This article’s price list includes only the cost of the aircraft itself, without accounting for expenses related to its development, maintenance, and other associated costs. The “ticket price” of a jet may also vary as it is open to negotiations.
With these caveats out of the way, let’s check the Top 10 most expensive fighter jets in 2024!
10. Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 70/72: $63 million
The F-16 was created as a light and maneuverable fighter jet that would offer an affordable alternative to the F-15. Its older variants cost roughly $30 million apiece – cheaper than the vast majority of contemporary fighters – but the most advanced ones are really quite pricey.
The Block 70 and 72 configurations are the most up-to-date iteration of this venerable fighter, which was even renamed F-16V to mark the upgrade. The advancements are most likely very similar to the F-21, a jet Lockheed Martin has offered to India. While we may never know the price of the F-21, the cost of a single F-16 Block 70 gives an insight into how much a top-of-the-line jet, based on the venerable F-16 airframe, may cost.
9. Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet: up to $66.9 million
The F/A-18 Super Hornet came in the late 90s, replacing older Hornets of A, B, C, and D variants. Although originally – and primarily – a carrier-based aircraft, it has found a fair share of interest from countries that intend to use it only as a ground-based one.
The latest upgrade of the F/A-18, the Block III configuration, features vast improvements to avionics and weapon systems. It brings the Super Hornet in line with the latest 4.5 generation fighter jets but drives the price up as well.
The most expensive variant of this jet is the EA-18G Growler though, a dedicated electronic warfare aircraft with a price tag of up to $125 million. While it can be equipped with both air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions, it is much too specialized to be considered in the same vein as regular fighter jets.
8. Shenyang FC-31: $70 million
The Shenyang FC-31, also known as J-35 or J-31 is a multi-role fighter aircraft developed by the People’s Republic of China. It is primarily designed for military purposes and intended to serve as a fifth-generation combat aircraft. The FC-31 is intended to be used for various missions, including air superiority, ground attack, and reconnaissance. The FC-31 incorporates stealth technology, advanced avionics, and other features commonly associated with fifth-generation jets.
In 2019, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) turned down the Shenyang FC-31 “Gyrfalcon” in favor of its rival, the Chengdu J-20 “Mighty Dragon.” Despite this setback, the FC-31’s development continued, and there are indications that it could potentially be converted into a carrier-based fighter for the Chinese Navy.
According to U.S. military and industry officials, it is believed that once the J-31 becomes operational, it will likely outperform current fourth-generation fighters such as the F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. However, its effectiveness against the latest fighters like the US-made F-22 and F-35 would depend on various factors including the quantity of J-31 aircraft deployed, the skill level of pilots, and the capabilities of its radar systems and other sensors.
7. Saab JAS 39E/F Gripen: $85 million
The Swedish JAS 39 Gripen, of variants C and D, is notorious for being one of the cheapest new 4 or 4.5 generation fighter jets around. Its cost could go as low as $30 million per piece, a bargain for such an advanced machine.
Its latest variants, the E and F, changed that. While they are still much cheaper to operate than 5th generation fighter jets, the cost of one such jet has more than doubled. An explanation of that lies in jets’ differences: almost everything, except for the airframe, got upgraded. New radar, engine, avionics, improved weapons systems – very little remained of the old Gripen.
In 2012, the new-generation JAS 39 was expected to cost over $100 million. It is only in the latest years that Saab managed to reduce the price, and with the reduction, the Gripen once again became a sought-after jet on the international market.
6. Chengdu J-20: $110 million
Very little is known about the Chinese 5th-generation jet. Its price tag is, too, mere speculation. Nevertheless, the J-20 is not for sale though, as China never intended to export its top weapon.
A recently unveiled J-20 prototype bearing the serial number 2052 successfully completed its maiden flight at the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation in China on June 29, 2023. Notably, it is now equipped with two WS-15 turbofan engines. Looking ahead, there is a high likelihood of continued advancements and refinements to the WS-15, with potential variations intended to propel the People’s Liberation Army’s sixth-generation fighter program.
5. Dassault Rafale: around $115 million
There are varying reports about the price of the Rafale, ranging between $100 and $120 million per piece in the most basic configuration. The French Air Force definitely bought the fighter for much less. In comparison, the deal reached by the Indian Air Force – reportedly, full of minute, but pricey enhancements – was more expensive, and is often criticized for that.
Being one of the most advanced aircraft of its generation and manufactured in one of the most expensive regions of the world, the Rafale is not cheap.
4. Boeing F-15EX: $117 million
The F-15 itself was not supposed to be cheap, and its latest variant, the F-15EX, demonstrates that. It is supposed to replace older C and D models while being more affordable than the most advanced 5th-generation jets. That affordability comes mostly from operational costs.
Its operating cost is “only” $29,000 per hour. This cost represents one-third of the total operating cost of the F-35. That, as well as its similarity to previous models of the F-15, makes the F-15EX an attractive aircraft for many countries.
3. Eurofighter Typhoon: around $124 million
Another European fighter jet, the Eurofighter Typhoon may cost as cheap as $50 million for countries within the European Union that participated in its development, but the export price is much higher. In 2018, Airbus reportedly offered Eurofighters to India for as much as €138 million per piece, which is still cheaper than what was paid for Rafales.
2. Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor: $143 million
Praised as one of the best fighter jets in the world, the F-22 Raptor holds a prominent position. Developed by Lockheed Martin for the United States Air Force, this fifth-generation, single-seat, twin-engine, all-weather stealth air superiority fighter boasts top-notch attributes.
It incorporates highly dependable stealth technology, earning it recognition as one of the best in its class.
1. Lockheed Martin F-35: $177 million
The F-35 went down in history as the most expensive weapon system ever. Operational costs of the newest fifth-generation fighter jet are some of the highest in the world, making the aircraft relatively expensive to buy and maintain. From 2022, the unit cost of F-35 has further increased because of inflation, lower quantities, and improved capabilities.
In a report published in late May 2023, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) wrote that “the program attributes the increased procurement cost to additional years of costs related to airframe and engine production, along with support costs for equipment, technical data, and training.”
The A, B, and C variants of the F-35 are, for all intents and purposes, different aircraft. The most expensive is the F-35B, designed for short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL).
With a price tag of approximately $177 million per unit, it also claims the title of the most expensive aircraft on this list.
A table: Top 10 most expensive fighter jets in 2024
|Current Unit Cost (in million)
|Lockheed Martin F-35
|Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor
|Saab JAS 39E/F Gripen
|Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet
|Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 70/72