The 196th and final F-22 Raptor has rolled out of Lockheed Martin’s factory in Marietta, Georgia. That means yesterday marked an end to more than 14 years of production for what’s widely considered the most fearsome jet fighter in history. And also one of the costliest.
So what’s the cost? As little as $137 million per jet and as much as $678 million, depending on how and what you count. The thing is, the best way of calculating the F-22′s cost may be the most abstract. But any way you crunch the numbers, the world’s best dogfighter has also been one of the most expensive operational warplanes ever.
Over the years, the Raptor’s cost has been the subject of intense debate in the Pentagon, the White House, Congress and the media. But advocates and critics tend to quote different figures to serve their various agendas. Fans of the twin-engine fighter usually refer to the “flyaway cost” — that is, how much Lockheed charged the government to piece together each Raptor after all development has been paid for. In other words, just construction spending.
By that reckoning, each of the last 60 F-22s set the taxpayer back $137 million, only slightly more than the roughly $110 million apiece Americans pay for a new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter — a plane specifically designed to be “affordable,” whatever that means. (All figures are in roughly constant dollars.)