The car industry produced some outstanding products in terms of engineering and design since its infancy. We’ve seen cars going over 300 mph, and also costing millions. However, these numbers are nothing when compared to military vehicles. Not even close.
Most of the automotive, vessel, and aircraft technologies we take for granted today, come from the military industry. These vehicles are always on the cutting edge, both in terms of performance and engineering. And, they must be, since they might change the outcome of a conflict. We decided to celebrate these engineering marvels by compiling a list of the most expensive and advanced military vehicles ever built.
Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit – $2.4 Billion
Undoubtedly the most futuristic-looking vehicle on this list, the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit is also arguably the most advanced. This is the first aircraft in the world that can’t be detected by radar systems, making it practically invisible. But the Stealth Bomber has many more advantages over similar aircraft.
For instance, the B-2 Spirit can carry 50,000 pounds (23,000 kg) of weapons, including 16 nuclear stores. The Stealth Bomber can also fly for 6,000 nautical miles before it needs refueling, another big tactical advantage. The plane starts at $2.4 Billion, which is mind-blowing, to say the least.
Air Force One – $325 million
The Air Force One is perhaps the most popular aircraft on this list since it’s the US President that uses its services. Currently, there are two such planes, both based on the Boeing VC-25 military aircraft. Thus, the Air Force One features advanced air defense capability, unlike any other presidential aircraft.
Furthermore, the plane also has a luxurious interior with living rooms, meeting rooms, and, of course, the presidential office. It also features a dining room with a chef, sous-chef, and a bartender, able to service 100 people. The price of one unit is $325 million, and it costs $206,000/hr to fly.
F-22 Raptor – $350 million
The futuristic-looking F-22 Raptor is an advanced air superiority aircraft that can also be used for intelligence and ground attacks. It was designed and produced by Lockheed Martin, and it entered service in 1997. The F-22 Raptor costs $350 million. A hefty sum, sure, but it still gets you one of the best air fighters around.
The jet features two F119-PW-100 turbofan engines that provide 35,000lb of trust and give the F-22 Raptor Mach 2 capability. Thanks to its outstanding abilities, 187 Raptors are still in use today. However, Lockheed Martin already replaced the jet with the newer and even more advanced F-35 Lightning II.
C-17 Globemaster III – $328 million
The C-17 Globemaster is a huge military transport aircraft that demands respect everywhere it goes. The aircraft is produced by Boeing and most often finds use in tactical airlift and strategical airlift missions. It costs $328 million, and it’s even more expensive to run.
However, the C-17 Globemaster has many advantages, including excellent reliability, maintainability, and reparability. For that reason, many militaries around the world still use it, although it was introduced in 1991. Also, the four Pratt and Whitney F117-PW-100 turbofan engines provide 40,440lb of thrust, which is bonkers even today, while the 170,900lb payload capacity is still among the best around.
P-8A Poseidon – $256.5 million
At first, the P-8A Poseidon was designed only to be a surveillance plane. However, the US military had other ideas and wanted an aircraft that can also bring heavy weaponry on board, including torpedoes, missiles, and mines. Boeing was happy to oblige, of course, at the not-too-shabby price of $256.5 million for one unit and over $33 billion for the whole project.
The P-8A is a tech-packed aircraft. One of the most interesting features is the hydrocarbon sensor, which can detect fuel vapors from submarines and ships with diesel engines. The aircraft is already in use in the US Navy, Indian Navy, Royal Australian Air Force, and UK Air Force.
VH-71 Kestrel – $241 million
The VH-71 Kestrel might seem like a bargain at $241 million, especially when comparing it to other vehicles on this list. Nonetheless, it also costs $10,000/hr to fly this military helicopter, making it one of the most expensive in the long run.
At first, though, the vehicle should’ve been much cheaper. However, according to the manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, the US Government asked for more added features, which significantly increased the price. In the end, both parties had to end the contract after producing only nine helicopters. Later, Lockheed Martin found a buyer in the Canadian military, which uses the helicopters as a spare parts source.
Northrop Grumman E-2D Advanced Hawkeye – $232 million
Northrop Grumman is one of the best manufacturers of military aircraft in the world, and that shows with the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye. The vehicle costs $232 million, which doesn’t sound like much compared to other vehicles on this list. However, that’s still outstandingly expensive.
