Special Report

The 17 Most Expensive US Navy Warships and Submarines

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

The U.S. naval fleet consists of 243 seafaring units currently in active service. The number includes frontline commissioned warships and support vessels but excludes smaller patrol boats, auxiliary/survey ships, replenishment ships, and historical ceremonial boats. (See the countries with the largest naval fleets.)

The military data site, World Directory of Modern Military Warships, ranks the U.S. Navy No. 1 among 35 other countries it tracks. The U.S. did not reach that level of military might without spending money on its fleet to keep it updated and sea-ready. A Congressional Budget Office report in November 2022 noted the Navy’s 2023 plan for shipbuilding would average between $30 billion and $33 billion a year through 2052. That is in 2022 dollars. 

To determine the most expensive ships and submarines of the U.S. Navy, 24/7 Wall St. referenced military data site World Directory of Modern Military Warships’ directory of all active ships in the U.S. All ship and submarine classes are ranked in order of unit cost, which came from a variety of third-party sources, except for two.  The Cyclone-class patrol ship and the Blue Ridge-class command ship were excluded due to lack of cost data. Unit prices were adjusted for inflation from the year to January 2023 using the CPI inflation calculator from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

The most expensive ship at sea, the USS Gerald R. Ford,  costs nearly $16 billion. It is the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier. Deployed last year, the massive ship measures more than 1,100 feet long and can displace 100,000 long tonnes of water when fully loaded. Typically used to define a ship’s size, displacement tonnage refers to the volume of water displaced when a ship is at sea in normal conditions. The carrier can get up to a speed of more than 34 miles per hour. 

The Ford class supercarriers are set to replace an aging fleet of 10 Nimitz-class ships designed during the Cold War. Commissioned in 2017, Ford class ships are built with two nuclear reactors and can carry more than 75 warplanes. (Here are the U.S. Navy ships that are being decommissioned and when.)

Click here to see the most expensive U.S. warships and submarines.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

17. Harpers Ferry-class
> Unit cost (inflation adjusted): $348.96 million
> Role: Dock landing ship
> Number of ships: 4

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16. Independence-class
> Unit cost (inflation adjusted): $441.97 million
> Role: Corvette
> Number of ships: 12

15. Freedom-class
> Unit cost (inflation adjusted): $567.91 million
> Role: Littoral combat ship
> Number of ships: 9

14. Avenger-class
> Unit cost (inflation adjusted): $663.31 million
> Role: Mine countermeasures ship
> Number of ships: 8

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Source: Alexandre Tziripouloff / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

13. Whidbey Island-class
> Unit cost (inflation adjusted): $961.31 million
> Role: Dock landing ship
> Number of ships: 7

Source: Public Domain via the United States Navy / Wikimedia Commons

12. Ticonderoga-class
> Unit cost (inflation adjusted): $1.14 billion
> Role: Cruiser
> Number of ships: 22

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Source: cne-cna-c6f / Flickr

11. Arleigh Burke-class
> Unit cost (inflation adjusted): $1.83 billion
> Role: Guided missile destroyer
> Number of ships: 68

10. Los Angeles-class
> Unit cost (inflation adjusted): $1.91 billion
> Role: Submarine
> Number of ships: 28

9. Wasp-class
> Unit cost (inflation adjusted): $2.29 billion
> Role: Amphibious assault ship
> Number of ships: 7

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Source: OlegAlbinsky / iStock Unreleased via Getty Images

8. San Antonio-class
> Unit cost (inflation adjusted): $2.31 billion
> Role: Amphibious transport dock
> Number of ships: 11

7. Ohio-class
> Unit cost (inflation adjusted): $3.64 billion
> Role: Submarine
> Number of ships: 18

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6. Virginia-class
> Unit cost (inflation adjusted): $3.83 billion
> Role: Submarine
> Number of ships: 19

5. America-class
> Unit cost (inflation adjusted): $4.35 billion
> Role: Amphibious assault ship
> Number of ships: 2

4. Zumwalt-class
> Unit cost (inflation adjusted): $5.63 billion
> Role: Guided missile destroyer
> Number of ships: 2

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Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

3. Seawolf-class
> Unit cost (inflation adjusted): $5.64 billion
> Role: Submarine
> Number of ships: 3

Source: Stocktrek Images / Stocktrek Images via Getty Images

2. Nimitz-class
> Unit cost (inflation adjusted): $11.55 billion
> Role: Aircraft carrier
> Number of ships: 10

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Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

1. Ford-class
> Unit cost (inflation adjusted): $15.72 billion
> Role: Aircraft carrier
> Number of ships: 1

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