Since its inception, the automobile industry has produced some outstanding engineering and design products. We’ve seen cars go over 300 mph and cost millions of dollars. When compared to military vehicles, however, these figures are insignificant. The military is responsible for most automotive, vessel, and aircraft technologies that we take for granted today. Both in terms of performance and engineering, these vehicles are always on the cutting edge. They must be because they have the potential to alter the outcome of a conflict. We decided to honor these engineering marvels by compiling a list of the most expensive and technologically advanced military vehicles ever constructed.
Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit – $2.4 Billion
The Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit is the most futuristic-looking vehicle on this list and the most advanced. This is the world’s first aircraft that can’t be detected by radar systems, making it virtually undetectable. The B-2 Spirit, for example, can transport 50,000 pounds (23,000 kg) of weapons, including 16 nuclear warheads. Another significant tactical advantage of the Stealth Bomber is its ability to fly for 6,000 nautical miles before requiring refueling. The plane’s price tag begins at $2.4 billion, which is staggering, to say the least.
Air Force One – $325 million
The Air Force One is perhaps the most well-known aircraft on this list, as the US President uses it. Unlike any other presidential aircraft, the Air Force One has advanced air defense capabilities. The plane’s interior is also luxurious, with living rooms, meeting rooms, and, of course, the presidential suite. It also has a dining room with a chef, sous-chef, and bartender to accommodate up to 100 people. One unit costs $325 million and costs $206,000 per hour to fly.
F-22 Raptor – $350 million
The F-22 Raptor is a futuristic-looking air superiority aircraft that can also be used for intelligence and ground attacks. The F-22 Raptor is a $350 million aircraft. Sure, it’s a hefty sum, but it still gets you one of the best air fighters on the market. The F-22 Raptor is powered by two F119-PW-100 turbofan engines that produce 35,000lb of thrust and give it Mach 2 capability. 187 Raptors are still in use today thanks to their exceptional abilities.
C-17 Globemaster III – $328 million
The C-17 Globemaster is a massive military transport plane that commands admiration wherever it goes. It costs $328 million to build and even more to operate. The C-17 Globemaster, on the other hand, has several advantages, including high reliability, maintainability, and reparability. As a result, despite being introduced in 1991, it is still used by many militaries worldwide. The four Pratt and Whitney F117-PW-100 turbofan engines produce 40,440lb of thrust, which is insane even today, and the 170,900lb payload capacity is still one of the best in the business.
P-8A Poseidon – $256.5 million
The P-8A Poseidon was originally intended solely as a surveillance plane. On the other hand, the US military had other ideas and wanted a plane that could carry heavy weapons like torpedoes, missiles, and mines. Of course, Boeing was more than happy to comply, at the cost of $256.5 million per unit and more than $33 billion for the entire project. The hydrocarbon sensor, which can detect fuel vapors from submarines and ships with diesel engines, is one of the most intriguing features.
VH-71 Kestrel – $241 million
Compared to the other vehicles on this list, the VH-71 Kestrel may appear to be a steal at $241 million. Nonetheless, flying this military helicopter costs $10,000 per hour, making it one of the most expensive in the long run. According to Lockheed Martin, the US government requested more features, which resulted in a significant price increase. After only nine helicopters were produced, both parties were forced to terminate the contract. Lockheed Martin eventually found a buyer in the Canadian military, which uses the helicopters as a spare parts source.
Northrop Grumman E-2D Advanced Hawkeye – $232 million
Northrop Grumman is one of the best military aircraft manufacturers globally, and the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye is proof of that. The car costs $232 million, which isn’t a lot compared to the other vehicles on this list. The E-2D Hawkeye has an unusual appearance, but it is an all-weather Airborne Early Warning vehicle. However, unlike similar aircraft, the Hawkeye is equipped with an advanced APY-9 radar system that can detect stealth fighters and bombers.
Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey – $118 million
There is no better aircraft for vertical take-off and landing than the V-22 Osprey. The two Rolls-Royce engines with three propellers produce 6,150 horsepower, which translates to a top speed of 316 miles per hour, which is excellent for a VTOL. Furthermore, the Boeing V-22 Osprey can reach a very high altitude for a vehicle of this type, 25,000 feet, and can carry 24 passengers and four crew members. The plane costs $118 million, which isn’t much considering how many people it has rescued during its missions.
F-35 Lightning II – $101 Million
The F-35 Lightning, which entered service in 2015, is one of the most advanced history planes. Depending on the equipment used, one unit can cost anywhere from $77 million to $101 million. NATO also contributed to the development of the all-weather combat aircraft, which Lockheed Martin Aeronautics manufactures. The F-35 Lightning is available in three different variants: A, B, and C. The F-35A is capable of conventional take-off and landing, the “B” of short take-off and landing, and the “C” of carrier take-off.
Chengdu J-20 – $110 million
China has its own stealth fighter, which is one of the most advanced planes in the world. The Mighty Dragon is equipped with long-range and air-to-air missiles, as well as laser-guided drop bombs and anti-radiation missiles, making it a bomber and capable of close-range combat. Furthermore, thanks to two WS-10G engines that produce 30,000lb of thrust, the jet can reach 1,305 mph. The aircraft was first used by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force in 2017.
Boeing E-4 Nightwatch – $223 million
The E-4 Nightwatch is a control post aircraft, which means it would be used by high-ranking officials, including the United States President, in an emergency. Boeing created the plane, which was first introduced in 1974. In 1998 money, the aircraft cost $223 million, or over $350 million after inflation. Despite its age, Boeing continues to upgrade the E-4 Nightwatch thanks to a $2 billion contract with the government. The E-4 Nightwatch has a large interior and can communicate at ultra-high frequencies.
CVN-78 Class Aircraft Carrier – $13 billion
The construction cost is $9.8 billion, with additional construction costs pushing the total cost to over $13 billion. The supercarrier is a true behemoth, capable of transporting 75 planes, more than some airports. Besides, the CVN-78 is equipped with Evolved Sea Sparrow missiles, has 4.5 acres of space, and weighs over 100,000 tons. The CVN-78 is the largest warship ever built based on these figures. The supercarrier was named USS Gerald R. Ford in honor of the 38th President of the United States and was built by Newport News Shipbuilding.
Virginia Class Submarine – $2.8 billion
The Virginia Class Submarine is currently one of the most advanced submarines in the world. Huntington Ingalls Industries, General Dynamics Electric Boat, and Newport News Shipbuilding contributed to creating this remarkable vehicle. It will set you back $2.8 billion. It also has photonic masts and high-energy laser weapons, which sound like something out of Star Trek. A cutting-edge sonar system is also on board to help spot the enemy.
CVN-77 Class Aircraft Carrier
The CVN-77 supercarrier is the US Navy’s final Nimitz-class ship, which the CVN-78 will inherit. The vehicle is named after the 41st President of the United States, George H.W. Bush, a WWII war veteran. The ship is a true behemoth, weighing 102,000 long tons and measuring 1,092 feet in length, with two A4W nuclear reactors and four steam turbines producing 260,000 horsepower. Furthermore, CVN-77 has an infinite range and can power itself for 20 to 25 years. Northrop Grumman built the supercarrier, which cost the military $6.2 billion.
Inkas Huron APC – $1 million
Do you ever feel insecure? That’s not something passengers (crew) on the Inkas Huron APC ever have to deal with. The body is bulletproof, but the tires and windows aren’t. Despite its indestructibility, the Huron APC is extremely light and agile. It has an 8.3-liter Paccar engine under the hood, and a 10-speed manual transmission is also available. Surprisingly, Inkas will gladly build one of these vehicles for you if you have nearly $1 million to spare.