The E-2D Hawkeye has a curious design, but that’s because it is an all-weather Airborne Early Warning vehicle. In other words, it detects aircraft from the enemy line and directs fighters from its own fleet. Unlike similar aircraft, though, the Hawkeye possesses an advanced APY-9 radar system that can detect fighters and bombers with stealth capabilities.
Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey – $118 million
When it comes to vertical take-off and landing, there is no better aircraft than the V-22 Osprey. Used mostly for military transport, the Boeing-made machine has advanced mechanics and systems. Namely, the two Rolls-Royce engines with three propellers produce 6,150 shp, enough for a top speed of 316 mph, which is excellent for a VTOL.
Moreover, the Boeing V-22 Osprey can reach a very high altitude for such a vehicle at 25,000ft and can carry 24 personnel on board, along with four crew members. The aircraft costs $118 million, which isn’t much when you consider how many people it saved during its rescue missions.
F-35 Lightning II – $101 Million
The F-35 Lightning is one of the most advanced planes in history, entering service in 2015. The price for one unit ranges from $77 million to $101 million, depending on the equipment used. The all-weather combat aircraft was also partially funded by NATO and is produced by Lockheed Martin Aeronautics. It should be in use for more than 50 years, with the whole project costing more than $1.2 trillion.
The F-35 Lightning comes in three variants – A, B, and C. The F-35A has conventional take-off and landing capability, the “B” has short take-off and landing, while the “C” is designed for carrier take-off.
Chengdu J-20 – $110 million
China has its own stealth fighter, and also one of the most advanced aircraft around. It’s no coincidence, then, that it bears the name “Mighty Dragon,” obviously related to Chinese mythology. Given its qualities, the Chengdu J-20 is a mythological being by itself.
Onboard, the Mighty Dragon carries long-range and air-to-air missiles, laser-guided drop bombs, and even anti-radiation missiles, making it capable as a bomber and for close-range combat. Furthermore, the jet can reach 1,305 mph thanks to two WS-10G engines that produce 30,000lb of trust. The People’s Liberation Army Air Force started using the aircraft in 2017.
Boeing E-4 Nightwatch – $223 million
The E-4 Nightwatch is a control post aircraft, meaning high authorities, including the President of the United States, would use it in case of emergency. The aircraft is made by Boeing and was first introduced in 1974. In 1998 money, the aircraft cost $223 million, or over $350 million after inflation.
Although old by now, Boeing upgrades the E-4 Nightwatch continuously, thanks to a $2 billion contract it made with the Government. So, in other words, the vehicle costs much more than its original price. The E-4 Nightwatch features a huge interior and an ultra-high frequency communication ability.
CVN-78 Class Aircraft Carrier – $13 billion
Coming at $9.8 billion to build, with additional construction expenses tipping the cost over $13 billion, the CVN-78 Aircraft Carrier is the most expensive vehicle in the world, period. The supercarrier is a real behemoth that can carry 75 aircraft, more than some airports. Moreover, the CVN-78 also carries Evolved Sea Sparrow missiles, features 4.5 acres of space, and weighs more than 100,000 tons. All these numbers make the CVN-78 the largest warship ever built.
The supercarrier was built by Newport News Shipbuilding and bears the name USS Gerald R. Ford in honor of the 38th President of the United States. The CVN-78 is still not deployed, though, with 2022 set as its premiere year.
Virginia Class Submarine – $2.8 billion
The Virginia Class Submarine is one of the most advanced in the world right now. It’s so good, in fact, that its manufacturer and the US military believe it would be in service until 2070. Three companies produced this outstanding vehicle: Huntington Ingalls Industries, General Dynamics Electric Boat, and Newport News Shipbuilding. It costs $2.8 billion.
The Virginia Class Submarine carries photonic masts and high-energy laser weapons, which sound like they came from Star Trek. There is also a cutting-edge sonar tech on board to better spot the enemy.
CVN-77 Class Aircraft Carrier
The CVN-77 supercarrier is the last Nimitz-class ship to be produced by the US Navy, inherited by the CVN-78. The vehicle bears the name USS George H.W. Bush after the 41st President of the United States and WWII war veteran.
