The high cost of the F-22 Raptor

The Sky High Cost of the F-22 Raptor

Although the F-22 Raptor is unrivaled in the air, its price is astounding, leading to an early end to manufacturing. It's an expensive fighter plane, but how much did the F-22 Raptor cost?

Tobias Holm
Tobias Holm

Table of Contents

The 195th F-22 Raptor marked the finished order of the most advanced fighter jet the world has ever seen. It probably goes without saying that this also makes it one of the most expensive.

The single-seat, all-weather, twin-engine stealth tactical fighter plane barreled out of Lockheed Martin's factory in Georgia, stamping "finished" on the 15-year-long production. However, in December 2011, the US Air Force and US Government ceased F-22 production, despite the incredible capabilities of the aircraft. Why? Due to the seemingly ever-rising costs.

While the cost estimates vary from $137 million per jet to an eye-popping $678 million, depending on how costs are calculated, it's unarguably one of the costliest warplanes on earth.

The Purchase Cost of F 22 Raptor

Over time, the F-22 Raptor's cost has been hotly debated in the US Government, the media, the Pentagon, and the White House, with both sides quoting different figures accordingly.

Experts on the matter often quote the Raptor's flyaway cost. In other words, the amount Lockheed Martin charged authorities to manufacture each F-22 Raptor, not including the development and research expenses.

The flyaway cost is approximately $137 to $150 million per jet, several million dollars above the $79 million per plane for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Not that these two aircraft are directly comparable, though.

What is the cost of a F-22 Raptor?
The cost of each F-22 Raptor was approximately $137 to $150 million.

Critics of the F-22 Raptor reference the unit cost, which includes the development, production, and upgrade spending, ratcheting it up to $377 million per F-22 Raptor.

Due to such high costs (and the fact they were already over budget), the United States cut the ordered quantity early, meaning only 187 (plus eight prototypes) were made when production stopped. The United States Air Force had initially planned to acquire 750 Advanced Tactical Fighters, the demonstration and validation program that led to the Raptor.

Despite the expense criticisms, the aircraft is currently unmatched in the skies. In addition, the modernization and maintenance of the F-22 fleet will purportedly continue for the entire life cycle of each F-22 Raptor.

The Cost of F 22 Raptor Per Flight Hour

Costliness is one of the F-22 Raptor's biggest downfalls. However, the high price tags don't just lie in the development, production, and overall flyaway costs. The expenses also sit prominently in the running maintenance and operational costs.

According to a TIME Magazine article published in 2013, the cost per operational hour was $68,362. While that's a lot of money by anybody's standards, it isn't the most expensive per-hour cost of all military aircraft. For instance, Air Force One came in at $161,591 per operational hour.

Remember that the per flight hour is the cost of ownership, too, including any modifications over the fighter's lifetime.

An F-22 Raptor flying close to ground
Including development, upgrades, and running maintenance, the Cost of the F-22 Raptor is even higher.

In 2014 alone, an F-22 Raptors required more than 40 hours of maintenance per flight hour. And, as the planes have aged, their maintenance needs have increased substantially.

So, How Long Do They Last?

When we enter the 2030s, the USAF's F-22 Raptors will be 40 years old.

The Air Force has no set date for when they will retire the F-22. But when it happens, it will be based on alternatives that can take over in the best possible way. The USAF is reportedly exploring manned and unmanned replacements for the F-22 aircraft. In this connection, it is not certain that it will be a specific aircraft type but perhaps a system consisting of several components.

The process and outcome of the development and implementation of these alternatives will affect the timing of the F-22's retirement. However, Lt. Gen. Clinton Hinote of the Air Force states that it will likely happen closer to the aircraft's 40th anniversary in the 2030s than in the 2020s.

But Why Is The F-22 Raptor So Expensive?

Lockheed Martin developed an advanced fighter jet with unmatched capabilities. Developing the technology for the F-22 drove up costs significantly. The low production order, high flying costs, and immense maintenance needs make the F-22 expensive. It boasts a costly support infrastructure, necessitating increased funds.

The Bottom Line

While the F-22 Raptor is unbeatable in the sky, the cost to buy, own, and operate one is astonishing, even causing production to cease early. It's a costly fighter jet, and estimates vary greatly depending on how the costs are calculated. The production cost was approximately $137 to $150 million per F-22 Raptor jet. Prices will increase significantly if we include development, support, and maintenance.

Also read:

Military Aviation

Tobias Holm Twitter

Founder of Planenerd, based in Denmark. Got a LEGO plane as a kid. Obsessed with aviation since. None of my friends want to talk about airplanes.