Most Expensive Planes in the US Air Force

The Pentagon unveiled the all-new B-21 Raider in December 2022. The aircraft, developed over a seven-year period by defense contractor Northrop Grumman, is part of a broader effort to modernize the U.S. nuclear triad and is the first new bomber in the U.S. fleet in over 30 years. 

The B-21 Raider was developed ostensibly as a countermeasure to the rising military threat from China, and most details about it are classified. But recent public statements from lawmakers and Pentagon officials shed light on its capabilities. 

According to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, “even the most sophisticated air defense systems will struggle to detect a B-21 in the sky.” Additionally, Republican Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota and member of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees called the new stealth bomber “the most advanced weapon system ever developed by our country.” 

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. (Here is a look at the 31 billion-dollar weapons the U.S. military will invest in next year.

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

Click here to read our detailed methodology.

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