The ship is an absolute behemoth that weighs 102,000 long tons, measures 1,092 feet long, and is powered by two A4W nuclear reactors and four steam turbines producing 260,000 shp. Moreover, CVN-77 has an unlimited range, being able to power itself for 20-25 years. The supercarrier was built by Northop Grumman, and it cost the military $6.2 billion.
Inkas Huron APC – $1 million
Feel insecure sometimes? Well, that’s not something that passengers (crew) inside the Inkas Huron APC ever experience. This heavily armored personnel carrier (A.P.C.) keeps its crew safe even when attacked with ferocious weaponry. The body is resistant to bullets (duh), but so are the tires and windows.
Despite its unbreakable nature, the Huron APC is very lightweight and agile. Under the bonnet, it features an 8.3-liter Paccar Engine and is even available with a 10-speed manual transmission. Interestingly, Inkas will be happy to build one such vehicle for your personal needs, provided you have almost $1 million to spare.
IMI Combat Guard
If you are a fan of ATVs and UTVs, you will definitely fall in love with the IMI Combat Guard. This off-road-focused vehicle costs $3 million, and it has the guts to justify the price. According to its Israeli manufacturer, the IMI can travel up to 70 mph (120 km/h) off-road.
Furthermore, the military ATV can also drive through water obstacles 1.5-meter deep, travel on 35% side slopes, and climb over 70% gradient. Besides, thanks to the fact that the wheels are outside of the body, the IMI has 90-degree departure and approach angles, meaning it can climb (almost) everything.
McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet – $57 million
The McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet is a reconnaissance and air support vehicle with a top speed of 1190 mph (1900 km/h) and a climbing ability of 50,000ft in a minute. The aircraft was commissioned in 1978 and is still in use today. Its biggest achievement was the use in Operation Desert Storm, but it can also boast about beating an alien spaceship in the movie “Independence Day.”
The aircraft was manufactured by Boeing, which bought McDonell Douglas in 1997. Many militaries around the world still utilize the F/A-18 Hornet, including Switzerland, Australia, and Canada. One unit costs $57 million.
Boeing EA-18G Growler
Boeing took everything good about the F/A-18 Hornet and made it even better with the EA-18G Growler. Unlike its predecessor, the Growler is designed for supercarrier work and features specialized electronic warfare systems, such as radar disruptors and energy weapons.
The Growler doesn’t carry guns on board, so it isn’t a fighter, but it still features missiles. Also, it has a top speed of 1190 mph (1900 km/h) at 40,000 ft (12,190 m) and a range of 1,458 miles (2,346 km). The aircraft features two General Electric F414-GE-400 turbofans. The cost of one unit is estimated to be $68.2 million.
INS Vikramaditya – $2.35 billion
At $2.35 billion, the INS Vikramaditya is one of the most expensive supercarriers produced. However, it is estimated that the Russians increased the price up from the real cost when selling to the Indian Navy. Still, that’s not to say that the INS Vikramaditya is a bad ship – quite the contrary.
It weighs 44,500 tons when fully loaded and measures 930 ft (283.5 m) long and 200 ft (61 m) wide. Moreover, the ship features six turbo-alternators and six diesel alternators, generating a total power of 18 MWe. For propulsion, the supercarrier uses eight turbo-pressurized boilers, four shafts, and four step turbines that generate around 180,000 hp.
HMS Prince of Wales – $3.1 Billion
The Royal Navy introduced its newest aircraft carrier, the HMS Prince of Wales, and began sea trials in September 2019. Costing around $3.1 billion to build, the carrier weighs 65,000 tons, making it one of the two largest warships ever built by the Royal Navy, the other being its sister ship, the HMS Queen Elizabeth.
So far, sea trials have been successful on the HMS Prince of Wales, which will be manned by over 600 military personnel.
Varyag Aircraft Carrier – $2.4 billion
The Varyag Aircraft Carrier has somewhat of a sad story, since it changed its owners twice, and at this moment is out of commission. The supercarrier was designed and built in the Soviet Union, but after the country disintegrated, it was Ukraine that got the rights to it.
In the end, a Chinese travel agency bought the ship for $20 million, although when it was built Varyag cost $2.4 billion. However, the plan to make it a gambling paradise didn’t payout. Today, the ship remains coasted in China, and there is no way to tell what plans the country has with it.
