Special Report

The 25 Most Expensive Weapons in the US Military Budget Next Year

Phototreat / iStock via Getty Images

After months of congressional delays, U.S. president Joe Biden signed the 2023 defense budget, approved by Congress, in late December. The act approved the Pentagon to spend $816.7 billion on defense in the current fiscal year, and recently, the Department of Defense released its fiscal year 2024 budget request, asking lawmakers to approve an $842 billion budget — about $26 billion more than the current budget and $100 million more than fiscal year 2022.

Whatever the final FY2024 Pentagon budget turns out to be, by the time it reaches the president’s desk later this year one thing is certain: The United States will continue to be a big global outlier in defense spending as the nation invests heavily on maintaining its air, land, and sea military superiorities with new, upgraded – and often extremely expensive – hardware. (Here is how the world’s top military spenders compare to the U.S.)

To identify the 25 most expensive new weapons the military is buying next year, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the DOD’s recently-released Fiscal 2024 Budget Request. To find the cost of each weapons system we divided the total requested budget allocation of each weapons system by the number of units requested. These unit cost figures may not always be equivalent to the total sticker price of a given weapon for reasons including rounding; spending on research, development, testing, and evaluation; planned modifications to existing weapons; or because often part of the budget for a particular weapon is early payment on weapons that will be bought in years to come. All data is from the DOD budget proposal, Program Acquisition Cost By Weapons System document. (Also see, the 35 billion-dollar weapons in the 2024 U.S. military budget.)

While all 25 weapons on the list have a budget allocation of more than $10 million, two have total FY2024 budget allocations that top $10 billion. One of these highest-ticket allocations is an order for 83 high-tech F-35 fighter jets for $10.2 billion, a year after the DOD allocated $9.1 billion in FY2023 for 77 of these jets. The DOD has also allocated $10.6 billion for two Virginia class nuclear-powered fast-attack submarines. In FY2023, the DOD allocated $17.6 billion for two of these submarines.

Eight other weapons have FY2024 budget allocations of between $1.7 billion and $5.9 billion, a list that includes two Arleigh Burke destroyers for $4.6 billion and a newcomer to the list of costliest weapons: the $5.9 billion USS Columbia (SSBN-826) next generation nuclear ballistic missile submarine. This vessel is currently under construction at the General Dynamics Electric Boat facility at Quonset Point, Rhode Island, with an expected delivery date of 2027, followed by years of testing before its first patrol, according to the U.S. Naval Institute.

Nine of the weapons systems on the list, costing between $968 million and $5.9 billion per unit, will be used by the U.S. Navy, reflecting just how costly it is to maintain U.S. naval superiority relative to other branches of the military. Five of these high-cost weapons will go to the U.S. Army, including 50 Black Hawk and 42 new or remanufactured Apache helicopters, each costing $18.3 million and $19.7 million, respectively, and 34 modified or upgraded M-1 Abrams tanks at $23.5 million apiece.

The U.S. military is investing $54.4 billion on these 25 weapons systems in the upcoming fiscal year. Here are the most expensive new weapons the U.S. military is buying next year.

Click here to see the most expensive new weapons the military is buying next year.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

25. Aegis Sea-Based Weapons System
> Weapon cost, FY2024: $17.4 million per acquired missile system
> Requested acquisition, FY2024: 48 missile systems (39 interceptors, 9 hardware+software installs)
> Acquisition spending, FY2024: $835.4 million — #27 most expensive
> Requested acquisition, FY2023: 77 missile systems (71 interceptors, 6 hardware + software installs)
> Acquisition spending, FY2023: $1.2 billion — #21 most expensive
> Service branches: Joint Service
> Primary contractor(s): Boeing

