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The Most Expensive Fighter Jets & What Makes Them Special

357 views | By Hangar.Flights Contributor | Last updated on June 21, 2022

Fighter jets are complex military weapons of mass destruction, and they are the pride of any nation’s military arsenal. They are among the most expensive tools of war due to their cutting-edge technology, including the most advanced avionics and jet propulsion systems in the aviation industry. Additionally, manufacturers spend a fortune developing state-of-the-art weapons delivery platforms, life support systems, and high-performance metal alloys – costs that they must recover during sales, hence the exorbitant prices of fighter jets.

Published prices of fighter jets are subject to intense debate and speculation because buyers often negotiate their fighter jet purchase based on specific conditions, which may increase or reduce their final unit cost. The negotiations may include long-term maintenance costs in the final price or the option to produce the fighter jets under license in their home country.

Top 10 Most Expensive Fighter Jets in 2022

Our list of the most expensive fighter jets in 2022 will include only fighter jets in production. This effectively eliminates the $150 million Lockheed Martin F22 Raptor in active service but no longer in production and the retired $107.7 million Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter. The prices on our list reflect the 2022 unit cost per fighter jet variant minus the R&D costs, and the fighter jets featured have multirole fighter/bomber/interdiction capabilities.

10 Most Expensive Fighter Jets in 2022

10. Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon Block 70/72

#10. Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon Block 70/72 - Top 10 Most Expensive Fighter Jets in 2022

  • Cost: $64-$80 million
  • National Origin – United States
  • Manufacturer –
  • Introduction – 2019
  • Configuration – Single engine, single-seater
  • Role – Multirole fighter, Air superiority fighter
  • Speed – Mach 2 (2,468.7 kph/1,534 mph)
  • Stealth – No
  • No Built – 200 proposed
  • Operators – Turkish Air Force, Royal Jordanian Air Force, Royal Moroccan Air Force, Bulgarian Air Force, Slovak Air Force, Royal Bahraini Air Force.

Billed as the world’s most advanced 4th generation fighter jet, the single-engine F-16 Block 70/72  is the newest and most expensive production F-16. It is based on the F-16V variant and features a new airframe with 50% more lifecycle than preceding F-16 aircraft. The F-16 Block 70/72 offers more excellent value with capability upgrades allowing international operators to fly their aircraft beyond 2060.

The F-16 Block 70/72 offers enhanced mission avionics architecture previously unseen on earlier F-16 variants to create a more powerful war machine with few rivals on the international scene. Features unique to the F-16 Block 70/72 include Advanced APG-83 AESA radar, high-performance GE F110-GE-129 afterburning turbofan jet engine, improved cockpit displays, and a digital flight control system with enhanced Autopilot/Auto Throttle to reduce pilot information overload and precision GPS navigation. The Upgraded Modular Computer and avionics architecture integrates the airplane’s weapons delivery computer systems with the avionics systems for optimum pilot and aircraft response.

Lockheed Martin’s order books are bulging with billions of dollars in F-16 Block 70/72 orders, and the newest variant of the Fighting Falcon is set to become one of the most expensive fighter jets.

Read more about the F-16

9. Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet

#9. Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet - Top 10 Most Expensive Fighter Jets in 2022

  • Cost: $66.9 million
  • National Origin – United States
  • Manufacturer –
  • Introduction – 1999
  • Configuration – Twin-engine, single or two-seater
  • Role – Carrier-based multirole fighter
  • Speed – Mach 1.6 (1,975.67 kph/1,227.63 mph)
  • Stealth – No
  • No Built – 608
  • Operators – United States Navy, Kuwait Air Force, Royal Australian Air Force.

Introduced in 1999, the F/A-18E and F/A-18F Super Hornet are twin-engine carrier-based multirole fighter jets based on the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet and operated primarily by the United States Navy. They were developed to replace the aging F/A-18C and F/A-18D Hornet. Both iterations of the Super Hornet feature sophisticated electronics and advanced avionics worthy of a 4th generation fighter jet with a price tag to match. With a unit costing over $65 million (specialized one-off F-18s can cost up to $100 million), the F/A-18E and F/A 18F have proved to be among the most expensive fighter jets in our opinion.

Read more about the F/A-18

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8. Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II

#8. Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II - Top 10 Most Expensive Fighter Jets in 2022

  • Cost: $77.9 million
  • Manufacturer -Lockheed Martin
  • National Origin – United States
  • Introduction – 2006
  • Configuration – Single engine, single-seater
  • Role – Multirole fighter
  • Speed – Mach 1.6 (1,975.67 kph/1,227.63 mph)
  • Stealth – Yes
  • No Built – 790+
  • Operators – United States Air  Force, United States Marine Corps, United States Navy, Royal Air Force, Royal Navy, Royal Australian Air Force, Royal Danish Air Force, Israeli Air Force

Designed to be an advanced all-weather stealth fighter, the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is a family of American multi-role fighter jets with air superiority and strike mission capabilities. The F-35A variant is the conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) developed for ground base operations for the United States Air Force and other operators. Although it is lighter, smaller, and cheaper than other F-35 variants, The F-35A has astronomical operating costs making it one of the most expensive fighter jets.

