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4 Of The Most Expensive Tech White Elephants In History

Why waste millions, when you can waste billions…

Michael Cruickshank
4 Of The Most Expensive Tech White Elephants In History© 2018 Wikipedia Commons

1. Buran: The Soviet Space Shuttle

Despite many claiming that the US Space Shuttle program was a monumental waste of money, spare a thought for the Soviet attempt to copy it. The Buran (Blizzard) Program was intended to company both the functionality and design of the US Space Shuttle, however after billions of rubles spent, and millions of man hours waste, the space plane flew just one flight, before being ultimately canned following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Image: © 2014 Wikipedia Commons

2. Shanghai Maglev Train

Taking the cake for the most expensive ‘train to nowhere’ is the Shanghai Airport Maglev. Despite being one of the fastest trains in the world and powered by electromagnetic levitation, this train is nonetheless useless. Measuring in at just over 30km long, the Maglev, takes passengers from the Pudong Airport on the edge of Shanghai, to well, another spot on the edge of Shanghai. After 1.3 billion dollars were spent on this project, it was canned due to political decisions which favoured standard high-speed rail.

Image: © 2014 Wikipedia Commons

3. F-35 “Lightning II” Fighter Jet

Currently, under construction, the F-35 Lighting II is probably the most expensive defense project ever undertaken by the US. This plane, designed as “the world first 5th Generation fighter” was made as a multiple purpose fighter-bomber for multiple defence branches. Despite the huge cost, the plane has continued to perform poorly in tests. The plane has been derided as: “...too unmaneuverable to be a dogfighter, too slow to be an interceptor, too small to be a bomber”. Furthermore, the system has been continuously grounded due to manufacturing problems.

Image: © 2014 Wikipedia Commons

4. Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI)

Derided as ‘Star Wars’ by the public, the SDI was the US government’s attempt to create a nuclear missile defense shield, to prevent a Soviet attack. Involving a plan to use space based X-ray lasers to shoot down missiles, while also build a wide array of outlandish land-based anti-missile systems, SDI represent an overly optimistic view of what 1980s technology could achieve. While we don’t know the exact final cost of the program before it was wound-down at the end of the Cold War, we do know that so much was spent, that commentators have suggest the Soviet Union went bankrupt trying to imitate it.  

Image: © 2014 Wikipedia Commons

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