While the exact cost of a single B-21 Raider remains to be seen, it will certainly not be cheap. Previous estimates from the Air Force, when adjusted for inflation, put the average unit cost at about $753 million. Of course, when it comes to military aircraft, nine-figure price tags are nothing new. Still, if early estimates are accurate, the B-21 will soon join the ranks of the most expensive aircraft in the USAF arsenal. 

Using Department of Defense data, 24/7 Wall St. identified the most expensive aircraft in the U.S. Air Force. Based on inflation-adjusted estimated unit costs on weapons systems with available data, there are currently 18 aircraft in the USAF fleet that cost over $100 million a piece, not including drones and unmanned aerial vehicles.

The aircraft on this list serve a range of functions, from communications and transport to heavy bombers and fighter jets. The estimated unit cost of some of the aircraft on this list is well above $300 million – and in many cases, the USAF has dozens, if not hundreds of these high-value systems in its inventory. (Here is a look at every plane in the U.S. military.)

Unit costs are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to aircraft. Many cost tens of thousands of dollars an hour just to fly, not even accounting for the cost of the ordnance on board or the time and money required for maintenance. 

Click here to see most expensive planes in the US Air Force.

Click here to read our detailed methodology.

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