The amount that has been spent on aircraft projects that have been cancelled is colossal. In assembling this list I’ve been surprised a few times: the Bristol Brabazon didn’t make it, yet a few in the top five I hadn’t even considered. I’ve tried to be sensible, not including projects that spawned actual aircraft- like the B-1A, but including radical variants like the two cursed Nimrods.
I’ve avoided aircraft where no figures where available (so no Sukhoi T-4 or XFV-12). With so many variables to get wrong (unreliable figures, time and currency conversion rates among many) I accept that this is at best a rough guide. I do however hope you enjoy it and that, in a small way, it serves to highlight the wasteful nature of the weapon procurement process.
Note that only one of the aircraft on this list was built for commercial use!
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10. Saunders-Roe Princess £10 million in 1950 prices
9. Hughes H-4 Hercules $23 million in 1946 dollars (circa $275 million in 2013 figures)
8. British Aerospace Nimrod AEW3 £1 billion 1986 pounds
7. British Aircraft Corporation TSR. 2 £450 million in 1965 pounds. More on TSR.2 here
6.Martin P6M SeaMaster $400 million in 1953 dollars (circa 3.4 billion in 2013 dollars)
5. McDonnell Douglas A-12 Avenger II circa $2 billion in 1991 dollars (3.44 billion in 2013) + ongoing legal fees. Check out the ten worst carrier aircraft.
4. BAE Systems Nimrod MRA4 £3.8 billion in 2010 pounds
3.Boeing-Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche circa $7 billion in 2004 dollars (8.67 in 2013 figures). This reminds me, here’s what helicopters do in Hollywood
2. Northrop XB-35 $522 million in 1946 (6+ billion)
1. North American XB-70 Valkyrie $1.5 billion in 1966 dollars (10.81 in today dollars)
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You may also enjoy 11 Cancelled French aircraft or the 10 worst British military aircraft, Su-35 versusTyphoon, 10 Best fighters of World War II , Su-35 versus Typhoon, top WVR and BVR fighters of today, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes. Flying and fighting in the Tornado. Was the Spitfire overrated? Want something more bizarre? Try Sigmund Freud’s Guide to Spyplanes. The Top Ten fictional aircraft is a fascinating read, as is The Strange Story and The Planet Satellite. The Fashion Versus Aircraft Camo is also a real cracker. Those interested in the Cold Way should read A pilot’s guide to flying and fighting in the Lightning. Those feeling less belligerent may enjoy A pilot’s farewell to the Airbus A340. Looking for something more humorous? Have a look at this F-35 satire and ‘Werner Herzog’s Guide to pusher bi-planes or the Ten most boring aircraft. In the mood for something more offensive? Try the NSFW 10 best looking American airplanes, or the same but for Canadians. 10 great aircraft stymied by the US.
Edit: Convair 880
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