IMI Combat Guard
If you like ATVs and UTVs, the IMI Combat Guard will be right up your alley. This $3 million off-road vehicle has the guts to justify the price. Off-road, the IMI can reach speeds of up to 70 mph (120 km/h), according to its Israeli manufacturer. The military ATV can also drive through 1.5-meter-deep water obstacles, travel on 35 percent side slopes, and climb a 70 % gradient. Furthermore, because the wheels are mounted outside the body, the IMI has 90-degree departure and approach angles, allowing it to climb (almost) anything.
McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet – $57 million
The McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet is a reconnaissance and air support aircraft with a top speed of 1190 mph (1900 km/h) and the ability to climb 50,000 feet in under a minute. Its most notable accomplishment was its participation in Operation Desert Storm, but it can also brag about defeating an alien spaceship in the film “Independence Day.” The F/A-18 Hornet is still used by many militaries worldwide, including Switzerland, Australia, and Canada. A single unit will set you back $57 million.
Boeing EA-18G Growler
With the EA-18G Growler, Boeing improved on everything good about the F/A-18 Hornet. Unlike its predecessor, the Growler is equipped with specialized electronic warfare systems such as radar disruptors and energy weapons and is designed for supercarrier operations. It has a top speed of 1190 mph (1900 km/h) and a range of 1,458 miles at 40,000 feet (12,190 meters) (2,346 km). Two General Electric F414-GE-400 turbofans power the plane. A single unit is expected to cost $68.2 million.
INS Vikramaditya – $2.35 billion
The INS Vikramaditya is one of the most expensive supercarriers ever built, costing $2.35 billion. When fully loaded, it measures 930 feet (283.5 meters) long and 200 feet (61 meters) wide and weighs 44,500 tons. Also, the ship has six turbo-alternators and six diesel alternators, totaling 18 MWe of power. The supercarrier’s propulsion system includes eight turbo-pressurized boilers, four shafts, and four-step turbines that produce around 180,000 horsepower.
HMS Prince of Wales – $3.1 Billion
The HMS Prince of Wales, the Royal Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, made its debut in September 2019 and began sea trials. The carrier, which cost around $3.1 billion and weighs 65,000 tons, is one of the two largest warships ever built by the Royal Navy, alongside its sister ship, the HMS Queen Elizabeth. Sea trials on the HMS Prince of Wales, which will be manned by over 600 military personnel, have gone well.
Varyag Aircraft Carrier – $2.4 billion
The Varyag Aircraft Carrier has a sad history, having changed owners twice and currently being out of commission. The supercarrier was designed and built in the Soviet Union, but Ukraine received its rights after disintegrating. Varyag was eventually purchased for $20 million by a Chinese travel agency, even though it cost $2.4 billion to build. The plan to turn it into a gambling haven, however, did not pan out.
USS America – $3.4 billion
The USS America is one of the latest additions to the arsenal as well. The behemoth can carry up to 34 planes and has a range of 22,000 nautical miles at 12.5 knots. The 86,000-square-foot flight deck was also built to withstand the heat generated by the advanced F-35B aircraft. Unlike other warships, the USS America reduces the well-deck capacity to allow for more aviation and combat equipment storage. Huntington Ingalls manufactures the warship, which costs $3.4 billion to build and $10.1 billion to buy.
Charles De Gaulle Aircraft Carrier – $4 billion
The Charles De Gaulle is France’s largest and only supercarrier and the world’s only nuclear-powered ship. It’s a massive and powerful supercarrier with two nuclear reactors producing 117,000 kW of power, a length of 859 feet (262 meters), and a width of 206 feet (63 meters). The supercarrier has four diesel generators, four gas turbine generators, and four turbo generators for propulsion. The construction of the Charles De Gaulle cost France $4 billion and sparked a lot of debate.
