“You get what you pay for” is often the case for many consumer goods, but nowhere does this saying ring truer than when it comes to spending on armaments. Typically, the military that has the best financial backing will be the one most capable of overwhelming enemies and maintaining the greatest level of power internationally.
Not only can money buy the loyalty of armed forces and mercenary hires, but a strong economy allows for the development of incredibly powerful weapons that potentially alter the balance of power in terms of military might. Of course, the multi-billion dollar armaments are only really the reserve of the already-rich – and therefore necessarily powerful – nations.
The most expensive military vehicles in the world are technologically advanced weapons platforms that are capable of wreaking devastation on nearly any locale on earth. Almost all of these vehicles are warships such as destroyers, submarines and aircraft carriers, packed with tomahawk missiles, nuclear reactors, powerful engines and other types of warheads. The lone exception is a stealth bomber that can rain nuclear missiles half way across the earth with only a single refuelling. Of course, the majority of the most expensive military vehicles are owned by the United States armed forces.
10. INS Vikramaditya – $2.35 billion
The INS Vikramaditya is a modified Kiev-class aircraft carrier purchased by India’s military from Russia’s military-industrial complex. Costs for the purchase were inflated when the Russians demanded more money, as India made it clear how committed they were to securing the vehicle.
The warship weighs 44,500 tons, measures 932 feet long and 200 feet wide. The INS Vikramaditya has a range of 7,000 nautical miles and is propelled by a system of eight diesel boilers that features 6 turbo alternators and 6 diesel alternators. This carrier has a capacity of 1,600 to 2,000 personnel and more than thirty planes, helicopters and other aircraft.
9. B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber – $2.4 billion
The B-2 Spirit is a long range bomber capable of surviving extended missions under considerable duress. This aircraft’s skin is designed to capture radar signals and protects against radiation in case of nuclear attack.
The shape of this aircraft is also designed to encourage stealth as it hides engines that create about 35,000 pounds of thrust. Capable of carrying about 50,000 pounds of weapons, the B-2 can be equipped with up to 16 nuclear stores and has a range of about 6,000 nautical miles on a full tank. Despite the striking, exotic design and incredibly advanced technology features in this aircraft, the overall design is inspired by organic flight, resembling a single wing.
8. Varyag Aircraft Carrier – $2.4 billion
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the rights to the Varyag, which was only 70% complete, were transferred to Ukraine. Incredibly, it was then sold to a Chinese travel agency for only $20 million, without an engine or rudder.
After plans to turn the vessel into a floating gambling paradise or luxury resort went sour, the Varyag, a Kuznetsov-class carrier, was parked on dry dock by the Chinese government and has been monitored closely by the United States government ever since.
Although no one knows the plans for the Varyag, defence experts suggest it may serve as a training platform or might even eventually be converted into China’s second aircraft carrier.
7. Virginia Class Submarine – $2.5 billion
This is a new class of attack submarine developed for multiple missions, stealth, shallow water and deep water combat. The Virginia Class vessel is powered by a nuclear reactor and includes four torpedo tubes and 12 vertical missile launchers, capable of launching up to 16 cruise missiles in a single burst.
The stealth capabilities of this vessel include the potential for a mini-submarine capable of delivering teams of Navy SEALs for missions of reconnaissance and combat. The nuclear reactor is paired with two turbine engines and a pump jet, generating over 29 megawatts of energy.
6. USS America – $3.4 billion
The USS America is an LHA 6 America-class amphibious assault vessel and one of the newest warships of the United States Navy. Propelled by a gas fuelled turbine system, the operational range of the USS America is 11,000 nautical miles at 16 knots and 22,000 miles at a pace of 12.5 knots. This warship carries up to 34 planes, 10 of which are strike aircraft, all fitting on a 86,000 square-foot flight deck.
Approximately 18,300 square feet of storage is dedicated to assault vehicles. A total of six weapons and cargo elevators move troops and equipment above and below decks, which include 120,000 square feet of storage specifically for combat equipment and other needs.
5. Charles de Gaulle Aircraft Carrier- $4 billion
A controversial project that lasted decades and blew budgets, France’s Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier was originally commissioned in 1986 and was only recently put into action after a slew of problems that are still being worked on as of current publication. It is the first French aircraft to be nuclear-powered.
The carrier consists of two nuclear powered reactors that produce a combined total of about 117,000 kilowatts and 4 diesel generators, 4 gas-turbine generators and 4 turbo-generators. Capable of handling up to 40 aircraft and 1,900 personnel, the Charles de Gaulle is 859 feet long with a 206 foot wide flight deck.
In early January 2015, it was reported that France would be sending this powerful carrier to the Persian Gulf, to serve as part of a bombing campaign against ISIS.
4. HMS Astute – $5.5 billion
The Royal Navy’s HMS Astute is a Nimitz class submarine that recently became stuck off the coast of Scotland after running aground during the transfer of troops to shore. Unfortunately, despite harboring a nuclear engine capable of propelling the HMS Astute at 30 knots, a fleet of tugs and tow boats had to be called to get the advanced warship out of its hilarious predicament.
The HMS Astute is equipped with state of the art spearfish torpedoes that can sink vessels up to 30 miles away and tomahawk land-attack missiles with a range of over 1,000 miles. Of course, the advanced suite of modern sensors didn’t help sailors avoid ramming Scotland with the sub.
3. DDG 1000 Zumwalt-Class Destroyer – $7 billion
The initial costs of the DDG 1000 Zumwalt-Class destroyer, a stealth warship designed to sneak past defenses before releasing a huge payload, were estimated to be $3.8 billion dollars. However, the cost of this highly-advanced warship skyrocketed as the U.S. Navy jammed the ship full of the latest in technological advances. Reportedly, this boat appears no bigger than a fishing boat on enemy radars.
Included on the USS Zumwalt are an advanced automation system that halves the required crew to operate this ship, as well as the U.S. Navy’s brand new railgun, which was recently fired and readied to be attached to this warship.
2. HMS Queen Elizabeth – $9.3 billion
The HMS Queen Elizabeth will be the United Kingdom’s biggest warship, measuring 918 feet in length and 229 feet wide with a capacity of 1,600 personnel. This 65,000 ton aircraft carrier will have a range of up to 10,000 nautical miles without needing to refuel.
Similar to the Charles De Gaulle aircraft carrier, the initial budget of this project ballooned rapidly, resulting in nearly double the cost. Part of the ridiculous price involves the extensive automation required to create a large warship that can be run by only 679 people. Other issues have included delays in the Lightning II stealth bomber aircraft that are supposed to populate the flight deck of the HMS Queen Elizabeth.
1. USS Gerald Ford – $13 billion
The most expensive military vehicle in the world is the USS Gerald Ford, an aircraft carrier that is 1,106 feet long and nearly undetectable by radar. This monolithic marvel is capable of launching 220 sorties per day from dual runways and will be populated by 5,000 people, including 4,000 marines and sailors.
Costs for this monstrosity ended up going almost three billion dollars over the original estimated budget, mostly due to unforeseen delays and the installation of a plethora of the newest, top secret technology.
When the USS Gerald Ford finally emerges into full operations in 2019, the aircraft carrier will be able to deploy weapons up to 25% faster than the previous best performing platform.