Special Report

The Most Expensive Planes Made for the US Navy

The U.S. Senate authorized in December $858 billion for defense spending for 2023, about $45 billion more than requested by the Biden administration. The budget ensures the U.S. continues to be one of the world’s top defense spenders. In fact, according to the latest data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the U.S. military spending is more than the next nine countries combined.

One branch of the military slated to receive a portion of those funds is the U.S. Navy air fleet. Based on the planes already in the Navy’s inventory, the price of any new aircraft will be quite high. 

To identify the most expensive aircraft in the U.S. Navy, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed Department of Defense data on the unit price of aircraft. To adjust prices from the year listed to October 2022, we used the CPI inflation calculator from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. We only listed the 15 aircraft with unit prices above $1 million, considering only fixed wing aircraft, excluding drones and uncrewed vehicles, for which unit cost estimates were available on the U.S. Navy website

Inventory of each aircraft in 2021 is from the 2022 World Air Forces report from FlightGlobal, an aviation news and data company. Information on aircraft function and contractors are also from the U.S. Navy. 

The most expensive aircraft in the Navy’s fleet is the E-6B Mercury Airborne Command Post. It has an estimated unit cost of $153.9 million. The aircraft is used primarily as a strategic communications center to pass information along to the Navy’s nuclear-powered submarines. The Navy also employs warships. See the 11 new warships that will join the U.S. Navy fleet.

Following the E-6B, the F-35C Lightning II comes in at a cost of $102.6 million. Its primary roles are ground missions and providing air superiority. The aircraft is also the first radar-evading stealth plane that can be launched from a carrier deck, per the Navy.

Rounding out the top three is the $89.4 million C-130 Hercules military transport aircraft. As its name suggests, it is used for passenger and cargo transport and aerial refueling. The Navy describes the medium-sized aircraft as providing “the last logistic mile” to support forward deployed Naval forces. Are any of these planes among the 22 new weapons in the U.S. military budget next year?

Click here to see the most expensive planes made for the US Navy.

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