USS America – $3.4 billion
The USS America is one of the newest warships in the US Navy arsenal and also one of the most advanced around. The behemoth has a range of 22,000 nautical miles at 12.5 knots and can carry up to 34 planes.
Moreover, the 86,000 square-foot flight deck is specifically designed to withstand the heat created from the advanced F-35B aircraft. Unlike other warcraft, the USS America cuts on the well deck capacity to increase storage for aviation facilities and combat equipment. The warship is manufactured by Huntington Ingalls and costs $3.4 billion to produce, with the deal costing $10.1 billion.
Charles De Gaulle Aircraft Carrier – $4 billion
Charles De Gaulle is the largest and only supercarrier of France and the only nuclear-powered vessel outside of the US. It’s a large and powerful supercarrier, powered by two nuclear reactors producing 117,000-kW of power, 859 ft (262 m) long and 206 ft (63 m) wide. For propulsion, the supercarrier uses four diesel generators, four gas-turbine generators, and four turbo-generators.
It cost France $4 billion to build the Charles De Gaulle, which came across a lot of controversy in the country. Anyway, after 20 years of development and improvement, the supercarrier went on duty in 2015 in the Persian Gulf.
HMS Astute – $5.5 billion
The HMS Astute is a Nimitz-class submarine, and also one of the most advanced in the world. It features a nuclear engine, which gives it an excellent top speed of 30 knots (35 mph), and state-of-the-art weaponry, including tomahawk land-attack missiles and spearfish torpedoes.
Despite all of its advanced sensors and navigation systems, the HMS Astute found itself in quite an embarrassing situation. Namely, the ship literally rammed into the shore of Scotland and wasn’t able to move. The Royal Navy had to utilize a whole fleet of towboats to get it back into the sea.
DDG 1000 Zumwalt-Class Destroyer – $7 billion
DDG 1000 Zumwalt-Class Destroyer is one of the largest, most advanced, and most capable anti-aircraft ships. For starters, it has a stealth capability, which makes it almost invisible to enemy lines. Furthermore, it employs two Rolls-Royce turbine engines, which give it a high top speed of thirty knots.
The “Destroyer” also has an advanced autonomous navigational system, which practically cuts the necessary crew in half. Another cool addition is the brand-new railgun. It costs Bath Iron Works $7 billion to build the destroyer, but the purchasing cost is much higher. The ship is named after Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, who reformed the Navy’s personnel policies and decreased racial tensions.
HMS Queen Elizabeth – $9.3 billion
The HMS Queen Elizabeth is arguably one of the most advanced in the world, making the Royal Navy proud of its achievement. The ship weighs 65,000 tons, measures 918 ft (280 m) and 229 ft (70 m) wide, and can travel 10,000 nautical miles without refueling. So, it’s not the largest supercarrier, which begs the question – where did all that cost go?
Well, the Royal Navy wanted a ship that can be operated by only 679 people, which is quite low for a supercarrier. To make that happen, the engineers had to incorporate various automation features, which increased the cost dramatically.
Trident II Missile
The Trident II Missile is one of the most feared weaponry on the planet. Why? Well, for starters, it can achieve speeds of 13,000 mph (21,000 km/h), making it one of the fastest vehicles made by humankind. It’s also launched exclusively from submarines, which adds further to the fear factor.
Moreover, the Trident II carries nuclear warheads that could destroy whole cities. We are glad that no such missile was launched by now and hope it never will. Nonetheless, it’s a showcase of human engineering. The whole project cost $53.2 billion, although we don’t know the price of one unit.
Arleigh Burke DDG 51 Destroyer
The Arleigh Burke DDG 51 looks like nothing compared to large supercarriers, but that’s by design. Instead of carrying fighter jets, the “Destroyer” is designed to protect larger supercarriers during warfare. It’s fast and agile and has some crazy weaponry on board.
Specifically, the DDG 51 Destroyer features guided missiles, including anti-aircraft and anti-surface, torpedoes, 5-inch railguns, and even mine detectors. Enemy lines literally wouldn’t want to be near the DDG 51 Destroyer in battle. There are numerous such ships in existence, each one costing $1.843 billion. The cost of the whole project is estimated at $101.8 billion.
