- Dec 18, 2001
So far the Air Force has invested 28 Billion dollars to develop the Raptor. For the first 183 fighters it will be about $339 Million per aircraft if you divide the total cost of the program 62 Billion and divide by the number of fighters produced. However the incremental cost is $137 Million per aircraft since the 28 billion is a sunk cost. Please remember this is the aircraft that the Air Force is looking at using 20-30+ years from now. Lockheed in August of this year delivered the 100th Raptor and they are building about 20 a year. While the Raptor is not the best air craft for the war on terrorism whoever its primary is to guarantee air superiority for US forces, something that this aircraft is well suited to do. However the F-35 Lightning II was intended as a replacement for the F-16 and you are looking at a per unit incremental cost of around $48 million. Sometimes people compare the Raptor fighter cost of $339 million versus the per unit incremental cost of the Lightning II of $48 million however a correct comparison would be $137 million versus $48 million. Also the per unit cost of the Lightning II is also significantly lower because total production is expected to be 3,000+ unit versus the Raptor production of 183. If for instance the Air Force committed to mass production of the Raptor say by buying 300 more units there would a significantly lower per unit cost than $137 million . What really causes a aircraft cost to increase is cutting way back production so mass production techniques cannot be effectively used. The goal of the Lightning II program since the beginning has been mass production and this has been reflected in the per unit cost.