The second world war was among other things a war in resources and economy. So it got me wondering, what were the prices for fighter planes used? With some searching I count not find a satisfying answer.

I am aware that these prices are very much a ball park answer. Not only different currencies, but production run length, different versions and probably some propaganda as well. Might be better comparable in man-hours to build?

Some I can find, others not so much, in particular I would like to know the price for all these planes and a way to compare these prices:








I am aware that I could grow this list a lot: WW2 aircraft, and that this might not even be possible to compare these aircraft...

  • 7
    This is going to get complicated very quickly. For example, a pre-war Mk1 Spitfire was a very different aircraft from a late war Mk21 and there were a variety of sub-variants within the Mks too. So even comparing prices of the "same" aircraft is going to give a range of possible numbers which will be difficult to equate with other airframes. – KillingTime Aug 10 '18 at 8:25
  • There is a big issue regarding to this question, which is the scale of production. In the beginning any machine would be expensive, while the production increase will reduce the costs. So the same airplane would have different costs depending of the year of the war. – Santiago Aug 10 '18 at 15:01
  • There's also questions of what the cost actually represent. A B-17 cost roughly $200,000 in fly-away condition from the manufacturer, but I've seen a (much less reliable) reference that it cost $400,000 by the time it was on the flight line. – David Thornley Aug 10 '18 at 16:50
  • 1
    In 1950, the Army published a fairly thick book called the "Army Almanac" with various pieces of information from WWII. One of the pieces was a list of prices for Army Air Force aircraft as negotiated for fly-away condition. I've seen no similar list for US Navy aircraft. I'd expect them to be somewhat more expensive than their AAF counterparts, due to shorter production runs and (for carrier aircraft) more stringent structural requirements. – David Thornley Aug 10 '18 at 16:55
  • 4
    If you want to compare the "cost", price is not a good measure. Can you compare the price of a German aircraft using slave labor and an increasingly demolished economy with a British or American aircraft using union labor? A better measure is hours while also nothing other factors such as strategic materials, manufacturing techniques, and availability of engines. For example, the Mosquito was "cheap" because it used little metal. Stamped sheet metal is cheaper and requires less skilled labor than lathe cutting. – Schwern Aug 10 '18 at 18:38

From the Wikipedia on the Supermarine Spitfire:

"On 3 June 1936, the Air Ministry placed an order for 310 aircraft, at a cost of £1,395,000.... In mid-1938, the first production Spitfire rolled off the assembly line and was flown by Jeffrey Quill on 15 May 1938, almost 24 months after the initial order. The final cost of the first 310 aircraft, after delays and increased programme costs, came to £1,870,242 or £1,533 more per aircraft than originally estimated. A production aircraft cost about £9,500. The most expensive components were the hand-fabricated and finished fuselage at roughly £2,500, then the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine at £2,000, followed by the wings at £1,800 a pair, guns and undercarriage, both at £800 each, and the propeller at £350."

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In the middle between the most expensive and least expensive aircraft produced between 1939-1941 is the "Boeing B-17", priced at $301,221, costing about $4,677,477 in today's money.

How Much did a WWII Airplane Cost the US to Build in Today’s Money

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  • 3
    A couple of points. Firstly, copy-pasted text should be formatted as a quote to make it clear that it is someone else's work that you are quoting. Secondly, the B-17 was a bomber, not a fighter (which is what was asked for in the question). – sempaiscuba Apr 4 '19 at 16:53

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