In this day and age, there is a great deal of concern over what things cost. Over the years, the Department of Defense has been notorious for its spending habits, cost overruns on weapons system development and production, and other things.
We’ve all heard the stories–$200.00 hammers, $600.00 toilet seats, and the recent announcement that when all is said and done with the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, the program will cost nearly one and a half trillion dollars.
As it applies to combat aircraft, there is a staggering amount of money involved, whether its a fighter, bomber, electronic warfare, or even newer transport aircraft.
One must factor in the research, design, and development costs; building the first prototypes, initial production, developmental and operational testing, achieving operational capability, and then full-on production for the life of the program. That’s the broad-brush look.

A 3 FW F-22 Raptor pulls up to the tanker for fuel during Red Flag-Alaska.
A 3d Wing F-22 Raptor pulls up to the tanker for fuel during Red Flag-Alaska.

All things being equal, we must also remember that accountants are exceptionally good at getting the same sets of numbers to tell different stories. All of them have validity from a certain point of view, but to blindly throw out a number and say, “this widget costs x or y” may not be the whole truth.
For example, many people proclaim the Lockheed-Martin F-22A Raptor‘s per-unit cost is in excess of $350 million dollars, and yet a good friend picked one up from the plant a few years back and signed an invoice for a figure roughly of third of that.
Here’s a video someone put together that will hopefully provide perspective on the numbers game. Bottom line is all of these airplanes are really expensive; it’s hard not to feel like we’re getting fleeced by the contractors in the defense industry when you look at the price tags associated.
Have a look and let us know what you think!