The Humvee is arguably the most popular military off-roader, but today, there are much better vehicles in its category. Namely, the Oshkosh M-ATV obliterates the Humvee in terms of performance, maneuverability, off-road traction, and protection. The last bit is particularly remarkable – the Oshkosh is made of Plasan-composite material, making it mine-resistant.
Furthermore, the M-ATV also features a powerful 7.2-liter inline-6 Caterpillar turbo-diesel engine that produces 370 HP and a staggering 925 lb-ft. As a result, this 16-ton monster can achieve an electronically-limited top speed of 65 mph (105 km/h), which is mightily impressive.
The L-ATV is a more agile and maneuverable version of the M-ATV, designed for light tactical combat work. Under the bonnet, the armored vehicle features a 6.6-liter Duramax diesel engine, the same you would find in a General Motors pickup truck. The vehicle has a top speed of 70 mph, which is not too shabby for a military vehicle. Moreover, it’s also mine-resistant just like its larger brother.
Now, the Oshkosh L-ATV costs around $450,000 to produce, which is lower than most vehicles on this list. However, since the military employs a lot of these vehicles, the price quickly rises.
Paramount Marauder – $480,000
The Paramount Marauder is an armored personnel carrier coming from South Africa. It’s one of the most powerful vehicles of its kind in the Middle East, specifically Jordan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Singapore. The Marauder features a Cumminds ISBe4-300 diesel engine with 300 hp and 810 lb-ft (1100 Nm) of torque, giving it a cruising speed of 60-75 mph (100-120 km/h). The maximum range of the vehicle is 430 miles (700 km).
Customers can opt for two versions of the Marauder – 4×4 or 6×6. Each model is protected from various weaponry, including ballistic protection and mine protection.
Knight XV – $800,000
Look, we know that the Knight XV is not a military vehicle per-se. However, we decided to include it here since it has all qualities of one. For starters, it’s heavily-armored with transparent and opaque armor, and even a built-in firewall.
What is ridiculous, though, is how it looks inside. The interior is wrapped up in high-quality leather, and the back seats feature all the amenities one has in a Rolls-Royce. So, the Knight XV is more of a luxury armored car than anything else, but a really good one at that. Knight XV will be happy to sell you one, provided you have $800,000 burning in your pocket.
Force Protection Ocelot – $1.5 million
The Force Protection Ocelot is a light patrol vehicle with a Steyr M16-Monoblock diesel engine producing 160-kW, mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. As a result, the vehicle can achieve a top speed of 82 mph (132 km/h). Interestingly, all four wheels move independently. It weighs 7.4 long tons and measures 5.32 m in length.
The Ocelot is heavily armored and can withstand blasts, specifically improvised explosive devices. It was primarily used in the United Kingdom’s military as a replacement for the Snatch Land Rover, but later it was also introduced to the Australian military.
The Russian ‘Batmobile’ – ~$800,000
As far as armored vehicles go, there is not a single one that looks as menacing as the “Punisher” (original name ZiL Karatel). Vladimir Putin’s own armored vehicle is also known as the Russian Batmobile for obvious reasons – it wouldn’t be out of order in the next Batman film.
Inside, the Punisher can seat up to 10 people, while protecting them from mine and missile blasts thanks to the Class 6-a shell. Moreover, the truck has a 730 hp diesel engine, making it one of the most powerful around. Its top speed is measured at 93 mph (150 km/h). We aren’t sure about the price, but we guess it ranges from $800,000 to $1 million.
McDonell Douglas F-15 Eagle – $27.9 million
The F-15 Eagle was first introduced in 1972, and at that time, it was arguably the most advanced fighter jet on the planet. Capable of reaching Mach 2.7 (3300 km/h or 2070 mph), the F-15 Eagle is still one of the world’s quickest jets. It is also extremely agile and maneuverable, even today.
Thanks to its unique qualities, the F-15 Eagle became almost mythical in the military world. According to available data, it never lost aerial combat, even though it was featured in over a hundred fights. Today, almost fifty years after its inception, few aircraft can match the F-15 Eagle in air superiority.
U-2 Dragon Lady – $9.1 million
The U-2 Dragon Lady is a curious-looking spy plane designed to fly at very high altitudes designed by Lockheed Martin. It could reach 70,000 ft (21,300 m), escaping enemy radars. The aircraft was first commissioned in 1955, and it cost $950,000 at that time. Doesn’t sound like much? In today’s money, that’s $9.1 million.
