An F-35 fighter jet costs anywhere between $100 million to $400 million to purchase.

The exact cost of buying an F-35 depends on the country purchasing the jet, their relationship with the United States, and the number of planes they’re buying.

Fighter jets don’t have fixed prices. Instead, fighter planes are sold in individually negotiated deals, with the number of planes and the presence of supporting equipment and spare parts all influencing the unit price.

There are currently four F-35 variants that all have a relatively similar cost.

The F-35 is one of the most controversial U.S. military jets, as the jet costs taxpayers over $1.6 trillion in lifelong maintenance costs. 

How Much an F-35 Costs

The unit price of an F-35 fighter jet, including its maintenance and support costs, ranges from $100 million to $400 million according to most military analysts.

The price range is this diverse because the acquisition costs of military purchases are usually not publicly disclosed. 

Also, most governments don’t purchase fighter jets individually.

They purchase a set of fighter jets, with the cost per plane decreasing with the number of planes bought.

The cost of an F-35 also dramatically varies depending on whether the government purchasing it also buys additional support equipment and spare parts. 

As a result, it’s not possible to give a definitive set price of an F-35 fighter jet. 

The Cost of an F-35 By Model

These are the estimated unit costs, including maintenance and support costs, of the F-35 by variant: 

  • F-35A: $110.3 million 
  • F-35B: $135.8 million 
  • F-35C: $117.3 million
  • F-35I ‘Adir’: $120 million

These figures don’t reflect the estimated $1 trillion+ cost of maintaining an F-35 jet over its 66-year life cycle. 

F-35 Engine Cost

The average cost of an F-35 engine is around $19.7 million.

The exact price at which a country buys an F-35 engine depends on the specific deal it makes.

The more F-35 engines a country purchases, the lower the unit cost will be. 

F-35 Cost to Operate

It costs an estimated $38,000 per flight hour to fly an F-35. 

It costs between $3,000 and $3,500 per hour to fuel an F-35. 

The annual maintenance cost of the F-35A is estimated to be $4.1 million; $6.8 million for the F-35B; and $7.5 million for the F-35C. 

750 F-35s Have Been Sold

More than 860 F-35s have been manufactured as of November 2022.

750 of them have been sold so far. 

These are the countries that have, or are planning to, purchase F-35s. 

  1. Australia: 50 (Ordered: 72)
  2. Belgium: 34 (Planned)
  3. Denmark: 6 (27 Planned)
  4. Finland: 64 (Ordered)
  5. Israel: 33 (Ordered: 50)
  6. Italy: 15 (Planned: 90)
  7. Netherlands: 24 (Ordered: 37, Planned: 52)
  8. Norway: 31 (Planned: 52)
  9. Poland: 32 (Ordered)
  10. South Korea: 40 (Planned: 40 more)
  11. Singapore: 4 (May order 8 more)
  12. Switzerland: 36 (Ordered)
  13. Thailand: 8 or 12 planned
  14. United Arab Emirates: 50 planned
  15. United Kingdom: 27 (Planned: 138)
  16. United States: 442 (Planned: 2456)

F-35 Success in Conflict

Some examples of the F-35s success in conflict include:

  • The F-35 is a highly successful fighter jet that has many combat victories due to its lethality, speed, surveillance and stealth abilities.
  • The F-35 suppresses enemy radars, making it the only NATO aircraft that’s invisible to Russian radar. 
  • The F-35A scored a kill ratio of 15:1 against the F-16 in a Red Flag exercise in 2017.
  • The Israeli air force achieved the F-35’s first air-to-air kill in 2021. They shot down two Iranian UAVs that attempted to enter the Israeli air force. 
  • An Israeli F-35I Adir’ was used to intercept and shoot down the UAVs. 

In conclusion:

  • The F-35 costs anywhere between $100 to $400 million to purchase and maintain.
  • These costs add up to $1.6 trillion over the 66 years of an F-35’s lifecycle.
  • The F-35 is a highly formidable plane that has a successful combat history, scoring many victories in multiple training exercises, and it’s currently the only NATO plane that can’t be detected by Russian radar.
  • Currently, 16 countries own F-35 planes, with the United States having the largest fleet.
  • Most of these countries also intend to expand their F-35 fleets over the coming decades.

Helen Krasner holds a PPL(A), with 15 years experience flying fixed-wing aircraft; a PPL(H), with 13 years experience flying helicopters; and a CPL(H), Helicopter Instructor Rating, with 12 years working as a helicopter instructor.

Helen is an accomplished aviation writer with 12 years of experience, having authored several books and published numerous articles while also serving as the Editor of the BWPA (British Women Pilots Association) newsletter, with her excellent work having been recognized with her nomination of the “Aviation Journalist of the Year” award.

Helen has won the “Dawn to Dusk” International Flying Competition, along with the best all-female competitors, three times with her copilot.