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This chart shows the incredible cost of operating the US Air Force's most expensive planes

Jeremy Bender and Mike Nudelman

The US Air Force's unquestioned aerial dominance does not come cheap. 

For the Air Force's 10 most expensive planes, operating costs per hour start at $58,059, and it only climbs from there. 

The following graphic, based upon the Air Force's cost per hour of flight estimations, lists the 10 most expensive planes to operate in descending order: 

most expensive air force plane

(Mike Nudelman/Business Insider)

The E-4 Nightwatch is far and away the most expensive military plane that the Air Force operates. The Nightwatch operates as a command and control aircraft that is meant to serve as a flying airbase for the president and members of cabinet in case of a national disaster. 

Designed as a doomsday plane, the Nightwatch is so expensive to operate due to both its size and its technical abilities. The plane is specially designed to survive electromagnetic pulses, with additional thermal and nuclear shielding. It also can refuel aerially and can fit up to 112 passengers. 

Surprisingly, the much maligned F-35 is actually only the seventh most expensive plane per hour that the Air Force flies. The F-35's costs are partially due to the lack of an efficient supply-chain for the aircraft, something that should be sorted out over the coming years.

Among the cheapest aircraft that the Air Force operates are Predator Drones and the A-10. These aircraft cost an estimated $1,500 and $11,500 per hour to operate, respectively. 

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