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Let's take a jet like the F22 for example. Strip all the classified systems/weaponry out of it (civilian wouldn't need that), and just leave the basic aircraft itself.

Could a civilian technically purchase this aircraft for personal recreational use/travel? Or are these exclusively contracted to the military? How does that work legally/technically? I've always been curious.

There are multiple cases of wealthy civilians purchasing USED fighter jets, sure, but I'm talking about a wealthy civilian who can afford it ordering a shiny new (not retired, there is a difference) personalized, non-armed F22 for personal use. Is that even a legitimate premise?


marked as duplicate by Pondlife, David Richerby, user71659, vasin1987, Koyovis Mar 29 at 2:07

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    $\begingroup$ The F22 cannot fly (or even start the engine) without the classified systems. The software that runs the FADEC is classified; the control surfaces are governed by classified software. $\endgroup$ – abelenky Mar 28 at 15:52
  • $\begingroup$ ok, I see. I didn't know if technically someone (a Tony Stark-like billionare for instance) could just walk into a Lockheed-Martin office and speak to someone about purchasing a specialized F22 because rather than jetting around in a "luxury Cadillac" Gulfstream, they'd rather flamboyantly jet around in a single-seater "Ferrari", or if that's just a crazy premise in the first place. $\endgroup$ – Jon Mar 28 at 15:54
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    $\begingroup$ There are much older jets that can be purchased (controller.com/listings/aircraft/for-sale/list/category/10072/…) But not the newest most advanced stuff. $\endgroup$ – abelenky Mar 28 at 15:59
  • $\begingroup$ @Pondlife - that question is different from mine. It asks if a civilian can purchase a RETIRED military aircraft. I am asking if a civilian could walk into Lockheed-Martin and purchase a shiny NEW dis-armed, de-classified fighter for personal use. $\endgroup$ – Jon Mar 28 at 17:47
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    $\begingroup$ @Jon The answers there already cover everything, don't they? Basically, "No, you can't buy anything that's covered by arms control legislation, which modern fighter jets obviously are." $\endgroup$ – David Richerby Mar 28 at 18:49

Certain jets, yes.

But not the F22.

See current listings:


  • $\begingroup$ While great answer beyond doubt, the newest aircraft I see is 1995 CANADAIR CF5D so not fully sure. $\endgroup$ – h22 Mar 28 at 18:04

There are several reasons that an individual would not be able to purchase a fighter jet new off the line.

The manufacturer is focusing on meeting requirements for their current production contracts. A private order would basically be a one-off for them, which adds complications to production.

Although it's possible to "de-militarize" a military jet, that doesn't mean any airplane could be delivered to a civilian. There may be basic aircraft systems that have restrictions. The US allows most military aircraft to be exported to certain countries, but the F-22 was never allowed for foreign sale, not even with limitations on what systems are installed. Sales to private individuals would have even more restrictions.

Once the aircraft are available "used," the technology may be less protected. Even then, many challenges remain for operating the aircraft. A pilot would need to get training on the aircraft which would be hard to find outside of the military. It would be very difficult to find a location that is qualified to provide service and repairs on such a private plane. Any service would also be fairly expensive. Military jets require much more maintenance time per flight hour than other aircraft. They are also designed to be operated with the help of a ground crew. Of course there are some military aircraft in private hands and they have dealt with these challenges. But it takes an owner with the dedication (and mostly the money) to make it happen.

For most any purpose, there are much better options. Business jets are much more comfortable, and you can have someone else fly if you want. They'll also be much cheaper to buy and operate. If you want something more maneuverable, you can buy something like the L-39, a jet trainer that can be found used, or possibly new. Especially used, it will still be much cheaper than a new fighter and can do just about anything a modern fighter could. A modern fighter can go faster and turn harder, but that's where the special training and equipment become a challenge.


A bit of a loaded question, like how are you defining the aircraft; without all the systems and weapons is it still the same aircraft? Do you require the ability to use certain abilities, like supersonic travel or is it more of a collectors item?

Anything can be bought if the stack of cash is tall enough, even permission to own a particular jet. Though this permission may have details like it must stay in the national airspace, file special flight plans so the location is always known, and maintenance can only be performed by certain companies.

You could even get an F22 built with custom non-classified flight systems, of course this custom development would cost a bit extra, really it would essentially be ordering a one-off experimental that looks like an F22, and we are back to how you define the aircraft. Plenty of other types that are less classified are still in production, such as the F18 and F16 would likely be available to a civilian with more reasonable modifications.

Assuming this is for flight over land the speed is limited to less than mach one, and if you don't need the low radar profile, there are better designs for sub-sonic high performance flying. Fighters have many considerations other than pure flight: armor adds weight, aerodynamic effect of externally mounted weapons(and the frame mounting hard-points), weight of the internal weapons, those guns change the balance and useful load, targeting systems, active radar and counter-radar systems, passive radar reflection, heat signature, cameras, flight with damage. All of this detracts from flying performance.


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