HMS Astute – $5.5 billion
The Nimitz-class submarine HMS Astute is one of the most advanced submarines in the world. It has a nuclear engine that allows it to reach a top speed of 30 knots (35 mph) and is equipped with cutting-edge weaponry such as Tomahawk land-attack missiles and Spearfish torpedoes. The HMS Astute, despite its advanced sensors and navigation systems, found itself in a humiliating situation. To get it back into the sea, the Royal Navy had to use an entire fleet of towboats.
DDG 1000 Zumwalt-Class Destroyer – $7 billion
The Zumwalt-Class Destroyer (DDG 1000) is one of the largest, most advanced, and capable anti-aircraft ships globally. For starters, it has a stealth mode that allows it to blend in with enemy lines. It also has two Rolls-Royce turbine engines, which allow it to reach a top speed of thirty knots. The “Destroyer” also has a sophisticated autonomous navigation system that effectively reduces the required crew to half. The destroyer was built at the cost of $7 billion by Bath Iron Works, but the purchase price is much higher.
HMS Queen Elizabeth – $9.3 billion
The Royal Navy is proud of the HMS Queen Elizabeth, arguably one of the world’s most advanced ships. The ship weighs 65,000 tons, has a length of 918 feet (280 meters) and a width of 229 feet (70 meters), and can travel 10,000 nautical miles without refueling. So it’s not the world’s largest supercarrier, which raises the question of where all the money went. The Royal Navy, on the other hand, wanted a ship that could be operated by only 679 people, which is a relatively low number for a supercarrier.
Trident II Missile
The Trident II Missile is one of the world’s most feared weapons. It has a top speed of 13,000 mph (21,000 km/h) for starters, making it one of the world’s fastest vehicles. It’s also launched exclusively from submarines, heightening the fear factor even more. Trident II also carries nuclear warheads capable of destroying entire cities. We’re relieved that no such missile has yet been launched, and we hope it never will. The project’s total cost is $53.2 billion, but we don’t know how much each unit costs.
Arleigh Burke DDG 51 Destroyer
Compared to large supercarriers, the Arleigh Burke DDG 51 appears insignificant, but that is by design. The “Destroyer,” rather than carrying fighter jets, is designed to protect larger supercarriers during combat. It’s quick and agile, and it’s equipped with some bizarre weapons. The DDG 51 Destroyer, in particular, is equipped with guided missiles, including anti-air and anti-surface missiles, torpedoes, 5-inch railguns, and even mine detectors. There are several of these ships for $1.8 billion. The cost is expected to be $101.8 billion.
The Humvee is arguably the most popular military off-road vehicle, but there are far better options today. In terms of performance, maneuverability, off-road traction, and protection, the Oshkosh M-ATV destroys the Humvee. Last but not least, the Oshkosh is made of Plasan-composite material, which makes it mine-resistant. The M-ATV is also equipped with a powerful 7.2-liter inline-6 Caterpillar turbo-diesel engine that produces 370 horsepower and 925 lb-ft of torque. As a result, this 16-ton behemoth can reach a top speed of 65 mph (105 km/h), which is quite impressive.
The L-ATV is a light tactical combat vehicle that is more agile and maneuverable than the M-ATV. The armored vehicle is powered by a 6.6-liter Duramax diesel engine, similar to the one found in a General Motors pickup truck. The vehicle can reach a top speed of 70 miles per hour, which isn’t bad for a military vehicle. It’s also mine-resistant, just like its bigger brother. The Oshkosh L-ATV now costs around $450,000 to build, less than most vehicles on this list.
Paramount Marauder – $480,000
The Paramount Marauder is a South African-made armored personnel carrier. In the Middle East, specifically Jordan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Singapore, it is one of the most powerful vehicles of its kind. The Marauder is powered by a Cummins ISBe4-300 diesel engine that produces 300 horsepower and 810 pound-feet (1100 Nm) of torque, allowing it to cruise at 60-75 mph (100-120 km/h). The vehicle’s maximum range is 430 miles (700 km). Customers can choose between two Marauder models: 4×4 or 6×6.