Lockheed Martin produced only 104 samples of the aircraft, and they were decommissioned in 1989, a pretty long run. The aircraft also featured in two infamous incidents. In 1960, Gary Powers was shot down by the Soviet Union when flying over. Then, in 1962, Major Rudolf Anderson was shot down during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Lockheed C-5 Galaxy
The C-5 Galaxy is an absolutely incredible plane that provides the U.S. Air Force with a heavy intercontinental airlift capable of carrying oversized loads with ease.
It’s one of the largest military aircraft in the world and is extremely expensive to build. The cheapest model of the C-5 goes for around $100.37 million and can range up to about $224.29 million. It still remains active today but was originally introduced in 1970.
The 226-foot aircraft was built by the Antonov Design Bureau in the 1980s and has since become synonymous in both military and commercial aviation. There was more than 50 of them produced and used around the world.
It was a strategic airlift quad-jet that was the heaviest cargo airplane for thirty years and the second-heaviest cargo aircraft in the world. It was surpassed by the Antonov AN-225 which you’ll be able to read about very shortly.
The HK 1, or the “Spruce Goose” as it was more widely known because it was made almost entirely out of birch, was originally meant to be a transatlantic transport aircraft during the Second World War. The only problem was that it wasn’t finished in time to actually be put into service.
The U.S. military ended up only flying it once in 1947 and only one prototype was ever built. It’s now on display at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum.
Blohm & Voss BV 238
The Blohm and Voss BV 238 was a German flying boat built during World War II. At the time, it was the heaviest aircraft ever when it first flew in 1944. The BV 238 had an empty weight of 120,769 pounds, but only one was ever built because of the resources it took to put it together.
It holds the title of being the largest aircraft produced by any of the Axis powers during the war as well.
Antonov AN-225 Mriya
This strategic airlift cargo aircraft is powered by six turbofan engines and is the longest and heaviest plane ever built.
It was originally developed to transport the Buran spaceplane for the USSR in the 80s. It can take off with a maximum weight of 640 tons and has the longest wingspan of any aircraft at the time it was built, and out of any current operational aircraft in the world.
This aircraft was built during the tensest moments of the Cold War and still remains active to this day. In fact, there are 1,000 of them in operation around the world.
Originally developed for the USSR, the Ilyushin II-76 was a multi-purpose, four-engine turbofan airlifter that was supposed to be a commercial freighter but ended up being adopted by the Russian military. It’s capable of delivering some of the heaviest machinery and military vehicles in the world.
Convair B-36 Peacemaker
The Convair B-36 Peacemaker was operated by the United States Air Force from 1949 until 1959. It had a fairly short lifespan, but still remains the largest mass-produced piston-engined aircraft ever built.
It had the longest wingspan of any combat aircraft ever built at 230 ft. The B-36 was special in that it was capable of delivering any nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenals at the time without any modifications. It ended up being replaced by the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress near the end of the 50s.
Boeing C-17 Globemaster III
The C-17 Globemaster III is one of the biggest military planes to hit the skies. The Globemaster III was first delivered in 1991 and was produced up until 2015 before it was discontinued. The per-unit cost was about $218 million and was created by McDonnell Douglas.
It was used for strategic and tactical airlift missions that would often include airdrops of heavy machinery or people and immediate medical evacuations. This thing is an absolute beast.
Let’s throw it back to World War I with the Zeppelin-Staaken R.VI which was one of the biggest wooden planes produced during the early 1900s. It was a four-engined strategic bomber that was built in Germany and had one of the earliest closed-cockpit in any military aircraft.
Only six of the 18 ended up even surviving the war as four were shot down, six others were destroyed in crashes and two others had technical difficulties.
The Kawanishi H8K was an Imperial Japanese Navy flying boat used primarily for maritime patrol duties. It was an aircraft that was built for long flights over long ranges and it was usually flying solo without any backup over the ocean.
The Americans nicknamed the H8K “Emily” during the war. If you anyone said “Emily” over the radio it was always in reference to this patrolling plane. It wasn’t fully functional until the end of World War II as it didn’t see combat until 1942.
