Can Civilians Own Military Planes?

Owning a military plane would be the most exciting purchase of a lifetime. However, the real question is whether or not it’s able to be functional to fly and if there are some left up for grabs.

Civilians can own military planes both old and in mint condition. They are usually listed in aircraft periodicals such as Controller, Trade-A-Plane, and Barnstormers. Popular choices include the P-51 Mustang, AT-6 Harvard, and T-28 Trojan.

However, while there is lots of research on military planes and how much they go for, I hope you’re prepared to spend one pretty penny when it comes to owning one for yourself. Though as a collector myself, if it’s really worth having, perhaps some indulgence can be served in the shopping cart.

What To Know About Military Planes

Historical organizations like the Commemorative Air Force have old WWII fighter jets and bombers on display. Another is the Reno Air Races, dominating WWII fighters such as the P-51 and F8F Bearcat.

Some military aircraft have been either destroyed or donated to museums to prevent spare parts from being imported to enemy nations. An example of this was of the F-14 as 70 of them are being operated in Iran and there was concern that spare parts for AWG-9 radar sets and AIM-54 missiles ended up there. In the end, anything that could be donated as historical artifacts were taken apart and sold as scrap.

Your chances of owning a military aircraft also depend on the military wanting to give up the technology if you find the aircraft with its new owners online being up for sale. As of now, there are two owners of an F-16A and an F-18A.

However, just like owning an old military submarine, it is illegal to buy a military aircraft and then equip it with weapons or other military systems. Examples of these would be fire control radars, FLIR/Designators, electronic warfare suits, other advanced engines, etc. Sales of weapons that have national security classifications or ITAR, would result in the violation of the Second Amendment of the Constitution.

Where Can You Buy Military Planes?

While it is very possible you can find military planes for sale, to find a specific one would be harder since popular ones will either be extremely rare and already sold for scrap. Your best bet is to do a proper internet search of what you’re looking for, more so specifically in the already mentioned sites: Controller, Trade-A-Plane, and Barnstormers.

As mentioned before, the Controller has some nice listings for old military aircraft such as the 1977 SIAI MARCHETTI and it is listed here on their website. Another company located in Florida also has some military aircraft available to the public, such as the 1980 F-16, for $8.5 million listed here on their site.

Top 5 Military Planes You Can Buy

  1. 1942 Mitsubishi A6M3 Zero: $3,300,000

The Zero is considered to be a very capable carrier plane as well as a fighter jet. This Japanese plan was used in early WWII and is known to have excellent maneuverability and long-range. 

  1. 1944 Grumman FM-2 Wildcat: $1, 225,000

The top speed on this puppy is over 318mph. The Wildcat comes in second as it was beaten by speed and maneuvering from the Mitsubishi. Though this aircraft was able to pull of tactics like the Thach Weave, resulting in a kill-to-loss ratio from 5.9:1 to 6.9:1 at the end of WWII. Later during the war, an improved manufactured FM-2 was made to be powerful and light when firing on smaller plane carriers. 

  1. 1944 North American P-51 Mustang: $1,995,000

Let’s just say you’ll be in trouble if you’re on opposite sides of the P-51 Mustang. As the allies’ first hand of defense in the air, this long-range bomber did very well as both a single seat and air-to-ground combat platform. These bad boys were flown throughout WWII and the Korean War. 

  1. 1945 Supermarine Spitfire MKXVIII: $2,119,845

As a British fighter favorite for defense, the Spitfire was produced throughout WWII and was designed to excel as both a short-range and high-performance interceptor aircraft. There are only 60 models left and they are commonly featured at crowds for airshows. 

  1. 1951 Chance Vought F4U Corsair: $3,450,000

This aircraft was designed and operated mainly as a carrier aircraft when it was mass-produced for the U.S. Navy in late 1944 early 1945. It quickly became the most capable of carrier-fighter planes in WWII. It was later used during the Korean War from 1942-1953 making it the longest-running of U.S. fighters.

How Much Would You Spend?

The most expensive aircraft available is the 1960 Lockheed C-130 E Hercules going for $15,000,000. This plane could hold 92 passengers, 64 airborne troops, 74 litter patients, a 5 person medical crew, 6 pallets, 2-3 Humvees, 2 M113 armored personal carriers, and one CAESAR self-propelled howitzer. Holy moly what a mouth full. With under 60 years under the C-130, The Hercules is the longest-produced military plane. 

The number 6th plane on what is available is going to be the 1951 Cessna L-19 305F Bird Dog. This plane is the least expensive you can buy as it goes for about $149,000 as this was what the military was looking for when it came to adjustable artillery fire and performing liaison duties. It was also modified to help aid in service during both the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

With all this said, you’re looking to spend roughly about $2-$4 million on a surplus military aircraft. Auctions are common for the retired planes or there’s always a better chance you can haggle with other sellers to claim the plane’s seat as your own.

It would be useful to make friends or acquaintances with those who own military planes and have been in the business for a while. It is always good to get an insider’s perspective when looking to buy something as expensive as an airplane.

There aren’t really any cheap collectibles in the world of hobbies but it’s still fun to at least look around to see what options are out there, regardless of whether or not you can afford them. I do truly wish you the best of luck if you still have your heart set on sailing the skies with a nostalgic treasure of our war history aircraft. Happy shopping and may the prices be ever in your favor!

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