The S-word is coming up. $50B has to be pulled from the U.S. DOD budget every year. Maybe more as budget reality comes home to roost. And, our USAF has many aircraft that are just too expensive to fly. So much so that the service should seriously consider how it wants to support each of its flying missions: training, airlift, tankers, helos, special mission/special purpose, close air support, long-range bombing, ISR, and fighters. Given the money to be saved, I would add a new mission: air policing. This would be at-home air defense to responded to non-traditional military threats. Do we really need a 5-figure cost per flying hour jet to push a Cessna out of the way?
USAF aircraft costs per flying hour are astronomical. I would propose that “6th-generation” if it is ever a term to be used for next-generation aircraft, implies that they are economical to operate.
Below are a sample of some of the aircraft in the USAF inventory and their cost per flying hour for 2010 and 2011. The figures read as: Name of the aircraft / 2010 cost per flying hour / 2011 cost per flying hour. Figures are rounded up.
Long Range Bomber
For fighters, I suggest we retire all F-15C/D's. We don't need their capability at that money per hour. I have seen the F-15 PDM process. Sorry guys, but if this is the logistics situation for the F-15C, it has got to go.
The cost per flying hour of the F-16 shows how much brain-drain the service has performed by dumping experienced E-5/E-6 aircraft maintainers. That and killing off very efficient Air National Guard users. If it costs that much per hour to keep an F-16 unit running, maybe your management structure is deskilled.
The F-22 figure jump represents a lot of lost flying hours (24k down to 15k per year) from the groundings. We still need this aircraft or there is no anti-access capability of worth.
A-10 high cost per flying hour: See F-16. If we can't drag A-10 costs down, we need to dump them and have armed single-engine turbo-props do the job. Not a true replacement but what are you going to do? I will entertain how the A-10 can't stand up to stiff air defense threats anyway in the comments section if needed.
The tanker situation is interesting. We keep hearing about how KC-135s are getting more expensive to operate every year and gosh we need the KC-46. Let us see if it can do that work at KC-135R costs--even though it carries more gas. I wonder how the KC-46 will compare to the KC-10?
C-130 numbers are interesting. This may explain in part why USAF cancelled the avionics upgrade for the H. However, again, I suppose some of it is management issues.
The long range bomber cost per flying hour puts a damper on the next generation bomber fantasy. If I could have engineers find a way to kick JASSMs out the back door of a C-17, we don't need a next generation bomber.
E-3 and E-8 costs point more to a 737 replacement. Not a perfect solution but one has to make ends meet.
I don't need AC-130s if that is what they cost per flying hour. The E-4 and CV-22B need to be killed off. Today.
The helicopter numbers are a joke. Some years ago, the justification for the HH-60 was we could operate 3 of them for the cost of its bigger replacement. Today, I think that justification is dead. For the UH-1Ns that shuttle around missile crews: well that cost per flying hour is about double of the commercial rate. Good grief.
Again, the trainer figures point to the fact that to supplement our home air defense, we need to use this class of aircraft for lower threats.
In summary, the USAF better find a new way of doing the flying business because we can't afford to keep them in the lifestyle they are accustomed to.
H/T for the figures--POGO