The Most Expensive Land Vehicles Ever Used by the US Military

The U.S. Army will spend roughly $5 billion a year through 2050 in an effort to modernize its fleet of ground combat vehicles, according to the Congressional Budget Office. While $500 million a year will be dedicated to research, development, and testing, the majority of the budget will go to procurement, with 80% of the acquisition funds slated for vehicle upgrades. (These are America’s oldest land vehicles still in use by the military.)

A major upgrade target is the M1 Abrams main battle tank, one of the heaviest tanks in the world. The Abrams has had multiple upgrades since its service introduction in 1980, and new models are expected around 2025 and 2040. The budget approval includes the acquisition of 2,101 new Abrams tanks, each billed at $12.5 million in 2020 dollars, or $14.5 million updated for inflation, making this tank one of the most expensive land vehicles used by the Army. 

To determine the 15 most expensive U.S. military land vehicles, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed a list of active U.S. military vehicles from Military Factory, an online database of military vehicles, aircraft, arms, and more. Vehicles are ranked according to their unit cost, sourced from a number of media and government sites. Unit prices were adjusted for inflation to January 2023 using the CPI inflation calculator from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Information on the role these vehicles play in the military, when they entered service, and their crew size came from Military Factory.

The most expensive land combat vehicles include a variety of armored transport vehicles, an armored bulldozer, tanks and other fighting vehicles, and an array of self-propelled weapons systems including rocket launchers, howitzers, and missile launchers. Some are used solely by the Army, while others are also used by the Marine Corps and Special Forces.

Only one vehicle on the list costs under $1 million – the Force Protection Cougar, a mine-resistant armored transport vehicle. The most expensive is the Patriot missile system, which was used extensively during the Gulf War and costs an estimated $26 million (inflation adjusted). The oldest vehicle on the list – and the second most costly – is the 1963 M109 Paladin self-propelled howitzer, which debuted in combat during the Vietnam War. The new budget allows for the procurement of 689 new Paladins. (Take a look at 31 billion-dollar weapons that the U.S. military will invest in next year.)

Click here to see the most expensive land vehicles ever used by the US military.

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