10 Most Expensive Fighter Jets In Use Today

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The art of warfare has evolved. For context, in the Middle Ages, countries fought wars using ranged and hand-held weapons like bow, sling, Javelin, war hammer, battleaxe, and the likes, in a guerrilla-style fighting. As a warrior, you have to be physically strong and highly skilled with weapons to ensure you make it back home alive.

Now, the game has changed. While you still have to be fit physically, fitness and human strength doesn’t necessary guarantee survival at war anymore. And from ranged and hand-held weapons, the world militaries have now become extremely sophisticated and deadly through the use of advanced modern weapons that include tanks, submarines, military aircraft, rockets, nuclear weapons, and the likes.

Backed by huge defense budgets, the world’s militaries now possess extremely deadly capabilities through fear-inducing military apparatus. Take aerial warfare for example, since air supremacy has become almost a necessity in order to win wars, air power has thus increasingly become an extremely important element of military campaigns. While there are several components of aerial warfare, possessing and deploying the best and the most superior fighter jets during battles often ensure victory. Hence, buoyed by incredibly huge military budgets, these are the most expensive fighter jet currently in service.

10. Sukhoi Su-57: $40 Million

The Sukhoi Su-57 might not be highly revered among the world’s stealth fighter jets, but being one of the most affordable jets currently in service is an added advantage. Developed by Sukhoi and adopted primarily by the Russian Aerospace Forces, the Sukhoi Su-57 is a twin-engine stealth multirole fighter jet, and it’s also the Russian military’s first aircraft fitted with stealth technology. According to reports, Russia has embarked on an intense marketing campaign for the Sukhoi Su-57 through public messages, compelling promotional clips, and high-level diplomatic meetings. With these, the Chinese expects the Su-57 to receive considerable patronage from other nations due to its combat prowess and relative affordability. Currently, the Russian fighter jet’s value is about $40 million per unit.

9. Sukhoi Su-35: $85 Million

The Sukhoi Su-35 is a single-seat, twin-engine, supermaneuverable fighter jet. Developed by Sukhoi for the Russians, the Su-35 is so incredibly potent that China had to order it. Basically an upgraded Sukhoi Su-27, the Sukhoi Su-35 has multirole capabilities, and it has received several upgrades and modernization efforts to emerge as a truly powerful air superiority fighter jet. According to reports from various media outlets, other interested nations that might acquire the Sukhoi Su-35 in the near future include Algeria, India, Iran, and Turkey. Notably, the estimate of a unit of the Sukhoi Su-35 is about $85 million.

8. McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Super Hornet: $100 Million

True to its name, the F/A-18 Hornet has stung several enemy nations. Deployed to Libya in 1986 for its first taste of action, the Hornet also saw action both in the Gulf War and the Iraq war. The F/A-18 Hornet is a relatively affordable and highly capable tactical aircraft, that can operate both as a fighter and attack aircraft. Built primarily for the U.S. Navy, air forces of other nations including the Finnish and the Spanish Air Forces have also adopted the Hornet. Since its introduction, the Hornet has seen vast improvement, and its most recent upgrade is the Block III configuration. The Hornet’s expensive variant costs as much as $100 million.

7. Chengdu J-20 Mighty Dragon: $110 Million

A primary contender to the F-22 Raptor, the Chengdu J-20 affirms China’s incredible aerial supremacy battle readiness. It also shows the county’s military evolution and a mark of the beginning of the end to it reliance on Russians for aircraft technology. Developed for the People’s Liberation Army Air Force by China’s Chengdu Aerospace Corporation, the Chengdu J-20 is a twinjet stealth fighter with impressive air superiority and precision strike capability. Also, the Chengdu J-20 is China’s fastest most advanced stealth fighter jet and the whole program costs the country about $4.4 billion. Deducing from the total cost of the program and production number, the value of one unit of the Chengdu J-20 is approximately $110 million.

6. McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle: $110 Million

With its array of avionics and electronics systems, the McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle is able to function as a dual-role fighter capable of air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. An all-weather multirole strike fighter, the Strike Eagle had its first flight in 1986, and it has been in service since 1988. Having been around for that long, the Strike Eagle has featured in numerous military operations in Afghanistan, Libya, Iran, and the likes. Notably, the Strike Eagle has several variants and has received many upgrades. Besides the Americans, some of its primary operators include the Royal Saudi Air Force, Israeli Air Force, and Republic of Korea Air Force and according to estimates from the defense department, a unit of the F-15EX (a variant of the F-15E) costs about $110 million, which could rise to about $136.7 million when ordered with the necessary combat gears.

5. Dassault Rafale: $115 Million

The French have several fighter jets that epitomize the country’s lethal aerial dominance capabilities to any emerging threat, and the Dassault Rafale represent one of the most expensive of them all. The Rafale is so versatile that Dassault refers to it as an ‘omnirole’ aircraft, since it can perform all combat aviation missions. Currently, the Dassault Rafale cost about $115 million per unit, and this obviously excludes its maintenance cost. The fighter jet has seen combat action in Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan, and it has also been adopted by several Air Forces of different nations that include Greece, Croatia, Indonesia, and Qatar.

4. Eurofighter Typhoon: $124 Million

A multinational, multirole, air superiority fighter, the Eurofighter Typhoon is a twin-engine, canard delta wing, multirole fighter jet developed through a genuine European collaboration. The Eurofighter Typhoon is easily the world’s most advanced swing-role combat aircraft with wide-ranging capabilities, and it’s currently adopted by nine air forces all around the world. Built through the partnership of four European nations of UK, Germany, Spain, and Italy, the Eurofighter Typhoon’s production is however being undertaken by a conglomerate of Airbus, BAE Systems, and Leonardo. While it’s highly discounted for European countries, the Eurofighter Typhoon cost about $124 million each for countries outside the European Union.

3. Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II: $135 Million

In terms of its scope of duty, the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is colossal. Primarily an all-weather stealth multirole combat aircraft, the F-35 Lightning II however is also able to undertake reconnaissance, intelligence, surveillance, and electronic warfare, while also being able to perform air superiority and strike missions. For a fighter jet capable of all these, the F-35 Lightning II surely has to be expensive. From a budget document made available by the U.S. government, the F-35 Lightning has a unit cost of about $135.8 million for the most expensive variant, the F-35B. Also, the aircraft has an expected life cycle of 66 years with an estimated running cost of about $1.3 trillion.

2. Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor: $360 Million

Lockheed Martin, alongside Boeing, built the F-22 Raptor for the United States of America. It took the team a total of six years to develop the F-22 Raptor before the all-weather stealth tactical fighter aircraft took its first flight in Georgia in 1977. The F-22 Raptor entered into service in 1995, and it has remained in service ever since, while the last unit got delivered in 2012. Although the F-22 Raptor remains a critical component of America’s aerial warfare, its relatively high production cost and the lack of air-to-air missions at the time of its production led to a drastic reduction of its production volume. At the end of production, Lockheed Martin had spent about $67.3 billion on the program, running to a unit cost of about $360 for each F-22 Raptor.

1. Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit: $2.1 Billion

The Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit is a stealth bomber. America’s premier long-range strike bomber, the legendary B-2 Spirit has been in the skies for more than 30 years, and it’s been a constant feature in America’s air superiority campaigns. Arguably the most survivable aircraft in the world, the B-2 Spirit holds the record as the aircraft to have undergone the longest air combat mission in history, doing a 70 consecutive hours’ operation in Afghanistan (and back to Missouri) in 2001. The B-2 Spirit’s wingspan is half the length of a football pitch. Notably, the average cost of the stealth bomber rose sharply during production to more than $2.1 billion, prompting the American government to reduce its planned purchase from 132 to a mere 21 units.

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