Learn more about the F-35

7. McDonnell Douglas F-15EX Strike Eagle

#7. McDonnell Douglas F-15EX Strike Eagle - Top 10 Most Expensive Fighter Jets in 2022

  • Cost: $82.4 million
  • National Origin – United States
  • Manufacturer – McDonnell Douglas, Boeing Defense, Space & Security
  • Introduction – 2021
  • Configuration – Twin-engine, two-seater
  • Role – Multirole fighter, Air superiority fighter
  • Speed – Mach 2.15 (2,655.4 kph/1,650 mph)
  • Stealth – No
  • No Built – 20 on order
  • Operators – United States Air Force

The F-15EX is a twin-seat variant of the Boeing McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle. It was conceived in 2018 to perform homeland and air base defense missions, including anti-aircraft warfare and enforcing no-fly zones. Improvements to the F-15EX include upgrading the airframe structure to deliver 20,000 hours of service life, improved avionics system, AESA radar, infrared search, and track, and fitting a larger weapons rack capable of carrying up to 22 air-to-air missiles. Flyaway costs per unit for the McDonnell Douglas F-15EX Strike Eagle are $82.4 million, reducing earlier published costs. Nonetheless, the aircraft is still among the most expensive fighter jets of 2022.

Learn more about the F-15EX Strike Eagle

6. Saab JAS 39E/F Gripen

#6. Saab JAS 39E/F Gripen - Top 10 Most Expensive Fighter Jets in 2022

  • Cost: $85 million
  • National Origin – Sweden
  • Manufacturer – SAAB AB
  • Introduction – 2019
  • Configuration – Single engine, single or two-seater
  • Role – Multirole fighter
  • Speed – Mach 2 (2,468.7 kph/1,534 mph)
  • Stealth – No
  • No Built – 271+
  • Operators – Swedish Air Force, Brazilian Air Force, South African Air Force, Czech Air Force.

With a name like the Gripen, you might be forgiven for thinking the Swedish-made single-engine fighter jet is a mythical creature from a Harry Potter book. However, the fairy tales end there. The SAAB JAS 39E and 39F Gripen multirole fighter aircraft variants possess outstanding maneuverability, speed, and firepower to destroy 4th or 4.5-generation fighter jets either airborne or on the ground. And a delta wing and canard configuration provide high-speed stability,

It is equipped with advanced computing systems capable of out-thinking most fighter jets, and the SAAB JAS 39F Gripen two-seat version offers incredible electronic warfare and radar jamming capabilities. The SAAB Gripen provides fantastic value for international operators, and a unit cost of $85 million makes it one of the most expensive fighter jets.

Learn more about the Saab JAS 39E/F Gripen

5. Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker E

#5. Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker E - Top 10 Most Expensive Fighter Jets in 2022

  • Cost: $85 million
  • National Origin – Russia
  • Manufacturer –  Sukhoi Design Bureau
  • Introduction – 2014
  • Configuration – Twin-engine, single-seat
  • Role – Multirole fighter, Air superiority fighter
  • Speed – Mach 2 (2,778.29 kph/1,726.35 mph)
  • Stealth – No
  • Operators – Russian Air Force, People’s Liberation Army Air Force, Egyptian Air Force

The Russian-made Su-35 Flanker E fighter jet combines a lightweight supermaneuverable airframe with twin Saturn AL-41F1S thrust-vectoring turbofan engines to achieve a Mach 2 high-altitude speed. Developed from the Su-27 Fulcrum fighter jet, the Su-35 Flanker aircraft features a more modern cockpit and avionics, including an advanced N035 Irbis-E (Snow Leopard) passive electronically scanned array (PESA) radar. Additional upgrades include an L175M Khibiny-M electronic countermeasure system and “supercruise” feature providing the Su-35 with superior dogfighting capabilities. While a fully equipped Su-35 Flanker E seems a bargain at $85 million compared to its Western competitors, it is still one of the most expensive fighter jets in production.

Learn more about the Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker E

4. Chengdu J-20

#4. Chengdu J-20 - Top 10 Most Expensive Fighter Jets in 2022

  • Cost: $100-$120 million
  • National Origin – China
  • Manufacturer – Chengdu Aerospace Corporation
  • Introduction – 2017
  • Configuration – Twin-engine, single-seater
  • Role – Stealth air superiority fighter
  • Speed – Mach 2 (2,468.7 kph/1,534 mph)
  • Stealth – Yes
  • No Built – 50+
  • Operators – People’s Liberation Army Air Force

Although it is saddled with the rather ambitious moniker of “Grand Dragon,” the Chengdu J-20 fighter jet shares very little in common with the heavy, lumbering fire-breathing winged monsters of the medieval age. However, the twin-engine 5th generation stealth fighter is a monster in its own right. It was developed from the 1990s J-XX program and was conceived to take on the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II. Although the J-20 is banned for exports, the People Liberation Army Air Force is its sole operator. Unit costs per aircraft are between $100 and $130 million, making the Chengdu J-20 one of the most expensive fighter jets in 2022.