It’s interesting to note that one of the biggest planes in the world is also one of the oldest. The Convair XC-99 had a design capacity of 100,000 lbs for 400 fully equipped soldiers on its double cargo decks. The XC-99 first took flight all the way back in 1947 and was retired in 1957.
The U.S. Air Force used it as a heavy cargo plane and it was the biggest piston-engined, land-based transport plane ever constructed.
Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules
Any aircraft that has the word “Hercules” in the title, nevermind “Super Hercules,” is going to be a force to be reckoned with. The C-130J first took flight in 1996 for the U.S. Air Force and has since been delivered to 15 other nations who have placed orders.
It’s a four-engine turboprop transport plane that has been in continuous production longer than any other military aircraft in history. While this exact model is roughly two decades old, the Hercules family has been around for nearly six.
Martin JRM Mars
The Martin JRM Mars is a four-engine seaplane that was popularized during World War II. It was the largest seaplane that was used by the Americans and other Allied forces during the War.
There were only seven of them built despite how impressive and effective they were. Four of the remaining flying boats transitioned into civilian use after the war was over. They turned into firefighting water bombers which made them even more useful. Those models have since been retired.
Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker
There’s no easy way to refuel strategic bombers, but that’s exactly what the KC-135 Stratotanker’s task is. It was used a lot during the Vietnam War for the Americans and would become a huge strategic benefit in Operation Desert Storm.
It’s interesting to note that the KC-135 and the Boeing 707 were both developed from the same aircraft (the Boeing 367-80). The 136 ft aircraft became revolutionary in that it was the United States Air Force’s first-ever jet-powered refueling tanker.
The Kalinin K-7 was a heavy experimental aircraft designed and tested in the Soviet Union in the 1930s. It had twin booms and large underwing pods housing fixed landing gear and machine gun turrets.
There was originally supposed to be a passenger version as well with seats arranged inside the wings. It first flew in 1933 and by the seventh flight, it crashed due to structural failure later that year. The accident ended up killing 14 people aboard and one on the ground.
Caspian Sea Monster
The Caspian Sea Monster was developed by the Soviet Union in the 1960s and was continuously tested until 1980 when it was damaged in a testing accident. At the time, it was the largest and heaviest aircraft in the world for about 20 years.
During the Cold War, the U.S. had many missions that had the sole purpose of figuring out what the Sea Monster was capable of doing. It was nearly undetectable to many radar systems as it would consistently fly below the minimum altitude of detection. Despite being an aircraft, it was assigned to the Soviet Navy and operated by the Soviet Air Force.
Xian H-6 Bomber
The H-6 Bomber was first delivered to the Chinese military in 1958 and has enjoyed quite an impressive and successful career. While the Chinese didn’t end up getting too much use out of it, the Iraqi and Egyptian Air Forces certainly did. In fact, the Iraqi Air Force retired the plane in 1991, while the Egyptian Air Force would retire the plane in 2000.
It’s a variation of the Tupolev Tu-16 twin-engine bomber that was originally built for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force.
Boeing E-3 Sentry
The Boeing E-3 Sentry is an American airborne early warning and control aircraft. It’s used by the U.S. Air Force to provide all-weather surveillance, command, control, communications and constant updates.
The E-3 is distinguished by distinctive rotating radar domes above the fuselage. There was 68 of these built before they stopped production in 1992. The radars used pulse-Doppler technology which played a crucial role in directing coalition aircraft against the enemy in Operation Desert Storm.
NASA Super Guppy
This was the very first aircraft to be made by Aero Spacelines. The plane was designed for cargo, which should be pretty obvious just by having a quick glance. It was the successor to the Pregnant Guppy, and all Super Guppys currently remain in service.
There have been five planes built in two different variants of the Guppy aircraft which have been referred to as “Super Guppy.” It’s pretty obvious how it got its name, so we won’t even go there.
The Junkers JU 390 holds a unique place in the heavy military aircraft category. The German-built plane only flew for two years during World War II (1943-1945) for the Luftwaffe. It had six engines which made the design pretty iconic and was the reason this aircraft has a unique place in military history.
The JU-390 was meant to serve as a heavy transport aircraft, a long-range bomber and a patrol plane for the Germans. It was revolutionary for the time.