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24. UH-60 Black Hawk
> Weapon cost, FY2024: $18.3 million per acquired helicopter
> Requested acquisition, FY2024: 50 helicopters (24 UH-60Ms, 26 UH-60Vs)
> Acquisition spending, FY2024: $915.5 million — #26 most expensive
> Requested acquisition, FY2023: 63 helicopters (35 UH-60Ms, 28 UH-60Vs)
> Acquisition spending, FY2023: $1.2 billion — #20 most expensive
> Service branches: Army
> Primary contractor(s): Sikorsky, Redstone Defense Systems

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

23. Paladin Integrated Management
> Weapon cost, FY2024: $19.6 million per acquired artillery vehicle
> Requested acquisition, FY2024: 24 artillery vehicles
> Acquisition spending, FY2024: $469.2 million — #42 most expensive
> Requested acquisition, FY2023: 43 artillery vehicles
> Acquisition spending, FY2023: $680.1 million — #37 most expensive
> Service branches: Army
> Primary contractor(s): BAE Systems

22. THAAD Terminal High Altitude Area Defense
> Weapon cost, FY2024: $19.7 million per acquired missile defense system
> Requested acquisition, FY2024: 11 missile defense systems
> Acquisition spending, FY2024: $216.8 million — #57 most expensive
> Requested acquisition, FY2023: 18 missile defense systems
> Acquisition spending, FY2023: $240.0 million — #56 most expensive
> Service branches: Joint Service
> Primary contractor(s): Lockheed Martin

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Source: Courtesy of Boeing

21. AH-64E Apache: Remanufacture/New Build
> Weapon cost, FY2024: $19.7 million per acquired helicopter
> Requested acquisition, FY2024: 42 helicopters
> Acquisition spending, FY2024: $828.9 million — #28 most expensive
> Requested acquisition, FY2023: 33 helicopters
> Acquisition spending, FY2023: $693.9 million — #36 most expensive
> Service branches: Army
> Primary contractor(s): Boeing

20. AO Armed Overwatch / Targeting
> Weapon cost, FY2024: $22.2 million per acquired aircraft
> Requested acquisition, FY2024: 12 aircraft
> Acquisition spending, FY2024: $266.8 million — #52 most expensive
> Requested acquisition, FY2023: 9 aircraft
> Acquisition spending, FY2023: $246.0 million — #55 most expensive
> Service branches: Joint Service
> Primary contractor(s): L-3 Harris

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Source: Rockfinder / iStock via Getty Images

19. M-1 Abrams Tank Modification/Upgrades
> Weapon cost, FY2024: $23.5 million per acquired tank
> Requested acquisition, FY2024: 34 tanks
> Acquisition spending, FY2024: $800.3 million — #31 most expensive
> Requested acquisition, FY2023: 90 tanks
> Acquisition spending, FY2023: $1.2 billion — #17 most expensive
> Service branches: Army
> Primary contractor(s): General Dynamics Land Systems

Source: Stocktrek Images / Stocktrek Images via Getty Images

18. Tomahawk Tactical Tomahawk Cruise Missile
> Weapon cost, FY2024: $23.9 million per acquired missile
> Requested acquisition, FY2024: 34 missiles (34 for Marines)
> Acquisition spending, FY2024: $811.5 million — #30 most expensive
> Requested acquisition, FY2023: 68 missiles (13 for Marines, 55 for Navy)
> Acquisition spending, FY2023: $781.8 million — #32 most expensive
> Service branches: Navy
> Primary contractor(s): Raytheon Missiles & Defense

Source: Courtesy of Boeing

17. MH-139A Grey Wolf
> Weapon cost, FY2024: $35.6 million per acquired helicopter
> Requested acquisition, FY2024: 7 helicopters
> Acquisition spending, FY2024: $249.1 million — #54 most expensive
> Requested acquisition, FY2023: 5 helicopters
> Acquisition spending, FY2023: $197.4 million — #59 most expensive
> Service branches: Air Force
> Primary contractor(s): Boeing

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Source: Stocktrek Images / Stocktrek Images via Getty Images

