Special Report

The Most Expensive US Army Land Vehicles

VanderWolf-Images / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

The U.S. Army is expected to spend close to $5 billion every year through the middle of this century to update and modernize its ground combat vehicles. While $500 million a year will be dedicated to research, development, and testing, the majority of the budget will go to procurement, with 80% of the acquisition funds slated for vehicle upgrades. (These are America’s oldest land vehicles still in use by the military.)

One of the biggest and costliest upgrade targets is the M1 Abrams main battle tank, one of the most powerful tanks in the world, but also no longer a brand new vehicle, with the first Abrams rolling off the assembly line in 1979. The Abrams has had multiple upgrades since it entered service, the newest upgraded versions are expected around 2025 and 2040. The budget approval includes the acquisition of 2,101 new Abrams tanks, each billed at $12.5 million in 2020 dollars, or $14.5 million updated for inflation, making this tank one of the most expensive land vehicles used by the Army. 

To identify the 15 most expensive U.S. military land vehicles, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed a list of active U.S. military vehicles from Military Factory, an online database of military vehicles, aircraft, arms, and more. Vehicles are ranked according to their unit cost, sourced from a number of media and government sites. Unit prices were adjusted for inflation to January 2023 using the CPI inflation calculator from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Information on the role these vehicles play in the military, when they entered service, and their crew size came from Military Factory.

The most expensive land combat vehicles include a variety of armored transport vehicles, an armored bulldozer, tanks and other fighting vehicles, and an array of self-propelled weapons systems including rocket launchers, howitzers, and missile launchers. Some are used solely by the Army, while others are also used by the Marine Corps and Special Forces.

Only one vehicle on the list costs under $1 million – the Force Protection Cougar, a mine-resistant armored transport vehicle. The most expensive is the Patriot missile system, which was used extensively during the Gulf War and costs an estimated $26 million (inflation adjusted). The oldest vehicle on the list – and the second most costly – is the 1963 M109 Paladin self-propelled howitzer, which debuted in combat during the Vietnam War. The new budget allows for the procurement of 689 new Paladins. (Take a look at 31 weapons that the U.S. military will invest billions in next year.)

Click here to see the most expensive land vehicles ever used by the US military.

15. Force Protection Cougar
> Unit cost (adjusted for inflation): $802,404
> Type: Troop transport / Command and control communications / EOD / Lead convoy vehicle
> First entered service: 2002
> Crew size: 2

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Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

14. BAe RG-31 Nyala
> Unit cost (adjusted for inflation): $1,028,199
> Type: Infantry Mobility Vehicle (IMV) / Mine-Resistant, Ambush Protected (MRAP) Vehicle
> First entered service: 2006
> Crew size: 8

Source: Rawf8 / iStock via Getty Images

13. M1117 Guardian ASV
> Unit cost (adjusted for inflation): $1,086,789
> Type: Armored Security Vehicle
> First entered service: 1999
> Crew size: 3

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

12. M9 Armored Combat Earthmover (ACE)
> Unit cost (adjusted for inflation): $1,375,717
> Type: Military bulldozer / Engineering vehicle
> First entered service: 1986
> Crew size: 1

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11. Force Protection Buffalo H
> Unit cost (adjusted for inflation): $1,406,129
> Type: Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle
> First entered service: 2004
> Crew size: 2

10. M88 Hercules
> Unit cost (adjusted for inflation): $4,174,934
> Type: Armored Recovery Vehicle (ARV)
> First entered service: 1961
> Crew size: 3

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Source: Maikel de Vaan / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

9. M270 MLRS
> Unit cost (adjusted for inflation): $4,188,016
> Type: Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS)
> First entered service: 1983
> Crew size: 3

Source: Public Domain / United States Marine / Wikimedia Commons

8. M777 Ultra-lightweight Field Howitzer (UFH)
> Unit cost (adjusted for inflation): $4,605,098
> Type: 155mm Lightweight towed artillery
> First entered service: 2005
> Crew size: 7

Source: upsidedowndog / iStock via Getty Images

7. M2 Bradley
> Unit cost (adjusted for inflation): $4,638,816
> Type: Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV)
> First entered service: 1981
> Crew size: 3

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Source: Photo by General Dynamics / Getty Images

6. General Dynamics Stryker
> Unit cost (adjusted for inflation): $5,334,638
> Type: 8×8 wheeled multirole Armored Fighting Vehicle (AFV)
> First entered service: 2002
> Crew size: 3

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

5. M3 Bradley
> Unit cost (adjusted for inflation): $5,611,210
> Type: Cavalry Fighting Vehicle (CFV) / Armored reconnaissance scout tracked combat vehicle
> First entered service: 1983
> Crew size: 5

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4. M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS)
> Unit cost (adjusted for inflation): $6,522,713
> Type: Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS)
> First entered service: 2005
> Crew size: 3

3. M1 Abrams
> Unit cost (adjusted for inflation): $14,496,300
> Type: Main Battle Tank (MBT)
> First entered service: 1980
> Crew size: 4

Source: Jesse Stephens / iStock via Getty Images

2. M109 (Paladin)
> Unit cost (adjusted for inflation): $16,467,796
> Type: 155mm Self-Propelled Artillery (SPA)
> First entered service: 1963
> Crew size: 4

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Source: VanderWolf-Images / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

1. MIM-104 Patriot
> Unit cost (adjusted for inflation): $26,000,000
> Type: Surface-to-Air (SAM) system
> First entered service: 1981
> Crew size: 12

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