Learn more about the Chengdu J-20

3. Dassault Rafale

#3. Dassault Rafale - Top 10 Most Expensive Fighter Jets in 2022

  • Cost: From $110 million 
  • National Origin – France
  • Manufacturer – Dassault Aviation
  • Introduction – 2001
  • Configuration – Twin-engine, single  or two-seater
  • Role – Multirole fighter
  • Speed – Mach 1.8 (1,188 mph/1,912 kph)
  • Stealth – No
  • No Built – 100+
  • Operators – French Air and Space Force, French Navy, Indian Air Force, Qatar Emiri Air Force

The Dassault Rafale is proof that the French are good at making more than just cheese. The French twin-engine air supremacy fighter jet with a canard wing setup is one of the world’s most expensive fighter jets. It has multi-mission capabilities, including fast interdiction and ground support, aerial reconnaissance, in-depth strike, nuclear deterrence, and anti-ship strikes. Experts initially considered the aircraft an expensive mistake. Currently, the Dassault Rafale is probably the most exported non-American-made fighter jet in production. With controversy surrounding several Dassault Rafale export deals, the estimated flyaway cost of a  base Rafale is around $100 million without additional enhancements. The average unit price of export Dassault Rafales is around $115 million and can reach up to $150 million when you include pricey equipment options and maintenance agreements.

Learn more about the Dassault Rafale

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2. Eurofighter Typhoon

#2. Eurofighter Typhoon - Top 10 Most Expensive Fighter Jets in 2022

  • Cost: From $115 million 
  • National Origin – Multinational
  • Manufacturer – Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH
  • Introduction – 2003
  • Configuration – Single engine, single or two-seater
  • Role – Multirole fighter, Air superiority fighter
  • Speed – Mach 2 (2,468.7 kph/1,534 mph)
  • Stealth – No
  • No Built – 571
  • Operators – Royal Air Force, German Air Force, Italian Air Force, Spanish Air Force, Kuwaiti Air Force, Royal Air Force of Oman, Qatar Air Force, Royal Saudi Air Force.

Developed by a multinational consortium through the Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH joint holding company, the Eurofighter Typhoon represents the pinnacle of European military technology and Europe’s best effort to produce a world-class fighter jet since World War II. The Eurofighter Typhoon uses a twin-engine multirole fighter with a canard delta wing airframe to achieve a Mach 2 top speed. It can perform high-speed aerial dogfights, ground-strike missions, air defense, and aerial surveillance. Although EU buyers can purchase a Eurofighter fighter Typhoon for as low as $50 million, the aircraft is one of the most expensive fighter jets as non-EU Typhoon exports currently cost between $120-$150 million. In 2018, India reportedly backed out of negotiations to purchase the aircraft for about $137 million per unit.

Learn more about the Eurofighter Typhoon

1. Lockheed Martin F-35B and F-35C

#1. Lockheed Martin F-35B and F-35C - Top 10 Most Expensive Fighter Jets in 2022

  • Cost: F-35B – $135.8 million 
  •            F-35C – $117.3 million
  • National Origin – United States
  • Manufacturer – Lockheed Martin
  • Introduction – 2015 (F-35B), 2019 (F-35C)
  • Configuration – Single engine, single-seater
  • Role – Multirole fighter
  • Speed – Mach 1.6 (1,975.67 kph/1,227.63 mph)
  • Stealth – Yes
  • No Built – 790+
  • Operators – the United States Air Force, United States Marine Corps, United States Navy, Royal Air Force, Royal Navy, Israeli Air Force, Turkish Air Force, Italian Air Force, Japan Air-Self Defense Force

The single-engine Lockheed Martin F-35B and F-35C Lightning II are the most expensive fighter jets in 2022. However, folks at Lockheed and Pentagon would want you to believe the aircraft costs only $80 million. The F-35A conventional takeoff and landing variant costs around that amount, but the other two feature more advanced and complex flight technologies, making them significantly more expensive. The short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) F-35B variant is the most complex of the three variants and the most expensive fighter jet in production and can alternate between standard and vertical flight. However, it sacrifices range at the expense of STVOL capability.

On the other hand, the F-35C is a carrier-based fighter jet designed for catapult-assisted takeoff but arrested recovery (CV/CATOBAR) operations from seaborne carriers. They have larger wings, foldable wingtips for storage, twin nose wheels, and reinforced landing gear for carrier landings. 2022 prices for the F-35B and F-35C remain unchanged from the previous year, but they are likely to reduce as international orders increase and aircraft production ramps up.

Learn more about the Lockheed Martin F-35B and F-35C