16. CH-47 Chinook
> Weapon cost, FY2024: $40.4 million per acquired helicopter
> Requested acquisition, FY2024: 6 helicopters
> Acquisition spending, FY2024: $242.1 million — #56 most expensive
> Requested acquisition, FY2023: 9 helicopters
> Acquisition spending, FY2023: $437.8 million — #47 most expensive
> Service branches: Army
> Primary contractor(s): Boeing

15. MQ-9 Reaper
> Weapon cost, FY2024: $60.7 million per acquired drone
> Requested acquisition, FY2024: 5 drones (5 for U.S. Navy/Marines)
> Acquisition spending, FY2024: $303.6 million — #47 most expensive
> Requested acquisition, FY2023: 5 drones (5 for U.S. Navy/Marines)
> Acquisition spending, FY2023: $438.6 million — #46 most expensive
> Service branches: Joint Service
> Primary contractor(s): General Atomics–Aeronautical Systems Incorporated

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Source: my_public_domain_photos / Flickr

14. F-15 Eagle
> Weapon cost, FY2024: $120.8 million per acquired fighter jet
> Requested acquisition, FY2024: 24 fighter jets
> Acquisition spending, FY2024: $2.9 billion — #6 most expensive
> Requested acquisition, FY2023: 24 fighter jets
> Acquisition spending, FY2023: $2.6 billion — #7 most expensive
> Service branches: Air Force
> Primary contractor(s): Lockheed Martin

Source: my_public_domain_photos / Flickr

13. F-35 Joint Strike Fighter
> Weapon cost, FY2024: $122.9 million per acquired fighter jet
> Requested acquisition, FY2024: 83 fighter jets (35 for U.S. Navy/Marines, 48 for Air Force)
> Acquisition spending, FY2024: $10.2 billion — #2 most expensive
> Requested acquisition, FY2023: 77 fighter jets (34 for U.S. Navy/Marines, 43 for Air Force)
> Acquisition spending, FY2023: $9.1 billion — #1 most expensive
> Service branches: Joint Service
> Primary contractor(s): Lockheed Martin

Source: WhitcombeRD / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

12. C-130J Hercules
> Weapon cost, FY2024: $138.1 million per acquired plane
> Requested acquisition, FY2024: 2 planes (2 KC-130Js)
> Acquisition spending, FY2024: $276.2 million — #51 most expensive
> Requested acquisition, FY2023: 21 planes (16 C-130Js, 5 KC-130Js)
> Acquisition spending, FY2023: $2.3 billion — #9 most expensive
> Service branches: Joint Service
> Primary contractor(s): Lockheed Martin ; Marietta, GA

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Source: Public Domain / U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Molly Hampton

11. CH-53K Heavy Lift Replacement Helicopter
> Weapon cost, FY2024: $146.4 million per acquired helicopter
> Requested acquisition, FY2024: 15 helicopters
> Acquisition spending, FY2024: $2.2 billion — #11 most expensive
> Requested acquisition, FY2023: 12 helicopters
> Acquisition spending, FY2023: $2.3 billion — #10 most expensive
> Service branches: Navy / Marine Corps
> Primary contractor(s): Boeing, General Electric Company

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

10. NSSL & RSLP Launch Enterprise
> Weapon cost, FY2024: $190.8 million per acquired Launch service
> Requested acquisition, FY2024: 15 Launch services
> Acquisition spending, FY2024: $2.9 billion — #8 most expensive
> Requested acquisition, FY2023: 10 Launch services
> Acquisition spending, FY2023: $1.9 billion — #11 most expensive
> Service branches: Space Force
> Primary contractor(s): to be determined

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9. KC-46A Tanker
> Weapon cost, FY2024: $192.2 million per acquired plane
> Requested acquisition, FY2024: 15 planes
> Acquisition spending, FY2024: $2.9 billion — #7 most expensive
> Requested acquisition, FY2023: 15 planes
> Acquisition spending, FY2023: $2.5 billion — #8 most expensive
> Service branches: Air Force
> Primary contractor(s): Lockheed Martin