Knight XV – $800,000
We all know the Knight XV isn’t a military vehicle. However, we decided to include it here because it possesses all of the characteristics of one. It’s heavily armored, with transparent and opaque armor and even a built-in firewall, for starters. The back seats have all of the amenities found in a Rolls-Royce, and the interior is wrapped in high-quality leather. So, the Knight XV is more of a luxury armored car than anything else, but it’s a fantastic one. If you have $800,000 burning a hole in your pocket, Knight XV will gladly sell you one.
Force Protection Ocelot – $1.5 million
The Force Protection Ocelot is a light patrol vehicle powered by a 160-kW Steyr M16-Monoblock diesel engine and a 6-speed automatic transmission. As a result, the vehicle can reach a top speed of 82 miles per hour (132 kilometers per hour). It measures 5.32 meters in length and weighs 7.4 long tons. The Ocelot is heavily armored and can withstand explosions, particularly those caused by improvised explosive devices. It was originally designed to replace the Snatch Land Rover in the British military, but the Australian military later adopted it.
The Russian ‘Batmobile’ – ~$800,000
The “Punisher” looks the toughest on the market. For obvious reasons, Putin’s vehicle is known as the Russian Batmobile. The Punisher has seating for up to ten people inside, and the Class 6-a shell protects them from mine and missile blasts. Furthermore, the truck is equipped with a 730 horsepower diesel engine, making it one of the most powerful on the market. It has a top speed of 93 mph (150 km/h). We don’t know how much it costs, but it’s probably between $800,000 and $1 million.
McDonell Douglas F-15 Eagle – $27.9 million
The F-15 Eagle was introduced in 1972 and was arguably the world’s most advanced fighter jet at the time. The F-15 Eagle is still one of the world’s fastest jets, capable of reaching Mach 2.7 (3300 km/h or 2070 mph). Even today, it is extremely agile and maneuverable. The F-15 Eagle became almost mythical in the military world due to its unique qualities. According to available data, it never lost aerial combat despite being involved in over a hundred fights. Few aircraft can match the F-15 Eagle’s air superiority today, nearly fifty years after its inception.
U-2 Dragon Lady – $9.1 million
Lockheed Martin’s U-2 Dragon Lady is a strange-looking spy plane designed to fly at very high altitudes. It could fly up to 70,000 feet (21,300 meters) and avoid enemy radar. The plane was first put into service in 1955 and cost $950,000 at the time. That’s $9.1 million in today’s money. Lockheed Martin produced only 104 aircraft, and they were decommissioned in 1989, making it a fairly long run.
Lockheed C-5 Galaxy
A C-5 Galaxy is an incredible plane that provides the United States Air Force with a heavy intercontinental airlift that can easily transport oversized loads. It is one of the world’s largest military aircraft, and its construction is extremely costly. The C-5’s cheapest model costs around $100.37 million and can cost up to $224.29 million. It was first introduced in 1970 and is still operational today.
The Antonov Design Bureau built the 226-foot aircraft in the 1980s, and it has since become synonymous with both military and commercial aviation. There were over 50 of them made and used all over the world. It was a strategic airlift quad-jet that was the world’s second-heaviest cargo plane and had been the world’s heaviest cargo plane for thirty years. It was eventually surpassed by the Antonov AN-225, which you’ll learn about in a moment.
The HK 1, or “Spruce Goose” as it was known because it was almost entirely made of birch, was designed as a transatlantic transport plane during WWII. The only issue was that it was not completed in time to be put into operation. It was only flown once by the US military in 1947, and only one prototype was ever built. The Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum now has it on display.
Blohm & Voss BV 238
During World War II, the Blohm and Voss BV 238 was a German flying boat. When it first flew in 1944, it was the heaviest aircraft ever built. The BV 238 had an empty weight of 120,769 pounds, but only one was ever built due to the resources required to construct it. It was also the largest aircraft produced by any Axis power during the war.
