Special Report

This Is America's Most Expensive Weapon

The U.S. military is by far the best-funded fighting force in the world. The federal government spent $754.8 billion on the military in 2021, or around 11% of the total budget. While much of this funding goes to compensating active-duty personnel, $250 billion went to fund the development and procurement of weapons systems.

The U.S. military spends billions each year on new planes, submarines, missile systems, and more. To put this into context, the American military has planes, ships, and submarines that each costs more to develop and build than the entire military budget of almost every other nation. (This is what it costs to make the world’s largest warship.)

To determine America’s most expensive weapons, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the U.S. Department of Defense Fiscal Year 2023 Budget Request. Only items that were procured in fiscal year 2021 were considered and were ranked by their cost per unit — the total amount spent per single vehicle, weapon, or system procured.

Nearly all of the items on this list are vehicles – planes, nuclear submarines, aircraft carriers, armored vehicles, and more. Many of these vehicles are designed to have both transportational and combat capabilities, all while being armored to protect the troops inside. 

Some of the most expensive items in the military’s budget are not on this list simply because they are still in development and do not yet have a final price tag. For instance, the military spent over $2.7 billion in 2021 developing the B-21 Raider, a long-range strike bomber plane. The Department of Defense has requested over $5 billion to continue the development and procurement of the planes, but they are not expected to be delivered to bases until “the mid-2020’s” per the budget request.

In the military’s budget request, the costs of any single entry is broken down into two categories: 1. research, development, test, and evaluation; 2. procurement. Scientists are tasked with creating new methods of warfare to give American troops an advantage in any situation. Some of these innovations have uses beyond the battlefield and have since become parts of everyday household items. These are the popular commercial products you never knew were invented by the military.

Click here to see America’s most expensive weapon

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