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

8. MQ-25 Stingray
> Weapon cost, FY2024: $249.7 million per acquired drone
> Requested acquisition, FY2024: 3 drones
> Acquisition spending, FY2024: $749.0 million — #34 most expensive
> Requested acquisition, FY2023: 1 drone
> Acquisition spending, FY2023: $882.9 million — #28 most expensive
> Service branches: Navy / Marine Corps
> Primary contractor(s): Boeing, Lockheed Martin

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

7. MQ-4C / RQ-4 Triton/Global Hawk/NATO AGS
> Weapon cost, FY2024: $255.0 million per acquired drone
> Requested acquisition, FY2024: 2 drones
> Acquisition spending, FY2024: $510.0 million — #40 most expensive
> Requested acquisition, FY2023: 3 drones
> Acquisition spending, FY2023: $788.6 million — #30 most expensive
> Service branches: Joint Service
> Primary contractor(s): Northrop Grumman; Rancho Bernardo, CA

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Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

6. T-AO 205 John Lewis Class Fleet Replenishment Oiler
> Weapon cost, FY2024: $967.6 million per acquired ship
> Requested acquisition, FY2024: 1 ship
> Acquisition spending, FY2024: $967.6 million — #24 most expensive
> Requested acquisition, FY2023: 1 ship
> Acquisition spending, FY2023: $958.2 million — #26 most expensive
> Service branches: Navy
> Primary contractor(s): General Dynamics

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

5. FFG(X) Constellation Class Guided Missile Frigate
> Weapon cost, FY2024: $1.1 billion per acquired ship
> Requested acquisition, FY2024: 2 ships
> Acquisition spending, FY2024: $2.1 billion — #12 most expensive
> Requested acquisition, FY2023: 1 ship
> Acquisition spending, FY2023: $1.1 billion — #22 most expensive
> Service branches: Navy
> Primary contractor(s): Huntington Ingalls Industries

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Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

4. AS(X) Submarine Tender Replacement
> Weapon cost, FY2024: $1.7 billion per acquired ship
> Requested acquisition, FY2024: 1 ship
> Acquisition spending, FY2024: $1.7 billion — #14 most expensive
> Requested acquisition, FY2023: 0 ship
> Acquisition spending, FY2023: None
> Service branches: Navy
> Primary contractor(s): SpaceX. United Launch Alliance (ULA), Northrop Grumman, Rocket Lab, USA, VOX Space

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

3. DDG 51 Arleigh Burke Class Destroyer
> Weapon cost, FY2024: $2.3 billion per acquired ship
> Requested acquisition, FY2024: 2 ships
> Acquisition spending, FY2024: $4.6 billion — #5 most expensive
> Requested acquisition, FY2023: 3 ships
> Acquisition spending, FY2023: $8.0 billion — #2 most expensive
> Service branches: Navy
> Primary contractor(s): Raytheon Missile & Defense

Source: national_museum_of_the_us_navy / Flickr

2. SSN 774 Virginia Class Submarine
> Weapon cost, FY2024: $5.3 billion per acquired submarine
> Requested acquisition, FY2024: 2 submarines
> Acquisition spending, FY2024: $10.6 billion — #1 most expensive
> Requested acquisition, FY2023: 2 submarines
> Acquisition spending, FY2023: $7.0 billion — #3 most expensive
> Service branches: Navy
> Primary contractor(s): Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control

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Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

1. SSBN 826 Columbia Class Ballistic Missile Submarine
> Weapon cost, FY2024: $5.9 billion per acquired submarine
> Requested acquisition, FY2024: 1 submarine
> Acquisition spending, FY2024: $5.9 billion — #3 most expensive
> Requested acquisition, FY2023: 0 submarines
> Acquisition spending, FY2023: $5.9 billion — #4 most expensive
> Service branches: Navy
> Primary contractor(s): Bechtel National Incorporated

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