Fighter jets are the most advanced, most powerful, most technologically complex aircraft in armed forces and of course they are also expensive weapons, from new purchase to operating costs.
The price of a fighter jet is never fixed, depending on the requirements of the buyer, the selling price may include the purchase of weapons, the cost of training to operate, and maintenance. In the framework of this article, only the minimum selling price is mentioned, excluding the above costs.
The price of the most expensive fighter models is enough to make many people not dare to believe their ears, not to mention the actual performance compare to what was claimed during the advertisement.
10. Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet
First is the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, which costs up to $67.4 million. The F/A-18 Super Hornet appeared in the late 90s. The F/A-18 Hornet is an all-weather jet aircraft use by the US navy, marine cops, and 7 other foreign countries. In its fighter mode, the F/A-18 is ,used primarily as a fighter escort and for fleet air defense; in its attack mode, it is used for force projection, interdiction and close and deep air support.
Although the F/A-18 Super Hornet was initially developed as a carrier-based fighter aircraft, the aircraft received particular attention from countries that intended to use it for their air force. The latest upgrade of the F/A-18 is a Block III configuration, with major improvements to avionics and weapons. This makes the Super Hornet suitable for the latest 4.5 generation fighters but also pushes the price up.
The most expensive variant of this jet is the EA-18G Growler, a specialized electronic warfare aircraft that costs upwards of $100 million. Although it can be armed with both air-to-air and ground-to-ground weapons, it is too specialized to be considered the same as conventional fighters.
9. Lockheed Martin F-35A
The next is the Lockheed Martin F-35A for $78 million. Everything about the F-35 is complicated, this aircraft has gone down in history as the most expensive weapon ever. Lockheed Martin Corporation has been trying to keep the cost of an upcoming F-35A below $80 million, but that price tag is just the tip of the iceberg.
The operating costs of the F-35 jet are among the highest in the world, so the plane was expensive to buy but also very expensive to operate all three versions of the F-35 cost $38,000 per hour to fly. That’s significantly higher than others.
8. Saab JAS-39E/F Gripen
Next, is the Saab JAS-39E/F Gripen priced at $85 million. The Swedish JAS-39 Gripen, with its C and D variants, is renowned as one of the cheapest and new generation 4+ fighters available today. The cost of the C/D variant can also go down to $30 million.
Its latest variants E and F have changed that. While they are still much cheaper (estimated at $4,700 per flight hour) to operate than the 5th generation fighters, the cost of such a jet has more than doubled compared to the C/D variant.
The explanation for that lies in the difference of the new version with a lot of changes except for the airframe, all of which are upgraded. New radars, engines, avionics, improved weapons systems, and technological components have all been replaced.
7. Su-35 Flanker E
In the list of the most expensive fighters, the Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker E costs $85 million (Only Russian fighter aircraft in the list). Russian fighters have a reputation for being cheap, but the Su-35 is not. In fact, its export price is greater than that of Russia’s latest 5th generation fighter Su-57.
Perhaps this is also the reason, except China and Egypt no other country show interest in the Su-35, its cost is unofficial and cumulative. So, at least for now, the Su-35 remains Russia’s most expensive jet .
The price of the Su-35 fighter also seems a bit confusing, the Su-35 is an upgrade of the Su-27 from the Soviet era, the Su-35 belongs to the same family as the Su-30, Su-33, Su-34 and Su-30. Su-37. While the Su-33 and Su-37 are not for sale, the Su-34 and Su-30 as well as many of its variants are less than half the price of the Su-35.
Next is the McDonnell Douglas F-15EX Strike Eagle priced at $87.7 million. The F-15 itself isn’t supposed to be cheap, and its latest variant, the F-15EX, proves that the new version is also very expensive.
According to reporting by Air Force Magazine, which cited the per unit flyaway cost of F-15EX in the newly minted contract as $87.7 million, a figure including engines. The same article reported the unit flyaway cost for the latest Lot 14 batch of F-35As as $77.9 million, including its engine.
Even so, the operating cost of the F-15EX fighter is said to be “only” 29,000 USD / hour and the US government also hopes to bring the operating cost of the F-35A down to 36,000 USD by 2024. That, as well as the similarity with previous F-15 models make the F-15EX an attractive aircraft for many countries.
5. Chengdu J-20
Next is the Chinese pride Chengdu J-20, which costs $100-110 million. Little is known about the Chinese 5th generation jet and its price is also speculative. However, considering the fact that labor costs in the country are steadily increasing, as well as the country has to buy all export RD 93 and AL-31 jet engines from Russia.
However, the J-20 is not for sale as China never intended to export its flagship weapon. In the near future, they may offer another 5th generation fighter, Shenyang FC-31 for the international market although its price is unknown so far.
4. Dassault Rafale
Next fighter aircraft is the Dassault Rafale aircraft, which is worth about $115 million. There are various reports of Rafale prices ranging from $100 to $120 million each in the most basic configuration. Afterall according to many experts Rafale is the most poerfull 4.5th generation fighter aircraft.
The French Air Force has certainly ordered these fighters at a much lower price, while India’s deal for the Rafale is said to be full of improvements F3R variants also specially modified for the Indian air force but much more expensive. But the Rafale is one of the most advanced fighters and is manufactured in one of the most expensive regions in the world, so it won’t come cheap.
3. Eurofighter Typhoon
Next is the Eurofighter Typhoon with a price of about 124 million USD. Another European fighter, the Eurofighter Typhoon can be as cheap as $50 million for European Union buyers, but at a much higher export price.
In 2018, Airbus is said to have offered to sell Eurofighter planes to India for up to 138 million euros each, more expensive than what India paid for Rafale.
2. Lockheed Martin F-35B and F-35C
F-35B and F-35C priced at $135.8 and $117.3 million, respectively. While the price of an F-35A has plummeted in recent years, more sophisticated variants like the F-35B and F-35C have not followed the same trend.
To be fair, in terms of intent and intended use, the A, B and C variants of the F-35 are different aircraft. The most expensive F-35B is equipped for short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL), while the F-35C is the carrier variant and these variants have only about 30% of the same parts.
This means that optimizing for production or upgrading one version of it has almost nothing to do with the others. This makes the F-35B the most expensive fighter that can be bought in 2021.
1. Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor
Finally, at the top of the list is the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor at $152 million per unit. The price tag is insane…but so are the capabilities! The F-22 is expensive. There’s no doubt about that.
In fact, the U.S. Air Force stopped production early on the fifth generation fighter because of the soaring F-22 costs. The cost of one aircraft alone is an estimated $334 million which includes research and development (unit cost of $150 million). The Air Force originally wanted 700 F-22s to be produced but had to cancel production just shy of 200 because they were already over-budget. The flight cost per hour for an F-22 is roughly $70,000.
While the Raptor has received criticism for being too expensive and specialized to be of practical use to the US Air Force, it has proven to be the unmatched leader of the skies. The F-22 fleet required over 40 hours of maintenance per flight hour. It seems that as the fleet has aged, the maintenance requirements have increased considerably. The F-22 cost per lifecycle of one Raptor is an estimated $334 million.