Antonov AN-225 Mriya
The longest and heaviest plane ever built six turbofan engines power this strategic airlift cargo aircraft. It was originally developed to transport the Buran spaceplane for the USSR in the 80s. It has the longest wingspan of any aircraft built at the time and any current operational aircraft globally and can take off with a maximum weight of 640 tons.
This aircraft was built during the tensest times of the Cold War and is still operational today. In fact, there are over a thousand of them in use around the world. The Ilyushin II-76 was a multi-purpose, four-engine turbofan airlifted developed for the USSR that was intended to be a commercial freighter but was instead adopted by the Russian military. It is capable of transporting some of the world’s most powerful machinery and military vehicles.
Convair B-36 Peacemaker
From 1949 to 1959, the United States Air Force flew the Convair B-36 Peacemaker. It was only in production for a short time, but it is still the largest mass-produced piston-engined aircraft ever built. With a wingspan of 230 feet, it was the largest combat aircraft ever built. The B-36 was unique in that it could deliver any nuclear weapon in the US arsenal at the time without needing to be modified. Near the end of the 1950s, it was replaced by the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress.
Boeing C-17 Globemaster III
The C-17 Globemaster III is one of the most powerful military planes ever built. The Globemaster III was first delivered in 1991 and continued to be produced until 2015 when it was phased out. McDonnell Douglas designed the aircraft, which cost around $218 million per unit. It was used for strategic and tactical airlift missions, which frequently included heavy machinery or people airdrops and immediate medical evacuations.
Let’s start with the Zeppelin-Staaken R.VI, one of the largest wooden planes built in the early 1900s during World War I. It was a four-engined strategic bomber built in Germany with one of the first closed-cockpit cockpits ever seen in a military aircraft. Only six of the 18 made it through the war, as four were shot down, six were destroyed in crashes, and two were grounded due to technical issues.
The Kawanishi H8K was a Japanese Imperial Navy flying boat that was primarily used for maritime patrol. It was a plane designed for long flights over long distances, and it was usually flying solo over the ocean with no backup. During the war, the H8K was dubbed “Emily” by the Americans. On the radio, anyone who said “Emily” was always referring to this patrolling plane. It didn’t see combat until 1942, so it wasn’t fully functional until WWII.
It’s worth noting that one of the world’s largest planes is also one of the oldest. On its double cargo decks, the Convair XC-99 had a design capacity of 100,000 lbs for 400 fully equipped soldiers. The XC-99 flew for the first time in 1947 and was retired in 1957. The largest piston-engined, land-based transport plane was ever built and used by the United States Air Force as a heavy cargo plane.
Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules
Any aircraft with the word “Hercules” in its name, let alone “Super Hercules,” is going to be a formidable opponent. The C-130J first flew for the United States Air Force in 1996, and it has since been delivered to 15 other countries that have placed orders. It’s a four-engine turboprop transport plane with the longest continuous production run of any military aircraft in history. The Hercules family has been around for nearly six decades, while this specific model is about two decades old.
Martin JRM Mars
The Martin JRM Mars is a four-engine seaplane that became famous during World War II as the largest seaplane used by American and other Allied forces. Despite how impressive and effective they were, only seven of them were built. After the war, four of the remaining flying boats were converted to civilian use. They were converted into fire-fighting water bombers, which increased their utility.
Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker
Refueling strategic bombers isn’t easy, but that’s exactly what the KC-135 Stratotanker is for. The Americans heavily used it during the Vietnam War, and it would prove to be a huge strategic advantage in Operation Desert Storm. It’s worth noting that the KC-135 and the Boeing 707 are both derivatives of the same plane (the Boeing 367-80). The 136-foot aircraft was groundbreaking because it was the US Air Force’s first jet-powered refueling tanker.